Manuscript help, book reviews and author interviews
★What cocktail best describes you?
Probably a Pimms – it was the very first cocktail I became aware of as a young teenager because everyone drinks it at Wimbledon and it’s a big part of the summer/tennis season in England. I was never a big tennis fan, but you’d see people on the TV in their fancy hats, drinking long glasses with mint and ice and it looked so glamorous! I did go to Wimbledon once, in my twenties, when I was living in London. Not that I play tennis, but it’s a fun summer outing if you’re close enough.
★You write short fiction and linked short stories. How do you think it fits into the digital world today?
It’s so easy, with the 24/7 stream of electronic entertainment that’s thrust upon us, to read less and watch TV and video more and more, but studies have shown that reading relaxes you better and faster than taking a walk or having a cup of tea or listening to music! I think that’s amazing! Reading a moving short story makes me feel calm and centered again, so I have short story collections lying all around the house (and in my car) so I can just pick one up and dip whenever there’s a spare moment.
★Which of your characters in London Road: Linked Stories do you most identify with?
I’d have to say the ‘Anna’ story, ‘Birthday Ballet’. My mother really did forget to pick me up from boarding school once, although actually it was because she was watching Wimbledon on the telly (could be why I never liked tennis much!). The mother in the story, Nora, wasn’t watching TV when she forgot her daughter, but the feeling of rejection is the same. I think there’s a moment in most kids’ lives when you realize your mother isn’t thinking about you all day every day (Haha! Sorry kids!). And there really was a woman exactly like Isobel who lived in my Mum’s boarding house, who really did stab her own mother. It was very worrying to watch her follow my Mum around the way she did.
★What do you do when you have a writer’s block?
I’ve been writing and publishing for twenty years and, until recently, had never experienced writer’s block until my Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I found I couldn’t write about anything but my Dad, and then, after a few months, I couldn’t even write about him, it hurt too much. I gave up my regular gig writing short stories for BCtheMagazine (NJ), which I’d been doing for 9 years. I just let the block be. I was busy running BookGirlTV, interviewing writers, so I was still around stories and writing, although I could feel a shrinking of my heart, which I put down to not writing. This summer (he died April 2, 2013, I started meeting with a friend and we’d give each other prompts to write to. Now I’m making myself write something short- less than a page usually – about once a week. It’s slow going, but it feels like some sort of emotional housekeeping, so that’s okay. Progress, not perfection, right?!
★What does your regular working day look like?
I wake at 6 or 7am and read my emails then make a plan for the day. My computer is on a desk over a treadmill and I walk on that almost all day. I check Facebook too often (I love photos of friends’ babies and kids, it’s silly how much, even if I don’t know them well!) When I get zombie brain from too much computing, I go outside to walk and re-assess what I’m supposed to be doing.
★Name one celebrity you want as your book fan! Gail Godwin. I LOVE her writing.
★What books do you wish you could have written? Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte and Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler. WH for it’s incredible passion, and BL because there’s one brief but lovely scene between the husband and wife at the end that’s comforted me time after time during my marriage (don’t want to spoil the ending!).
★What comes after Cocktails for Book Lovers? More cocktails and more authors! It’s so much fun coming up with the thematic connections for the cocktails, and so much fun making them too. Maybe a Cocktails for Book Lovers calendar for 2016. More short stories of my own, longer ones, at some point.
★Self publishing or traditional? Why ?
Both, because without creating my own platform and founding eChook Digital Publishing which led to prizes and some attention, I probably wouldn’t have got the traditional deal. Once I saw how the traditional side of publishing at work I realized the advantages of publishing with Sourcebooks – the quality of editing and production, the PR department that gets top quality press.
★What advice would you give aspiring authors?
Find a couple (or a group) of writing friends who can be relied upon to support your work. It doesn’t matter how often, or for how long, you stop writing, only how often you start again. I believe Martha Graham had it right when she said: “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”