Alison Maynard is a wannabe writer and, in her own words, a slightly ranty blogger (http://alisonmay.wordpress.com). Alison lives in Worcester with one husband, no children, and no pets. There were goldfish once. They died, both on the same day in some sort of weird fish suicide pact.
Asides from driving goldfish to despair, Alison makes her living as a freelance trainer, mostly working for charities. She says that means she does stuff like training advisers for the Citizens Advice Bureau, teaching people about exciting topics like Welfare Benefits regulation and Employment Law, and spending more time than is ideal on trains and in budget hotels. It’s the absolute height of glamour.
Alison, welcome to the Write Romantics Blog and thanks so much for taking the time to be an interviewee. We know that, like us, you are a member of the NWS but we wondered if you could tell us a bit about how you came to join, how long you have been a member, the genre you write in and what inspired you to start writing?
Well, I joined the NWS in 2011 after I went to a Writing Romance workshop with Katie Fforde. Katie was so utterly lovely and talked so enthusiastically about the RNA that joining just seemed like a total no-brainer really. When I told Katie at the RNA Conference a year later that I’d joined because of her, she observed that I have great boobs, which was nice. I should probably note that drink had been taken.
Anyhoo, I’ve been sort of writing since about 2002. I did a Creative Writing degree part-time while working, which I mainly started because it sounded fun and I wanted something creative to occupy my brain. If anything, I probably thought I wanted to be a playwright. It wasn’t until my final dissertation piece that I had a serious attempt at writing prose. That dissertation was the beginning of the romantic comedy that had now been through the NWs twice and is currently somewhere Out There in slushpile land.
The Write Romantics see the road to publication, by whatever route, as a journey. Please can you tell us a bit about your journey so far and what is next for you?
My journey so far is quite staid I’m afraid. My biggest milestone on “the journey” so far has definitely been finishing a complete novel, and then, with the help of the NWS reader, realising that it wasn’t anywhere near finished, revising heavily and finishing again.
I’m slightly in awe of people who are brave enough to self-pub their first novel. For me, I’m not sure I have the experience to jump in with both feet without the support of a publisher at this stage. At the moment I’ve only completed one novel, with number 2 underway. Maybe when I’ve got as far as typing “The End” a couple more times I’ll feel differently.
Have you got any advice for other aspiring writers?
I’d love to sound all modest and self-effacing here, and mutter something about how I wouldn’t assume to give advice, but actually I have no problem at all telling other people how to do stuff. It’s doing it myself that’s the issue.
1. Write lots.
2. Finish stuff.
3. Edit ruthlessly.
4. Submit stuff.
5. Repeat from the start.
All of which sounds really obvious, but it’s so easy to start a piece, get to the horrible, muddled, depressing section two-thirds of the way through and decide it’s not worth pursuing. And it’s also really easy, once something is finished, to beat yourself up about how you’re never going to be as good as whichever amazing writer you’re feeling inferior to today, and wimp out of actually submitting it anywhere.
Not finishing and not submitting are pretty much guaranteed ways to never get published, so finish stuff and then submit it places. Ideally, do both of those things as often and to as high a standard as you possibly can. Sounds so straightforward, doesn’t it?
What are your dreams and aspirations as a writer, in terms of your short-term and long-term career?
Ah, an easy question. I want to make a living as a writer. Simple as that really.
What has been the single biggest benefit of joining the NWS, do you think?
A less easy question. I love the NWS and I love the RNA. I’ve had two NWS reports, both on the same novel, both of which were invaluable. Weirdly, one reader really didn’t like the novel and the second loved it. Obviously, when I read the reports I thought the second reader was an individual of great discernment and taste, and the first was just a big meanie. On reflection, and after drinking wine and spending some quiet time in my mental happy place (my mental happy place involves cake, as do most of my real world happy places to be honest) I realise that both reports were just as useful in their different ways. One provided a kick up the posterior when I was at risk of getting complacent, and one gave great encouragement when I was at the point of giving up.
Having said all that, the biggest benefit of joining NWS hasn’t been the critiques. It’s been all the amazing writers I’ve met and talked to (and drunk wine with in student accommodation kitchens at conference). The realisation that there are actual, real, warm-blooded, disorganised, shoe-obsessed, wine-quaffing, spectacular, funny, wise, flawed people making a career out of the thing I dream of doing is a brilliant inspiration. I am also warm-blooded and not averse to quaffing the odd tipple, so if they can do it, why shouldn’t I?
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us or any other advice you can offer?
Anything else I’d like to share? Well apart from the obvious plug for my blog http://alisonmay.wordpress.com which I fill on a slightly sporadic basis with random thoughts and rants about stuff I find interesting, the only other thing I have at the moment that I could share is norovirus. Would you like to share that?
Oh. Right. *Sighs a lonely sigh as the lovely friendly Write Romantic interviewer runs hurriedly away* Back to switching between the novel-in-progress and the sick bucket then…
Thanks again for taking the time to share your story so far with us, Alison. The Write Romantics wish you every success for the future and we will be keeping a look out on the best seller lists for you!