I wish all my followers a wonderful festive time with family, friends and loved ones. No matter what ‘tag’ you wish to put on the season:
It is a time for everyone to connect with and enjoy the company of those people who are special to us.
I would also like to note that it is not always a ‘special’ time for some people and we should be conscious of their needs at this time of year (as at any other time). So if a friend or family member is grieving, allow them the ability to join in the celebrations if they wish but understand if they only want a one-on-one time. A full house of happy people might be too difficult to handle. Ask them what they would like or are comfortable with – that is your gift to them.
The school story generally centers on older pre-adolescent and adolescent school life in the first half of the twentieth century. Other narratives do exist in other countries, but the most common theme is English boy or girl boarding schools reflecting the single-sex education typical until the 1950s. The focus is on friendship, honor and loyalty between pupils with plots involving sports events, bullies, secrets, rivalry and bravery.
The popularity declined after the Second World War, but remained popular in other forms, changing the focus to state run coeducational schools, and more modern concerns such as racial issues, family life, sexuality and drugs. The genre’s revival was due to the success of the Harry Potter series, with its many plot motifs.
The first boarding school story was The Governess, or The Little Female Academy by Sarah Fielding, published in 1749. A moralistic tale relaying the lives of nine girls in the school established aspects of the boarding school story repeated in later works. Fielding’s approach was imitated and used by both her contemporaries and other writers into the 19th century.
Even though children were not generally targeted until well into the nineteenth century, due to the concern of moral effects of novels on young minds, and so published narratives tended to lean towards moral instruction. The genre’s peak period was between the 1880s and the end of the Second World War, later comics featuring school stories became popular in the 1930s.
School stories do remain popular, with their shifting focus on more contemporary issues such as sexuality, racism, drugs and family difficulties. As we all know the Harry Potter series has revived the genre significantly, despite it’s fantasy conventions.
Do you (or did you) read school story novels/comics?
Both. It exhausts me when I’m working on something long or complex but also energizes me when I have an idea I want to explore.
2. What is your writing Kryptonite?
Sometimes I get bogged down and want to quit writing that story, or that part of the story, because nothing is going right. I just have to wait, because the characters will work it out by themselves in my head and then I can go back to it.
3. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I had 1 poem published under a pseudonym to protect a person who might have been offended by it. The publisher knew my real name and why I chose to do it this way. In all other cases I’ve used my real name.
4. What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I have many writer friends both inside the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County and outside of it. They inspire me to carry on by understanding the pitfalls and frustrations, by helping me improve my stories and by continuing to listen and share their expertise.
5. Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Each of my 3 books, ‘Fragments of Lives’, ‘Colouring Our Lives’ and ‘Bloodlines’ stands alone. Even my contributions to magazines, periodicals, compilation books and even a workbook I co-authored are separate from all the others.
6. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Money well spent has gone for art work for covers, editing and publishing assistance. These are things I cannot do myself and finding the right person or people to do it for me was worth every penny.
7. What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
As a child I was allowed to read whenever and wherever I was. And to read anything that took my fancy. The stories fed what my mother told me was my ‘overactive imagination’. I knew at a young age that words had power as the stories affected me.
8. As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
I have 2 spirit animals, neither of them specifically for me as a writer but both could be. The 2 diverse creatures are the she-wolf and the California Grey Whale. Both have tenacity, a lifelong affinity for protecting and caring for family and a gentleness within their peer group. When attacked or threatened they both can become aggressive in defending their family’s safety and their territorial boundaries. I have neither a mascot nor an avatar – both would be out of character for me.
9. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I am not working, at the moment, on any one story or book. I have hundreds of as yet unpublished stories but most of them will remain that way as they would require a great deal of work to come to fruition. Rather than take part in NaNoWriMo I’ve challenged myself the either start or complete a story each day in November. So far this is happening.
10. What does literary success look like to you?
Literary success for me is to have my stories read and appreciated. I’d like to have more of my books in libraries and have an audience farther away from where I live.
11. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
My latest book, ‘Bloodlines’ took a lot of research. I didn’t know that when I began it as I thought it was just going to be a short story. I started researching possible migration routes for the ancestors of the main female character, Hannah, and ran into a roadblock as I discovered that she could not be of gypsy origins as I had thought. That started a whole process of figuring out where her ancestors could have come from and led to several new characters needing to be introduced. By the time that story was ready to publish it was long enough to be a book on its own and I knew more about Chile, anthropology, bats, volcano cloud storms, old maps and other things than I ever intended to know. I did some of this research online and some using old maps. I enjoyed it but it took me thousands of hours during which I discarded most of what I learned as it was not applicable to this story.
12. How many hours a day/week do you write?
I have no set schedule but normally write early in the day while it is quiet and I am rested. I am easily distracted so need quiet and calmness to write.
13. How do you select the names of your characters?
The names of characters are really important. Quite often the first character’s name will just come into my head and I start with that. Names need to be evocative of the time period of the story, the age of the character, the geographical region they come from and somehow give the reader a sense of who they are as well as how they fit into the story. If a writer gets this wrong it upsets the balance of the story.
14. What was your hardest scene to write?
Endings are always hardest for me. It’s difficult to have set a tone of time, place and characters and then round it all up to complete what you’ve written about them. After reading my short stories people often ask “What happened next?” but I don’t know the answer as for me the story has ended.
15. Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
I only write about people who could be real but aren’t. The settings are close to what most of us experience and the people who inhabit the spaces could be neighbours. Real life is fascinating and I enjoy portraying it in a new way, often with twist which is how real life usually happens.
16. How long have you been writing?
Many, many years – I think I took my first creative writing class about 25 years ago although I had attempted writing prior to that. Then I joined a small writers group, albeit one not really suited to me, before finding a group which were helpful and encouraging.
17. What inspires you?
There is inspiration in many things, a beautiful view of mountains or the ocean, an overheard piece of random conversation, a news story, someone’s outfit, a dream I’ve had, and any number of other things in normal life.
18. How do you find or make time to write?
For me there is little problem with time. I’m retired from a day job so can plan my time to allow me to do most of the things I want to do. I can write both on a computer or by hand if I’m on a plane or a passenger in a car or alone in my home. I’m never without pen and paper.
19. What projects are you working on at the present?
Just trying to get a few small stories prepared for a monthly newsletter I submit things to as well as one to read at a writers Christmas party. Having just published ‘Bloodlines’ I have no deadline looming.
20. What do your plans for future projects include?
I’m in that space where I haven’t planned the next phase of my writing. I’m hoping that one or more of the stories I’m writing in November will be worth pursuing and turns into something I can share with others in the new year.
21. Share a link to your author website.
I don’t have a personal website but am part of the website of the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County (WFSC).