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Background INfo: I'm Magdalena Ball, and I'm a writer (sounds like the opening to some kind of 12-step session). I run The Compulsive Reader, which I set up some five years ago to provide the kind of in-depth serious reviews you find in good review sources like the Observer or SMH, but online and for a mixture of books including small presses and new authors, primarily literary fiction, although we've been expanding consistently since the day I opened my cyber doors.
INfluences: I come from a reasonably artsy family, and grew up with almost a pressure to create. Even during my fallow period, my family never let up the pressure on me! My aunt, who was a fairly well-known writer Susan Gordon Lydon (she recently died of Cancer) would send me emails telling me she was expecting to see at least a few poems on the Australian bush (where I live – I was born and grew up in the US) and that it didn't matter whether or not I called myself a writer – I had no choice. My uncle is a reasonably famous composer (Ricky Ian Gordon), my other aunt paints, both of my parents are musicians, and there are singers, musicians, and English teachers or professors going way back into the generation of my great grandparents.
Secondly, a good writer is a good reader. It's instantly apparently to me as a manuscript assessor when a writer hasn't read much in the area in which they are writing. Being a good reader doesn't necessarily make you a good writer, but if you don't read, you won't have that all critical writer's ear, where you know what works and what doesn't, and you know what quality work sounds like. Good writers have to read a lot in whatever genre they want to work. It not only expands your vocabulary, it expands your sense of what you can and might be able to do with language. It's key.
Internet Presence: Although my website http://www.compulsivereader.com/ isn't specifically related to my creative writing work as such, what it has done for me is to build a following of like-minded readers. In other words, I have a ready market of ideal readers (because the site has been designed mostly to suit my own reading and writing tastes) who know me like a friend. In a way this is ideal, because people visit me because they share my enthusiasm, and therefore will very likely (I hope!) want to read the kind of book I write.
The Future: Working on Novel #2 (working title: Black Cow) about a sea change and "the good life" – set in Double Bay Sydney and Tasmania, and I also want to pull together another (full-length this time) poetry book. Then there's that literary cookbook I want to finish up, a million more reviews, articles, and stories, and hopefully a few interesting collaborations on the way. I'm not great at saying no, so anything can happen!
Background INfo: I am David Hough, a novelist of sixty-plus years. I grew up in the nineteen fifties in a home with no television, which is probably why I became a lover of books. As a schoolboy, I became an avid reader and my whole life has been spent surrounded by books. At the age of forty, I had a heart attack that put limitations on what I could do in my day-job as an air traffic controller. That was when I decided to learn to write to a publishable standard. I started by writing short romance stories purely as a learning exercise and then went on to tackle full-length gritty novels. The big publishing houses turned down those longer books, but I was lucky enough to be taken on by BeWrite Books who have now published three of my novels. They allocated me a marvellous editor Carole Spencer who taught me more about writing than any other single person.
INfluences: Two writers have influenced me more than any other. I have studied all of Daphne du Maurier’s books because of her skilful use of words. She used the written page to bring people and places to life in a way that I can only hope to emulate. In my first Cornish novel, The Vanson Curse, I tried to create a sense of time and place in a way I imagined du Maurier would have done. I was careful not to steal her words because her style of writing is dated, but I was influenced by her descriptive powers.
If you want to be a published writer, be quite sure what you are letting yourself in for. Neil Marr, the owner of BeWrite Books, once told me that for every thousand novels started, only one will be completed. For every thousand completed novels, only one will be published. And for every thousand published novels only one will make serious money. Having mixed with many writers over the years, I can see the kernel of truth in that statement. And it is an important truth. I would never try to put anyone off the idea of being a writer, but I think it is important that they should view their efforts in perspective.
If, like the young woman I quoted earlier, you think it is going to be a simple matter of writing your first novel and making a mint out of it, you may be disappointed. So, my advice is learn the trade and learn it well. You will never become an airline pilot or a surgeon by reading all about it and then doing it. You must go through a lengthy period of learning. The same applies to being a published novelist. Internet Presence: I have (http://www.dfjhough.co.uk/) designed for me by my younger son. Taking the Internet as a whole, I have found it invaluable when researching material for a story. I frequently advise writers who have no Internet connection to get along to their local library and discover for themselves just how useful a tool it can be. That is not to say that I decry reference books. I have a room full of written reference material within reaching distance of my computer, but no home library can ever be as complete as the Net.
The Future: I am currently working on an idea for a series of Cornish historical novels set in the Victorian period. I frequently visit Cornwall to keep an eye on my aged parents and use the opportunities to dig out research material. As I discover each new aspect of Victorian life, I find it leads me along fresh ideas for plot lines and characters. That’s where discipline comes in and I have to force myself to keep to a limited agenda that can be encompassed in each story.
Scent Of Spring, by Tracy Davis, Robert Hale, also in large print by Ulverscroft, 1989
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