Ruth Leigh Interview Part 2 – and Another Zebra Story

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Many thanks to Ruth Leigh for providing author and book cover photos for the second part of her fabulous interview for Chandler’s Ford Today. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you have had a good week. Not bad here. Went to see The Chameleons’ latest production (more on that next week) and I’ve written another zebra story, this time for Friday Flash Fiction. The writing life can throw up some strange but fun things at times given I never expected to write about zebras at all, yet alone twice in one week.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am delighted to welcome back Ruth Leigh to Chandler’s Ford Today for the concluding part of her two-part interview. Having recently released The Continued Times of Isabella M Smugge, Ruth and I discuss marketing, interviewing characters, and look at characters loved and loathed. Hope you enjoy the interview and good luck, Ruth, with your third book.

PART 2 – Ruth Leigh and The Continued Times of Isabella M Smugge

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Posting early today as I’m off to watch The Chameleon Theatre Group perform The Mystery of Mallen Hall later on this evening. Should be good fun. Review to follow in due course. It WAS good fun. Looking forward to writing the review.

And don’t forget the second part of my interview with Ruth Leigh is up on Chandler’s Ford Today tomorrow. As Ruth now launches her third book, The Continued Times of Isabella M Smugge, it is a good time to talk to her about her thoughts on marketing! Link up above (and you’ve got to do a hat salute or something for Ruth who wanted Jane Austen to be name checked. There is always time for that in my universe!).

Talking of which, my author newsletter goes out on the first of each month so if you’d like to sign up for tips, news, story links etc., do head over to the landing page of my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – you would be most welcome! And many thanks to those who have signed up. Next edition our next week. Having a monthly author newsletter is another way of realising just how quickly time flies!

 

Many thanks to the lovely Val Penny for her shout out to yours truly in her latest blog. See link and screenshot. This conversation came about when Val and I were chatting about marketing a while back.

You do have to like your first book because one thing you can guarantee will come out in interviews etc will be questions about how you got into print. So it is far easier on you if your first book is something you love because you’ll then never mind talking about it (as well as plug the latest one of course).

Nor do you want people wondering why you seemingly won’t talk about your first one. Having said that, you can go on to talk about how your writing has moved on from your first book and that can open up an interesting vein of conversation too).

Screenshot 2022-10-26 at 16-11-58 Drafting a Novel before Submission

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Thrilled to say the “other story” I referred to yesterday (see below) is up on Friday Flash Fiction. Hope you enjoy The Caterpillar and the Zebra. Great fun to write and again this story came from another title idea I brainstormed during a session of the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group which meets online once a month.

With a title like that, I just had to do something with it and this is the result. I hadn’t expected to write one story about zebras yet alone two (the other is on my YouTube channel). Writing really can take you in unexpected directions at times!

Screenshot 2022-10-28 at 09-38-08 The Caterpillar and the Zebra by Allison Symes

Posting early as off to the local theatre tonight which is always a fabulous experience. I’m hoping my other story which I wrote thanks to coming up with the title via the ACW Flash Fiction Group will be online tomorrow. (It was – see above!). Will keep you posted. This tale also involves animals!

Brainstorming title ideas has led (and continues to lead) to my coming up with stories I would not have thought off in any other way. I don’t usually write about zebras for example! But I’ve found brainstorming title ideas (and they can work for non-fiction too) is a great way to use those pockets of time where you can write something but not a lot. Well worth doing.

If you have a little more time, then one of those titles can be the beginning of a new flash story for you as well. When I have, say, 15 minutes, that’s enough time to look up one of my brainstormed titles, pick one, and then start to work out ideas for it.

 

You can never know for sure which of your flash pieces will really catch people. I’ve been very pleasantly surprised that The Zebra Who Lost Its Stripes has done so well on YouTube. Thank you, everyone.

What matters is writing a story you really care about. I could hear the voice of my little zebra and his gran immediately and knew this would work best in (mainly) dialogue format. Dialogue also has the advantage of giving the story a good pace which was ideal for this one.

But it does boil down to knowing the characters and knowing what it is about them that will appeal to potential readers. You can work out who the Ideal Reader is likely to be then and ensure you are pitching your work to appeal to them.

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Fairytales with Bite – Sources of Power

Where does your fantasy setting get its sources of power? Does it use what we would know as electricity, say, as well as magic? Or is it an all magic environment only? How does the magic develop?

Can characters increase what they have naturally through study? Are they reliant on specific equipment to make their magic work and, if so, who controls the access to that equipment? You can bet someone will! If that equipment has to be bought, how do your characters pay for what they need or are they forced into doing nefarious deeds to get the equipment they need?

How is magic seen in your world – as a source of “green” energy or something darker? If you have non-magical characters, how can they survive in a magical world? What do the magical beings need them for?

Does your world as a whole look to improve and/or increase its sources of power, especially if it if dependent on supplies from somewhere else? The politics (including geopolitics) on our world can help you come up with story ideas for your settings. Where there is power, there is someone who wants to control it. That alone can be a source of story ideas!

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This World and Others – Ten Thoughts on Making a World Realistic

  1. Basic needs are the same everywhere so think about how your world would grow its food, ensure there was enough water etc.
  2. Think about human flaws and virtues – could your “alien“ characters have the same ones? How would these translate in your setting?
  3. Motivations have to be understandable so know why your characters are the way they are. Your world will be realistic with realistically drawn characters in it, no matter how alien they are in appearance etc.
  4. Think power sources (see Fairytales with Bite above). This can include everything from political power to the power needed to be able to grow food, light homes etc. Who runs all of this? Who are they answerable to?
  5. Think geography. Is your setting at odds with a neighbouring world? Are countries within the world at loggerheads with each other and, if so, why?
  6. Think history. What are the major stories your characters know? What are the important turning points in your setting’s history and how do these impact on the stories you want to tell? A world has to have some history behind it. That in turn will feed into politics. All of that will trigger ideas.
  7. Think culture. Is your setting a monoculture or are there several cultures? If the former, how would that be challenged (visitors from other worlds disturbing the peace etc)? If the latter, are there clashes between cultures? What triggers those and does anyone seek to exploit them? (Someone usually does!).
  8. Is magic part of your setting and is your society divided between the haves and the have nots? People understand the tensions that causes – using what we know here and reflecting it into your setting can give readers an instant short cut into your world. They’ll hit the ground running with your story as a result.
  9. Be consistent with rules – if certain characters can’t use magic, you’ll need to show why. There should be advantages as well as disadvantages to that. Magic can cause problems of its own so how does that play out in your setting?
  10. What fears exist in your setting/your characters? Do they, for example, fear monsters because they know they exist? How do characters cope with those fears? Are they expected to not show how they feel? How are the monsters dealt with if they are still an issue? What issues does you world have to deal with?

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