Lucy’s delighted to meet Amanda Giles, our Writer of the Week
Tell us about how you got started writing fiction. Are you in a Writing Group? Have you had any other careers as well as writing?
My love of writing began at Juniors when Miss Childs, an old-fashioned, twin-set and pearls teacher, wrote an opening sentence on the board which we had to turn into a story. It was my favourite lesson of the week. I dabbled with fiction writing in my twenties, but it was after having my children that I began to write seriously, producing articles for parenting magazines and editing the National Childbirth Trust magazine.
I realised that my writing method was quite visual so I signed up to a radio and play writing course. Then a friend suggested joining Hastings Writers’ Group, where I honed my skills. I’ve since won several competitions, including the Catherine Cookson Cup. Catherine Cookson was a founder member of the group, which recently celebrated its 70th anniversary. Somehow I now find myself in the position of Chair (although I think of myself as more of a comfy sofa). We produce anthologies which raise funds for local charities and the group itself.
Along the way, my jobs were mainly clerical roles at interesting places, including the Fire Service and British Antarctic Survey. Whilst working as a childminder when my family were young, I trained as a counsellor, then went on to qualify in NLP. Once the children were at school I moved to the National Trust, working at Bodiam Castle and Batemans, the home of Rudyard Kipling.
As well as short stories, do you write in other formats? Do you prefer any particular genre?
I enjoy writing short stories, but also love writing plays. I had a one-act play, Miriam Waits, performed at the Hastings Fringe Festival, and won a prize for another, Forty-Two. I hope to have a radio play accepted by the Radio 4 one day – fingers crossed.
My subject matter is often whimsical and, or, romantic, but my Catherine Cookson story was a serious crime mystery.
Earlier this year I published a biography, Too Many Tomorrows, which was commissioned by a local man, who wanted to share his experience of life after addiction. That was a new type of writing for me and an interesting learning curve.
Naturally, as with most writers, I am working on a novel. Mine is a romantic saga following the lives of a ballerina and a singer from the 1980s to the present.
Your fun and unusual story, ‘Cheesed Off’, is in our new issue. How did you get the idea for this story? Do the characters come to you first, or do you begin with the storyline?
The origin with this story lies with my son Kenny, who’s the middle one of three brothers. They were very lively and sometimes argumentative. If things got too heated, Kenny would take a lump of cheese from the fridge and throw it, claiming to be ‘The Grumpy Cheese Fairy’!
I usually come up with the characters first, then a place or situation. This story is based on the home of a beautician friend, Linda – a beautiful Victorian hospital which has been converted into homes. I was having a lovely facial with her and the idea popped into my head.
What do you like reading? Who are your favourite authors?
My classical favourites are Jane Austen and Agatha Christie. I love a good mystery and particularly enjoy Patrick Gale and Neil White. A book I wish I’d written was ‘Elizabeth is Missing’ by Emma Healey. To encourage me to read other genres I’m in a book club, which I call Cheesy Chips, because members usually have a bowl of cheesy chips during the discussions. Hmm, I’m noticing a theme here.
Notebook and pencil, or laptop? Kitchen table or study? Blank wall or inspiring view?
I take a notebook about with me to jot down ideas, but I write straight onto a laptop. I usually write in the spare bedroom, which has beautiful views across Hastings, out to sea and across to Beachy Head. I must admit to being distracted by birds and squirrels. Occasionally, like today, I write at the breakfast bar, which has similar views and is closer to the kettle.
And a PS – What’s your one top tip for aspiring writers?
Write the story you would love to read. Find your favourite authors on social media: they are generally approachable and happy to talk about their craft. Never be discouraged by other people’s opinions. I realise that’s three tips. It must be time for a cuppa…and maybe some cheese on toast.