Welcome, Sharon! Can you tell us about your writing so far? Have you always written, or have you had other careers? What was the first story you wrote?
I’ve loved writing for as long as I can remember. I think it stems from my love of reading as I can totally lose myself in a book. My first job was in a bank which was wasn’t for me as I hated numbers and Maths! I am now a Civil Servant but enjoy writing in my spare time. I would love to be a full time author. Maybe someday…
The first story I wrote for pleasure rather than for school was called “Things Can Only Get Better” and was about a clumsy teenage girl who is having a bad day but finds love. It was autobiographical, especially the part when her Pot Noodle rolls down the aisle of a busy bus! I sent it to Mizz magazine who rejected it but asked me to send more of my work. This encouraged me to keep going.
The story is set on Burns Night. Are you a Burns fan? Which Burns poem is your favourite, and why? Do you have any other poetry favourites?
I love Burns! He has a poem for every occasion. I have two favourites – ‘To a Louse’, which contains my favourite line “O wad some some Pow’r the giftie gie us/ To see oursels as ithers see us”. I like it for his sense of humour as he tells us about the lady, dressed up in all her finery, unaware of the louse crawling around her fancy hat.
I also love “A Man’s A Man For A’ That”, for his message that people should be judged on their character and honesty, rather than on their wealth and status.
My favourite modern day poets are Wendy Cope and Liz Lochhead. I especially enjoy their humorous poems.
In the story, Milly shares a special relationship with her Gran. Is that taken from real life? And who has had an impact on you, writing-wise?
Yes absolutely. I had a really close relationship with my Gran – my dad’s mum, as I never knew my mum’s mum. I loved hearing her stories about her life when she was a little girl. Every Saturday she took me to visit her sister, Mary, who lived in a nearby town. Gran always treated me to a new book as she knew how much I loved to read. I discovered Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books, thanks to Gran. I also enjoyed going for long walks in the countryside with her, picking brambles. I think about her often and have wonderful memories.
Writing-wise, I was lucky as I had two teachers who really encouraged me. Mrs Allardyce in Primary 7 typed up the stories I had written in class over the year and made them into a booklet for me. I still have it!
Miss McKinnon in secondary school told me that I should write for pleasure, not just in school, and I’ve never looked back after taking up her suggestion.
Marian Keyes has also had an impact as she is my favourite author. I follow her on Twitter and she is so humble even although she is a fantastic writer. It encourages me when she confides she has doubts too about her talent. This helps to keep me going on the days when the words won’t flow.
Unrequited love is a theme throughout the story. How do you go about writing a short story – does the theme come first, or the characters? Where do you find inspiration for your stories?
It’s a bit of a mixture really but more often than not, it’s the theme. I find inspiration everywhere! Sometimes it’s from something in real life which has happened to me or my friends, or it could be something I see on TV or read in the newspaper.
Notebook and pencil, or laptop? Kitchen table or study? Blank wall, or inspiring view?
It used to be notebook and pencil, but now definitely laptop as it is much quicker. I write in our spare room which is converted into a study. I look at a painting of the Gulf of Marseilles by Cezanne. I love the blue sea and blue skies in it. I also have a calendar with family photos on the wall. It helps me to plot dates for holidays when I am not plotting stories as I love to visit new places! Sometimes, my travel experiences provide inspiration for my writing.
P.S. What’s your one top tip for aspiring writers?
Never, ever give up. Keep on trying. Write as often as you can and celebrate every success, no matter how small.