3. I will post more details and a review soon.
She was kind enough to answer these questions for us; take it away, Maria!
What has been the most influential short story you've read?
It’s more of a novella, really, but it’s Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. That book really made me want to write one of my own. I can’t recall any influential short stories, only because up until a few years ago I was never much of a short story reader; it was always novels for me. More recently, I have discovered that there are some wonderfully talented short story writers out there.
What is the most interesting character from a short story you can recall off-hand?
Again, more of a novella. The main character in The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. Totally fascinating.
Why do you write short stories?
Initially, I used to write short stories for competitions. In my twenties, when I was determined that I would write the next bestselling novel, I was browsing some writing magazines and came across Writers’ News (I’m still a subscriber to that magazine, many years later!). The magazine has a short story contest and I fancied myself as a bit of a writer at the time, so I thought I would enter. I went on to enter quite a lot of short story contests for many years. I had many short-listed stories, and I even won a prize of £150 once, for the short story The Game of Life, which now appears at the end of my collection, Delusion and Dreams.
Nowadays, I write short stories because I love them, and I can write one in about an hour. It’s fun how the creative process works. I never know how my stories will end when I start writing them, which makes it even more fun. Writing short stories fits in well with my life at the moment because I have a full-time day job. I’ve mainly written my novels when I’ve been out of work, or working part-time. It’s very time-consuming to write a novel. I started writing my sixth one last December and got to about 15,000 words when I had to abandon it because work became busy and real life took over. I really want to get back to that, but for now, realistically, I’ll probably be concentrating more on short story writing for the foreseeable future.
Another reason I like writing short stories is that they help to develop writing skills. You have to be able to write something, explain something, using fewer words, and this is a skill you learn when you write a lot of them. You also learn how to play around with words more, because there are fewer words and you get more of an urge to add depth to the story more succinctly, so you find yourself coming up with fancy sentences that sound nice and use words that are maybe new to you (Well I do that anyway!).
Why did you start writing?
Probably because of my love of reading. I have always been an avid reader. I was the typical bookworm as a child. The natural development was to want to try to do what my writing heroes/heroines were doing, I suppose. I’ve always had a very wild imagination as well, so this is one way to do something useful with it.
To what degree are your stories autobiographical?
All of them, to some extent, contain bits of me and my life. I think it’s natural for a writer to be inspired by his/her own world. That’s what makes fiction so interesting: it’s other people’s take on reality, an insight into their soul almost. Sometimes my stories only contain a hint or whisper of my own experiences, and other times they are a veiled reality dressed up as fiction. Some, of course, are completely made up :)
Do you like scary stories?
I like writing them, apparently. I kind of scared myself when I was writing Haunted, and again when I wrote The Bride (which is one of the short stories in 3). I’ve always had an interest in ghost stories because I have had a few paranormal encounters. I used to live in a haunted house. I was a child then (between the ages of about 5-9). At that time I enjoyed telling ghost stories to my friends. I even invented, in collaboration with one of my best friends at the time, a fictional ghost who lived in our school—or, more accurately, a family of ghosts. Me and my friend would tell the other children all about these ghosts and how we had seen them (which we hadn’t, of course), but it got to the stage where many of the children believed our tales and me and my friend had to explain ourselves to one of the teachers.
What is the most frightening thing you have read?
There was a really scary bit in Haunted by James Herbert. I’ve forgotten what it was except that it was something to do with ghosts. I doubt I would ever be brave enough to read it again, so I guess we’ll never know LOL. I’ve been through just about every reading ‘phase’ you can go through, and when I was younger, horror/thrillers were included. I kind of grew up watching horror films. I don’t think there were the kind of ratings restrictions in the 1970s as there are now for films. As a child I watched some really scary horror films. It’s funny because back then I wasn’t fazed by them. Now I am too frightened to watch them (and I don’t read horror anymore for the same reason!).
Who is your favourite writer?
I have too many to mention. There are so many talented writers out there.
How different would your writing career be without social media?
I would get more writing done!
How many books would you read in a year?
It varies depending on whether I am involved in other projects. For example, when I’m writing my own stuff or editing, it leaves me with less time to read. I read a lot of books, but go through slumps when I can only maybe read a couple in a month. I am more attracted to shorter works nowadays because I have less spare time. I’ve been reading lots of great short stories. Including your ones, Martin, which I’ve really enjoyed. I think I’ve read about 30-40 books this year so far.
At what stage of your writing career would you 'give up your day job' (or would you)?
I would definitely, because I find myself staying up into the night just so I can finish writing projects. I would like to be able to get to the stage where I can write for a living. If I was earning a living wage from my writing, I would choose writing over any other ‘career’.