- Courage - lots of it! The fairy tale world is not necessarily a pretty one. It is often brutal. And you will face wicked witches, monsters and the like. Well it wouldn't be a magical world without these things would it?
- A friendly magical being on your side. Otherwise you won't go home again.
- Your own supplies of food and drink or a trusted supplier. Alice in her Adventures in Wonderland was notorious for eating and drinking whatever she came across. She was lucky it only affected her height! You cannot assume you would be so lucky. It is safer to assume you would not be! Definitely bring your own or ensure your friendly magical being is friendly and can show you to reliable suppliers.
- Never eat or drink magically produced food and drink. You literally don't know what is in it! Particularly stay away from big, red shiny apples.
- A decent map. Just in case your friendly magical being has all the navigational ability of a gnat on a bad day. You cannot assume you would be assigned Gandalf.
- Fireproof clothing and probably a fireproof helmet. Dragons are an occupational hazard in any magical realm. (Tucking away a portable fire extinguisher to bring out in emergencies would also be a good idea).
- Good clothing generally. You will face extremes of weather - from snow to baking sunshine so be prepared.
- Decent walking boots. You will be walking considerable distances (especially if you are assigned Gandalf as a guide).
- An exit strategy. Emergencies happen. Even the most heroic are sometimes forced to flee for their lives. You must assume this kind of thing is likely to happen so if you can get in some decent training (marathon running, long distance walking etc) before you visit the magical realm, this is bound to stand you in good stead.
- A good manner. Don't be arrogant (someone will curse you at best). Be nice. This usually goes down well with most magical beings. The ones that don't like it are evil and are going to attack you anyway.
What secrets do your characters have? Who else knows them? Who could find them out if they suspected anything was up? Corruption exists in any world, why not your fantasy one?
Give your characters hell. Characters aren’t meant to have a quiet life in fiction! You wouldn’t read a quiet book, would you?
Do you know your characters’ individual stress levels? There’s many a tale to be told showing where characters crack and the consequences of that cracking.
Why I wrote The Trouble With Mother and why I hope one day it will be published
My novel has characters with secrets, Eileen especially has one which nobody could guess at unless they were from her original world.
I wanted to write a story about a mother with a surprising past. I like the idea of a fairy godmother falling in love and being fed up with magical power abuses by her own cousin. A character like Eileen who is prepared to break the rules, has no problem with hypocrisy and can whip out her wand and do something very nasty with it when the need arises is great fun to write about. To begin with all I need was she was as awkward as they come - and awkward characters drop themselves in it, can trigger the tension that fuels any story. Her weakness is the daughter she should never have had - the one being she will not zap.
I am hoping to either find a publisher for this during this year or to self publish. Will keep you posted, literally!
What inspired my writing of The Trouble With Mother?
I wanted to stress the importance of family and to follow what happens to Eileen and Jenny when odd pressures are put on them. Jenny has to come to terms with being two species and how to use magic for good, if she uses it at all. The Queen wants to recruit Jenny, Eileen wants her to keep magic at bay (and suppressed the signs of it in the girl for years) so whatever route the girl chooses, she’ll upset someone. Jenny knows she’s been dropped in it. I find it fascinating to explore how she will cope with this.
Eileen and Jenny like to control their lives. There’s much fun to be had writing about characters like that when control is taken away by circumstances they can’t do much about (though Eileen bless her did her best to cheat those). And Eileen, happy to keep her magical powers while ditching the magical world, wants to stop Jenny using her powers too much. It’s also fun writing about characters who don’t have any problems with hypocrisy! I’m also at an age where I want to read what I want to read and not necessarily what’s out there so if that means writing what I want to read I’ll go for it. I’m utterly convinced there is a market for stories with an older heroine and focussing on relationships other than the romantic one.
Do I base my characters on anyone?
I use a trait to get a character started. I knew Eileen was going to be stubborn, to have a past nobody would guess at but she would also have courage and be honourable. Her name comes from my mother’s middle name, which my mother hated for being drab. That’s made me determined to make my Eileen anything but drab! But I deliberately don’t pick someone I know and write about them. It is far better to invent your own characters in the first place as they’re more likely to be interesting, you’re not working out angst, revenge etc and your characters are unlikely to sue for defamation!
What do you like writing best and why?
I love writing dialogue. I’ve always had a an ear for it and enjoy writing characters having a row! Probably says a lot about me! Also dialogue is great for setting pace and reveals so much about character and in relatively few words. You can give hints as to background, education level and social standing for a start. I like the immediacy of short stories but also love the space a novel gives you to expand and develop themes more. I try to make sure I enjoy everything I write.
Why write fairy tales? Aren’t they for kids? Can’t they be seen as twee?
Fairy tales are one of the oldest forms of fiction going. They can be gory, humorous, have the happy ever after ending or not as the case might be. There is flexibility writing fairy tales there isn’t always in other forms of fiction. Ask someone to name a story from their childhood and the odds are they will name a fairy tale. And a good fairy tale is anything but twee. Take The Little Match Girl for example by Hans Christian Anderson, which is wonderful direct social commentary.
What inspired you to write?
I’ve always loved playing with words. English was my favourite subject at school and I loved what they called composition. The idea of making up stories to my mind back then was a great one! I was right back then too! I’d had the idea of writing my own book at the back of my mind for a long time. The idea of having my own collection of books and at least one on the shelf having my name on appealed no end and still does! Turning 30 and having recently had a family at that point, I finally got started. Maybe it took two major milestones to kickstart me. I do know I wish I’d started sooner.
What is my writing day?
I write in the evenings and into the early hours. Am very much a night owl! I start with putting a mini blog on my Facebook author page, then I bring the blogs on both my websites up to date and then work on short stories including flash fiction, posts for Chandler's Ford Today and either then write a new short story or edit one for a competition. I need to get back to my novels and scripts but hope to do this soon. (The break from them has been partially deliberate as I need some distance before I read them again and then see what I can do with them before trying to get them "out there").
I’ve discovered outlining what I’m thinking of writing helps clarity of thought and prepare a brief outline for a short story with a more detailed one for a novel. I write most days (with time off for holidays but then I keep reading and that is a writer’s background activity. You must know what you like to work out what you want to write).
What is my writing method?
I write novels longhand and use the typing up of them as the first edit. Short stories I tend to write directly to screen but I always print out on paper as it’s easier to see mistakes then. I like having a variety of writing tasks as I never get bored with any of them and I’ve always got something on the go. Every so often I rework short stories turned down for competitions and send them out again. Again from time to time I try to have brainstorming sessions. I've discovered the joy of Scrivener and find setting project targets really useful for encouraging me to keep writing to meet my determined word count for that project. I know it sounds silly but watching the counter change from yellow as I type keeps me going until it turns green and I've met my word count.
I'm Allison Symes and I write novels, short stories as well as some scripts and poems. I love setting my work in my magical world, the Fairy Kingdom, and my favourite character is Eileen, who believes hypocrisy is something that happens to other people without caring that statement is hypocritical in itself! Eileen is huge fun to write for and about.