Alan chats to our Writer Of The Week, H. Johnson-Mack. Her serial, “Saving The Sulis”, begins in our January 19 issue.
Welcome, and congratulations on being Writer Of The Week!
Thank you very much. I’m very happy to be here!
Your serial, “Saving The Sulis”, features an old music hall and cinema. How much of an interest do you have in theatrical entertainment venues such as Sulis? Do you enjoy the research involved with your fiction?
I love the theatre; we’re lucky enough to have a very good one near us which stages West End plays, and we’ve seen some brilliant performances. I do enjoy research, especially when it throws up interesting plot points. This particular story is based on my old town’s classic cinema, and how I would have liked its fate to have turned out.
“Saving The Sulis” was your first serial for us. How much of a challenge was writing the serial compared to short stories?
Quite a big one in certain respects; matching the word count per part to where I wanted the cliff-hangers to go, for instance. But I love the challenge, and the longer length that enables me to enlarge on characters and plotline in a tale.
In the serial, the girls’ estranged mother, Nadine, appears on the scene. I found that particular character interesting as she was more appealing than I first imagined. Was it a conscious effort on your behalf to show Nadine in a transparent and honest way possible?
Frankly, no. Nadine was one of those characters who just strode “on to the stage” and set her own boundaries. I didn’t necessarily intend for her side of the story to be expressed quite so much. But that’s the way it worked out, and I was very happy with it.
What’s your favourite genre to write, and do you ever find there’s a conflict of story ideals when it comes to writing for the “Friend”?
I adore writing (and reading) historical fiction, especially mysteries with a dash of romance. There’s no conflict for me these days with the “Friend”.
I find you’re open to such a wide range of styles and subjects that it’s very rare I hesitate to submit something to the magazine. Plus, there’s always such support from my editor, and I feel confident about trying out stories I perhaps would have held back in the past. So it’s a perfect fit for me.
Notebook and pencil or laptop? Kitchen table or study? Blank wall or inspiring view?
It always used to be notebook and Bic biro, but I confess I tend to type straight on to the laptop mostly nowadays (apart from the planning stages of stories), as I find keys are quicker than fingers. I write in all different places but generally try to keep my eyes on screen or page – lovely views can be too distracting!
P.S. What’s your one top tip for another aspiring Writer Of The Week?
Keep trying. If your stories show promise, you’ll eventually be lucky enough to find publishers like the “PF”, as I did, who will help you realise your dream . . .
If you’re keen to read “Saving The Sulis”, then why not subscribe to “The People’s Friend” today and make sure you don’t miss a single instalment?