Tracey is here to chat with our Writer Of The Week, successful Pocket Novel author Jill Barry.
Jill’s short story “Taffeta and Tinsel” appears in our bumper December 8 issue.
Tell us where the idea for “Taffeta and Tinsel” came from?
I’m very nostalgic about my home town in South Wales and my schooldays were happy ones. As grammar school pupils, we were segregated from the boys, except for the Christmas inter-school dance which fifth and sixth-formers could attend. As a teenager, I spent many hours in the town’s library, reading and day-dreaming. So my character Sonia’s experiences are quite close to my own though I didn’t have a Hungarian boyfriend as did a couple of my friends.
Why did this particular era appeal to you?
The fifties are very vivid in my memory. Most of my teachers were very strict. Crimes like not wearing your school beret or daring to wear your school blazer over your ordinary clothing were punished by detention or writing lines. Yet, we still had lots of fun. It was an interesting era, with WWII still in the minds of our parents and older family members. At the same time, we newly-minted teenagers were becoming excited about Bill Haley, Elvis and Cliff!
You’ve written a number of Pocket Novels for us. What attracts you to them?
It’s brilliant to be into double figures with Pocket Novels now! I still do a happy dance when I receive an acceptance and without a doubt, having my name on the supermarket and newsagents’ shelves has helped make me better known as an author. I also enjoy the challenge of creating a new setting and cast of characters, while keeping to the guidelines. Writing for such a discerning market is very satisfying. Also, DC Thomson commands a great deal of respect and that means a lot.
What’s your writing background?
I’m one of many writers who began handwriting magazines while at school. My mother was a keen reader, so “The People’s Friend” — plus other magazines and books, including romances borrowed from the library — were always in the house.
Studying, going out to work, plus marriage meant I wrote very little fiction until I reached my fifties, moved back to Wales and took a part-time job. That gave time to study for my MA in Creative Writing, after which I went on to tutor adults and high school students while beginning to submit my work for publication. So many rejections at first! But I kept on keeping on until, having joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association, I began to learn more about romantic fiction and to receive more publication success.
Notebook and pencil or laptop? Kitchen table or study? Blank wall or inspiring view?
I jot down ideas and names in a notebook when out and about, particularly in cafés, museums and galleries. At home I’m lucky to have a small writing room where I have a big bookcase chock-a-block with my favourites. I also hoard items carved or constructed by my talented son plus copies of all my published pocket novels and paper backs. I sit facing a blank wall, but in sunlight, it’s awash with tiny rainbows reflected from a crystal I have hanging from the curtain rail. One swift glance to the left as I type shows me a sugared almond sky with a leafless tree in the forefront, looking almost as if a child with a black pen has been scribbling.
What are your top tips for an aspiring Writer Of The Week?
Decide what you admire most about your favourite authors. If you’re fascinated by a certain historical era or by exotic locations, medical matters, or crime, there’s your starting point. Writing groups can be very helpful but do choose wisely.
If you’re eager to write fiction, you might not want to join in poetry workshops, for example. Your public library is a great place to enquire about local writing groups as is the Internet.
Don’t despair if you live somewhere remote because there are online opportunities. Facebook is used by many authors and has closed groups where you can interact with others in the same boat. You an also check out competitions online or by buying a writing magazine. Inspiration is everywhere – sometimes it’s a throw away comment but if you’re people watching, do be discreet!
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