Today’s 20-20 guest is Flash Fiction writer Allison Symes from Hampshire.
What name do you write under? I write as Allison Symes for both my blogging and flash fiction/short stories. It is who I am! I’ve not used a pen name though I wouldn’t necessarily rule it out later.
Where are you from, live or work? I’m from Chandler’s Ford, Hampshire, which is between Southampton and Winchester.
Tell me two things that people may not know about you. I rescue border collies. I’ve had three so far and my current dog, Lady, is a bundle of fun and mischief. I became a flash fiction writer entirely by accident! Mind you, I’m not sorry about this. I have two collections published!
Do you have any hobbies? I love swimming and walking the dog.
What is your favourite book(s) and why? I could give chapter and verse here, appropriately enough. My top three books are:-
A. The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkein. It is the good -v- evil story as far as I’m concerned and its scope is amazing. The Jackson films, I felt, were pretty true to the book too.
B. The Daughter of Time – Josephine Tey. This detective novel turned my views about Richard III upside down, as it has for many people. And yes it is a detective novel rather than a history one which makes this book very special. I can’t really say more without giving the plot away but it is a great read.
C. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen. I love irony in fiction and Miss Austen introduced me to it with this, her best work as far as I’m concerned.
Who or what inspired you to become a writer? My mother. She taught me to read before I started school and was told off for it! Apparently I was taught the “wrong way”. I’ve never felt the lack! But she encouraged my love of books and stories and I now have her fab collection of books, as well as my own. She read from H.G. Wells to Dickens and Shakespeare to Ian Fleming and Daphne du Maurier amongst many others.
My love of stories directly led to me becoming a writer. In the back of my mind there had been for a long time a wish to write my own stories. I wanted to see on my book shelves books which had my name on the front cover.
What type of books/genre do you write? I’m a flash fiction writer. Flash is any story up to 1000 words but I prefer to write under the 500 words mark. Think of a flash story as an intense look at THE most important moment in a character’s life. As there is no room for lots of description, the stories have to be character led. And the great thing with character led fiction is you can put said characters wherever and whenever you want – and I do as my blurb for Tripping the Flash Fantastic makes clear I think!
Tripping the Flash Fantastic
Allison Symes loves reading and writing quirky fiction. She discovered flash fiction thanks to a Cafélit challenge and has been hooked on the form ever since. In this follow-up to her From Light to Dark and Back Again, Allison will take you back in time, into some truly criminal minds, into fantasy worlds, and show you how motherhood looks from the viewpoint of a dragon. Enjoy the journey!
For the first time with my new book, I’m writing flash stories with a historical basis and even in poetic form. Both were great fun to write and I hope make for an enjoyable but different read.
How would you describe your writing style? Direct. I have to “hit the ground running” with my flash stories so I often take readers straight into my characters’ heads so you can see their thoughts and attitudes from the start. I often write fantasy style flash and refer to my stories as “fairy tales with bite”.
I often use twist endings (as flash fiction is ideal for those and I adore them). If anyone would like to see some examples of my flash work, can I recommend you go to my website (links below) as on there I have a trailers page.
The trailer for my first book From Light to Dark and Back Again is on there and one of my favourite tales from that book, Calling the Doctor, is on the trailer. I love that story as the whole mood changes with the very last word but you’ll need to check out the trailer to find out how and why!
One interesting thing about flash as opposed to my short story writing – I use the first person much more for flash precisely because it is so direct. It’s not something I set out to do but has come about naturally and it is good fun to write this way.
What comes first for you – character, plot or setting? Characters for me. I have to know what my character is capable of and why and the story ideas start flowing from that.
Do you have a writing routine? Yes. I write a column for Chandler’s Ford Today, an online magazine, and that appears every Friday. I often write on topics of interest to writers and sometimes interview other authors. So my working writing week is based on getting my next post written and done. I usually have a post written and scheduled by the end of the following Monday.
I try to make sure I write some fiction most days so a typical evening would see me polishing off my CFT post, then drafting some flash fiction which I’ll edit and submit later. At the moment I am busy with my new collection, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, as well so I’m busy with various marketing things too. From Tuesdays through to Fridays, it is a mixture of fiction writing, researching ideas for future CFT posts, more marketing (!), and drafting stories for competitions. I like variety!
Do you become a ‘method’ writer? Not really. I am always driven by my characters and write the stories that are appropriate for them to be in. It’s then a question of finding a suitable market for them. For CFT, I write to the “needs” of the topic but try to use a friendly and informative style.
What are you currently working on? Marketing for Tripping the Flash Fantastic, the next Chandler’s Ford Today post, blogging, and I have some longer term projects on the go that I hope to return to probably towards the end of the year.
What has been the most fulfilling part of your writing career? Becoming published, definitely. The buzz of that is so thrilling. To begin with I was published online and then my stories started appearing in anthologies. Then came my collections. I’ve enjoyed seeing things develop. What has also been lovely has been where stories have been rejected, I re-work them, and then some of these have gone on to be accepted elsewhere. That’s always a joy when that happens.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever been given? Don’t give up, be open to trying different forms of writing, and edit on paper as you miss things on screen! (Three tips for one line there!).
What piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to become a writer? Don’t underestimate the fact it is hard work but have fun. Write what you want to write. Take time to go to writing events (even if they’re just online at the moment) and learn from author talks etc. I’ve picked up so much useful advice that way. Be aware there are scam artists out there and never be afraid to ask questions. If something seems too good to be true it is. And most important of all? Make plenty of writer friends! They will celebrate with you when things go well and commiserate with you when they don’t. We all need that kind of support.
What have you published recently? Tripping the Flash Fantastic is my latest collection of very short stories and is published by Chapeltown Books. I also have two stories in The Best of Cafelit 9, recently released by Bridge House Publishing.
Do you think there’s still some snobbery between commercial and self-publishing? Not sure. If there is, it has lessened a lot. I know a few self-published writers and their work is excellent. Nor would I rule out self-publishing myself later on.
How do you market your writing? I do most of this online – Facebook and Twitter are the two social media outlets I focus on. I take part in different Facebook writing groups, They’re good fun, I learn from them, and it helps get my name out there. Writing for Chandler’s Ford Today and sharing those posts also gets my name out there. I will be holding a cyber-launch for my new book. I also post new material to my website on a fairly regular basis. I sometimes take a flash fiction story and make a video for it and add it to my website and then share that.
I take part in blog posts. When possible, I go to writing events where I know I can take my books to sell. I’ve been a guest on a podcast earlier in 2020 for the first time and that was fun. I’ve also been on an internet radio station, Chat and Spin Radio, to talk about my book and hope to get back on there again.
I see marketing as an ongoing thing and this is why it is important to love what you write. You have to love your work to market it effectively. Potential readers pick up on your love of your work. I’m sure there will be new marketing things for me to try over the next few months.
Where can people find your work?
Amazon via my Author Central page at http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent
https://www.waterstones.com/books/search/term/allison+symes – on the Waterstones website
Where can people find you on social media and online?
https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com/ – website
https://www.facebook.com/allison.symes.50 – author page
https://www.facebook.com/fairytaleladyallisonsymes – book page (where I share advice on flash fiction in particular)
http://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/author/allison-symes/ – I blog weekly for Chandler’s Ford Today, often on topics of interest to writers.
http://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/search/label/Allison%20Symes – My Cafelit page.
Thank you Allison for being a guest here today. I think one piece of Allison’s advice is paramount for all would be writers, and that is to make friends and contacts among the writing community, you’ll never get any better help and advice.