I’m delighted to be welcoming Victoria Watson to Jera’s Jamboree today.
Victoria Watson completed a BA (Hons) in Media, Communication and Cultural Studies from Newcastle University in 2008. Part of her dissertation was subsequently taught in an undergraduate module.
In April 2009, Victoria was named Young Reviewer of the Year by Evening Chronicle (ncjMedia).
Victoria achieved a Masters in Creative Writing with Commendation in 2010. She is currently studying for a Post Graduate Certificate in Education in the Post Compulsory Education and Training.
Victoria has contributed to publications including True Faith (a Newcastle United fanzine), ncjMedia’s north-east titles The Journal, Evening Chronicle and Sunday Sun. She has also reviewed for Amazon, Waterstones and Closer Magazine.
She was awarded ‘Young Reviewer of the Year’ by ncjMedia in 2009 and her short story ‘The Piano’ won North Tyneside Council’s Story Tyne competition in November 2012.
Victoria had a story published in the ‘Home Tomorrow’ anthology published by 6th Edition Publishing in 2011. Her work is also featured in several charity anthologies. She published a collection of her short stories entitled ‘Letting Go’ in February 2012. ‘The Piano’ is also available for download from Amazon.
Victoria writes a blog at http://elementaryvwatson.wordpress.com. She is the official blogger for Whitley Bay Film Festival and has also contributed to The Cultural Thing and The Northern Line blogs. In July 2012, Victoria judged Metro Radio’s Nightowls short story competition.
Victoria currently runs two writing groups in WhitleyBay, North Tyneside and Newcastle-upon-Tyne. As part of this work, Victoria has a wealth of workshop resources that she has created herself.
Victoria’s blog: www.elementaryvwatson.wordpress.com
Victoria’s Proofreading and Copywriting Service: www.elementaryvwatson.com
You can find Vic on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/vic.watson.77
She is on Twitter as @vpeanuts
Please summarise your latest book in 20 words or less.
Crime, set in North-east, written in Geordie dialect.
What was the idea/inspiration for your novel?
I started working on my novel ‘Fix Me Up’ when I did my Masters in Creative Writing four years ago. Ever since then, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the novel. I hate it because it stares at me accusingly from my desktop every time I switch my computer on. I love it because I really believe I have something truly original.
If you could choose to be one of your characters in your book/books which would you be? and why?
I really would not want to be any of the characters I write about. They’re mainly awful people or have terrible lives in some way. Although I did write a short story and I guess the main character was based on me. That story was called ‘The Waiting Game’ and appears in my collection of short stories, ‘Letting Go’.
Did you do any research for your book? What resources did you use?
I ask a lot of people a lot of questions. If I don’t know something, I find the internet a great resource – whether it’s Google, Wikipedia or some of the many people I talk to through Twitter and Facebook. Thankfully, I have a great network of people that I know through social media and other areas of my life so, usually, someone will at least be able to point me in the right direction.
Did you travel to any places? Undergo any new experiences?
My novel is based in north-east England, particularly North Tyneside – an area which is where I spend a lot of time – and Northumberland, a county which I adore. I have visited every place in the novel but probably would have even if I wasn’t writing a novel set there – it’s just a wonderful place to be. I didn’t particularly try any new experiences to write this book, it all came from imagination and research.
That said, I do hope to complete a collection of stories set in the Middle East. I would use that as an excuse to travel there as much as possible!
What inspired you to write?
I used to “make” books when I was a kid. You know, folding a sheet of A4 paper into quarters then writing stories and illustrating them even though I was, and remain to this day, possibly the worst artist of all time. When I was a teenager, I wrote for a local football fanzine and have written on and off ever since. I started getting serious about writing just as I finished my undergraduate degree; I’d begun writing reviews for my local newspaper and was getting great feedback on what I was writing. I’d also read so many books where I thought “I could write better than this” so I decided to give it a go – it’s not as easy a process as I expected but it is still a wonderful thing to do. I realised recently that my whole life, I’ve been destined to be a writer as I have such an overactive imagination. This way, I can justify all of those sleepless nights I’ve had worrying about ‘The Grudge’ getting me as just part of being a writer.
Do you have a most creative time of day?
I’d prefer to write on evenings but I just do it when I can. I’m a nightowl but, while I work I still have to go to bed at a reasonable hour! If I didn’t have to work, I’d probably write between 10pm and 3am. As it stands, I write when I can (which is not nearly enough).
Do you have a favourite place you go to for inspiration or a favourite activity?
I run several writing groups a week and, although I tend to set activities and facilitate the sessions rather than writing myself, I find being around other writers is so inspiring. Their enthusiasm and ideas are contagious. I ran a group earlier this week and came home with a fully-formed poem, I have never written poetry before so I was pretty pleased.
If I am completely blocked, I like to drive to Northumberland and enjoy the places there. It has everything from Barter Books, one of Europe’s biggest second-hand and antiquarian bookstores, to castles (Harry Potter was filmed at Alnwick Castle) and then there are the Cheviot Hills which are just so beautiful and desolate. Yeah, you get the picture.
Do you have a theme for your book covers? Who designs them?
My book covers have been designed by two kind friends so far. Fiona Johnson designed the cover for ‘Letting Go’ and, through some sort of technical error when uploading through Amazon, the colours changed and I loved them – I think that was fate.
Thomas K. Matthews designed the cover for my award-winning short story ‘The Piano’ and he basically asked me what I wanted and set about creating it. I love those covers and I love the fact that people are so willing to help you.
How do your characters come into existence? Do they have a bio?
That’s a great question. A lot of my characters are amalgamations of people I have met. I have biographies for all of them but the bios aren’t written down anywhere, I just know them so well. I guess, it’s like knowing stuff about your friends that is no longer particularly relevant but you still know it happened.
Are you a panster or a plotter?
I’m a panster but I spend a lot of time thinking and planning in my head before I ever start typing so I guess a bit of both.
Is your book part of a series?
I have considered writing a prequel to ‘Fix Me Up’ but I want to get that written and published first! I am a bit of a “run before you can walk” kind of girl!
Which authors have influenced your writing?
The biggest influence for me is Roald Dahl, as a child I was obsessed with his books and even now I don’t think you’ll ever find a more innovative, intelligent writer. The way Roald Dahl invents words is just genius.
I’ve been influenced by many writers including Linwood Barclay and Irvine Welsh but nowhere near as much as Dahl.
Do you have a favourite book? Why? What is it about that book?
‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee. I love everything about that book. Its depiction of childhood and race is just insanely moving. Atticus Finch is the ultimate hero and the Boo Radley character is indicative of the urban myths every child has encountered at one time or another. The prose is beautiful and the themes explored in the book are so important. And Atticus Finch reminds me of my dad. Not because he’s a lawyer, just because he’s awesome.
Do you think movie adaptations do books justice? Do you have a favourite?
I tend to read a book before I see the movie as, once I know who’s starring in the movie, I tend to be unable to get that actor/actress out of my mind when I’m reading the book and it really stints my imagination. Reading ‘Revolutionary Road’ was ruined for me because I already knew DiCaprio and Winslet were going to star as the main characters. In fairness, though, they did a great job in the movie.
I actually preferred the movie of ‘The Woman in Black’ which was based on a novel written by Susan Hill. I think one reason I preferred it was because it was almost a completely different story.
And I love the film of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ – Gregory Peck is marvellous as Atticus.
What are you reading now? Opinion?
I am currently reading ‘Is Everyone Hanging out without Me? (and other concerns)’ by Mindy Kaling. Mindy is hilarious, she and Tina Fey are massive heroes of mine. My boyfriend bought me the book a couple of days ago and I am nearly finished it. It’s an easy read, full of laughs and that’s cool. I have such an eclectic range of reading habits. The book I finished before starting Mindy’s was ‘First Family’ by David Baldacci and before that was ‘The Good Muslim’ by Tahmima Anam.
As I’m on my second year of a teacher training course, I’ve been doing a lot of non-fiction, academic reading alongside books like ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron and books about autoimmune diseases as I was recently diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome. I told you, eclectic.
Are there any self-publishing tips you could share with new writers?
I think self-publishing is sometimes a brave endeavour but it is fraught. I think self-publishing can be lonely at times. As a writer, you are possibly fairly neurotic and I think the traditional publishing route might be more supportive because you’d have an agent, an editor and a publisher working on your behalf so if you had a meltdown, they might be able to help you. Likewise you’d have a marketing person working out how best to publicise your work. As an indie, you have to manage this yourself. But it is not as bad as it may seem.
I recommend you have a strong network of writer buddies – whether in “real life” or through social media. There are loads of groups on Facebook you could join so if you have any worries, have a chat with the people on there. I was worried about my covers more than anything as I have no artistic ability whatsoever but people’s kindness will astound you.
Being a writer can be lonely. Do you have a support network?
I have a wonderful support network of brilliant writers all over the world thanks to social networks like Twitter and Facebook. I’ve been lucky enough to meet a lot of these people at writing events but there are plenty that I have yet to meet in the flesh but they are the kindest, most supportive people I’ve ever known. In my opinion, it is so important to have people who understand the process as they have probably, at some point, felt the way you – as a writer – are feeling right now.
Have you done any creative writing/writing courses that you would recommend to others?
I started an MA straight after finishing my undergrad degree. I met some amazing writers who I still keep in touch with. It’s expensive to do an MA but, for me at least, it gave me the confidence in my work to go on and enter competitions as well as self-publish. As a complete newbie to the field, I learnt so much from that course. It won’t be for everyone, though.
There will be other, less formal and less expensive routes you could go down. You could join a local writing group or do a short course offered by a local college or community centre. It depends on how much time you have to devote to it and what you’d like at the end of it. My MA took two years and I came out with a Masters degree but it took a lot more devotion than a weekly writing course would because there were assignments to complete and deadlines to hit.
Who is your target audience?
I would love to be a diverse writer, like JK Rowling, who writes for different age ranges and in different genres. My target audience at the moment is adults, pure and simple, but I wouldn’t necessarily say they’re the only demographic I’d ever write for.
Does your book tackle a social barrier? How have you incorporated it into the story?
My book tackles a few social issues. Colin, the main character, is a drug addict and a lot of his issues are tied up in low self-esteem, being the child of a single parent family and social deprivation. I think I’m pretty lucky that the book lends itself to exploring these themes without seeming out of place. Without those issues, the book wouldn’t have a basis.
Do you make use of local resources for promoting your book?
I’m pretty lucky that I have ties with my local libraries and they’re really helpful. I run a writing group in one of the libraries once a week and they publicise my other endeavour, Elementary V Watson – my proofreading service. (www.elementaryvwatson.com)
I’ve done one reading at the Lit and Phil Society in Newcastle which, although nerve wracking, was one of the biggest achievements of my life to date. People like Oscar Wilde have spoken there before!
What has been the best part of your writing journey so far?
I have to admit, I am a competitive person so winning the awards – Young Reviewer of the Year and Story Tyne – were massive for me personally. It’s kind of like validation because someone else thinks you’re good enough to win an award!
I absolutely love running the writing groups so, even though I don’t write anything while I’m there, I love the positive feedback I get and I really get a buzz seeing people fired up from a task that I set. I like combining my writing skills with being, essentially, a teacher. As part of those groups, I set up a performance night for my group and I was dreading it. I didn’t think anyone would pitch up (apart from the group themselves) but it was a really big success. I got great feedback from that and it was a real boost to the group too. They’ve got their next performance evening in a couple of weeks.
What has been the worst part of your writing journey so far?
The procrastinating. Technically, this novel could have been finished two years ago.
What tips do you have for other aspiring writers?
Surround yourself with a good network. Go to as many events as possible and make connections. This isn’t necessarily going to get you a book deal but the support you will receive from these people – and the support you will provide to them – is immeasurable.
Try to volunteer to do some writing for community projects, it will get you noticed and will help you form more links. I blog every year for Whitley Bay Film Festival. I don’t get paid but it opens up my writing to a wider audience, has helped me form more relationships with the art community as a whole and I get to watch movies non-stop for a fortnight.
Thank you for being in my hot seat today Victoria.
Thanks for having me!
Download ‘The Piano’ at: http://amzn.to/12oWuj4
Download ‘Letting Go’ at: http://amzn.to/RcJZE8