Shirley’s writing guest this week is short story writer Linda Lewis chatting about her story in this week’s issue.
Your story Brave As A Bullfinch takes a sensitive look at the issue of a facial mark causing a character to be withdrawn and self-conscious. What moved you to write it?
As an extreme introvert who has suffered from depression for most of her life, I know what it feels like to be isolated and withdrawn. It’s taken me a lifetime to learn that everyone has problems. Once we see that, we can be who we are without fear or pretending to be something we are not. I wanted to show how the hero does this and how life subsequently opens up for him.
These days, we are bombarded with articles, adverts and TV programmes, telling us how to improve our looks (lose weight, facelifts, glossy hair and perfect teeth) at the expense of anything else. This is a terrible shame because true beauty only comes from being ourselves.
You’re a frequent short story writer for The People’s Friend. Do you still harbour other writing ambitions, or are short stories your niche?
Before turning to fiction, I used to write articles about tropical fish but now I mostly write short stories. . I have an idea for a trilogy of fantasy novels but it’s hard to take time out to try longer works when writing stories if your only source of income. Maybe when I get to retirement age I’ll give it a go.
You tutor and critique other writers and their work – what impact does that have on your own writing?
I have always enjoyed helping other writers especially when they go on to achieve success as many have. Annoyingly it’s MUCH easier to fix other peoples’ stories than your own…. It does take time though but if somebody wants my help, I find it hard to say no. When I started out, other writers helped me. If they hadn’t, I’d still be writing stories nobody wanted to buy.
You’ve been writing short stories for many years now. Do you feel the magazines and their requirements have changed in that time?
The short story market has changed beyond recognition. As recently, as fifteen years ago, there were plenty of markets for short fiction. Now there are very few as magazines like Best, Chat and That’s Life dropped their short story pages in favour of celebrity news and gossip. Short story writers are held in less regard too. It’s become very impersonal. Thankfully, The People’s Friend still manages to treat its writers with kindness, encouragement and consideration.
Notebook and pencil or laptop? Kitchen table or study? Blank wall or inspiring view?
When writing fiction, I almost always start with pen and paper as I find that less restricting. I can cross bits out, draw arrows when sections might need moving, and make notes in the margin, all without losing anything in the process. As to where I write, that’s not important. I CAN write anywhere, providing there’s a bit of background noise. A favourite place is on a bench by the sea, with people walking past.
And a PS: What’s your one top tip for aspiring writers?
My top tip is simple. Get inside your main character’s head and heart, so that THEY drive the story. For me, great characters are the key.