by Paula R.C. Readman Martha fed more sticks to the fire. Soon the cauldron bubbled. She took a deep breath and began to chant. She had to get it right. First, she added rosemary for remembrance and lavender for love. Would he appear before her as the old witch had promised? As the two […]
Thank you for giving me this opportunity to talk in-depth about my writing. I guess all writers start out on a similar path to some degree and have to overcome self-doubt, especially when it comes to dealing with knock backs and rejections. In the beginning I didn’t plan on becoming a writer, in fact my first love had always been art. I tried to get into Art College, but failed the entry exam. Who would’ve thought you needed English and Maths to do art? Anyway, to me, the only people who wrote books had university degrees in English, not someone with my background.
My parents weren’t well educated. My mother had learning difficulties, though my father always had his head in a book. When I was sixteen, my father introduced me to science-fiction novels. One that stands out in my memory was called The Ring by Piers Anthony & Robert E. Maryroff (published in 1968). The book was about a ring that criminals had to wear that tracked their movements. As you know, in today’s world, the courts now use bracelets. Once again, science fiction predicted the future. At this time, I also started reading Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melnibone fantasy series too.
My grandmother introduced me to the pleasure of listening to plays on BBC Radio 4. If I hadn’t got hooked on the spoken word, I wouldn’t have discovered the radio series The HitchHiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1978) by Douglas Adams. Adams then turned the radio plays into a series of novels.
Now I’m going to make a terrible confession here, Dean. In my childhood home, there wasn’t much choice in the way of children’s books. My mother only read Bunty; a girl’s comics. My father enjoyed reading war comic books, neither of which I found exciting. When I was about eleven, I discovered a reference library near my home. Every Saturday morning, I would stay there reading until closing time. One of the library assistants explained if I filled in a form she could issue me six library cards, so I could take books home to read. With her help, I was able to fill in a form. I still have those tickets today. My favourite subject was witchcraft. The Essex Witch trials took place in my home town of Chelmsford in 1645. The notorious Witchfinder, General Matthew Hopkins, who took part in rounding up the poor women accused of witchcraft, had links to Manningtree and Mistley; market towns, not far from where I live. One of the women, Agnes Waterhouse, or Mother Waterhouse as she was known, was the first woman to be executed for witchcraft in England. Now you understand where my dark soul comes from Dean.
What’s my writing Kryptonite? That’s an interesting question, Dean. I suppose being told I had too many handsome men in a pocket novel I wrote for a woman’s magazine. The editor asked me to make a huge change to the plotline. I tried, but my storyline fell apart, and I gave up in the end. This doesn’t mean I’m not up to making changes. As long as I can still see a way forward with my original idea, I’m quite happy to do so. In this case, the editor told me that the readers would become confused by having too many handsome men for the heroine to choose from. Yes, I know, Dean. Most of my writing friends laughed at the idea of having such a problem.
What does literary success look like to me, Dean? That’s a tough one. My success so far still seems unreal to me. I’ve gone from not knowing how to construct a sentence, to having my work published…all in twenty years. Yes, twenty years is a long time, but I didn’t have the money available to do any creative writing courses, so the only option I had was to learn from ‘how to’ books bought off eBay. My ultimate dream is to walk into a shop, and see a book with my name on the cover for sale.
I believe a new writer needs not only dedication and hard work to gain writing success, Dean, but plenty of self-belief. You need to believe in yourself, and in what you want to achieve. Self-belief is a fine line between being confident and arrogant. You have to believe in your ability to write well, but also understand that editors and publishers know their job, too. It is important to take on board their thoughts and ideas, if they are willing to give you feedback on your work.
I would like to point out that my story still sits on my computer, unpublished. That’s the difference between being published, and not. If I had followed the editor’s advice, it might’ve been published by now. Unfortunately, I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my handsome men.
On my computer, I have a novel, which has suffered rejection thirty-seven times. The last publisher was kind enough to tell me what the main problem was with it. It was far too long for today’s market. I’m more than happy to cut it in half, and reconstruct it knowing that I’ll be giving it a much better chance of being published.
I’m more of a morning bird, when it comes to writing. I’m normally up at four o’clock and at my desk by 4.30 (British Time). Ten years ago, I took redundancy from full-time work. As I was able to pay off my mortgage, my husband, Russell, gave me the opportunity to write full time as long as his dinner was ready for him when he came home from work. I felt this was a good deal, so I was able to take early retirement and focus full-time on writing. Of course, I do run a tight ship when it comes to household chores. I can’t write if the house is a mess, or jobs not done.
Dean, as you know, Black Hare Press fits in perfectly with my darker personality. Since June last year, I’ve discovered what drabbles are. I hadn’t heard of them before, though I knew of flash fiction. Not that I believed it was possible to write a ‘one hundred words’ story. But I saw your call out for Unravel and decided to have a go. I’m glad I did. Writing drabbles has helped improve my editing skills. Another huge and unexpected bonus was seeing my writing published in such beautiful books. I love the fact that Black Hare Press puts all the names of the writers on the covers of the anthology their work is published in. Also that BHP creates an individual poster for each writer to share with the book cover. These personal touches helps to make us writers feel like we are an important part of the brand that is Black Hare Press. I’m proud to be one of your writers. In addition, I don’t know of any other small publishers who publish their books as an eBook, paperback and hardback.
Since my success with Black Hare Press, another door has opened for me, Dean. No, actually two doors have. With Demain Publishing, who publish both horror and crime has accepted my crime novella The Funeral Birds’.
The Funeral Birds started life as a failed BBC short story competition entry. Of course, I had to increase the word count to turn it into a novella. The plot of the novella is about a failing investigative agency run by Dave Cavendish, and how his distant ancestor, Granny Wenlock, helps him to solve a murder. The main characters, Dave and Joan Cavendish, are based on my neighbours. They are a mature married couple who have a wonderful attitude to life and always makes me smile. I wanted to create a married couple who had that same sort of humour about life in one of my books. In 2014, when The Funeral Birds failed to get a placing in the competition, my plan was to turn it into a novel, mainly because I loved the characters so much.
What message do I hope the readers will take from The Funeral Birds? That’s another interesting question, Dean. Well, relationships are at the heart of The Funeral Birds, past and present ones. I suppose, I hope the message would be how relationships, whether they’re good ones or bad ones, can by a simple twist of fate take anyone in the wrong direction.
Oh yes, Dean. I did say two doors opened. In November, I have a collection of short stories Days Pass like a Shadow’being published by Bridge House Publishing too! The theme of the collection is death; whether that’s from illness, war or crime. Yes, once again, it’s a dark theme, but I do see myself as a Gothic crime writer.
Well, your last two questions, I can answer these together. What projects am I working on and how many half-finished or unpublished books do I have on my computer?
In total, I have eight unpublished novels. Seeking the Dark is a vampire novel I wrote in 2014. It’s too long for today’s market, so I’m busy editing it down. Since I wrote the novel so long ago, both my writing and editing skills are much improved. I feel the novel will be a much stronger book than if it had been published back in 2014. Yes, I do have a publisher in mind for it, so fingers-crossed.
What Witch? by Paula R.C. Readman
Once I was seen a wise woman. To me they turned for potions of every kind. In the darkness, I flexed my fingers as the manacles dig in deep. Tomorrow, at first light, they’ll drag me from this place. Shielded by their Puritan lies, hoping fire will purify my soul. I’ve a trick up my sleeve, and it won’t be the devil taking me.
Today as the heat rises around my feet, I look to the sky. Black clouds gather.
With a sigh, I chant the words I’ve learnt and before their very eyes, I become a bird in flight.
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Thank you for giving me this opportunity to talk in-depth about my writing. I guess all writers start out on a similar path to some degree and have to overcome self-doubt, especially when it comes to dealing with knock backs and rejections. In the beginning I didn’t plan on becoming a writer, in fact my first love had always been art.
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