Writer Of The Week: Val Bonsall

writer of the week

Tracey asks “Friend” regular and Writer Of The Week Val Bonsall all about her writing and inspiration. Her story “A Picture Of The Past” appears in this week’s issue.

Where did the idea for “A Picture Of The Past” come from?

I have a friend who is a very good artist. There was a small café she used to frequently visit. She did a painting of the interior of the café which was displayed on their wall. I got to wondering whether, if they left the café, what would become of the painting. Would they take it with them? Would they hang it somewhere else?

That was the skeleton of the idea.  The characters and relationships were my own creation – there was no dramatic love story in this case!

Do you have a favourite genre of story to write?

I like to work in a mix rather than any one genre.  They all require different skills, which I find interesting.

The crime stories – even where they’re relatively “light-hearted” as with the Chrissie and Glyn ones – take a lot of planning.  You’ve got to get things like the timing of the various events absolutely right.

With the supernatural stories, getting the correct level of ‘spookiness’ is the challenge.  Romance and general ‘feel good’ stories can be just a pleasure to write.

How has the magazine fiction market changed over the years?

The range of stories has contracted.  Success seems to me to be dependent on an intense knowledge of your target market. So the advice to “read the magazine” is good advice.

Do you and your writer husband, Richard, ever collaborate on work together?

Particularly with crime and supernatural stories, we do ‘test’ our plots on each other, to see if the other can see any obvious flaws.

I’m sure we’ve startled people sitting within earshot of us in a café or pub by sounding as though we’re planning a bank robbery or murder when we’re actually just discussing an idea! In the past we have worked formally together on jointly-produced work, but this was non-fiction.

How did lockdown affect your writing output?

At the beginning, the “first lockdown”, not much at all.  My output perhaps even increased.

But as the months wore on, with returns and then returns again to restrictions, for a while it definitely had a negative effect, as of course it did on many aspects of everyone’s lives. I get a lot of ideas just from the people I mix with and talk to and, for quite a long period, that interaction just wasn’t available.

Any tips for writers starting out?

Everyone will find their own way, but I found it useful to write the type of thing I enjoyed reading  But do it with your own individual voice.

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Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, Tracey has found her perfect place on The Friend as she’s obsessed with reading and never goes anywhere without a book! She reads all the PF stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!