Our writer of the week is Audrey Mary Brooks. You can read her humorous debut story ‘Which Dave Is It?’ in “The People’s Friend” weekly issue, out on January 25.
What inspired you to write ‘Which Dave Is It?’
Just one phrase: “Oh you mean Brian-Brian.” This was said to me by the online grocery delivery man. I told him I was expecting Brian to deliver my shopping and he couldn’t think which Brian I meant. This is what he said when he remembered. I thought that I could use that phrase somehow. I changed it to Dave because there are definitely more Daves than there are Brians!
Celia and Andrew feel like people we know, in part because of the dialogue. Is this something that came easily, or did it take a while for their voices and dynamic to develop?
This story was the first one I sent to the “The People’s Friend” in which I took a gamble and used the style I use in my books, where I write as I speak – so in that respect it did come easily. I decided to make Andrew the ‘class clown’, as I’m sure he would have been at school, and Celia the more grounded of the two, which is probably why he married her. If they feel like people you know – well then I’ve achieved my goal as a writer.
Your stories are full of warm humour. Is it important to you that readers feel uplifted after reading your stories?
Absolutely. We’ve all been through enough doom and gloom over the past few years haven’t we? Sadly, we’re still going through it. Laughter is the best medicine for this. You won’t find anything of the pressing affairs, the angst, or the high drama of life in my stories – it’s the minutiae of everyday life that can be the source of the most humour and that’s what I seek to find.
Have you always enjoyed writing? What has your writing journey looked like so far?
Again yes – and with plenty of humour. In the past I’ve written many plays including Murder Mystery Evenings. Then I started to write musicals for the school I taught at: I’d write the play and song lyrics for my hugely talented friend to add music too; I’d also write a Nativity play; and a pantomime for the staff to perform at Christmas.
After retirement, whilst recovering from knee surgery, I decided to write a book. I foolishly thought a romance would be easy. Without doing any research at all, I wrote the first chapter and sent it to my daughter. She laughed her socks off because it was unintentionally a funny story – that was when I decided to take the basic idea and really turn it into a romantic comedy, with a big emphasis on the comedy – “More Beetroot Mr Bickerstaff?” was born. I sent it to some very critical friends and they loved it, so I sent it to agents and that’s where it all stopped. Finding an agent is extremely difficult. It’s hard to accept that your book is just one of thousands of manuscripts received by agents every week. Undaunted, I’ve continued to write the sequel to my book, and now am working on a third one, all in the hope that someone out there will love them all one day. I’ve also written six books for children based on my plays. (I write very quickly).
My mum has vascular dementia and is now, sadly, in a care home, but she still likes to read. She can only read short stories, so I decided to buy her a subscription to “The People’s Friend” – something she, and my grandmother before her, had always read anyway. Visiting the website, I saw the Submissions tab next to the Subscribe tab. I’d never written a short story before and didn’t know if I could, but thought I’d have a go. After a few attempts, I managed to have this one accepted and I couldn’t be more thrilled.
What are your writing goals?
It is my ultimate dream to have my books published, particularly my Mr Bickerstaff ones – I truly believe that their warmth and humour will appeal. They’re pure escapism and we all need that. I have created some short stories about the characters from this universe too and it would be wonderful if I could share those.
I would love to have more of my humorous stories accepted by “The People’s Friend” because I’m having great fun writing them.
What is the best book you’ve read this year, and why?
I read every night and quickly too, so the list of books in a year is extensive. I love crime novels, my favourite author being Elly Griffiths – particularly her Ruth Galloway books – she has the ability to combine crime with humour and a little romance, for me the perfect mix.
That said, my favourite book this year is not actually by her though – it’s “Found“ by Erin Kinsley. Still in the crime genre, it tackles a very serious and disturbing subject, the abduction of a child, with superb sensitivity. I would recommend it to anyone – it covers something you think you can’t read about without you actually having to read about it. How clever is that? I couldn’t put it down and I sobbed my heart out too.
Finally, what’s your tip for aspiring “Friend” writers?
Research, read, and be resilient.
Research: go on the website and read the guidelines; read the editor’s blog; don’t just read what you immediately see either – go back for months and months because there’s so much on there, you’ll enjoy it too; read articles by other authors who’ve written for “The People’s Friend” – they can be a great inspiration.
Read “The People’s Friend”. I have an online subscription – I began by reading the stories for research, but now I read the whole magazine for pleasure – not only do I love the stories, there’s great non-fiction, crafts and recipes too.
Get someone to read your work – or read your work to someone if it’s short enough – and that someone needs to be someone who will tell you it as it is, someone who will give their opinion warts and all.
Resilience: don’t give up. You have nothing to lose by sending a story and everything to gain. I have been trying to get someone to take my work seriously for two years. I’ve had tears of frustration and now tears of joy. The strong support of family and friends is useful too – they’ve often kept me going when I thought of giving up.
Finally, I cannot thank “The People’s Friend” enough both for seeing something in my writing and for giving me an opportunity to share it with so many people at last.