Tell us about your background in writing. Have you always written? Do you write (or have you written) alongside other jobs?
I’ve written since I was about 10 years old. I have some unfinished novels from my 20s in a drawer somewhere. I didn’t write fiction for years as I was writing for a living as a Public Relations and Press Officer. I only came back to writing fiction three years ago when I took early retirement.
Your short story, ‘After The Flood’, appears in our next issue. What was the inspiration for this story? Where do you find inspiration for stories, generally?
The inspiration was a visit to Ladybower Reservoir several years ago. The idea of these flooded homes and farms haunted me and inevitably came out in one of my stories. Inspiration for stories is everywhere. A landscape, a line of dialogue, an historic event – even someone’s occupation can spark an idea.
‘After The Flood’ is set in the 1930s. Do you find that you gravitate towards writing period stories, or contemporary tales? Do you have a preference?
Most of my stories for the “Friend” so far have been set in the past, although it wasn’t something I planned. I’m obsessed with history, even more so since I have been tracing my own family tree. If forced to choose, I would probably say historical stories, as they give me so much more scope.
Something that stands out in this story is not only the strong storyline, but also the strong characters – especially Alice, Alice’s grandmother, and Joe’s mother. Do you get ideas for characters from people you know? Have there been strong women in your own life who have given you inspiration?
I don’t consciously ever base my characters on real people, but it may happen subconsciously. Certainly my own family has had its fair share of strong women, in my recent family history and in my more distant ancestors.
What are your writing ambitions? Anything you’d especially like to achieve?
I certainly want to continue writing stories for “The People’s Friend”, and I have a serial I want to get on with. I have three new novel ideas I’ve been working on. The challenge is deciding which one to concentrate on.
Notebook and pencil, or laptop? Kitchen table, or study? Blank wall, or inspiring view?
Definitely pen and paper. I feel I have to write by hand and apparently there is a more direct link to your creative brain with handwriting. I will write my first draft with a favourite pen on narrow ruled paper. Only then will I type it up. Because I use a notebook and pen I can write anywhere. Although I do have a very nice desk and have wonderful views of the sea, I sit with my back to the window to avoid the distraction of the ever-changing sea and sky.
And a P.S. What’s your one top tip for aspiring writers?
The best advice I’ve read came from Stephen King who said if you want to be a writer, read a lot and write a lot. It sounds simple but it is important. And Neil Gaiman says to finish things, as you will learn more from one finished piece than a dozen unfinished. Again it sounds simple, but it’s powerful. It certainly helped me.