We have a chat to “Friend” author, Audrey Mary Brooks. Her pocket novel “Christmas At Sandy Bay” is available now.
Tell us about your pocket novel “Christmas At Sandy Bay”.
“Christmas At Sandy Bay” is the second story about Melody Bright and her friends on the entertainment team at Trimbles Holiday Camp, Sandy Bay. The first book – “Bob’s Blazers” – was published as a pocket novel in September. Although the new book stands alone, it does take place a few months after the first one. It is Christmas 1957 and Melody is looking forward to her first Christmas season, but trouble arrives in the form of Madam Margarita and her performing poodles who make camp compere Tony Tune more bad tempered than he’s ever been before. Add to the mix a mystery guest, the non-arrival of a real reindeer, and a holidaymaker who takes a shine to Melody, and the festive season looks to be more eventful than anyone anticipated.
What made you want to write pocket novels?
Unlike the confines of a short story, pocket novels give you an opportunity to develop characters and ideas in more detail. Before I ever started writing short stories, I was writing longer pieces of fiction, so I thought I might give a pocket novel a try. I had read a number of pocket novels in order to understand the style and format beforehand. I also looked on the “Friend’s” website for advice. I knew I wouldn’t need quite so many ideas as I would for say a 70,000 word novel, but that didn’t make it any easier, especially as, in this case, I was writing about a holiday camp with potentially hundreds of people in it. That said, I had so many ideas for Melody and the gang that I do have more jotted down to potentially use in the future.
When did you first start writing fiction?
I’ve always written plays; stories were something I’d planned to write for years but had never found the time for. It was when I was recovering from knee surgery four years ago, and was forced to stay put, that I decided to have a go. My first attempt was a rather complicated cosy crime that is still shelved because I ran out of ideas. I then turned to rom coms and wrote a series of them. It wasn’t until the end of last year that I found “The People’s Friend” accepted new authors – and decided, for the first time, to have a go at writing a short story. Now I cannot stop writing.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
I’ve always been an avid reader. As a child it was Enid Blyton’s mysteries. As a young teenager I moved on to Agatha Christie. I went through a science fiction phase and read lots of HG Wells and John Wyndham, followed by a very romantic phase with everything Thomas Hardy had ever written. Next came Tolkien. As a ‘grown-up’ my penchant has always been for crime novels. I particularly enjoy David Mark’s DS Aector McAvoy, Elly Griffiths Dr Ruth Galloway and Richard Osman’s “The Thursday Murder Club”. Recently I’ve found a new love – for the works of Georgette Heyer. I find her writing both clever and witty; she is a genius of a wordsmith!
What are your long-term writing plans?
Reading Georgette Heyer has inspired me to write rom coms set in the Georgian period. I’ve written a couple of serials set in this era for the “Friend” – one of which will be published at the end of February. I’m working on an idea for a rom com pocket novel set in this time period too.
I do enjoy writing pocket novels and I’d love to write more about Melody Bright in the future. I enjoy researching the 1950s and have written a cosy crime about the mother-in-law of a detective also set in this time period.
In terms of full-length novels, I have a slightly unusual rom com I’m hoping will have some interest from literary agents and have considered writing a sequel to it. My first rom com series about a teacher called Mr Bickerstaff still has to find a publisher too. I love him, and it’s my hope that someday the world will too.
Whatever happens, I would certainly hope to continue writing for the “Friend” – I am indebted to them for publishing my work. It’s a challenging opportunity to write in a variety of different styles, genres and time settings, and it’s always a thrill when a story is accepted.
What advice would you give someone who wants to write fiction for the “Friend”?
Well firstly – have a go. This time last year I’d just had my first short story accepted after I’d sent about five. However, in order to have a go, you do need to read “The People’s Friend” – then read it some more – because you must know your audience. The first thing I always turn to is the ‘Between Friends’ letters page. Next, read the fiction editor Lucy’s blog – it is full of useful advice.
Secondly – start small. Begin with a short story rather than trying to write a series or a pocket novel.
My final piece of advice would be to keep a notebook with you to jot down ideas – I have lost count of the number of times I have not done this and regretted it. I once remember thinking of a great title for a book whilst I was folding washing. I did the whole ‘I must write that down’ thing but didn’t. It still bugs me that I haven’t a clue what it was! I’ve now taken to keeping notes on my phone. The only problem is, I do sometimes lose my phone!