Linda Acaster is not an amateur player but a veteran in the writing industry with more than 70 short stories published in print as well as many stand-alone novels in not one, but many different genres. Not only this, she has also written a guide book for aspiring writers, “Reading a Writer’s Mind”. Today, she is here to tell us why she felt the need to write a helping book for beginners and how has been the journey of writing so far. So let’s welcome her!
RG: Tell us about yourself.
I live on the Yorkshire coast, five minutes from the beach. I'm interested in how beliefs emanating from Dark Age history and beyond permeate modern lives without us realising. I write in a number of genres, and generally find odd bits of information fascinating. Sounds boring, but I think it's a writer's job to turn the dusty ore into a sparkling gem.
RG: Why did you think of becoming a writer? Did some person or incident in life inspire you? Or you thought you had the germs to be a writer?
I'm not sure why, but it was while in secondary education that I realised I had a knack with words. Composition I found easy and I thought that was normal, until it became obvious that I was writing reams while others were struggling to fill half a page. Perhaps it was because I led a mundane, and fairly timid, early childhood and enjoyed living through my imagination.
RG: What books (fiction) have you published so far and what are they about (name of book and brief synopsis)?
I had two Historicals print published some years ago, now reissued as ebooks:
'Beneath The Shining Mountains' has a Native American setting, 1830s among the Apsaroke/Crow on the northern plains. I used to be a re-enactor, and we lived in a tipi for holidays with a group of other mad... er, like-minded people. I found the hands-on experience with replica tools, etc, really informed the book-reading research, and thus my writing.
'Hostage of the Heart' is a sweet Mediaeval romantic suspense set on the English/Welsh borders in 1066 when the balance of power is upset by the northern invasion of Norse. It explores the lot of battle hostages.
'Torc of Moonlight' is my latest, the first in the Celtic Goddess trilogy of supernatural thrillers set in university cities close to the North York Moors. Ever thrown coins into a wishing well? So who are you expecting to answer? It's a rite over 3,000 years old, supposedly suppressed by Christianity – an All Saint's church is a good indication of an early site – and is tied into what we now call Halloween. This book is set in Hull and available in paperback and as an e-book.
The second book, 'The Bull At The Gate', which I'm working on at the moment, is set in York, and explores a different historical thread under the umbrella of 'states of reality'. What can I say? I like to make life difficult for myself.
There is also a Western kicking about that I'm trying to get the rights reverted, and I have produced a collection of short speculative fiction as an ebook 'Contribution to Mankind and other stories of the Dark', as well as having 70+ short stories print published in genres as disparate as Horror, Romance, Fantasy and Literary.
RG: You have written books in so many different genres which is commendable. It is not impossible but certainly a difficult task to shift your state of mind from one genre to another, so how do you manage to do justice to each genre?
I immerse myself in the time period, the backgrounds, and the people. The people are important. I don't write “about” them. I'm a Show writer, and I spend a lot of time planning my characters prior to starting a novel. If I'm writing in multi-viewpoint, which I usually do, having chosen a viewpoint character for a scene I become that character and then write. Think of it akin to being in a virtual reality suit.
RG: If you could be one character from your books, who would you choose to be and why?
LOL. None. To put it in context, when I was at the Jorvik Viking week at York I was handling replica weapons to test for weight (research) and a starry-eyed visitor beside me was wishing to go back in time to witness the Battle of Fulford Gate (1066, Norse won) “not to be a part of it, just to witness it”. So speaks someone who has done very little research about the life and times, nor can read the implications behind current television news reports. I'm grateful for hot & cold running water, knowing where my next meal is coming from, and feeling safe sleeping in my bed.
RG: Where do you get ideas for your stories and characters?
Short answer: everywhere.
Long answer: writers train themselves to be alert for snippets of information on all topics relevant to their interests, and surrounding those interests. It's rarely one snippet that fires an idea, more likely to be two or three, often with no previous links, that converge.
RG: Now coming to your non-fiction book, “Reading A Writer’s Mind”, how did the idea to write a helpful guide for aspiring writers come to you? Tell us about its varied content.
When I was a beginner I was forever told to 'read the greats', which I found to be as much use as limp lettuce. How could I understand how 'the greats' produced their fiction if all I could see was the finished whole? It's rather like being shown a shiny Formula 1 racing car and being told to go away and build one. At the very least you need blue-prints. I found that writing manuals tended to list tools, but didn't explain how to use them. I've since taught Adult Education classes, tutored for a distance learning college, and am a reader for a London literary consultancy, and have found that beginners still fall foul of the problems I did at that early stage, hence the book.
By taking ten of my own stories from different genres I can highlight the tools and techniques used in bringing each from initial idea to fruition for a particular market. I discuss my mindset and the decisions made, and the reader has the story there in its polished form so it can be dissected. Having elements of fiction-writing explained this way allows readers to reproduce the thinking within in their fiction because of the 'why' as well as the 'what'. The book is gaining good reviews, and I've already had people write to me about how it has helped them understand their own fiction, so I'm pleased I took the time out to put it together.
RG: Since you have written both fiction and non-fiction, which “form” you enjoyed the most? What “tools” do you think are indispensable for both forms of creative writing?
Whichever one I'm working on at the time. It's a matter of being focused. You aren't going to produce good work if your mind is longing for something else. Good fiction, and non-fiction for that matter, works best if it is not pushed down readers' throats as a one size fits all standard. Reading is a two way process. The reader has to be allowed room to bring something to the work; in non-fiction it is “understanding”, in fiction it is “imagination”.
RG: Are you planning to write more non-fiction books or helping guides like “Reading A Writer’s Mind”?
Probably. If I do it'll be on building characters, which lets down a lot of work-in-progress I read and leads to stereotyping or a story being played out in a vacuum. I discuss it 'Reading A Writer's Mind' but didn't have enough space to go into it in depth there.
RG: How much time did it take for you to complete one book? What was your routine for writing?
The non-fiction took near enough six months, the novels take about a year each. I'm not a fast writer and life impinges.
Time for some fun questions:RG: Share with us your favourite childhood memory.
Paddling a canoe on Peasholm Park lake, Scarborough, in twilight.
RG: Tell us about the craziest thing you ever did in your life.
Flew to Iceland to stand on the lip of a semi-dormant volcano. The landscape there is like Scotland with attitude.
RG: Oh my! That is crazy! How do you relax when you have free time?
I sit in our garden in summer among the trees and bird-life. In winter it is relaxing with a DVD. I enjoy walking the landscape, any landscape, looking for the history pressing up from a few centimetres beneath the surface. It is the one that truly revitalises my writing senses.
RG: Complete these sentences:
· Love is...give and take.
· Life is... making the most of the hand that's dealt you.
· Writing is...hard work, but spiritually rewarding.
· E- books are...the best thing since sliced bread.
· Book Blogs are...a fantastic way for readers and writers to interact. Gone are the days when gatekeepers told us what to write and what to read.
RG: Thank you for such a delightful interview. It was a great pleasure having you on my blog. Wish you have a wonderful Christmas! :-)
Thanks for inviting me. Really enjoyed it. Merry Christmas to you too!
Linda Acaster’s published work includes four historical novels, and over seventy short stories in genres as diverse as women’s, horror, crime, fantasy and SF, published in magazines in the UK, US and Europe. She has also written travel features and opinion pieces for the UK press, and an abundance of articles on the techniques of writing fiction.
A past tutor for the Arvon Foundation, she has led workshops and spoken at writers’ conferences across the north of England. She spent six years on the reading panel for the New Writers’ Scheme administered by the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and two years as the co-ordinator of its Northern Chapter. She is a member of the Society of Authors.
Stalk the author or purchase any of her books, by following the links given below:
She can also be reached on Facebook & Goodreads!
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Linda-Acaster/e/B002TNCOQE
Amazon US: http://tinyurl.com/344c7j5
For I-Pad, Sony, Nook, etc: http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/lindaacaster
HOLIDAY SEASON GIVEAWAY – PART 3
Open till 1st Jan 2012
Book: Reading a Writer's Mind
5 winners to be chosen!
Book Blurb:“Reading A Writer’s Mind” shows the detailed thinking behind the writing of ten stories across a range of genres and using different modes of delivery. From the initial idea, through the story itself, to a commentary explaining the decisions made during the writing, this book offers a unique insight into one writer’s creative process, laying a path to follow and showing the tools to use.
Now, it’s time for the Christmas Special Giveaway! I am so excited to announce that Linda is offering FIVE (Yes! You heard that right, 5!) copies of her book, “Reading a Writer’s Mind” to my wonderful readers. So, do not miss this golden opportunity and enter this giveaway right now! Make sure you tell your writer friends about it, so they can also participate and get a chance to be one of the FIVE (5) very lucky winners!
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This giveaway is international. Five (5) winners will be chosen through Random.org. They will be notified through email from “The Review Girl”.
Good Luck everyone!