Wendy, welcome to Writer of the Week! Tell us about your writing career up to this point.
I submitted stories to “Woman’s Weekly” magazine, without success, as a teenager – I’ve always wanted to write stories. I’ve been a librarian, a language teacher, worked on a fishery project for a third-world country, translated the condensed English version of a German periodical, translated a number of books and done other translation work, and worked on the German version of “Who’s Who”.
I would have starved if I’d had to live from my writing. I started writing with the intention of trying to publish something at last, at the beginning of 2000, and I think my first “Friend” pocket novel was published in 2003.
Do you write in other formats?
I’ve written short stories, had serials published, published a hardback, and recently also launched an audio version of one of the stories. I can’t remember exactly why I started writing pocket novels, but since then I can’t stop. Probably because I always enjoyed reading them, and decided to have a go.
Living in Germany, do you also publish novels in German?
Yes, I’ve had several novellas published in Germany. I’ve also had (translated) serials published in Sweden and Norway, in women’s magazines there.
Your latest pocket novel is set in Dundee, home of the “Friend”, in the year of its launch, 1869. Do you prefer historical themes?
I enjoy trying to capture various historical eras, although contemporary pocket novel stories are easier because they don’t require so much research. I enjoy writing about other periods in history, but relevant details have to be checked, and it takes longer. Readers are quick to spot blunders. I love history, and I do online courses on European and Asian history whenever I have time.
Where do you find inspiration for your novels?
I get my ideas from all kinds of sources: photos, the TV, newspaper reports, films, music, exhibitions, news broadcasts, eavesdropping (!) on people I don’t know well or not at all. Something that just catches my eye, or jogs my interest. Sometimes reading about other peoples’ lives and problems is inspirational.
Who are your own favourite authors? Any preference for genres?
That is so hard; there are so many! Past authors – Georgette Heyer, Mary Stewart, Anya Seton, Daphne du Maurier, Jane Austen, the Brontes. More modern – Kazuo Ishiguro, Jodi Picoult, Somerset Maugham. I don’t like fantasy as a genre, or books based solely on horror or violence , or sci-fi, but I do try them now and then. I read the first page, and then the last, and then decide if it’s worth the bother!
Best book you’ve read this year so far?
I’ve just read “Ghost Wall” by Sarah Moss. It was an interesting read; a little disturbing. It only had 132 pages, so I finished it in a couple of hours.
Since then I’ve also finished Gail Honeyman’s “Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine”. When I finished I thought, I wish I’d written that. I’ve just completed “Redemption Road” by Lisa Ballantyne, which was quite good, too.
My daughter and I have similar tastes, and we exchange books. But as she is a different generation, I often read a couple of pages from one she’s given me and skip it. I like books that entertain!
Are you a fan of writing groups and workshops?
Yes, I belonged to a writing group for a couple of years. We met up every six weeks or so. It was enjoyable and we gossiped almost for as long as we talked about writing and books.
In the past I’ve attended RNA conferences. I also remember attending at least one weekend workshop that was well-run and helpful. It covered script writing and poetry as well as novel writing. It gave me an insight into other areas of writing, and a better understanding of requirements.
Notebook and pencil, or laptop? Kitchen table, or study? Blank wall, or inspiring view?
I usually store any sudden ideas in my computer. I don’t carry a notebook around with me. If something comes to mind, or I see or hear something interesting, I try to store it straight away. But if I’m not at home, a word dotted on a bill or other bit of paper usually jogs my memory later.
I do write a rough idea of the story on paper when I start, but I often find I don’t stick to it. If I had an inspirational view in front of me, I wouldn’t write as much as I do. I am staring at shelves of books at present.
And a P.S. – What’s your one top tip for aspiring writers?
Buy a good thesaurus or use an equivalent computer programme; love what you’re doing; keep submitting; use any criticism constructively to improve (that is, if you are lucky enough to get words of criticism with a rejection slip); and while you are trying, don’t get downhearted.
Look out for Wendy’s latest pocket novel on sale this Thursday, 13th June.