When Trudy and Julia invited me to join their blog last April, I was thrilled about the opportunity to collaborate on an endeavour that seeks to celebrate creativity within Richard’s fandom and acknowledge with a grateful nod the man whose wonderful characters have been an inspiring muse to budding and experienced authors alike.
Being a writer myself, I’ve always been interested in the process of creation and how it’s approached by my fellow authors. Although there are dozens of manuals in the market with tips and recipes to write a novel, there’s nothing like going to the source, the novelists themselves, to unveil the magic behind the stories and characters that invite us to dream, feel and think.
A few years ago, while writing for another fandom, I was asked some really interesting questions on my writing process, and they somehow made their way into my introductory interview for Armitage Authors. In the end, Trudy and I agreed on leaving them out and planned instead several articles to explore the topic with a few guest authors.
So, here we are at last, ready to share with you the first November instalment in a series of interviews devoted to published writers who’ve found inspiration in Richard’s work. I could write a long platitude about the lady that’s opening this series, but I’d rather leave her own words to speak for themselves.
Our gratitude to Ms. Prue Batten for granting our request at such short notice and being so generous with her time, and to Mindy, who came up with these questions on Naughty-Seduction.net once upon a time.
What type of environment do you need to write?
Just peace and quiet. I work in two separate places (city and coast) so have a little laptop that comes with me wherever I go. The amount of research I have to carry is a bit of an issue though and because I have neck issues, I also carry a wifi-keyboard and mouse so that I can set up a standing station when I need to.
How do your ideas come to you? Do you always write them or do you let them disappear?
Ideas come anytime, anywhere – often in the bath! And frequently, just before I go to sleep. I have a notebook and always try to record the idea before it becomes lost in the mists of time. One never knows when it will be handy.
Do you plan a story from the beginning to end or start with an idea and let the chapters come to you as they do?
I start with an idea and once the first couple of hundred words are written, I sit and create character profiles. After writing eight novels, I realize my characters tell me what they think should happen and I’m just a cipher. There is, however, a loose plan (perhaps one A4 page) which details the story outline, but it’s fairly flexible.
Do you prefer writing easy, quick stories or long, layered stories?
I prefer to write layered novels from between 90-110,000 words. It’s strange how the story arcs itself into exactly that amount of words without any deliberate effort on my part. However, I’m sometimes commissioned to write little short stories for a miniature book press and it’s like a quick shot of caffeine and really good practice in getting an idea across with the minimum of fuss!
Which do you find easier to write: dialogue or description or are they equally hard/easy?
I love both. When I write dialogue, it feels to me as if the characters are right by my side. They say what they want to say.
As for description, I adore it. It is the colour on a black and white etching. I have an affection for the late Rosamunde Pilcher’s work and she describes things from the soul. Gorgeous!
Is there anything that you won’t write or feel uncomfortable writing?
I have a notoriously weak stomach and hate writing violent scenes. The difficulty is that my timeframe, the twelfth century, was indeed a violent era and to exclude it from a story would so wrong and would make the storyline one-dimensional.
What do you do to cure writer’s block?
To be honest, I’ve never really had what one would call writer’s block. I write all the time, no matter how I feel. For me, it’s a kind of blessed escape, like embroidery or walking on the beach. Maybe that’s the secret. Make it a part of your life.
What advice can you give to new writers who might be scared to post their stories?
I think the main thing is to have someone read the story first and give a totally unbiased opinion. If they say it needs work, don’t be offended. Ask them in what way and then go away and work on improvement. No story should ever be posted without the most basic requisite groundwork.
Then have a good hard edit. That might be from a capable friend, or you might pay for the service. It honestly does make a difference and it also respects the reader whom you hope will read your story.
It might seem a lot to do, when all you want is to post a story, but we have all been there and it was advice given to me before I published and I honestly did heed it. I wrote a trilogy when I first decided to write seriously and it sits in the office cupboard and will never see the light of day. I worked with a London consultancy on it for an extended period and it was truly my training ground. Lots of editorial reports and advice and I learned so much.
Just remember that you birthed your story and like giving birth to a child, you owe the story the best of care.
The only other thing I would say is never be impatient. Just take your time.
What is your favourite book and why?
I have a favourite author and I love all her work. She is the late Dorothy Dunnett and wrote fourteen historical fictions that are simply breathtaking. She is my icon for her wordage, her astonishing breadth of research and knowledge, her storylines and her stupendous imagination.
Visit Prue’s Official Website: http://pruebatten.com/
Get “The Gisborne Saga” and/or any of her works from Amazon.com and AmazonUK.