Anna, your new novel, ‘Silver Wishes’, is your 102nd book in print. Congratulations!
“Silver Wishes” is the first book in my new Jubilee Lake series, set in Lancashire in the 1890s.
Elinor Pendleton is a young woman determined to make a new start after the death of her controlling stepfather.
She finds shelter with kind-hearted Walter Crossley, who needs his grandson to travel from America to become the heir to his farm – but is the young man everything he seems?
I’m really looking forward to readers meeting this new cast of wonderful characters.
How did you get started in writing?
I’ve had stories in my head since age 2 when I played with imaginary friends.
I got started ‘properly’ by writing. You can’t learn to write by attending courses. It’s like training for sports. You have to DO it – and do a lot of it. I used to get up at 4 am to write before going to work, because I’m very much a morning person.
I also read a lot and studied the books, learning as much from bad ones (what not to do) as good ones (what worked well for me).
I still read a couple of novels a week, but I abandon the poorly written ones these days.
What can I say? I’m addicted to stories.
Which of your books has been most memorable to work on?
Oh, my goodness! How do I choose among so many?
I’ve enjoyed writing them all.
One of my top favourites is Freedom’s Land, set in the 1920s in a country town in Western Australia which was set up then by giving returned soldiers land and putting them in groups to help one another, in return for clearing it.
I went there to do some of the research and spoke to a couple of the children of the early settlers. I also read several books of memoirs. It was fascinating.
Where do you find inspiration, when it comes to your writing?
Inspiration seems to find me.
I never know where or when I’ll get a story idea so I always carry a notebook in my handbag, and even have one in the bathroom for the middle of the night ideas that often wake me up. I creep away from my sleeping husband and scribble a few notes.
Then there’s ‘What if . . . ‘ is a question that brings all sorts of ideas to mind.
The secret is to note them down and sometimes I even write a rough chapter.
Do you continually have writing in progress, or do you take a break in between?
I never take a break, because the stories are always there in my mind and I love telling them.
I’ll take a break from housework happily, but not from stories.
Tell us a little bit about the story you’ve written especially for “Friend” readers, which appears in this week’s issue.
I thought readers might enjoy a visit to an Australian country town. I’ve had some wonderful times giving talks in them, some with less than 1,000 population.
I saw the scene first, a stormy hillside with lightning flashing. So I had my heroine driving into a storm and followed what she did.
But naturally, I have a happy ending – I always do, because I have the choice. Even writing this answer to a question I can ‘see’ that storm again.
Do you have any advice for would-be writers? What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?
Write. Even if you think you’re writing rubbish, carry on.
It’s like learning a sport – you need to train and practise regularly. It doesn’t matter if you do it badly at first.
Some other writer once said ‘You can polish a poor page, but not a blank page’. That was a lightbulb moment for me. My stories always, always need polishing, even now.
Once I get something down, the story and characters seem to take on life and drag me along with them, helping me find out what happens next. And then I polish it. And then something else happens . . . and I polish that.