Today I am delighted that short story writer Angela Pickering has agreed to answer a few questions about herself and her writing.
Angela lives in Essex, and her stories regularly appear in such magazines as Take a Break's Fiction Feast, My Weekly, Woman's Weekly, Yours, The Weekly News, That's Life (Australia), People's Friend, and in the small press. Her competition successes include winning the Annual Ghost Story Competition run by Writers' News in 2006, and also two of their monthly competitions.
So, Angela, welcome to Zigzag Road and can you tell us how long you've been writing?
I have written on and off since I was a child. I used to take episodes of a rambling tale set in Russia to school on a weekly basis and make my friends read them. I also wrote a few ghost stories and then there was that little hand written, hand illustrated magazine called 'Quest' that survived for two issues.
Then life got in the way and I didn't take up the pen again until 2000 when someone I met at work mentioned a writing group she'd joined. "I always wanted to be a writer," I said and she took me at my word. Everything spiralled from there. I shall always be grateful to the writer, Carol Purves, who dragged me along to my first meeting.
Are you someone who plans out stories before beginning to write, or do you like to plunge straight in and see what develops?
Both, actually. Mostly I simply start writing from a title, a character or just a vague idea and see where it leads me. Sometimes the beginning and the end are already set in my head when I start. It's rare that I have a whole story before I begin, but it does happen.
A lot of your stories feature ghosts and hauntings. How do you come up with so many spooky ideas?
I've always been a fan of the strange and spooky tale. My family thought me a strange child, especially when I announced that I'd seen fairies in my bedroom. So it's a question of writing what one loves. My best ideas seem to arrive in that strange time between waking and sleeping. I try to write them down in the notepad beside my bed, but sometimes I think they're so brilliant that I'm sure I'll remember them, and then I don't.
How do you fit writing into your schedule alongside the demands of work and family life?
This is the difficult one. I'm lucky in that I only work part-time, but trying to keep on top of the house and garden in between work shifts means I live my life in a state of perpetual confusion. I call it 'spinning like a top'. I expect everyone calls it something different. Writing is what I do to make myself happy so when I've got a good idea, I drop everything else apart from the washing and ironing. A family of five needs a lot of clean clothes. When I'm not writing though, I'm generally thinking about writing. Many's the tale that has been born over the ironing board.
Imagine you can have lunch with any writer, living or dead. Who would it be and what would you ask them?
I can't choose here between my first hero M.R. James and the amazing Stephen King. In either case the question that springs to mind is "Will you marry me?" To be honest though, I expect I'd be so awestruck that the power of speech would be denied me. I might just curtsy instead and then tremble in their presence. I wouldn't be eating the lunch either.
And finally, have you any advice for newer writers?
Yes, it's this. Love to write. If it's not your passion don't do it. Writing is like breathing to some of us; once you start you can't stop. This passion is what will keep you going when the rejections come through the letter box like confetti. This passion is what will one day see your work in print and if you have it don't waste it. Write. (And join a writing group, read a lot and maybe do courses as well.)
Thank you Angela for these words of inspiration! It's been a real pleasure to discover more about you.