ALLISON SYMES - Q&A
What do you do when you are not writing?
I’m a full time mum and dog walker! I was a secretary for a firm of land agents for many years, which was a fascinating job, but it was being at home raising a family that became my trigger to start writing, despite having always loved books in many genres. I write whenever I get the chance. My main writing session is in the evening.
When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
I began writing after leaving work in 1996. The Trouble With Mother is not the original title and it has had two full rewrites. I wouldn’t be that surprised if it needs another rewrite but as I type this I feel I have got the novel to the best I can get it at this stage. I think I would consider the book truly finished once it is out there via a mainstream publisher.
How did you choose the genre you write in?
I’m not sure it’s a matter of choosing. I’ve always loved fantasy fiction and fairy tales in particular. I think you naturally want to write what you love most. Also when I first heard my main character’s voice (Eileen) I knew early on she had a magical past, which set the genre immediately.
Where do you get your ideas?
I’ve read many author interviews where the reply to this one is flippant, which always makes me laugh. In all seriousness, my novels reflect relationships – mother/daughter – which I have direct experience of so to an extent I am writing from life. I then combine that with my writing from my favourite genre. It is a case of asking how this relationship would work if one was magical and the other horrified by that. I do a lot of “what if” planning when working out my stories. I outline almost all I write now. I never used to but have since found it really helpful to stop me going off at a tangent. (Tangents are all very well if you can use them and they strengthen the story but I was finding this wasn’t the case for me).
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
No. I’m not convinced it exists either. I accept there are days when the words won’t flow so easily but that only proves writers are humans, we’re not machines, and on the plus side you will get days when the work does flow. I think you need to persist.
Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I used to just write but I always outline now. I find them helpful for planning my work, being able to work out where to insert new ideas (and to test if they will fit in). I don’t plan out everything but work out the rough structure of whatever it is I’m working on. I will add in phrases, sentences that particularly strike me. I’ve even once prepared a very brief outline for a piece of flash fiction! That probably makes me a sad muppet.