Please help me welcome author Annabelle Franklin to Jemsbooks Interview an Author. Thank you, Annabelle for coming today.
1. Please tell us something about yourself.
I’m lucky enough to live in an area of outstanding natural beauty that’s under a preservation order. No tarmac or streetlights, just woodland, beaches and quirky little houses that can only be reached via a dirt track. It’s like living in Fairyland – the perfect place for a writer of children’s fantasy, and wonderful for dog walks. I have a strong affinity with Greyhounds, who have short bursts of energy and spend the rest of the time sleeping! I used to foster dogs for Greyhound Rescue Wales, until one of them became a permanent fixture and a ‘sister’ for my rescued Lurcher.
I’ve published two children’s books, ‘Gateway to Magic’ and ‘The Slapstyx’. I’m a member of Swansea and District Writers Circle, and my short story ‘Mercy Dog’ appears in the Circle’s anthology of short stories themed around WW1. ‘Unforgotten: The Great War 1914-1918’ was published in 2014 by Accent Press and last year it won the Denise Robertson Group Anthology prize, which is presented annually by the National Association of Writers Groups.
2.When did you know that you wanted to be an author?
When I was about 6 I used to write comic-book stories in sketch pads, with drawings and word balloons. My Gran’s coffee table was my ‘desk’, and when I finished the stories I would write a price on the front of each pad and ‘sell’ them to imaginary customers. I even had an imaginary fan club! I remember thinking this would be the best job in the world.
That coffee table is in my house now. I keep my printer on it. And coffee, of course!
3. What process do you need in order to write?
When I’m writing the first draft I try to pretend I’m not writing it to please anyone else – otherwise it’s like writing a school essay, and no one wants to read that! I need to relax enough to let the characters take over and write the story, which I can’t do if I’m worrying about all those rules that are taught on creative writing courses and bandied around the blogosphere. Rules can be applied in subsequent edits, if necessary.
I generally start with a very rough outline and then ‘pants’ my way through. If a story doesn’t grip me early on I abandon it, because there’s no way it’s going to grip anyone else. I need to be so involved in the characters and their world that I can’t NOT write about them. They have to make me laugh, as well – humour is an important part of the process. It has to be fun!
4. Please share your books with us and a synopsis of each.
‘The Slapstyx’ is about a tribe of goblins who are responsible for putting dirt and grime in human homes. Greedy businessman Zachary Zigstack has enlisted their help to make everybody buy his dodgy cleaning products, which are turning the world’s oceans to toxic slime. The sea creatures are suffering and the spirits who look after them fear for their lives. Twin sisters Georgie and Gem have rumbled Zigstack’s scheme and are trying to put an end to it. Luckily they have a magical skill – they can leave their bodies and fly around in spirit form – so they can spy on the Slapstyx goblins and work out how to stop them; but it’s touch and go whether they’ll manage it before all the sea creatures are destroyed.
‘Gateway to Magic’ is the story of Steven Topcliff, a gaming fanatic trapped in Fairyland where technology is banned by law. He doesn’t fit in there at all – there are no video games, no chicken nuggets, and no one tells the truth. He has to deal with spiteful goblins, an out-of-control Shape Shifter who insists on being his best mate, and the diva-like Fairy Queen who embroils him in some mysterious game of her own. His only chance of escape is to use magic to forge a gateway back to Earth. There’s no controlling this dimension with a console – Steven must use his own ingenuity to survive and get himself home.
You might have noticed I love to write about goblins! They may be scary, but they provide endless opportunities for comedy.
5. How do you come up with ideas for your stories?
The ideas are the easy part! They just pop into my head, usually when I’m doing something other than writing. The hard part is working them into a coherent plot – I find it takes two or three good ideas working together to make a good story.
‘Gateway to Magic’ came to me when my nephew was going through a phase of video game addiction, and I wondered how he would manage if he had to live without technology. We tend to assume all children would love to visit Fairyland, but I think he would have hated it!
‘The Slapstyx’ was inspired by my dislike of repetitive household chores. The downside of living in the country with dogs is that the house gets dirty soon after it’s cleaned, and at times I feel like I’m plagued by supernatural beings whose sole purpose is to spread dirt and grime.
I feed my muse with lots of reading. I read anything and everything! I’ve even had ideas from TV shows. Some people say you should throw out the TV if you want to write, but I’ve found it quite helpful as long as I watch in moderation. I’ve had some great ideas from ‘reality’ ghost shows like Paranormal Witness and Most Haunted.
6. What projects are you currently working on?
Our Writers Circle is putting together an anthology with a supernatural theme, which we plan to publish at the end of the year. As well as submitting our own contributions, we’re inviting authors outside the Circle to submit short stories, poems and scripts – the winning entries will be included in the anthology, and there’s a cash prize!
(Details here: http://shsfaculty.swan.ac.uk/writerscircle/competition_pay.htm )
I’ve been formulating some ghostly ideas for a series of children’s books. Call me superstitious, but I’m reluctant to say more about it while it’s in the embryonic stage.
7. What do you expect to accomplish in 2016?
I plan to release a paperback version of ‘Gateway to Magic’ in April. In the meantime, I want to do a lot more writing. I know there has to be a balance between writing and promotion, but lately my life has overbalanced onto the marketing side – I’ve been spending too much time in cyberspace and not enough in Storyland. I need to get my teeth into that series!
8. What hobbies do you have when you are not writing?
I love music! I listen to all kinds, and I love to play the piano when I get the time. I played in bands when I was younger and wanted to be a famous rock star. That didn’t happen, but it inspired some crazy writing, most of it unpublishable.
9. What is your target audience for your book?
Children aged 7+, though they have been enjoyed by younger readers.
10. Please share your links and where to purchase your books.
Gateway to Magic on
The Slapstyx on
Unforgotten: The Great War 1914-1918 on
11. What advice would you give prospective authors?
Don’t expect fame and fortune as a matter of course. These things may happen, but you might be disappointed to find they don’t. Enjoy your writing for its own sake and get absorbed in the magic of story unfolding through you. If you’ve had fun with it, other people are more likely to enjoy what you’ve written.
12. Is there anything else you would like to share?
Only to say thank you, Janice, for having me on your blog!
It was a pleasure to have you on my blog and to learn about you, Annabelle, and your fascinating books.
Thank you, readers, for stopping by. Please check out Annabelle’s links and discover the magic.
Remember: Reading Gives You Wings to Fly!