Spotlight on author, Allison Symes.
Allison Symes and I have been friends for some time, having met at one of the Christmas launches of ‘The Best of CafeLit’ book. We usually meet up regularly at one of the Bridge House Publishing events although this year, we’ve had to restrict our meetings to Zoom. Allison, Paula Readman and Jim Bates (who I’ve previously interviewed), and I regularly write for CafeLit.
Allison and I also took part in an author event, along with Gill James, back in September where we presented aspects of our work and shared stories to a live audience. We each spoke about the appeal flash fiction had for us and how we started out writing it.
Allison’s previous collection of excellent short stories is called ‘From Light to Dark and Back Again’, and can be found here on Amazon.
So, let’s find out more about Allison’s new book…
Allison – Many thanks, Dawn, for inviting me on to your blog. I am delighted to talk about my latest flash fiction collection, Tripping The Flash Fantastic, which was recently published by Chapeltown Books.
Dawn – Tell us a bit about your latest book and any other projects, Allison.
Allison – My latest book is Tripping The Flash Fantastic, my follow-up flash fiction collection to From Light to Dark and Back Again. For my new book, I will take you back in time, into some truly criminal minds, into fantasy worlds, and show you how motherhood looks from the viewpoint of a dragon! For the first time I’ve written historically based flash fiction tales (there are stories from the viewpoint of Richard III and Elizabeth of York to name two), and I’ve also had a lot of fun telling flash tales in poetic form. I like to think of my collections as “mixed assortments” and these work just as well for story books as they do for chocolates! (And there is plenty for most people to enjoy too – and that goes for my stories as well as the choccies!).
I am working on a third flash fiction collection and a non-fiction project. Longer term, I have a novel I want to revisit and see if I can do anything with, though it was long-listed for a Debut Novel competition many moons ago. But I have learned so much in writing flash fiction, I am sure I can improve this book further. So plenty I want to work on – just need elastic time now. Elastic so I can stretch it to suit my writing needs. Anyone who could invent that would be on to a winner with every writer I’m sure.
Dawn – How did you first become interested in writing?
Allison – It grew out of my love of reading, Dawn. My late mother taught me to read before I started school. She got told off for doing it too. Apparently she had done it the “wrong way”. Now this was back in the 1970s… These days she’d have been given a medal! I never felt the lack of the “wrong way”. My love of stories grew from that love of reading and later the desire to write my own, to somehow put something back into the wonderful world of stories, emerged. I’m only surprised it didn’t happen sooner to be honest. It’s my only regret with writing. I should’ve started sooner than I did.
Dawn – I have exactly the same regret, Allison. Anyway, on with the questions, do you prefer to write in any particular genre and if so, which?
Allison – The nice thing with flash fiction is, because of the restricted word count, there isn’t room for lots of description so the stories have to be character led. But the good news there is I can set my characters wherever and whenever I want to, so I do! I’ve set characters in fantasy worlds, I’ve written crime and horror based tales, I love writing funny fairytales and twist endings. I love the variety flash fiction gives me. I suppose if I had to name an overall favourite genre, it has to be what I call fairytales with bite. These are usually funny and have a strong punch or twist ending.
Dawn – If you write in several different genres are there any that you avoid and if so, why?
Allison – I like to write in the genres I like to read and I love fantasy stories, fairytales, funny stories and so on, which is why I write them. I don’t read or write erotica, for example. My tastes simply don’t run that way.
Dawn – Is there a genre that you haven’t yet tried which you intend to and if so what’s holding you back?
Allison – I’d like to write a non-fiction book and am currently working on one. The challenge is very different to fiction but it’s interesting. It’s taking longer than I thought but I have to admit I’m not too surprised by that. Something new always does.
Dawn – Of all the stories you’ve written, which is your favourite and why?
Allison – This is an excellent question and a toughie! From my first book, From Light to Dark and Back Again, I think it has to be Calling the Doctor. It’s a flash tale where the whole mood of the story turns on the very last word. I was pleased with how that worked out so I used it in the book trailer for this.
For Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I think my favourite story has to be The Pink Rose. It’s a personal story, probably the most personal I’ll write, something I felt driven to write, and is a tribute to someone special.
Dawn – Having read your book, I have to say, The Pink Rose was my favourite too. Have any of your characters ever decided to take things into their own hands and write themselves a bigger part or a different part than you’d intended? If so which one?
Allison – Ah ha! This is another advantage of flash fiction. There isn’t the room for them to do that! Also I outline my characters before I write the story, yes even for flash. So if they’re going to take over anything, it will happen in the outline. But then that gives me the time I need to work out which story route would work best for which character. I don’t mind characters “showing their own mind” like this. It shows they’re “live” and confirms to me their story is definitely worth writing up.
I need to know a character’s major trait before I can write for them so that helps me gauge their personality and how I can use that. A pompous character is a great one to put in a funny tale for example but I would need to know what would make someone pompous and how they are blind to that but nobody else around them is. Sometimes a trait like this will dictate what the story has to be. So I guess there the character’s personality is shining through well and truly!
Dawn – Is there a specific word count to which you usually work either intentionally or unintentionally?
Allison – Sometimes. For the Waterloo Arts Festival writing competition (in which we’ve both been winners), there is a 1000 word count maximum so I work to that. For competitions, I stick to whatever word count they want obviously but for my own work I have found my natural home is between the 100-word (drabble) to the 500-word type of story.
Dawn – With my latest book, The Macaroon Chronicles, there is quite a lot of food-related content and I wondered if food features greatly in your current release or work in progress?
Allison – It crops up sometimes. In From Light to Dark and Back Again, my story Time for Tea shows my character getting tea set for his estranged adult children but things are not all as cosy as they might appear. In Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I experimented with the flash form and wrote a story in poetic form (but it still counts as flash as it is well under the 1000 word maximum for that). This is The Cake Bake and tells the tale of a lady who gets magical help to assist her with her dreadful baking. Whether she is happy with the results of that help is another matter though. See the story for more! I sometimes refer to food and/or drink in other stories too but I wouldn’t say I use it as a major theme.
Dawn – Do you like macaroons? If so do you prefer coconut or almond?
Allison – Yes! I like the gluten free chocolate covered coconut macaroons. Yum!
Dawn – In The Macaroon Chronicles, on the Isle of Macaroon, there are Meringue Mountains with chocolate waterfalls, cheese mines and a custard river. Imagine you were to visit the Isle of Macaroon which one of those sites would you visit first? And why?
With the exception of the custard river (I loathe custard!), I would be torn. I think I would have to go to the chocolate waterfalls, then the cheese mines. I’d have a fabulous time at both though I can imagine what my Slimming World consultant would have to say about that!
Many thanks for such fab questions.
Dawn – Thanks to you, Allison, for taking the time to join me today. If readers would like to find out more about Allison Symes, they can do so by investigating the following links:
https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com/ – website
http://mybook.to/TrippingFlashFantastic – link to TTFF
http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent – link to Allison’s Amazon Author Central page
https://www.facebook.com/allison.symes.50 – Facebook author page
https://www.facebook.com/fairytaleladyallisonsymes – Facebook book page where Allison shares advice on flash fiction in particular.
Twitter – Allison’s Twitter Feed
http://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/author/allison-symes/ – Allison blogs weekly for Chandler’s Ford Today, often on topics of interest to writers.
LinkedIn – Allison’s LinkedIn Profile
http://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/search/label/Allison%20Symes – Allison’s Cafelit page.