This week, Abbie talks to debut “Friend” Writer Of The Week, Ann Ridley.
You can read Ann’s first story for us, “A Drop Of Nectar”, in our current Special.
The two main characters in “A Drop Of Nectar” have so much depth and feel three-dimensional. How important is character development to you?
I used to drive past a tattoo parlour and wonder about the artist.
When the opening sentence popped into my head, I realised Merrilee’s qualms and prejudices.
Both characters were mysteries to me until their stories unfolded.
In any story, I try to “stand in their shoes” to understand how they behave. Often they surprise me and take direction!
Sometimes I feel quite sad having to say goodbye at the final full stop.
As a debut “Friend” writer, how did you feel when “A Drop Of Nectar” was accepted?
Over the moon! I’d submitted several stories over the years, with polite rejections.
I’d followed the guidelines closely and began to think my style was inappropriate. They don’t get it, I thought. I don’t fit into any boxes.
So, when the happy email arrived, my self-doubt turned to joy.
What are you currently working on? Has it been easier or harder to stay motivated during the coronavirus pandemic?
In the first month of the first lockdown, I set myself a task to finish a story that had a hazy start, a vague end and a sagging middle. I doggedly set to it every day.
It had to be submitted to a local anthology (InkyLab Press) by the end of April. It was accepted in May 2020 and should plop onto my doormat any day.
This is the fourth InkyLab anthology (’Within a forest dark’) and I have stories in the first two.
I belong to a writing group, and currently four characters from various pieces of homework are colliding into a longer story.
I tend to write in scenes and visualise locations. Location is important, and I will travel somewhere (within reason!) to obtain a feel for the place.
So far, I’ve written 12,000 words, so it may end up as a novella!
Because of three lockdowns in a year, I feel I have no excuse NOT to write!
What kinds of stories do you like to read? Are you influenced by them?
Carys Davies’ writing knocks me sideways.
She did a reading some years ago at a Newcastle library and I was fascinated.
Her short stories are gems – so unusual. Her novels leave you breathless.
I also like Annie Proulx stories: tough yet tender. The searching work of these writers is unsettling.
Notebook and pencil or laptop? Kitchen table or study? Blank wall or inspiring view?
Before the pandemic, I jotted ideas down on public transport, where there is a wealth of inspiration.
Years ago, when travelling in our camper van, a sign on a passing lorry sparked a thought.
By the time we reached our destination, two hours later, I had the leading character – a singing truck driver – and the first two scenes.
In our kitchen, we have a blackboard on the wall with a handy chalk to scribble. Post-its and a notebook by the bed, too.
However, when I’m getting down to it – a laptop on a table by the window; I like to see the sky.
P.S., What’s your one top tip for an aspiring Writer Of The Week?
Be loyal to your voice.
For more from our Writer Of The Week series, click the tag below.