Sunday, 26 October 2008
What inspired you to write the stories you have contributed to "Making Changes?
The blue List
I like to try and have at least one Christmas or New Year story published every year. The idea behind the Blue List came to me when I was thinking about resolutions and how often we break them. It’s written from the male point of view because those often sell more easily.
It’s a Wonderful Life
Again I was trying to come up with a story for the Christmas season. I was thinking ahead to the seasonal films like Wizard of Oz, Scrooge, and so on, when I thought of one of my favourite films – It’s a Wonderful Life. The story is a simply my modern take on the film, but with a bit of a twist.
I particularly enjoy writing stories from more than one point of view so that the reader gets to see what’s going on inside two (or more) different characters’ heads. Again, the inspiration was seasonal. It concerns a woman’s fears and worries when she’s faced with meeting her prospective in laws for the first time, the twist being that we also get to know what her future mother in law is thinking too.
Please don’t call me Herbie.
I find that films and television programmes often give me ideas for stories. This one was inspired by The Love Bug ( a.k.a. Herbie), a film which I’d seen as a child. I started to wonder how an ordinary car could affect its owner’s life, and came up with Gertie. She’s an old VW Beetle, like the famous Herbie, but she can’t fly or do anything amazing like that. The story is written from the car’s point of view.
Which writers do you admire?
That’s easy. My favourite right now, and has been ever since I discovered him five years ago, is Terry Pratchett. I read everything he writes, including his children’s books. I especially love the Discworld novels. His characters are so real, they really live on the page. I’m a big fan of Death and his logical, take on life (and death). He’s an amazing comic creation, but then you could say that about all Terry Pratchett’s characters. Regarding other authors, it’s hard to choose as my taste is very eclectic. If it’s well written, I’ll read it , from crime to fantasy, from romance to non fiction. Of the books that have impressed me most recently, The Curious incident of the Dog in the Night Time, and The Time Traveler’s Wife spring to mind. Both were quite brilliant, and I wish I’d written them. I also like Clare Calman who deserves to be much more successful.
What other material do your normally write?
I like to try a bit of everything. Mostly I write short stories for women’s magazines because it pays well and because I enjoy the challenge of having to think up new ideas. I write as many stories as I can, and aim to sell one or two every week writing under my own name or using the pen name, Catherine Howard.
I also write non fiction. I started out by writing about tropical fish for magazines both in the UK and USA.
These days my articles are mostly writing related. I write the I’m Puzzled column in The New Writer where I try to answer readers’ queries.
I also write a column for Writers Forum which is called Short Story Success. The aim is to motivate other writers by letting them know that being a writer isn’t all plain sailing – I’m successful because of the amount of time and effort I put in.
As I enjoy new challenges, I’ve just started a course on Writing for Children. I’m finding it very useful and great fun. I’m also working on two novels – one of which is aimed at teenagers.
What made you become a writer?
I’m not one of those writers who’s been writing all their life. I loved English at school but the thought of writing for a living didn’t even occur to me. Let’s just say my parents weren’t the encouraging type.
When I reached my thirties, I got married for the third time (long story) and began to think about missed opportunities. My husband was possibly the first person in my life, apart from teachers, who encouraged me. Thanks to him I started an OU degree which led to a BSc, and also a writing course. The course led me to write an article about my favourite tropical fish. The tutor suggested I send it off. I did, it was accepted and soon I was writing between two and five articles a month for various ‘fishy’ publications, including Aquarium Fish in the USA.
That was in the early 1990s. In 1997 my husband died at the tender age of 46. My world fell apart. I lost all my confidence. Going out to work became increasingly difficult and I began to concentrate more on writing. I let my fish tanks run down, and turned to fiction. I suppose you could say that I became a full time writer by default – I couldn’t stand to do anything else.
Tell us about your writing routine.
If I had a routine, I’d be laughing all the way to the bank. It’s something I’m working really hard on, but still find difficult. It’s so easy to be distracted by other things. I suffer from having far too many ideas and can never make up my mind what to do next, so I spend far too much time deciding what to do. My best time for writing is the morning. I write at least five days a week, sometimes seven. For me it’s a full time job. It has to be, because if I don’t write, I don’t earn any money.
Do you have a favourite place for writing? In short, no. I find I can write anywhere so my favourite place changes according to the circumstances. At home, I usually write sitting at a table in the dining room but I’ve written stories in the garden, on holiday and in an auction house. What I do like is some kind of background noise. I don’t like silence.