ALLISON SYMES - Q&A
Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
The mother-daughter relationship of Eileen and Jennifer is based on what I know about having such a relationship. I’ve come across characters like the Fairy Queen who try to manipulate everyone. But everything in the book is made up. I’d be seriously worried if my mother told me what Eileen tells Jenny! That made it easier for me to write Jenny sympathetically. The Queen’s Palace is inspired by various visits to stately homes over the years. I did know, like Jenny, what it was to think you’re never going to have a baby and then, joyously, it happens and to be grateful to God for it.
What was your favourite chapter (or part) to write and why?
I’ve enjoyed writing all of The Trouble With Mother especially when Eileen comes to life. I particularly relish writing dialogue, particularly for a strong female character. I also enjoyed putting Eileen through the proverbial mill. As a writer, you know it’s fun to play God!
How did you come up with the title?
It took some time as the basic story has undergone at least two rewrites. The first title was The Brenebourne Papers, which I decided wasn’t enough of a “grabber”. The second title was Fairies, Fauna and Flora, which is an accurate description of what appears in the book but I still didn’t feel it was quite right (and had visions of it being put in a horticultural section or something daft). I then came up with The Trouble with Mother as it sums up the plot well and indicates it’s a relationship type book.
What project are you working on now?
I’m continuing to add material to my websites. I always have at least one short story on the go. I hope to be applying to more agents soon. I'm preparing a collection of short stories. I'm also working on a radio play about a character who witnessed the Moon landings and is very unhappy at the way the Moon is being colonized.
Will you have a new book coming out soon?
I’ve drafted a third novel, The Challenge, which I know needs a drastic edit. I hope to start drafting another series of The Agencies soon. Even if the BBC turns me down with the idea as a whole, I can rework into a series of short stories or a novel and there are always the independent radio producers to try. I need to get up to speed with my short stories as I have not had so much out there lately mainly due to life getting in the way. And I've thought of ideas for the novel based on The Agencies so hopefully I can ensure my material isn't wasted.
Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
Eileen, the Fairy Queen and Jenny – three strong women who clash – are all ladies I like to write for. It’s such fun writing for someone for whom hypocrisy is something that happens to others, itself a hypocritical statement (Eileen), and for the one who has to clear up later (Jenny). My basic theme is that magic isn’t the panacea for all ills I sometimes think it’s been taken to be and can cause more problems than it solves. I also try to show the importance of family in my books.