Wednesday 7 December 2016

Day 7: Helping Out by Allison Symes

1.         What gave me the idea for Helping Out, my Baubles story?

  I love all fairy tales but have a very soft spot indeed for humorous ones.  I liked the idea of two magical beings, meant to be rivals, a fairy and a witch, teaming up to combat their respective bosses’ scheming.  After all in extremis people often do unite against a common foe so why shouldn’t that happen in the fairy tale world?  I also liked the idea of how our view of fairies (”good”) is challenged by how my narrator witch sees them.  “If anyone’s told you fairies are gracious, forget it.” I was also inspired by a comment I came across once that in Parliament it is very common for MPs to be good friends with those who sit opposite them in the House of Commons/Lords and it is because they are not rivals for jobs.  Their own colleagues are, of course.  So I thought I would apply that idea to this story and see where it took me.  I loved writing it.

2.         How would I describe my normal style of writing?
I describe my writing as “fairytales with bite”.  I love reading and writing quirky fiction.  I am inspired by Jane Austen (for irony), Wodehouse (general humour) and Pratchett (for proving a fictional, fantastical world can be very funny).  I love writing short stories (including flash fiction).  I like to get inside my characters’ heads as quickly as possible.  When I feel I know them well enough, that’s when the story (and the fun) starts!

3.         Have you published other material?

 Yes.  Bridge House have published me before - A Helping Hand in their Alternative Renditions anthology.  It was my first ever print publication and will always have a very special place in my heart for that reason.  I have also been published, online and in print, by Cafelit.  I blog weekly for Chandler’s Ford Today and monthly for More Than Writers, the Association of Christian Writers’ blog spot.  Chapeltown Books are currently producing my first flash fiction collection, From Light to Dark and Back Again.

4.         Do you have a writing routine?


Yes.  A writing routine is crucial for me.  I am a night owl so write into the early hours.  I start by writing my FB author page spot and updating my websites with new posts (including my recently started Word Press site Allison Symes:  Collected Works where I give a daily round-up of what I’ve been writing where).  I then get on to my blog posts (I’ve always got at least one on the go, especially for CFT).  I finish my evening by writing fiction.  I find dividing my writing time into a session for this, a session for that a really useful way of helping me to achieve things. 

5.         Do you have a favourite place for writing?

Yes.  My favourite writing place is at my desk with pictures of my parents and other family members near me. I also have a Commended for a Short Story certificate issued by the Winchester Writers’ Conference framed and hanging on my wall.  If I turn I can look through the French windows out into my garden and sometimes do this when I need a moment or two of contemplation.  Otherwise it is hands down on the keyboard and away I go.  I must confess though I do not have a tidy writing desk.  I know what I’ve got on it and why it is all there etc but I am surrounded by papers!  Near by is a big cupboard with favourite writing books in in it (I adore Stephen King’s On Writing in particular) and in another cupboard are the stationery items. I suppose it is more like a writing corner.  Sometimes during the fireworks season, my dog will curl up in the writing corner with me (she usually leaves me alone to get on with it while she goes to sleep!).


6.         Tell something quirky about me!
        I think I am quirky, full stop! I am a bit obsessed with having to write daily.  (I get edgy if I can’t.  Holidays are different in that I write extra before and just after them so my average word count works out as if I was writing every day.  Not sure if that counts as quirky or as a typical writer’s trait.  You decide!

An extract from  Helping Out


It is not every day I get to untangle Hanacrill, a fairy who, Merlin knows how, got caught in a Leylandii hedge but I expect anything. I’m not usually disappointed.

Being a witch means being able to handle anything though I’m not meant to rescue fairies. Being a witch means ensuring I’m never taken by surprise. Surprises are not good when you live in a magical world. Surprises are usually fatal.

Why should I rescue someone meant to be an enemy? It’s not good nature on my part, I’ll give you that. Frankly, I owed Hanacrill.

Hanacrill, who should have looked where she was going if she really wanted to avoid coming off second best to a plant, rescued me from (a) the only dragon that almost caught me out and (b) her boss, the Fairy Queen. I don’t always look where I’m going either.

Before anyone says anything, I should add it is not impossible to miss seeing a dragon (some are subtle hunters, they’re not all huge and blazingly obvious) but I should have spotted the fairy monarch given she is the one person who cannot go anywhere without her squad of trumpeters so she has a fanfare ready to go at all times. It isn’t just the lady on the white horse on her way to Banbury Cross that likes music wherever she goes.

Our “dear” Queen has not heard of the term “noise nuisance” incidentally. If I didn’t want to live, I’d tell her what it was soon enough. You try naming a quiet trumpeter! It just can’t be done. And not everyone wants to know where Her Nibs is or to have their time of peace and quiet disturbed by a wretched fanfare.

Hanacrill is the top performing fairy in the Kingdom (it makes me wonder what the others fly into) and I’m the best witch, bar my boss. She frightens everybody. Even the Queen has avoided confrontation with her. Her Nibs says she doesn’t want war. She doesn’t want to risk losing, more like it. The coverage on our media would not be favourable and the Queen prefers good news items that reflect favourably on her. So does my boss. My boss doesn’t get that though.



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