Here’s the first of what could (or could not) be my foray into author interviews. Considering the author in question is a friend of mine and a writer bud in my writing group, I thought it best to interview her. It also helps that her debut book, or short story, whatever you want to call it as long as it’s Islands to Auld Reekie, just released this week.
1) To begin with, who are you exactly, besides the obvious writer and debut author? What are your hobbies and such?
Hobbies? Don’t you need to be dedicated to those?
I am a 23 year old Scot, who lives in a farm town, so spends most of her time indoors making a mess of the house. I bake, cook, knit, crochet and play far too many brass instruments, chiefly the tuba, which has to live out in the bar because it takes up too much space in the house. I am a trained barmaid too, which is handy when there’s rugby or MotoGP on.
I have a rather short attention span, so I like to have a variety of things on the go at any one time, which I flit between to stop myself getting bored. I am a huge music fan as well, which causes some fantastic debates with my Da when he takes exception to my playing Biffy Clyro at 2am.
2) Your short story is a continuation of the anthology “A Town Called Pandemonium.” What can the reader expect from your work?
Honestly, I don’t know what to expect from my work half the time! This story has a personal significance to me, because the main character is actually my great-great aunt, the idea coming from a letter she had written which my Papa kept. We found it after he passed away and we discovered his ‘treasure box’. So it’s from the heart, as honest as I could make it, and means a lot to me.
3) I understand you’re a huge pirate fan. What exactly was the inspiration behind your short story?
Pirates do not feature in this one! It’s actually the first full short I’ve written in about 2 years that hasn’t had pirates in it in some way. The brief for 1853 was that it was to be set in the same year as Town, which explains the title, but it had to be set outside of North America. My thoughts immediately jumped to Scottish history, and 1853 was the year my family were kicked off the Isle of Skye during the Highland Clearances. They were grim years in Scottish history, during which landowners discovered it was cheaper to have one large farm run by few people than small farms run by lots of tenants. The tenants were then forcibly, in some cases violently, moved out of their homes. It is well documented, but there aren’t very many personal accounts about, so I took advantage of the fact I had one in the form of Abigail’s letter.
4) As said beforehand, 1853 looks mainly Western, but I understand it was to be set around the world. Does your short story follow that same route? If not, what would you bill it as? What label do you think it falls under?
My story is unintentionally more horror than I had intended, but it works well I think. It’s also memoir, I guess, in as much as it is a letter. I am utterly hopeless at labels, so I don’t have much more for you!
5) What’s next for Laura Graham? Do you plan on focusing more on short stories, remain opportunistic? Will you try and push that novel you’re working on? Maybe self-publish after that?
I will definitely keep working on shorts, they’re good fun and I learn a lot about my writing through them. They’re also good for my discipline, because anyone who has met me will tell you, I am VERY good at rambling on! There are a couple of anthologies currently taking submissions that I am interested in, so hopefully something will come from that.
On the novel front, I hope to fix my finished novel, because the story needs a ridiculous amount of work. I am having really good fun with the novel I’m writing at the moment though, it is a mash-up of crime and fantasy, which are my two favourite genres, and I have the opportunity to do lots of little things I’ve wanted to try for ages.
I don’t know if I could self-publish. Between my attention span and my head for maths, I’d suck.
6) What are you as a writer, as an artist? What makes you wake up in the morning and want to inspire people with your words?
Wow, that’s a tough one. I’ve always had an active imagination, as a kid I was the one who had imaginary friends until much later than anyone else (I think they still pop up from time to time), and when my sister and I were out playing in the street with our friends, I was the one who came up with the stories for our games.
I’ve always been creative too; any arts and crafts that were going on at school or after-school club, I had to be in there. So I think that’s why I write – I am just constantly full of ideas, and have to get them out.
As far as inspiring people with my words go…if I inspire someone, that is fluffing awesome. I’ve always thought the coolest thing about my writing would be someone wanting to find out more about something I included in a story. If I can get one person interested in an idea I love, that would be fantastic.
MORE ON MY SPONTANEOUS QUESTION HERE
7) I know some writers are spurred by a single book to begin their love affair with writing. Was there a specific book that made you want to start? Or did you just wake up one morning a decide to put pen to paper?
I actually had real trouble reading and writing as a kid, I had undiagnosed dyslexia, and couldn’t actually read or write until I was 8 years old, and even then I had to go to special classes. When I was 12 I read my first full novel by myself. It was Redwall, by Brian Jacques, and to me it was utterly magical.
That fed my love of reading, and it was from that my need to do it myself came about. I had all these stories in my head, and I knew how novels work, so I was determined to do it myself. I wrote my first novel as a 16 year old, and it was awful, and I mostly gave up after that. Until I was in university, and had essays to write, at which point stories because more interesting again!
I just love the feeling of looking up after an hour’s concentrating and seeing pages filled with my handwriting, knowing there’s a story there. That’s what drives me to write.
8) Patrick Rothfuss gained notoriety with a short story which helped him get an agent. Do you believe others should do the same, start off small and grow from there, maybe like you’re doing, or should they jump in with their first written novel and hope it sells?
That is definitely something that varies from person to person. I was just very lucky that Jared and Anne enjoyed my story, and decided to include it in the collection.
I am definitely of the opinion that short stories should be part of a writers’ repertoire, if for no other reason than they are great for discipline. Unless they’re like mine and grow arms and legs and run all over the place.
If you’re going to go the agent route, research the hell out of the industry. And be sure to follow submission guidelines, because they are there for a reason.
Keep an eye out for anthologies; there are loads of publishers on twitter and the like that post information about anthologies they’re looking for submissions for. Magazines too, because as I have learned having the courage to send off something is the hardest part. Once you’ve done it the first time, it becomes so much easier.
Have trusted people read your work as you’re writing it too; they’re more likely to be honest with you, and having outside objective is invaluable.
9) Any clue as to what your favorite genre is, sub-genre? Why is it that?
Oh blimey. Most of my reading is fantasy fiction, because I love reading as a source of escape from the real world. I need that a lot. Looking at my bookshelves there’s a lot of “urban” fantasy up there, but I don’t think it’s a conscious decision.
I love crime fiction too. Ian Rankin and Christopher Brookmyre being my favourites in there, partly because they’re Scottish, Rankin is a fellow Fifer, but mostly because they have brilliant characters. Characters are a very important part of the work to me; your story can be brilliant, but if I can’t connect to the characters, I’ll most likely put the book down.
I’m getting into Space Opera too. They are so much fun, and are a version of sci-fi my very unscientific brain can cope with.
10) I understand you work with the mentally ill and that you yourself suffer from depression and bipolar. How do these diseases affect your writing? Do you see them slip in sometimes?
I try and use my writing as an antidote to my depression, when I am in a down phase, because it is very important to keep yourself going when you’re in that state. It doesn’t always work, because there are days when forcing yourself out of bed becomes the biggest challenge in the world, but I’m at the tail end of a down just now, and it’s helped a lot this time round.
When I’m on a high I will write like crazy; two weeks of very little sleep gives you a ridiculous amount of time to write in.
They do slip into my writing from time to time, sometimes intentionally and sometimes not. I find it’s not so much the illness but emotions and thoughts that I have as a result that find their way into my work. I do try and keep my work fairly upbeat though; no one wants to read something from when I am suicidally depressed, that’s just not pleasant. There is a line, and I need to remember to toe it from time to time.
Working in the psychiatric hospital has actually been a real eye opening experience for me in the 6 years I’ve been there. I’ve always made a point of trying to see the people behind the illness, and it’s incredible some of the stories they tell you, whether you want to hear them or not.
11) Thanks again for taking the time to answer this. Hope your writing career begins great, and good luck with sales!
Thank you very much! Hopefully the story is enjoyable, and I can get more of my ideas out there soon!