“The Magazine I’m Proud To Call Home”


In Fiction Tracey’s recent Writing Hour on Twitter, she was posed some questions for my good self. Never one to shirk a challenge, I said I’d be delighted to answer them. So lo and behold here are the Q&As, which I hope you’ll find fun and interesting.

How did you start working for “The People’s Friend”?

I have worked for DCT since 2004, having had no previous editorial experience. I first started working for our sister magazine, “My Weekly”, and I remember the Fiction Editor at the time, Liz Smith, saying my chatty covering letter helped me get the job.

After two years, the “Friend” beckoned, the magazine I am happy and proud to call home. To those who are applying, or thinking of applying, for future jobs – if you can bring your personality to the fore through a letter or interview, then like me, it might make all the difference in landing you that dream job.

Are you a writer?

I love to write but, sadly, I don’t seem to find the time these days. I have written a few short stories for the magazine and, like most writers, I dream of writing “that” novel one day. To me, there is nothing better than locking the world outside and transporting yourself into a story world, letting characters express themselves through your imagination.

Favourite books?

Like my taste in music, my book reading is eclectic. I tend to favour historical novels for my fiction reading, and my non-fiction reading comprises of biographies and autobiographies. I’m also a bit of a stats fan, so almanacs of various description line my book shelf at home. My favourite classic novel would have to be “The Strange Case Of Doctor Jekyll And Mr Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson. I read that as a teenager and was instantly captivated by RLS’s gothic storytelling. More up to date, Markus Zusak’s “The Book Thief” is worthy of a page-turning mention.

Favourite type of short story/least liked?

My favourite type of short story would have to be historical again. I think the imagination can accept elements of improbability with historical fiction. In some ways, the imagination demands it. It’s campfire storytelling, where heroes and heroines are brought alive through a world of timeworn mystique and endless possibilities. I’m not a fan of the crime genre. It seems to be all the rage, but that can often equate to stereotypical writing.

Describe working in a predominantly female squad?

Ha ha. No one day is the same. Will you settle for that? Seriously, though, it’s great. There are three guys who work in the “Friend”, and I think we’d all agree that we feel as part of our individual teams as we do the magazine. It’s true, sometimes the fiction ladies talk about fashion or favourite male celebs they have a crush on, but I do the guy-old thing of zoning out. Works like a charm!

Percentage of male to female PF writers?

Oh, that’s a good question. I’d say it’s about 5% of men who write fiction for us, regular and unsolicited manuscript writers included.

Best tip for submissions?

There are three. One – read the magazine. Not just a single issue, but read it regularly so that you get a feel for the fiction that we publish. Secondly – don’t give up. I know of two writers of mine who spring to mind here, and both had multiple stories (easily double figures) rejected before they received their first story success. And one success was quickly followed by a second, and then a third . . . Three – stay true to your own storytelling voice. We are all unique, so let your personality shine through your writing.

Thank you, Angela Petch, for the questions.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one aspiring tip to new writers is to “write from your imagination”.

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