An interview with Sarah Collie about writing, location, language, and Not Stalking

I met Sarah online through a friend who brought me chocolate when I was feeling blue at Uni, and since she’s so much fun to PM it seemed the obvious next step to get her on here for an interview.  So, without further ado, guys … meet Sarah Collie!

the stunning Sarah Collie

the stunning Sarah Collie

You grew up in Oban, on the Scottish coast, and now live  in Yorkshire and about as far from the sea as you can get in the north  of England!  Has this shaped your writing in any way?  Do you notice a  difference between then and now linked to the change in culture,  scenery, and location?

I miss the sea enormously, it’s a strange thing to try to explain to anyone who hasn’t had that presence in their life.  You miss the smell, even on the ripe days of summer when it didn’t smell particularly pleasant… I think you don’t realise until it’s gone how there’s a sound, not loud but just there, a constant thing that I noticed was missing once I’d moved.

I lived in Australia for four years but I was near the ocean then as well, this is the first place I’ve ever lived where I can’t just walk there, it’s a 2 hour drive away.  I think moving around is good for writers, you experience new things and new cultures.  Even within the UK there is such a vast difference even down to how people talk.  I have to sometimes rethink how I ask questions or the words I use because people have no idea what I’m talking about, or how ideas of what is polite to ask or to say differ depending on where you are.

Making (what I thought was) polite conversation, I asked a person here recently if she lived in Huddersfield and she gave me a look that implied I was obviously considering stalking her, we worked it out but it was funny at the time.  I love that, because I notice that other people find it fascinating as well, try asking a person from Yorkshire why they’re looking “scunnered” and you’ll see what I mean.  I’m sure half the time they think I’m making them up.

Yep, same here.  The food differences are what tickle me the most – fruit cake and cheese in Yorkshire seems just as much an acquired taste as deep fried pizza with salt and vinegar in Scotland.  Anyway, before I soak my lap with drool, back to the writing!  You’re part of Holmfirth Writers’  Group.  Tell me a bit about how that came about, how you got involved,  what you gain from it as a writer, and if you’ve anything exciting lined up in the coming months.

Holmfirth Writers Group has been a fantastic experience for me, it’s very democratic although there is a committee who do a great job dealing with everything from meetings, to organising a spot on the local radio for us to do readings once a month. (I’ve included this link, the first story is mine read by a lovely fellow writer called Christina Longden http://www.twovalleysradio.co.uk/listenagain/holmfirth-writers-group-relationships/  )  we all take turns to volunteer to run workshops which works really well because there’s such a broad range of writers there.

The rule is constructive criticism only which I love.  They’re a really nice group anyway but it means that you feel comfortable sharing what you’ve written because you know that anything that they say is only to help you improve your writing.  I personally have come on a lot as a writer since I joined about two years ago and I’ve published a horror anthology ebook called “Souls of Darkness” with two of the other writers under a pen name.  I’d written for years but joining the group gave me the confidence to start putting my work out there and I’ve been really touched by the feedback I’ve received, which in turn has given me even more confidence!  I started actually telling people that I’m a writer and as a result that has led to more introductions and more opportunities, like this piece.

That’s great!  Have you had any key moments as a writer, times when everything has come together and helped you progress to the next stage?

A few years ago my writing started to get neglected because I had so much else going on in my life, I’d just moved house, got married and started a business very close together and I was working a lot of hours and sleeping whenever I wasn’t working.  Things happened in my life that changed absolutely everything and I suddenly had time when I couldn’t leave the house but I had time when I could write again, so I did.  It wasn’t exactly a fun time but it brought me back to my passion instead of focusing so much on running a business which I enjoyed for the ability to meet and talk to people but if I’m honest I didn’t love as a job anymore.  Circumstances made moving to England a necessity and without that I wouldn’t have found my writing group or progressed so quickly.  I feel much more confident sending off my stories now than I ever would have if I’d stayed in Oban, much as I loved it there.

Likewise – it’s freeing to start again, don’t you think?  Especially far from wherever you made the usual teenage mistakes (I know I made more than a few).  Have you been given any bad advice about writing?  Anything you think people should perhaps avoid, or only pay heed to in very limited situations?

I don’t think I’ve been given any bad advice to be honest, not yet anyway!  I’ve found that people are usually happy to see someone else succeed, I think it gives them hope, that’s how I feel when I hear about someone’s good news anyway.  I’ve found that the writers who I’ve met or talked to online are very supportive and encouraging, I hope that one day I can inspire and help someone else the way the people I’ve met have with me.

You’ve certainly been a wonderful sounding board and source of support (and chocolate) for me!  And definitely an inspiration.  What about good advice?  Do you have any suggestions to writers or those interested in writing?

“Be brave” I was so nervous about people sending me messages back saying ‘are you serious? Do you honestly think that you can write?’ but having a folder full of beautiful, imaginative and creative stories is no good unless you have the faith in yourself to send them out into the world to be read and enjoyed.  My grandmother wrote lovely poetry, a skill I did not inherit, but they stayed on scraps of paper or in notebooks and will never be read by anyone now which is sad.

Aw, that’s so sad!  Yes, definitely be brave.  It makes such a difference!  Do you have any favourite sites – for submissions, reading, inspiration, craft tips, etc?

I love reading the work at Pure Slush, and I was recently recommended a site called Literary Orphans which has some amazing writers.  I’m writing a piece just now that I’m hoping to submit, although it’s my first time so I’ll be happy just to have the confidence to send it off.  That in itself will be progress, if they like it then that’s even better!

I’m a big fan of both of them, too.  I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you.  What have you achieved this year with your writing that you’re particularly  proud of or satisfied with, and how did this come about?

I started my first proper novel!  Everything I’d written before was a short story or a not so short story in some cases but I never had something that I felt strongly enough about to be able to see it as a full novel.  It started out of one of the writers workshops actually, the piece I wrote is now the opening scene but my mind couldn’t let it go.  I dreamt about it, I would have ideas for how to develop it at the most inappropriate times, like when I was driving or when I was in a meeting or doctors appointment.  I have a stationery fetish, I believe it’s common among writers, and I devoted a beautiful red leather notebook that my dad had given me a year before to notes for it.  I buy gorgeous notebooks but I won’t use them until I have something worthwhile to put in them.  Luckily I also have some lovely family and friends who feed my habit!

What did you do to celebrate?

Nothing… yet.  Once it’s finished, and I’ve sent it off to see if anyone else loves it as much as I do, I’ll probably return to Oban for a girls’ weekend with my friends.

Sounds fab!  What are your aims for 2013?  How do you propose reaching your goals?

Finish my novel is the main one.  Hmm, write, write and write some more?  To get some of my short stories published online.  Not getting distracted and to trust in myself more, I feel happiest when I write so to spend more time being happy.

Very best of luck for 2013, Sarah – hope to see your name up in links if not lights in the near future! 

Sarah writes a range of genres depending on her mood.  She contributed five stories to a ebook anthology of short stories along with two other authors under the pen name Louise Hunt called “Souls Of Darkness”. Sarah is working in her first full length novel under the working title of “The Beach In Winter”. She is currently studying for a degree in English Literature with the Open University.

You can find her blog and ask her about the potato connection here http://spud09.blogspot.co.uk/?m=1 and check out “Souls Of Darkness” here http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/B0088DCG4Y/ref=mp_s_a_1?qid=1356047239&sr=1-1

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