This interview with Sally Quilford was first published in April 2006.
To find out even more about the author, you must visit our Sally Quilford page.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Pontypool, South Wales. I then spent my time moving between Maindee in Newport, where my mother and step-father lived, and Rogerstone, just outside Newport, which is where my dad lived. I moved to Chesterfield when I was 14, so I was also partly raised in Derbyshire.
What was it that first got you into writing and when did you start writing?
I took a GCSE in Literature at the age of 30. As I began to read classic literature, I realised that I wanted to be able to write. Iíd had a vague idea that I might like to be a writer before then, but without actually putting pen to paper. I wrote a couple of short stories, like "Darling Stefan", which is now in the Bewrite Anthology, "The Creature in the Rose", but I mostly wrote (really bad) poetry in those days.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
My dad used to let me read all his Jack Higgins and Frederick Forsyth books from when I was about 12, which is probably a bit strange for a girl. Iíve probably read more worthy writers since, but I am still drawn to a well-executed thriller. Other writers who influence me are Stephen King, Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, Shakespeare, Agatha Christie. Across the board really.
Where do you stand on the nature v. nurture debate? Were you born a writer, or were there factors in your environment that enabled you to become a writer?
Whether it was always there, I donít know. I always had an over-active imagination as a child, losing myself in a fantasy world to escape the problems at home. So whether that was the beginning of me creating fantasy worlds on paper, I donít know. I believe I chose to be a writer, but perhaps it had already chosen me many years earlier.
There are a lot of courses teaching creative writing nowadays, but do you think that good writing can be taught?
Yes, I do to a certain extent, having taken a creative writing course myself and also having presented workshops. You can certainly teach new writers to avoid the silly beginner mistakes. On the other hand I am very Ďanti-rulesí when it comes to writing. What I donít like is when so-called experts come up with a load of rules about writing which take too many tools out of the writerís toolbox. The language is there. Use it. Find out what works and what doesnít. The only rules I think writers should adhere to are those about grammar and spelling, which I feel writers MUST know, even if theyíre going to break the rules. Editors are not going to find an undiscovered genius in a page full of grammatical and spelling errors. They just donít have time.
Have you entered writing competitions? If so, have you won any prizes?
Yes, Iíve won 2nd place in the Derbyshire Literature Festivals 1-2-1 competition. First prize in Northamptonshire Libraries Christmas Punch comp and a finalist in various other comps, including the BBC Radio Kent monthly comp, Toowriteís 10th competition, "The Boston Standard" competition and various other placings. But I havenít entered many Ďbigí competitions, usually because I canít afford to, so most of the comps Iíve entered have been free to enter. This year, however, Iíve made an effort to enter more paying competitions in the hopes I'll get placed and raise my profile a bit more.
Do you have any short stories or poems published online? (If so, please provide the URLs):
"His Last Request" (the Horror Library Slushpile) http://www.horrorlibrary.net/view_story.php?story_id=512
"Hunger" (at "Bewildering Stories") http://www.bewilderingstories.com/issue162/hunger.html
"Network" (at "Bewildering Stories" Ė also printed in "Thirteen Magazine") http://www.bewilderingstories.com/issue181/network.html
"The Home of Lost Reputations" ("Long Story Short") http://www.alongstoryshort.homestead.com/TheHomeofLostReputations.html
"Clarence" ("JBWB Hall of Fame" and also printed in "Yours Fiction Special") http://www.jbwb.co.uk/thc.htm
"Caution! Flammable!" ("Toowrite.com") http://www.toowrite.com/toowrite_story.asp?sid=6188
"The Other Sally Quilford" (toowrite.com and "The Lincolnshire Echo") http://www.toowrite.com/toowrite_story.asp?sid=4847
"By Means of Pity or Fear" (toowrite.com finalist) http://www.toowrite.com/toowrite_story.asp?sid=3945
"The Front Door" (toowrite.com Ė also printed in "The Lincolnshire Echo") http://www.toowrite.com/toowrite_story.asp?sid=2248
"Counting Spires" (toowrite.com) http://www.toowrite.com/toowrite_story.asp?sid=1919
"My New Teaset" (toowrite.com Ė Also printed in the "Lincolnshire Echo") http://www.toowrite.com/toowrite_story.asp?sid=1921
"The Association of Bit Part Players" ("Romance Ever After" but also published in "Sexy Shorts for Lovers") http://www.romanceeverafter.
"The Fellowship" (winner of The Northamptonshire Libraries Christmas Punch competition) http://www.bewrite.net/modules.php?
"Dear Miss Havisham" (at Bewrite.net and 2nd place in Derbyshire Literature Festival 1-2-1 competition) http://www.bewrite.net/modules.
"Darling Stefan" (at bewrite.net and in the "Bewrite" anthology "The Creature in the Rose") http://www.bewrite.net/modules.php?
What kind of things do you write?
As the selection of work online shows, anything I want to. I donít like to be bound by any rules on genre, or by narrow ideals of being literary. I want to write things that people can relate to, but which theyíll also enjoy. I tend to stick to short stories, though I have written novels, usually during NaNoWriMo in November, simply because itís such fun.
What, for you, is the best piece of prose that you have ever written?
Itís usually whatever Iím working on at the time, and Iíve got a few pieces that Iíve sent out recently that are way better than the examples Iíve given of online work (imo). Out of those Iíve listed, Iíd probably pick two stories that stand out for me. 1) "Clarence", because it was the first proper print publication I ever achieved and because I enjoyed writing it so much. 2) "By Means of Pity or Fear", which was about the deepest I ever delved into the ambivalent feelings left over from my childhood. I have written more harrowing stories since, but as theyíre out there awaiting judgement from competition judges, I canít say much more.
What are you working on now?
At the moment Iím working on a story for Asham. I donít want to say too much about the story as Iím superstitious about these things and
only tend to share my work with a few friends in my writing group. Iím also working on a novella, which is inspired by the thrillers my dad turned me on to. Itís a bit of fluff, but who says writing canít be fun? Iíve got a couple of other novels brewing too. I like variety in my writing life as you can see!
What is your writing day like?
Erratic! I work part-time as a CAB adviser, and Iím studying to be a trainer in the voluntary sector as well as taking a YMCA Exercise to Music course, so writing is only a part of my day, albeit the most important part. I suppose Iím lucky at the moment in that I donít work full time, so can devote a lot of time to writing. Trouble is when I have ideas I donít have time, and when I have time, I donít have the ideas! Iím not the sort of writer who can look at a blank page and create something. I tend to have ideas fully formed in my head before I sit down at the computer.
Where would you like to be in 10 years time?
Iíd like to have finished and published at least one of my novels. Iíd like to still be writing, even if I donít make it big. In fact, I know I will be.
When you get a pile of rejection letters, but you still have to write, then you know youíre going to be a writer for the rest of your life.
Whatís the most exciting thing about writing for you?
Creating different lives, the buzz of a good idea, the chance to escape the humdrum. Being published. Because letís be honest, thatís what writers want. We may say we write for ourselves but a part of us long for an audience with which to share our work. Also meeting other writers. Itís a real luxury to be able to talk writing with others.
Whatís the most frustrating thing about writing for you?
As I said earlier, having ideas but no time to put them into practice or having the time but no ideas. Also, having an idea that Iím sure is brilliant but which doesnít work out the way I expect when I come to put it down on paper. That happened to me when I was doing my Open University Creative Writing course and had to write a piece for an assignment. I passed the course, but was unhappy with what Iíd written.
However, that idea wasnít wasted as Iím now using that same idea, from a different angle, for my 2006 Asham entry. And this time it seems to be working.
Whatís the best piece of feedback that youíve had from your audience?
In 2005 I presented two writing workshops at the Wigan Festival. It was the first time Iíd ever done anything like it, apart from a couple of presentations for a Law Centre where I worked, so I was very nervous. At the end of the day, a participant in the second workshop (and an editor no less) told me ĎIíve been watching you all day and Iíve seen your work. Not only can you write, you also have the ability to talk to people at any level. You could make a fortune doing this.í I came away feeling ten feet tall. It encouraged me to take a couple of courses to become a trainer, so that Iíll feel less nervous the next time.
Do you write for a particular audience, or is your first priority to satisfy your own creativity?
It depends what Iím writing. My story, "The Fox", which appears in "Sexy Shorts for The Beach", was written specifically for that anthology, so I was deliberately aiming at an audience of women aged 35 and over. Women like myself, in fact. But it has to work both ways. I may write for with an audience in mind, but the story has to satisfy me too, otherwise I wouldnít finish it. So I tend to write what I would enjoy reading. If that means most of my work is about relationships, families, children, romance and domesticity, so be it. Thatís my life, and itís the life of most people. Thankfully, it doesnít work like that, because I also enjoy sci-fi, horror and thrillers so can also pull those out of the bag when needs be.
Do you have a homepage? If so, whatís the URL?