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Personally, I'm quite happy to describe my novels as women's fiction. To me, women's fiction can be defined as below (with thanks to the author Becca Vnuk), and I'm happy with this. These are the books I enjoy reading as well as writing. And it's not that I think men won't be interested in them, rather that it's less likely:

"The common thread is that the central character is female, and the main thrust of the story is something happening in the life of that woman (as opposed to the overall theme being a romance or a mystery of some sort). Emotions and relationships are the common thread between books that belong in this category. A woman is the star of the story, and her emotional development drives the plot."

And I suppose for me, it distinguishes my fiction from chicklit, which Wikipedia defines as:

Heroine-centered narratives that focus on the trials and tribulations of their individual protagonists. The genre often addresses issues of modern womanhood – from romantic relationships to female friendships to matters in the workplace – in humorous and lighthearted ways.

But some writers feel very strongly about their novels being described as women's fiction.

Take best-selling author Jodi Picoult, for example.

In an interview for the Orlando Sentinel, Picoult said: “I don’t write women’s fiction. What that means is I have lady parts. There is absolutely nothing gendered in my writing. Some books I think of as more male-centric than female-centric. Honestly, when most people talk about women’s fiction, they’re usually talking about a light-and-fluffy beach read. If anyone is describing my books as light and fluffy, you have serious issues.”

Interviewed on Popsugar.com, Taylor Jenkins Reid (The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo) also expresses her dislike of the women's fiction category.

She said, "Anytime I meet someone and they ask me what I do and I say, "I'm an author," and they say, "Oh, what kind of books do you write?" I say, "I write fiction." And they say, "Well, what does that mean?" What I choose to answer is, "I write book club books. I write books that you would read in a book club." What I mean by that is I write commercial fiction that is hopefully accessible to anybody that wants to read it, but they can be thought-provoking and give you something to talk about. But that's a very long answer to a small question, and the short answer is I write women's fiction, and the reason why it's called women's fiction is because we want to make sure, in no uncertain terms, men know "don't read this," which is just absurd.

"We have a society in which woman have learned to read about men and to find interesting things about the inner lives of men, and we have not done that same service for men. We have told men that women in their lives are not interesting to them, that the stakes of domestic fiction is not relevant to them — all of these things are completely untrue. Books about love and family are just as important and can be just as skillfully and beautifully written as books about war. I don't know why, so often, we put such a larger value on the story areas that men are interested in than what women are interested in. I also just don't buy the conceit. I think we just haven't allowed for men to admit when they're interested in these things, to open themselves up to be interested in these things. We've said, time and time again, to men, "What goes on in a woman's mind is not relevant to you." And that's just crazy. What goes on in every man's mind is relevant to me. We exist in the world together. I'm married to a man. The world is full of men. We should be doing that same thing for men. I think we're fixing it slowly. Big Little Lies was such a great example of a story, exclusively about women and about issues that directly affect women, that men watched. They cared. We're at the beginning of it."

(You can read the full interview here).

What do you think of the Women's Fiction book category? Are you happy with it the way I am, or do you agree that we're excluding men by using it? And if we are, is that right? Do, in fact, women's fiction books have something to offer men too?

I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

All for now.

Margaret 

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I recently carried out a survey about women's fiction and the 132 responses made for fascinating reading.

There were the ordinary, useful questions about reading habits and demographic etc, but as a writer, what interested me most were the responses to questions I posed about the nitty-gritty of the writing, because this gave me a real flavour of what makes people read a book compulsively.

One of the questions asked respondents to choose statements about women's fiction they agreed with, and to add some of their own. Many people went on to make some very interesting and insightful suggestions, and I really wanted to share these results with you.

So, to start off with, here are the responses to the statements I provided myself:

It's important that I care what happens to the main character in a book and almost feel as if the events of the story are happening to me. 75.76%

I like to feel extremes of emotion when I'm reading - both happy and sad. 55.3%

When I'm reading, I enjoy being taken to places and experiencing situations I've never experience before. 76.52%

I'm happy for a novel to include an element of magic, or events that might never happen in real life, as long as the author makes me believe in it. 57.58%

A romance of some kind is essential in a book in order for me to enjoy it. 17.42%

I like a book's main character to grow and to learn something during the story. 63.64%

A book must have a happy ending, otherwise I feel cheated. 10.61%

It's not a problem to me if the main character is someone I don't particularly like. 39.39%

I like to feel I have something in common with the main protagonist. 25%

And here are the statements that respondents added themselves - the ingredients and factors that are important to them in a satisfying women's fiction novel.

  • I don't like loose ends, need to know what happened to all characters
  • Furthering women's causes
  • It has to feel realistic and not too cliched.
  • Not too far fetched...
  • Needs to grab you in the first chapter, dialogue is important
  • Well written prose.
  • It doesn't always have to have sex. Geez already.
  • Anything to keep me interested and page turning. A good storyline.
  • Helps me learn or appreciate something new
  • I like some humour
  • If I'm not supposed to like a main character, I need something bad to happen to them.
  • The main character should have some kind of intelligence, I get bored by ditzy girls, they have to be smart or witty or work things out
  • A good beginning that draws me in!
  • A sense of suspending disbelief or of an idealised reality being portrayed- country cottage, independent woman, seaside etc
  • Location. Books,based in a city with a bit of a story about the city interest me.
  • That the supporting characters are also fleshed out and have a story
  • The characters and their responses to situations must be believable.
  • Inner conflict
  • Good quality prose
  • Intelligence. Please expect that I am intelligent and need brain stimulation.
  • I prefer heroines who aren't weak, who can save themselves or others
  • Humor is so essential for me to thoroughly enjoy an MC or supporting characters. A book needs to take me away from the BS of everyday stress, the new and political mumbo jumbo. It needs to be a true, enjoyable or fascinatingly interesting escape!
  • Great characterization and good writing is a key
  • I am discouraged with novels crammed with over detailed descriptions of superficial things
  • Well written with relatable 3-dimensional characters
  • Good writing with realistic dialogue. An element of truth in the theme that I can relate to.
  • Right or wrong, that she be strong 🙂 (#StrongWomenWrite hashtag on Twitter)
  • Needs to be believable, must like the hero or heroine and care about them.
  • The author doesn't insult my intelligence by telling me everything.
  • Expect the unexpected
  • I love to get into the mind of the character - and I like novels with suspense, ie. Gone Girl.  I am more interested in the writing and how the writer creates rich and complicated characters.
  • Words chosen in writing should be easily understood by most people. Grammar is very important.
  • No misogynistic cliches please. I'm so fed up with Women as victims. Women don't need men to rescue them. They don't have to be superhuman - just real!

To sum up, (and this is my interpretation of the results) most people want a strong character who draws us in because we're intrigued, and prepared to invest in finding out what happens to them. We might be prepared to suspend our disbelief in the process, but we want to have our intelligence respected. We also want to have work to do - to have things to work out, and that actively engage our imaginations and our thoughts. We don't want to be handed everything on a plate like a bland meal, but we're happy to be entertained. We want good-quality ingredients, but a novel doesn't need to be so good for us it feels like a meal we eat when we're on our best behaviour.

I'm so grateful to everyone who took my survey. Their answers have really given me an insight into what people want from a great women's fiction novel. I'm off to apply all the advice!

Bye for now.

Margaret

 

Hello to all you women's fiction lovers out there! I'm carrying out a survey to get your valuable views on what makes a women's fiction novel the best ever experience for you.

I don't know if you're like me, but sometimes I find it difficult to find books I really want to read. Maybe that's partly why I write what I do - because these are the type of books that really grab me. My fantasy reads that transport me to an entirely different world; one where I'm completely hooked on the characters and what's happening to them.

The perfect place to read women's fiction, cosy, warm, cup of coffee

For me, romance on its own isn't enough.

If there's a romance in a story, that's fine, and if I care about the characters I'll root for them. But on its own? No, it doesn't do it for me. (I realise I might be in the minority, as romance novels sell like proverbial hot cakes).

I want something more than that though.

I want to read about women who are overcoming challenges of all kinds, not just the romantic kind. Women who are rebuilding their lives or challenging themselves, or dealing with complicated issues. About secrets and how they can eat away at relationships or self-esteem like a cancer. And personally, I'm quite happy to accept events that might not happen in real life if the author helps me to believe in them. Magic, I suppose.

women's fiction the magic of being totally absorbed

The compulsion factor

So, right now I'm on a quest to find out more about what other women's fiction fans want from women's fiction. I want to see whether I can find people like me, which would be very nice, but also to find other books and authors who can stir and move me, and make me read hungrily into the night. So, I've put together a short survey on Women's Fiction, and, to entice you to spend a few minutes answering my questions, I'm offering a £20/$20 Amazon voucher to one lucky respondent.

women's fiction survey - tell us your views and win an Amazon gift card
Click image to give your valuable opinion and to be entered into a draw to win a £20/$20 Amazon Gift Card.

So, what are you waiting for? if you enjoy reading good women's fiction, let me know what matters to you and where and how you enjoy reading by clicking on the link. Oh, and if you have a fantasy place to read, I want to hear about that too!

your fantasy place to read - tropical island paradise
Where's your fantasy place to read? Tell us!

Thanks so much. I can't wait to read your answers.

Bye for now.

Margaret 

Happy New Year, I hope you had a good Christmas, and a very warm welcome to anyone who’s new to my blog.

I read two extremely inspiring books over the Christmas period – Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott, and Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. They are quite different books, but they are both about the creative process – what it’s like and how we can get the most pleasure and fulfilment from it. I loved both books, and they were an excellent reminder of why I write and why I’m passionate about helping others to write – because they're such amazing, life-affirming things to do.

It’s difficult to pick one thing out to share with you from them, but I particularly liked Elizabeth Gilbert’s advice in Big Magic to treat your creativity as if you are having an affair with it! Gilbert points out that when people are having a passionate affair, they make time to meet up with the object of their desire, no matter how busy they are, and even if it’s only for a snatched – but passionate – fifteen minutes. She advises us to fall in love with our creativity like that and to see what happens. “Stop treating your creativity as if it’s a tired, unhappy marriage,” she says, “and start regarding it with the fresh eyes of a passionate lover. Sneak off and have an affair with your most passionate self.”

It certainly sounds like fun to me!

While we’re on the subject of fire and sparks, I’ve just released a new e-course called Story Ignitor. It’s a highly practical course based on material I’ve used in my successful day-long workshops. I believe in learning by doing, so you’ll fuel your creativity and start to spark ideas for stories by creating a three-dimensional character and using an innovative technique to help you to plan a story. You’ll also learn about story themes – ways to choose one that resonates with you, and how they can make writing easier. I’m offering the course for an introductory price of £49 (that’s about $60), and all of my students are entitled to join my WriteUP Course Café Facebook group. This is a place to connect with other writers and to find out about writing opportunities as I learn about them. Here’s the link to find out more about the course, or to enrol: http://storyignitor.strikingly.com/

story ignitor - a course to help you find ideas for writing
ENROLLING NOW! CLICK FOR MORE INFORMATION.

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re Norfolk-based, I’m also offering some new face-to-face courses this term. Here are the links to find out more about those.

 

I love the start of the year – it’s a wonderful clean slate, just ready to be filled with exciting opportunities. I intend to really get stuck into my writing this year. How about you?

Until next time.

All the best.

Margaret

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Hello there!

With Christmas fast approaching, I thought it would be fun to adapt the lyrics of the popular christmas song The Twelve Days of Christmas to make them relevant to writers. Here's my effort, which is designed to give both fun and focuss!

If you're unfamiliar with the tune, you can play it using the link below as you attempt to fit my words into it.

TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS MUSIC

 

By the way, in my version, YOU  are the writer generously giving yourself all these things so that you can write!

Have a wonderful Christmas, and I wish you an amazingly creative and fulfilled New Year!

Margaret

 

mail-1841718_640

 

 

 

On the first day of Christmas, my writer gave to me

A compulsion to write all the time.

 

On the second day of Christmas, my writer gave to me

Three-dimensional characters, and

A compulsion to write all the time.

 

On the third day of Christmas, my writer gave to me

Two perfect plot plans,

Three-dimensional characters, and

A compulsion to write all the time.

 

On the fourth day of Christmas, my writer gave to me

A huge cup of coffee,

Two perfect plot plans,

Three-dimensional characters, and

A compulsion to write all the time.

 

On the fifth day of Christmas, my writer gave to me

A giant Keep Out! sign.

A huge cup of coffee,

Two perfect plot plans,

Three-dimensional characters, and

A compulsion to write all the time.

 

On the sixth day of Christmas, my writer gave to me

Voices in my head,

A giant Keep Out! sign.

A huge cup of coffee,

Two perfect plot plans,

Three-dimensional characters, and

A compulsion to write all the time.

 

On the seventh day of Christmas, my writer gave to me

Self-washing children,

Voices in my head,

A giant Keep Out! sign.

A huge cup of coffee,

Two perfect plot plans,

Three-dimensional characters, and

A compulsion to write all the time.

 

On the eighth day of Christmas, my writer gave to me

A freezer full of meals

Self-washing children,

Voices in my head,

A giant Keep Out! sign.

A huge cup of coffee,

Two perfect plot plans,

Three-dimensional characters, and

A compulsion to write all the time.

 

On the ninth day of Christmas, my writer gave to me

A large glass of wine

A freezer full of meals

Self-washing children,

Voices in my head,

A giant Keep Out! sign.

A huge cup of coffee,

Two perfect plot plans,

Three-dimensional characters, and

A compulsion to write all the time.

 

On the tenth day of Christmas, my writer gave to me

A brand new notebook,

A large glass of wine,

A freezer full of meals,

Self-washing children,

Voices in my head,

A giant Keep Out! sign.

A huge cup of coffee,

Two perfect plot plans,

Three-dimensional characters, and

A compulsion to write all the time.

 

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my writer gave to me

Supportive writing friends,

A brand new notebook

A large glass of wine,

A freezer full of meals,

Self-washing children,

Voices in my head,

A giant Keep Out! sign.

A huge cup of coffee,

Two perfect plot plans,

Three-dimensional characters, and

A compulsion to write all the time.

 

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my writer gave to me

An inspiring writing course,

Supportive writing friends,

A brand new notebook

A large glass of wine,

A freezer full of meals,

Self-washing children,

Voices in my head,

A giant Keep Out! sign.

A huge cup of coffee,

Two perfect plot plans,

Three-dimensional characters, and

A compulsion to write all the time.

 

4 Comments

Sometimes my writing flows smoothly, like a stream along well-worn channels, curving around obstacles, intent on its course.

Sometimes my writing flows smoothly, like a stream along well-worn channels, curving around obstacles, intent on its course.

 

At other times, my ideas are like ants in a disturbed ants' nest, scattering in a hundred different directions.

Sometimes my ideas are like ants in a disturbed next, scattering in a hundred different directions.

 

Sometimes my images come out almost as a list on the page:

  • a glint of a gold tooth

  • the rhythmic rocking of the boat

  • red and gold fabrics, gleaming in the midday sunshine

ecuador-1257123_640

 

I take what I get, and use it any way I can, pushing aside thoughts of

should be

should do

the right way

the wrong way

 

There is only what there is, and it helps me to remember that:

Streams flow to the sea.

Every ant has a designated role in the colony.

Lists help you to remember.

This past week has been a disrupted one for me. It can be difficult enough to deal with self-inflicted disruptions to our writing - a tendency to get distracted by social media, or to put our own dreams and priorities last.

But sometimes Life just happens. A two-day headache that divorces you from your imagination. A phone call from the school asking you to collect your poorly son.

That's why I've learnt to take writing - especially the writing I do for a first draft - as it comes, whether it's in the form of streams, scattered ants or lists. However it comes, it  accumulates and gets stuffed together. After a while it coagulates and becomes part of something bigger.

A book, with a life and an identity of its own.

narrative-794978_640

 

How wonderful!

Until next time,

Margaret

 

2 Comments

Today I want to talk to you about how Joan of Arc destroyed my self-confidence. Actually, that’s not right - my apologies to Joan. It’s not fair to blame her. It was all entirely my fault.

Or maybe the teacher’s for putting me under so much stress.

 

708px-joan_of_arc_on_horseback

 

But whoever was to blame, those few unhappy seconds in a French lesson when I was eleven years old had a dramatic effect on my self-confidence – an effect that lasted for almost twenty years.

Let me set the scene for you. I was newly transferred to the class, and painfully shy, so it was unfortunate that one of the first things I had to do was to give a talk in a French lesson. My allotted subject was Joan of Arc (for those of you who don’t know, Joan – otherwise known as Jeanne d’Arc – is a Fifteenth Century French saint). I duly did my preparation and went to stand nervously at the front of the class when it was my turn to speak.

Then I opened my mouth, and, with all eyes upon me, I said: “Joan of Arc was brought up as a pheasant.”

pheasant

 

I had, of course meant to say peasant – a country dwelling agricultural worker, not a large, colourful game bird – but nerves got the better of me, and I’m sure you can imagine the reaction that followed my slip up. There was general hilarity in the class, pretty much drowning out the rest of my faltering words.

 

giggle-608824_640

 

I expect my classmates soon forgot about it, entertaining as it was, but I certainly did not forget about it, and the incident affected me drastically. I clammed up almost completely after that – never saying anything at all in class unless I was forced to, and unfortunately this silence and terror extended to my life post-school. My extreme phobia about public speaking limited the courses I could take, and the jobs I could apply for.

Until finally, with my thirtieth birthday looming, I decided enough was enough. It was time to do something about this fear.

So, I did. Very gradually, until I proved to myself that I’d made a complete recovery by performing stand-up comedy to a crowd of two hundred people in a London comedy club. (I put my experiences into a novel!).

 

dare-club-cover1

So, how did I do it? By taking baby steps, and celebrating each and every one.

First of all, I joined an adult education class – I don’t even remember what it was about now – and then I challenged myself to make one statement, or to ask one question at every session. Then two statements or questions. Then three. (You can’t imagine how my heart pounded and my hands sweated as I willed myself to speak).

I did it just a little bit at a time, until I was ready (yikes!) to join a public speaking course. There, I made people laugh. Deliberately, this time. It felt fantastic. After that, I felt ready to take a teaching qualification. And I discovered that I loved the performance side of teaching. Everything about teaching, in fact. Then, eventually, came that three-minute stand-up routine at the Up The Creek Comedy Club in Greenwich, which was one of the greatest moments of my life so far, and the pinnacle of getting over my public speaking phobia, I’m sure you’ll agree. Every time I feel my self-confidence ebb a little bit, I just watch myself on YouTube and remember that I did it. I actually did it. The sense of achievement that night was incredible. On a par with holding my first published book in my hand…

 

me-doing-standup
Performing stand-up comedy at The Up The Creek Comedy Club in Greenwich, London

So, if you want to write, but something’s holding you back, find out what that something is. Be kind to yourself. Take baby steps to deal with it, and celebrate each and every one. Think in terms of asking a question in an adult education class, rather that a full-blown stand-up comedy performance straight away. Get support on your crusade. (Although maybe not from Joan!). Your efforts will be worth it, because all those little steps can add up to something bigger.

Like a novel!

Want to learn more about how fear can affect writers and what to do about it? Join my Feel The Fear Webinar on 20th October. If you can’t make it live, a recording will be available to those who register.

Oh, and just a reminder that the early bird price of my course Feel The Fear and Write Anyway ends on Sunday 24th October.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Margaret

 

 

 

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The Thursday Blog Feature about writing despite challenge or adversity.
The Thursday Blog Feature about writing despite challenge or adversity.

Hi there!

My guest for this Thursday's Write Despite blog  feature is best-selling author Shani Struthers. When I first met Shani at a Romantic Novelists' Association party, she was writing romance fiction, but since then she has become a best-selling Paranormal author. Shani is fun to be around, and passionate about her writing. But is writing always plain sailing for her? Let's see. Over to Shani.

Shani Pic
Shani Struthers

What challenges have you had to overcome or deal with in order to write?

I haven’t had to overcome physical challenges as such – well, not unless you can call three children a physical challenge! Actually… thinking about it, I think you can term them a physical as well as a mental challenge! I’m the mother of three children. I also work (a freelance copywriter for the travel industry) and, like so many people, I have a million daily tasks to complete. Life is busy, busy, busy! But, I’ve always known I wanted to write novels. Copywriting is great but, in terms of creativity, you’re limited by the brief. It was only when the children had grown older that I could make that dream a reality, grabbing whatever hours I could whilst they were at school, or on play dates, or visiting the grandparents, fitting in a third job rather than taking time out to relax. It’s been worth it though, and, I’m learning now how to find a balance, even if the scales tip slightly over sometimes into late nights and early mornings – writing always seems to find a way!

How do you think this challenge has impacted on your writing?

It stopped me frankly, because for many years. I was too tired! But there comes a time when you have to stop making excuses, when you have to sit down and write the first sentence, finding a way to fit it all in, to write the next sentence and the next, until, voila! You have a book.

 

Shani's "Runaways" series.
Shani's "Runaways" series.

What was your greatest fear when you first started to write?

My greatest fear was that I wouldn’t be able to craft a novel. For so long, I’d thought about it, but I’d never put it into practice. I’d gained some confidence from my copywriting but a novel, as I said above, is a completely different beast. My first novel was called The Runaway Year, a contemporary romance, set in Cornwall, and, sending it off to various publishers, I was surprised to receive several acceptances. That spurred me on a bit!

Tintagel Sunset
Tintagel, Cornwall. The inspiring setting for the Runaways series.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to write, but who is feeling held back by circumstances and/or challenges?

Writing is supposed to be enjoyable, it’s supposed to be fun; you have to love what you’re doing, and not feel that it’s a chore. Find time for it but don’t beat yourself up about not finding enough time either, not initially – you have to live in the real world too. For people who lead busy lives, balance is something that will come if you’re determined enough.

The Highlands of Scotland, the setting for Jesamine.
The Highlands of Scotland, the setting for Jesamine.

Tell us a bit about something you've written that you're really proud of, or something you're writing now.

I’m proud of everything I’ve written but my heart lies not in contemporary romance but the paranormal, which is why I’ve switched to that genre.

Shani's best-selling Paranormal Psychic Surveys series
Shani's best-selling Paranormal Psychic Surveys series.

rise to me

 

eve

I love my Psychic Surveys series, a set of paranormal mysteries, but it’s Jessamine, my heart belongs too. A Gothic-style paranormal romance, set in the Scottish Highlands, the story wrote itself over a couple of months, making me cry on several occasions. From all the feedback I get from readers, I’ve gathered I tend to write emotions well – in Jessamine, a range of emotions are covered, including grief, loss, acceptance and hope. You’ll need tissues if you read it!

front

 

Thanks so much, Shani. So interesting and inspiring to us all! Good luck with your future writing.

Here are Shani's links so that you can connect with her and find out more.

Facebook Author Page: http://tinyurl.com/p9yggq9

Twitter: https://twitter.com/shani_struthers

Blog: http://shanisite.wordpress.com

Goodreads http://tinyurl.com/mq25mav

Until next time!

Margaret

You might also enjoy:

Write Despite. Meeting Louisa Heaton. Vertigo is Not Romantic!

Write Despite - Meeting Jane Bwye. Forty Years to Fruition.

 

3 Comments

 

The Thursday Blog Feature about writing despite challenge or adversity.
The Thursday Blog Feature about writing despite challenge or adversity.

Today's Thursday Write Despite features the incredibly inspiring Ailsa Abraham. Ailsa is a multi-published author who writes fiction despite having suffered brain damage and a stroke as a result of three separate accidents - a fractured skull at the age of 15 when she fell onto rocks from a cliff top, a stroke following a car accident, and a near-fatal motorcycle accident which put her into a coma for three weeks.

Beautiful but deadly. Ailsa fell onto rocks from these cliffs at the age of 15.
Beautiful but deadly. Ailsa fell onto rocks from these cliffs at the age of 15.

If you can write despite all of that, I think you can write despite pretty much anything!

But I'll let Ailsa tell her story of writing against the odds.

What challenges have you had to overcome or deal with in order to write?

Brain damage and severe pain are the most awkward. My spine is pretty well crippled which can make sitting at a desk rather sore. I have experimented with voice recognition but it turns my Julie Andrews' accent into a mangled version of rubbish so it's easier to touch type, at which I am fortunate enough to be good.

Since a few head-injuries plus a stroke, my mind becomes disconnected. Often I don't know which language I'm speaking, one of the disadvantages of being bilingual. This results in me losing words in both tongues and screaming in frustration. Sometimes I have to act them out to a friend to get the answer.

Ailsa on the motorbike which ended up putting her in a coma for 3 weeks.
Ailsa on the motorbike which ended up putting her in a coma for 3 weeks.

I'm a very impatient person. I want it done now. No, I want it done five minutes before I thought about it which makes writing a very frustrating occupation. Consequently I write in the patchwork quilt method – whatever scene grabs me gets written. When I have a few in hand I stitch them together in the right pattern until the tale is coherent. Overall this works better for me than trying to write chronologically.

patchwork-112548_640
Ailsa finds a 'patchwork' way of writing suits her best.

How do you think this challenge has impacted on your writing?

Possibly it has given me insight into other people's suffering. I tend to be compassionate both with real folks and with characters, both good and bad. When I have a bad character I need to work out what made them like that and so they become less two-dimensional, perhaps even pitiable.

IRL (in real life) I laugh at everything. That is my defence method. When lying on the floor, having been attacked by furniture when my feet and brain aren't speaking, I can hardly stand on my dignity, can I? Face it, I can't really stand up so...I giggle. There tends to be a lot of “off the cuff” humour in my work. A woman involved in very serious and dark work will suddenly “throw a googlie” by saying “Well, you don't piss off gods, do you? Just in case!” That's really me speaking!

My profile picture
Ailsa Abraham

What was your greatest fear when you first started to write?

I didn't have any. Given that I was only writing for the amusement of friends it was not a fearful situation. I don't tend to scare easily anyway. Having shaken hands with DEATH regularly I tend to look at it and say “What's the worst that can happen?” With writing the answer is that in the worst case scenario, everyone will hate your book. Hey but then you would be famous for writing the worst book EVER!

When I first started I was writing male romance under a pseudonym and the only trepidation for me was that some gay men resent women writing that kind of fiction. So far nobody has had anything but praise for it. Even straight people apparently like them!

A's kiss book

What advice would you give to someone who wants to write, but who is feeling held back by circumstances and/or challenges?

Don't let it. Writing is something you should HAVE to do, not want to do. I would never have got into this malarky if people hadn't bullied, pushed and shoved me. I didn't think my stuff was good enough but publishers have agreed so I'll go along with them. They know what they are talking about. The only thing that should put you off writing is if you can't possibly face rejection because it will happen. 99 people will love your book and one miserable git will leave a one-star review. Being a normal human being, you will ignore the ninety-nine and notice only the bad one. Stop it. If you can't take that, don't write. Get as much feedback from friends, writing groups etc. and be open to constructive criticism.

Tell us a bit about something you've written that you're really proud of, or something you're writing now

As usual, with my disorganised brain I am writing three WIPs (works in progress) at once. I'm not especially proud of any of my books in particular, as they all mean as much to me. Each was a huge achievement. I think when I get Book 3 of Alchemy series finished, it will be the greatest one because I have literally had to come back from the dead to write it. I was getting on fine with the first draft until a motorcycle accident nearly wiped me out and put me in a coma for three weeks. It has taken over a year for me to get back to writing properly. I couldn't even do blog posts at first which will teach me to do somersaults over the handlebars at my age!

I am quite proud of being able to mix genres so well. I consider it rather like cooking. So I don't just make cakes, I do a mean home-made soup as well. Alchemy series is magical reality, my boys are in romantic detective drama and I'm about to embark on non-fiction too.

Out of the way, folks, the literary motorbike is revving up again. Thanks for having me over Margaret and here are my links (works from all over the world!)

both with Amazon

***

BIO – Ailsa Abraham retired early from a string of jobs, ending up with teaching English to adults. She has lived in France since 1990 and is married with no children but six grandchildren.  She copes with Bipolar Condition, a twisted spine and increasing deafness with her usual wry humour – “well if I didn't have all those, I'd have to work for a living, instead of writing, which is much more fun.”. Her ambition in life is to keep breathing and maybe move back to the UK. She has no intention of stopping writing. Her other passions are running an orphanage for homeless teddy bears plus knitting or crochet now that she has had to give up her beloved black Yamaha.

Ailsa's Publications:

As Ailsa Abraham :

Alchemy and Shaman's Drum published by Crooked Cat

alchemy

shamans drum4 go mad

 

(Shaman's Drum was nominated for the People's Choice Book Award)

 

Four Go Mad in Catalonia – self-published, available from Smashwords

Twitter - @ailsaabraham

Facebook – Ailsa Abraham

Amazon Author Page

Web page

Thank you so much, Ailsa. You're a complete inspiration to me, and I'm sure to everyone who reads this post!

Until next time.

Margaret

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3 Comments

The Thursday Blog Feature about writing despite challenge or adversity.
The Thursday Blog Feature about writing despite challenge or adversity.

There can be so many reasons why it's hard to sit down and write.

These can be as varied as the necessity to earn money to eat, or long ago memories of teachers who called you stupid as you struggled with dyslexia. Then there's ill health, low self-belief, or the need to make a perfect cup of coffee or to empty the bins before you start. Not to mention the inconvenient demands of a family, or an non-supportive partner.

In my first years of writing fiction, I had a boyfriend who was driven demented by the sound of me typing.

 

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He would come into the kitchen - which was the only room in our flat where I could have a desk - and read out passages from my current work in progress in a cynical tone of voice.

"He strode off without a backward glance. She turned and walked slowly in the opposite direction, feeling as battered and bruised as if he had hit her physically. They hadn't spoken for more than five minutes, and in that short time he had made it quite clear that he no longer found her attractive. Well, asked a little voice, what did you expect?"

In those days, I wrote romances filled with tall, dark heroes with amazing cheek bones. Was my boyfriend jealous? Maybe. Certainly, those books were written despite him.

Never fear, reader; I dumped him. Not as soon as I ought to have done, but that's a different story.

I have written despite having repetative strain injury in my wrists from a brain-numbing data inputting job at a college. (I wore tubigrip bandages).

I have written despite relationship break-ups and in snatches of time while my baby son napped.

 

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Writing takes time, and it also takes self-discipline, so in a way, all writers Write Despite something.

But some people have to overcome greater challenges than others in order to express themselves on paper, and I thought it would be inspiring and reassuring for us to hear these writers' stories of creation against the odds.

So, from next Thursday, 21st January, I'm introducing a new feature on my blog: Write Despite.

Each week, a writer who has successfully dealt with challenges in order to write will inspire us by answering these 5 questions:

  • What challenges have you had to overcome or deal with in order to write?
  • How do you think this challenge has impacted on your writing?
  • What was your greatest fear when you first started to write?
  • What advice would you give to someone who wants to write, but who is feeling held back by circumstances and/or challenges?
  • Tell us a bit about something you've written that you're really proud of, or something you're writing now.

I can't wait!

Cheers!

Margaret

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