The Friday Guest Writer’s Interview Spot- January 2018:
Allison Symes is a fellow Chapel Town Books author, whose first flash fiction collection was published last year. Here she talks about what writing means to her, what got her started and where she hopes to go with it in the future.
Allison doing a book reading in her local town at the railway station.
1) Hi Allison and welcome. Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started as an author?
Hello, Alyson, and many thanks for inviting me to guest blog. I’m Allison Symes and I write non-fiction articles for online magazine, Chandler’s Ford Today and fiction (flash fiction especially). I also blog on my websites- FairyTales with Bite (see links at end of interview) and This World and Others. On FWB I talk about stories, the world of the fairytale etc and on TWAO I give writing advice. My collected works site gives a round up of what I write and where. (I’m now blogging on Goodreads too).
Once a blogger, always a blogger!
My first flash fiction collection, From Light to Dark and Back Again, was published by Chapeltown Books earlier in 2017 and I’m working on the follow up.
back cover image
I’ve always loved reading and stories, thanks to my late mother teaching me to read long before I started school, and I used to love the sessions at school where we had to make up our own stories. Never had any problems producing something for those! Could never understand why some of my school colleagues always groaned when this was set as a task.
It only occurred to me a lot later that as I liked writing, it would be a good idea to try doing it seriously. It was turning 30 and the birth of my son that made me start! I guess I needed life triggers to tell me – well if you’re going to write, you’d better get on and do so then! Do I wish I’d started writing seriously earlier? Yes, of course. However, the important thing is to love what you do (it does help you cope with rejections) and I can’t imagine NOT writing now. I also sometimes wonder if I would appreciate writing so much if I HAD started earlier?
2) Which writers have influenced you? Or whose books do you particularly enjoy reading?
I adore humorous fiction and am a huge fan of Jane Austen, P.G. Wodehouse and Terry Pratchett. Now there’s a good mix for you! I also love the classic fairytales, Agatha Christie, Tom Holt, Charles Dickens, and Shakespeare (though I prefer to watch his plays).
I also adore non-fiction and thought the ‘History of Britain’ by Simon Schama particularly well done. My favourite historical fiction novel is ‘The Daughter of Time’ by Josephine Tey which remains one of the few books ever to totally change my mind about someone (in this case, Richard III). More recently, I’ve discovered Ben Macintyre’s books (‘Operation Mincemeat’) and I read contemporary crime fiction by Wendy H Jones and paranormal historical fiction by Jennifer C Wilson.
3) Where do you get your ideas from for your stories?
I’m glad to say there’s no one single place for this. I love writing fairy tales with bite, so often I use the classic fairy tales as a basis to start and then put in a twist. My first published story, ‘A Helping Hand’ in Bridge House Publishing’s ‘Alternative Renditions’ anthology, tells the Cinderella story but from the viewpoint of the youngest ugly sister. I’m very fond of writing stories like that.
I often use proverbs or sayings as a title and work out stories from those. Sometimes I can “hear” a character speaking clearly and know I’ve just got to get their story down on paper. One of my character studies in From Light to Dark and Back Again is a result of this – They Don’t Understand was where the male character and his anguish had been reverberating around my head for a while.
I have brainstorming sessions every now and again (which I recommend as a good ideas generating exercise) and just free write single lines down, no matter how bizarre or otherwise they might be. I then use these either as the opening line of a story or sometimes a closing one (and effectively write the story backwards).
4)Writing is a solitary business – how do you interact with other authors?
By going to writing conferences such as Swanwick Summer Writers’ School and Winchester Writers’ Festival, where I’ve made several good friends. Also by going to the Bridge House/Cafelit/Chapeltown annual events in London. Likewise on the friends’ front! I’m also a member of the Association of Christian Writers (and am currently the Membership Secretary) and have met many friends via their writing events too.
I keep in contact with people on Facebook and Twitter (both of which are brilliant for this). I am also part of a local writers’ hub, where we will have events together (such as a recent Book Fair near where I live. It was one of those things no one author could do alone but a group of us could). I network whenever I can at events and the conferences and am very grateful for the friendships that have resulted. Nobody quite understands what a writer goes through like another writer.
5)What do you have coming up in the future?
I am currently editing my follow-up collection, to From Light to Dark and Back Again. I hope to submit this reasonably shortly. The second book will be another collection of flash fiction. I am drafting ideas for a third book but don’t really want to say more than that at the moment. I continue to blog weekly for Chandler’s Ford Today and monthly for More than Writers, the Association of Christian Writers’ blog. I have ideas for possible radio scripts which I’d like to begin work on next year. I’d also like to get my unpublished novels published! I would also like to revamp articles I’ve written and see if I can get them published in magazines etc. So lots to do but I love that. There is absolutely no chance of being bored and I am excited at the ideas I’d like to follow up, which is good. What would I like most of all? More time, please!
Three authors- from l to r- Allison Symes, Dawn Kentish Knox and Paula Readman holding copies of their books.
These are the sites where Allison blogs or her fiction can be found or bought. (If you click once on the blue type, the active site link will appear below and you can get on the site.)
A very big thank you to Allison for agreeing to be interviewed for my blog. I’ve found her insights and views really interesting to read. I was a /reader/reviewer of her hugely enjoyable flash fiction collection, From Light and Dark…. and I look forward to her next one.