Ari is a fantasy author, blogger, and entrepreneur, who discusses many aspects of being a writer and the creative life, as well as sharing really useful tips. She is one of my favourite blogs to check in with and you can find her here
The Interview (august 2018):
Q01 – When did you decide you wanted to become a writer?
It was a slowly dawning decision in later life, rather than having always having wanted to be a writer since childhood. I’d just finished a honours degree in the humanities with the Open University as a mature student, and the subjects I chose to concentrate on were art history for the artist me, together with literature because I love reading.
When I was taught to closely examine the themes and language I found the literature fascinating, so much so that when I was finished the degree I was casting about for a way of extending this fascination in a practical way.
The OU did two creative writing courses which together would form a diploma, so I ventured upon them with uncertain trepidation, only to find I loved it…and somehow, most importantly, I could finally put to use all the thinking about and observing of people and life I’ve always done by nature.
I realised writing was a perfect outlet for this side of me, and the writing dovetailes beautifully with my painting as a creative balance.
Q02 – Are there any authors who inspire you?
Through my studies I began to read far more contemporary fiction, but found I was being very selective based on what I’d discovered I’d loved about the nineteenth century novel – namely – sharp psychological insights into what it means to be human, with intense visual descriptions to enjoy along the way. So contemporary authors who inspire me became:
Tim Lott eg The Scent of Dried Roses memoir
Margaret Atwood, for her wonderful female characters, dystopian themes and her writing voice.
Ian McEwan, for his psychological intensity.
Stephen King, for his ever-so-natural, yet memorably compelling, characterisations and consummate story telling skills, with great structure and suspense. I must admit King was a revelation to me, because I had mainly associated him with the horror genre, which had always repelled me.
So it was a great surprise to me to find him addressing many themes which I do like, such as dystopian stories, with any attendant horror elements coming across as tongue in cheek. My favourite King novel is The Stand. And his book On Writing is a insightful popular support for many writers.
Reading Stephen King frees me up in my own writing which is quite an important accolade to him I think.
From the nineteenth century novel genre, Emile Zola is a favourite for his graphic descriptions and challenging social commentary themes.
Q03 – What is your dream goal for your writing?
Oh, this is a hard one. Probably just (and that’s a big just!) to make a modest living from it as I’ve found the creative life in the arts is not an easy road in this respect.
But also for my writing to be enjoyed by readers, to provoke thought or identification, and for it to resonate in readers’ minds afterwards – that has to be the best compliment for any writer. And this is exactly what my favourite writers do for me as a reader.
Q04 – What is the title (or working title) of your current manuscript and can you tell us a little bit about it?
I’m working on another women’s fiction novel, ‘After Black’. Here is the working blurb to explain:
‘Recently widowed Janet is determined to throw off her troubled past in the newyear of 1990 and carry on working at her beloved job within the soft furnishing department of Masons retail store in Cheltenham.
But she has a thorn in her side in the form of Marian, a feisty young woman who works in close proximity to her and whom she loathes. Their tempestuous relationship goes on to prove more challenging in ways that Janet could never imagine.’
This novel was triggered by my own experience of doing Janet’s job in such a store in the 1990s, which was rich with hierarchies, tensions and conflicts. And my dark-natured main character, Janet, was developed earlier during a writing course exercise. She stayed with me, with her foot tapping in the wings waiting for her story to be told.
She is the sole POV, but I found more and more characters coming in to join her, as her story began to choose me rather than me choosing her story, which is something I’ve never experienced before. I also intended it to be shorter than my first novel, but alas it is not to be!
Q05 – How long have you been working on this manuscript?
It’s got to be two years now, though I hate to acknowledge this as I read of writers knocking out a novel a year. How they manage this – I just don’t know. I’m around 70% of the way through, with 100K words already done – so I’ve got to go ‘canny’ as they say and keep it tight to get to the finishing line.
Q06 – Do you plan your stories or just leap into the writing?
The idea for a theme is triggered by a situational crisis of some kind that can befall people, as I like focusing on how people can move through personal conflicts to get to a better ‘place’, with plenty of psychological angles and perspectives to get stuck into.
So I do plan the story out, but not in the form of a full outline – I use timeline mind maps on big sheets of paper with the dramatic shaping and key turning points mapped out.
I also fill in a list of character traits and biographical details for the main character/s before I begin, but I form the other secondary characters as I go along in the writing, together with subplots, and always remain open to alternative ideas for the story – so a bit of both planning and leaping!
Q07 – Do you have a writing routine?
Oh, this is me groaning now! I want to and I should have a proper routine, but it never seems to happen as I do others things with my day, as many of us do.
I try to do 3 hours at a time when I do sit down to write, and I try to write at least 5 times a week, apart from blogging and other forms of writing. My writing routine is always a ‘work in progress’.
Q08 – What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?
It has to be plotting! I’ve slowly learned to open my mind up to the freedoms that writers who are great at plotting must relish, and to gain more confidence, but it has been challenging at times.
I think I’ve turned a corner with my current WIP, as I’ve ended up with some hefty back-story history and many subplots to weave together. Maybe this plotting issue is because I was attracted to creative writing as much for the language and the fictional world building as for the story telling that obviously has to accompany it.
Q09 – What are your thoughts on Self Publishing vs Traditional Publishing?
This is so tricky, as you might imagine, and there is no simple answer. I would like the affirmation that being accepted by a traditional publishing route would bring, and the fact that some of the marketing might be aided by this route, BUT I love the freedom of being able to have full say over your book content, to have it exactly how you want it, to have full control over your book cover design – as a practicing artist this is very important to me and I have strong feelings about the visual impact and styles of covers.
I will probably approach traditional publishing with After Black for a limited time period, but if I don’t get anywhere, I will be happy to embrace the self publishing route.
Q10 – What is the single best piece of advice you could give to new writers?
Above all else, shut out the external world and all that writing advice that can tie you up in knots of self doubt, and ENJOY IT
Q11 – Are there any authors you would love to meet in person?
Well, I would have to pick Margaret Atwood. She’s obviously a highly intelligent and charismatic person, and a great thinker who stands her ground. I’ve read most of her work and there is such social complexity to it which I find fascinating.
I think Atwood is the only writer I actually would love to meet, other than go back in time and meet Zola, to ask him how he did his research for Au Bonheur des Dames novel (The Ladies’ Delight) set in the world of the department store in the mid 1900s – a delight I read again before embarking upon ‘After Black’.
Q12 – Tells us why you love writing
What I love about writing is being able to put to use the overthinking and overanalysing I’ve always tended to do in my life, and there’s a place for the observational details I zoom in on – I can constructively channel all this into my writing.
When I realised this is what it could do for me, it was a lovely light bulb moment. Passions which drive my writing are an interest in human nature, psychology, and a love of natural world. And if I can share our common humanity in my writing, with its attendant joys, sorrows and dilemmas, then that is something I really cherish.
About Lynne, links…
(original interview here)