What inspired you to write your book?
Lack of money originally. I live in a poor part of rural France where there are not many jobs,and those that are available are poorly paid. Despite working full time as a self employed heating engineer, a long period of constant bad luck meant that I was always left with nothing in my pocket at the end of the month. The only thing that I could think of that wouldn’t cost me anything and might bring in a few pennies was to write. I had always entertained kids at family parties by telling them stories that I had made up, and people used to say that I should write them down and send them off – They didn’t tell we where to send them though!
What is it about/the genre?
Difficult to answer that one as there is no specific genre that it relates to. I suppose the nearest anyone has got to it is that it’s children’s stories for grown ups. The stories can generally be read in two ways. For example the story “Great Aunt Mabel’s Folly” can either be a kids story about someone inheriting a 25ft stuffed cat, or it can be a story about greed and incompetence. The only constant feature to all of them is that they make people laugh.I’m terrible at telling jokes but seem to be able to write them.
The book is introduced as “whisimal rubbish”, why?
Well I suppose they’re not really, but you have to keep a sense of perspective. It’s a book of humorous short stories, not a cure for cancer, and as such I don’t think that it all should be taken too seriously. I would hate to adopt the sense of superiority that you find with some writers simply because I write stuff that makes people laugh. The book is now out and available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, all good book stores and some bad ones.
How are you promoting it?
Everyone I show the book to loves it. However it’s an odd genre to promote – Kids stories for adults doesn’t really exist as a sub section. If it were a sports book or a military history then there would be obvious places to promote it but there is no one group of potential readers to target, and so it’s a case of getting it out into the wider world via reviews and reading sites and seeing what happens.
We’ve all heard of characters that were a joy to write about, but was there a character you struggled with?
Not really. The beauty about short stories is that the characters don’t really have time to develop and take over the story. I’m also a believer in the adage “The waste paper basket is your friend”. If it’s not working throw it away and start from a different direction, rather than labour away over something that you’re never going to be happy with.
How long are the stories?
Generally they are around 2,000 words but it varies from 1,000 to 3,000. Wanna read one? OK here’s a short one…………… (Auntie Vera and the Goddess of Health and Efficiency – is at the end of the interview.)
How many unpublished books do you have lurking under your bed?
One completed novel that needs extensive re-writing and will probably sit there until I run out of ideas, and one half completed book of humorous short stories based on one main character.
How did you find you publisher?
We pretty much found each other. He is a writer of action based novels and having realised how little money one gets after the publisher has taken all of the costs out, he thought that it was more cost effective to set up his own publishing house. We knew each other from an online writers forum, and when he was looking for additional titles for his new portfolio he asked me. At the time I had made up a “promo” book of my work so he could see roughly what the finished article would look like. We worked out a contract, I supplied the content. He put it together, organised ISBN’s etc, and now we are in the position of having the finished article. What we’ve got to do now is figure out how to sell the thing effectively.
The publisher is Charging Ram Books of Canada. They can be found via http://www.chargingram.com/ It’s a small publisher and is less than a year old so I don’t know if they are accepting submissions or not. Probably best to e-mail them with an outline first.
What’s the best/worst part of being a writer?
The best part has got to be when you hear someone laughing when they read your stories.I’m just as vain, needy and shallow as everyone else and when you hear them laugh, you know that it’s working. The worst part? Honestly can’t think of anything.
What is the most productive time of the day for you to write?
Evenings. Simply because I don’t have any other time available to write. During the day I still need to do my day job.
Do you start your projects writing with paper and pen or is it all on the computer.
I initially started with pen and paper but now It’s all on the computer, although when I edit I have to print the work off and amend with pencil before going back to the computer to rewrite.
What/who do you draw inspiration from?
What are you working on now that you can talk about?
I am very excited about the next book. As I said said above it is based on one character: The venerable Auntie Vera. She was originally a character in one of my short stories and was loosely based on one of my aunts. My Aunt obviously had an inkling of what was happening as she died between the writing of the first and second stories.The stories are proving to be very popular on the site where I post my first drafts for
comments (Thewriterscircle.biz) and they practically write themselves.
How do/did you deal with rejection letters?
Rejection letters are very, very useful. It is possibly the only completely honest critique of your work you are ever likely to get. Fortunately, I haven’t had many, and so haven’t had need to borrow the mess webley and go for a short walk outside, and those I have had, have always been good sources of information. If you need to change the way you write or present stuff, a rejection letter with comments is worth its weight in gold.
Do you have a critique partner?
I put most of my stuff in first draft form on a writer’s site. Because we don’t live or associate with each other we don’t need to be nice about the writing. If it stinks we can suggest ways of improving it without worrying that we are going to have the dinner slammed on the table or lose a friend. I would much rather be told how to fix something than be told that I am the next John Grisham and wander around with a false sense of my own brilliance.
And here’s the story:
Tuesdays were special in other ways too. For Tuesday was cake day, and cake day was when Pam Harper the council funded manageress of the day centre would wheel in a trolley loaded with soft sponge’s, Battenburgs and Bakewell tarts for the members. As a result there would generally be more people than usual gathered there all in anticipation of securing a free bun. Therefore, it was somewhat disturbing when one Tuesday morning the sanctity of the day centre was violated by the appearance of a chirpy middle aged woman carrying a large CD player, rather than someone delivering a hundredweight of jam doughnuts and iced cup cakes.
The official notice pinned to the board that announced that this was to happen had been unread by everyone due to the smallness of the type. Auntie Vera and the others watched with some horror as the woman, having set up her equipment, stripped off her clothes until she was dressed solely in a Lycra leotard and woollen leggings. Mr Pemberton who had been observing the woman more keenly than the others had to sit down and take one of his “calming” tablets.
“Come along now,” said the Lycra clad woman, clapping her hands.“It’s time to get fit and healthy.”
This statement was met by uncomprehending stares from her potential fitness class.“Come on. Come on,” she demanded. “This is going to be fun!”
Auntie Vera’s wasn’t sure that having her Tuesday morning disturbed by someone with a ghetto blaster whom she had never met before could be accurately described as fun. A view evidently shared by everyone else as none of the club members made any move to leave their seats. This display of passive resistance didn’t seem to dent the enthusiasm of their unwelcome guest, who with the dedication of a true professional switched on the CD player and began to perform aseries of energetic movements to the music.
By the end of the third track, it was apparent that the woman was starting to be less certain of her authority.
“I am the Goddess of Health and Efficiency,” she proclaimed somewhat desperately, as she bounced up and down while clapping her hands above her head.
This seemed such a stupid thing to say that Auntie Vera was tempted to point out that she had been doing exactly that for the last four score years. But instead she reasoned that she should show some solidarity with the woman, particularly as the poor girl’s makeup was now starting to run, so she made a vague wind-milling motion with her hands.
Auntie Vera thought that the goddess jumping up and down before her resembled a slightly mad middle-aged woman with too much make up, rather than a mythical being. She also thought that goddess’s probably didn’t sweat as much as this one, and as Vera had suffered at least thirty years more misery than the woman who was now telling her what she should do, she wasn’t inclined to take the exercise class too seriously, but at least the woman was a tryer, and you had to admire her dedication.
Encouraged by this first sign of co-operation, the woman continued straight into the next music track. “That’s it,” she gasped. “Everyone wave your hands.”
By the end of the forth track the intructress was obviously flagging, and Auntie Vera was becoming concerned for her well being. Indeed the woman would have probably stopped, or at least slowed down at that point had it not been for the arrival behind her of Pam Harper and the cake trolley. At this sight everyone raised themselves from their chairs and started to move forward in order to secure themselves the best cakes. Taking this as an indication of participation in the fitness class rather than participation in demolishing the club’s stock of confectionery, the woman – now red faced and struggling to keep up with the rhythm of the music – gamely continued dancing to the next track. It was only when her fitness class swept past her that she staggered to a halt.
Auntie Vera went to the CD player and pulled the plug out of the wall.
“Are you alright, dear?” she asked the woman.
Auntie Vera patted the woman’s shoulder. “Come and sit down,” she said. “I’ll get you a cup of tea and a piece of cake.”