Saturday, 2 October 2010

Jo interviews Angela Pickering

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.


Old Kitty said...

Oh wow!! Thank you Joanne for such a fab interview and thanks so much Angela for your insight of how your write! I love that idea of you going to school with your tales set in Russia and getting your friends to read them!! How wonderful!!

It's also very interesting to learn when your story ideas come to you - at that moment "between waking and sleeping". I think that's just amazing.

Thanks for the inspiring words of advice!!! I love the passion and also the practicality - join courses and writing groups always helps with the desire! Take care

joanne fox said...

Thanks Kitty. I'm glad you enjoyed the interview. x

Joanna said...

What a lovely interview. I enjoyed this so much, particularly the tales set in Russia. It's good to be reminded of why we choose to write - simply because we love it.

joanne fox said...

Joanna, yes, it's very easy to lose touch with that in the competitive game of trying to get published!

HelenMWalters said...

Great interview. I will look out for Angela's name in the magazines from now on.

Karen said...

I've read and enjoyed many of Angela Pickering's stories over the years :o)

I only started writing the odd ghost story last year - never having tried them before - and discovered I actually love doing them.

Reading the interview I was reminded of a weekly series a friend and I used to write during science classes in 6th Form, called Pigs in Pink Plastic Macs!

bazza said...

I don't have ambition (or the talent) to write but I am always interested in writers and their techniques. I do absolutely love to read though! I'm the paying public at the end of the process. Thanks for an interesting post.

joanne fox said...

Helen, pleased you enjoyed the interview.

Karen, your Pigs in Pink Plastic Macs sound a scream!

Bazza, you may not be writing fiction but you always produce interesting blog posts.

Angela's Russian tales and Karen's pigs have reminded me how I used to try and do a magazine with my cousin when we were young. I'd write a bit, pass it on to her, she'd write a bit and pass it back. Unfortunately she lost her enthusiasm for it before I did, and it became a one person operation, eventually falling by the wayside. Wish I had a copy of it now. It would be fun to look back on.

Suzanne Ross Jones said...

This is a terrific interveiw - thank you so much Joanne and Angela.


Ellie Garratt said...

What a fantasttic interview - thank you Joanne and Angela!

joanne fox said...

Cheers Suzanne and Ellie! x

Maureen said...

Great interview - some interesting questions (and answers). Thank you, both!

Liane said...

Hee hee. Thank you. Loved the interview. Made me giggle about the curtsey. I wouldn't want to marry Stephen King. I did, however, feel he'd become my friend listening to his audio version of 'On Writing' multiple times. Having him narrate it was truly delicious. After "Stephen King says ..." one too many times, my husband banned his name from the house yet he remains a writing friend in my heart.:)

joanne fox said...

'On Writing' is such a classic Liane! I often refer to it when I'm stuck or if I just need an extra whizz of motivation.

Thanks for visiting Liane, (and hi to Maureen too!)

Talli Roland said...

Great interview, ladies! I like Stephen King too - particularly 'On Writing'.

Margo Berendsen said...

I get a lot of my ideas between waking and sleeping too. But never over an ironing board! that made me laugh!

Lunch with Stephen King. Wow I wouldn't be able to eat, either. I'd have a list of like 100 questions and I'd be scribbling notes like crazy - or I'd just sit dumbly, too awestruck to function.

Ellie Garratt said...

I've nominated you for a blog award. See my blog for details!