This week I have the pleasure of Alberta Ross’s company. She and I talk about how important characters are to a story, the love of traveling and reading and what made her a writer. She also shares her battles with Dyspraxia with us. So make yourself comfortable and sit back and enjoy my talk with Alberta.
Don’t be shy in commenting. Every commenter on this post gets a chance to win their own e-book copies of Alberta’s books. More details about this giveaway at the bottom of the post.
Introduce us to Alberta Ross
Well I was born just after the Second World War in a London suburb. Very middle class background and surrounded by books, hundreds of them. My parents and grandparents were great ‘bookaholics’. I can’t say I was the brightest child around However, I did manage, I don’t know how, to gain a small handful of certificates before I left full-time education.
All I had ever wanted to do since a child was travel so, as soon as I was free, I was over the hills and far away. For about twenty years. I managed to visit every continent for varying lengths of time, including five years in Australia. I was six months based on the North shore in Auckland – had a great time youth hosteling around the two islands – before your time about 1974/5 I think.
I came back home to help out, various family members had health problems by then. So with no travel in sight and with what I can only describe as a menopausal hiccup, I decided I would go to University – me! – few hidden smiles amongst friends at that idea. A science degree took my fancy, I had no science or maths anywhere in my background and to this day I am not sure how I got accepted; maybe I ticked a box somewhere. I did so enjoy it. With a great deal of help from my friend from forever who struggled to get verbs into my sentences and keep my spelling within the range of acceptable English I gained a BSc Hons in Anthropology and Nutrition and a high enough pass to go on to do an MA. Was amazingly chuffed to say the least!
I’m retired from paid employment now and having a whale of a time writing and networking.
How long have you been writing for?
Seriously I guess since 2007, after I had retired. On a whim, I joined a writing class in our local town and signed up for a couple of writing workshops held at a local organic farm. I wasn’t at all sure about either but found both experiences such fun I kept going back for more and the teacher we had, Emily, was a very inspiring young lady.
As a child I had dabbled, doesn’t every child who enjoys books? Later, in my 40s, I had tried again but I knew they weren’t good and had put them away when I went to university (I am thinking of resurrecting one of them in NaNoWriMo this year!
I still felt a bit of a fraud but, early last year, I decided I was a ‘writer’, the computer was my tool and time spent writing, researching and networking was ‘my work’. So maybe 2007 or maybe 2010.
Who or what influences your writing?
Who knows the answer to that one? The Sefuty Chronicles are fed and probably inspired by all my interests – such as science, genetics, ethics, anthropology and, of course, climate change as well as by my interests in crafts and gardening. The original spark for writing? Haven’t a clue! I blame it on 60 + years of reading anything I could get my hands on.
What aspect of the writing life do you find the most challenging?
I think my Dyspraxia. I only discovered recently that is what I had all these years. Apart from the ‘clumsy child’ bit there are often problems with the neurone development of the brain, affecting the way the brain processes information, particularly when it involves thought, perception and language. Children with this problem are often called stupid (I certainly was back in 1950s schooling), but we are as intelligent and as creative as anyone else. We can understand information but our brains are unreliable in regurgitating it.
My main problem is the ordering of words, (I don’t talk in public because of this, I once managed to insult a visiting judge at our local photographic contest, I still don’t know how I managed to mangle up ‘Thank You’ but I did!) spelling and punctuation. My friend from forever/editor and I have long – er – ‘discussions’ on my use of words. It is a continuous struggle for her to get my writing into shape. I have improved since I began writing full-time, however I can still read a whole page of un-punctuated words and not realise there is not even a full stop at the end. Drives her to distraction. It does take some of the spontaneity away from such as blogging, and commenting. I will attempt the shorter ones but it takes hours of agonizing over. Does it make sense? Is there a full stop anywhere? Have I offended anyone? I think sometimes it comes over as sounding bit abrupt as a consequence. (By the way she is away on holiday at moment so I am winging this myself; with every finger crossed that there are no terrible mistakes apparent!)
It just means really that everything takes longer. Manuscripts and longer blogs have to be e-mailed to her and then corrections back. The computer has been a godsend for people like me – oh I know the limitations of the spell checker but it has helped alert me to some of the mistakes.
Do you have a Write time of day set aside or do you write when the inspiration strikes?
Not really – at the beginning I could only write late at night as that was the only time I could (was caring for my mother full-time then) since I began writing all day I try to do networking, e-mails etc first thing. Then writing and or correcting. Networking again in the evening to catch time differences. But it’s very flexible if I’m on a creative roll then networking is left right out. If there nothing to write about then I go researching on the web. Nothing is ever set in stone.
Tell us what inspires you as a writer?
Every thing I guess. Certainly every author I have ever read, the thousands of books. My travels, all the people I’ve met, places I’ve seen. All my many interests past and present. Everything.
Do you have a muse?
I don’t really understand this muse everyone on cyberspace talks about. I have always used the word to mean ponder upon, to think carefully. I guess how you all are using it is as an imaginary (female usually) force guiding your creativity, in which case probably not. I have great trouble with imaginary forces!!! I guide my creativity, my mind with all it’s filing systems stuffed to over flowing – I allow no meddling busybody telling me what to do! On my use of the word then yes. I think a lot about my characters and plots. Carefully working them out over periods of time.
Where do you write? Describe your place of writing to us?
On the dining table! I have, since I decided to write full-time, taken over that area. Open plan to the living area and kitchen. We haven’t used the table to eat at for years and if we have visitors we eat off smaller individual tables. I have transferred a lot of my reference books into the dining area (into the china cupboards). Laptop and printer on the table, cats wherever they wish to be! It works well, I’m around if needed and coffee refills are only a couple of steps away. I have a window looking onto the garden, which is itself only a dozen steps from where I sit. I can slip out there whenever the desire moves me.
Are you a pen and paper writer/typewriter/digital writer?
I have been through them all. When I wrote stories, as a child, it was pencil then pen. As a teenager, when I tried writing, I had a typewriter. After I finished travel, and began writing again, it was on the first of the computers, no ‘windows’ ‘graphics’ and no ‘internet’ for ordinary folk! I don’t remember how many I have had now. I would miss my computer, more than any other technology, if I had to give it up.
Do you have any writing superstitions or traditions that you follow?
No. I don’t go for superstitions and, although I have a fondness for some great traditions, a personal tradition in the way you mean it is, for me, akin to being in a rut, a routine and in something else’s power.
What genre do you write in and why?
Well I shall say soft sci-fi/post apocalyptic/dystopian/romance and the why? is because that’s what everyone says. Me? I think of my writing as fiction. I have struggled so hard to make sense of this genre business.
Because the series is set in the future people want to label it science fiction or speculative fiction; the last is, I suppose, accurate as both books are set in the future. But both books are romances also, as the central themes running through are love stories. I want my books in general fiction because the books themselves deal with people, their emotions, trials and tribulations, and these are universal concerns.
The only science used is a continuation of what is happening now, such as GM, alternative power and food sources. I think my books would disappoint a real science fiction fan; I don’t think there’s enough doom and gloom for speculative fiction and certainly if labelled a romance (which it is) it would disappoint romance readers. So you see, although people feel the need to label like this, I would be happier if there was more cross over in what books are about.
So why this subject? Well many of my of my interests feed into the books, sustainability, social history, anthropology and ethics for instance and I am very concerned with environmental issues and have thought for many decades that we haven’t, as a species, been thoughtful enough. I am, on the whole, though optimistic about the human race and our ability to adapt and have tried to write hopeful books.
What genre would you like to write in but have not yet? And why?
The story I thought of back in my 40s was set today and was a love story I guess but exploring the stresses on all relationships when a traumatic event happens. I’m intrigued with how folk ‘work’ so I think when I have finished trying to warn the world of their approaching doom!!! I’ll start on psychological fiction.
Do you have any beta readers or critique partners? Do you think they are a necessary resource for writers?
Well only my friend from forever. She edits, checks inconsistencies, makes sure what I say makes sense – warns me when I’m assuming the reader knows as much as I do!!
I think everyone needs someone who’s going to be honest about the writing, and she is, always has been! Also someone who can stand back from the emotional ties us authors have for our work and say ‘Oh for goodness sake woman!’
As we have been friends for almost 60 years, dreadful thought that! She also understands my word problems. A stranger would struggle even harder than she has to.
Would you describe yourself as a punster or a plotter?
A bit of both I think. I live with the story in my head for weeks/months before I get anywhere near the paper, usually when writing the previous book!! I have long imaginary conversations with the characters, I know all the hidden story that will never be written. I know them and what happens to them very well, I don’t necessarily have a plot line though. I also find it impossible to write from beginning to end in a straight line. I write like fury, episode by episode, and then at the end write linking bits to join them up and hopefully by then will know the beginning and the end!
Are you working on anything at the moment? Can you share a little about your latest WIP?
The third in the Sefuty Chronicles is, I hope, coming out in the autumn. Jack’s Tale is a little darker than the previous two. I have had to research more about warfare, torture and post traumatic stress than I needed for the first books. I also have included some actions which may shock those who expect their romance to be only loving affairs. I’m a bit nervous of doing it but, in The Storyteller’s Tale, I got away with having a heroine who wasn’t very nice, most of the time. So fingers crossed I can get this character through his nasty deeds in one piece!
What is more important to you story or character? Why?
I’m not sure that, in the books I’m writing at the moment, they can be separated. If I did try psycological stories I think the characters would have to be slightly more important. But the trouble with trying to separate these two things, is that they drive each other don’t they? How the character acts and reacts to his life however mundane (I’m not necessarily talking thriller/action) will drive the story. The events of the story will cause the actions of the character. I suppose the only way would be to write a book entirely as a train of thought; but even then the thoughts would include some kind of a story. No I don’t think they can be separated.
Who is your favourite character that you have created and why?
I have two. The one that is written is Ria from The Storyteller’s Tale. I like her because she’s such a troubled soul. With her screaming tempers, distrustful reactions and fears she was great fun to write about. Ellen, from the first book, was difficult to write because she was so good (I’m not, so it was like writing about an alien being!) The second character I like, might get written this year, was from an idea of a novel I had when I was 40 something. She is a free spirit who lives just on the boundaries of acceptable social behaviour. Slightly out of kilter moral values and ethics and I’m sure she will be fun to write as well.
Who is your favourite character in the literary world and why?
So many difficult to choose. Ever since a child I have liked Scout in ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’. As a child I understand her puzzlement and confusion at the world around, and her gradual knowledge and acceptance of life as it is, the unfolding beginnings of understanding others is great.
Samwise from ‘The Fellowship of the Rings’ great fellow – he was always the hero of that saga. The little man, the ordinary man, pitted against forces beyond understanding, armed only with basic knowledge of what’s important. Honest, loyal, a true friend, a strong sense of duty, and if you think about it that quest would have failed without him
Then of course Scarlett O’Hara what a girl! – what a role model she was. Never one to be bound by rules, conventions. She was a survivor and what a lot of people don’t seem to get is that she enables others to survive also. The ‘good’ ones like Melanie and Ashley owed their lives to Scarlett’s determination and courage. Okay that’s enough gab from me on the subject.
If you throw a dinner party and invite 5 famous creative people, who would they be and why?
Dorothy Dunnet, George Elliot, Beatrix Potter, Michelangelo, Stephen Fry
All of them had/have a wide range of interests, skills and creative talents, educated not just in their time but in the classics of their time, so could bring a wonderful wealth of conversation and wit to the table. They all trod/tread their own paths without letting society tell them what to do. Think of the range of creativity at that table, authors, sculptures, painter, actors, engineers, visionaries. Let’s hope my cooking could live up to it all!
If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the beginning of your writing career, what would it be?
Difficult, but I think it would be research. Decide which path one is going and research it. So, for me, to suddenly decide I would be an Indie writer after I had written the first book meant I have been playing catch-up all the time. There were such a lot of skills I didn’t possess, that have been needed to work the possibilities of the internet. Apart from e-book formatting, web site design, blogging the various network site etc. I am still struggling to learn all the jargon! Getting there, getting there.
What do want your lasting legacy? As a writer, to be?
Oh goodness, well probably to be remembered as a teller of some quite nice tales. I know my books are never going to be classics but I do think they are good reads.
Thank you very much for allowing me on here to natter – I’m afraid I do go on a bit!
My books can be found on my official website
http://www.albertaross.co.uk where extracts, readers comments and purchase details can be found.
The e-book editions of Ellen’s Tale and The Storyteller’s Tale can be found on http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/29886
I also blog about the process of writing and self publishing and writing in general on
and my general interests on
you can also follow me on
GIVE-AWAY ALERT: http://sefutychronicles-albertaross.blogspot.com/ – Blog Tour dates.
Alberta is running a Give Away during the tour.
2 winners of draw will win e-book editions ofThe first two books of the Sefuty ChroniclesEllen’s Tale and The Storyteller’s Tale
3 runners-up will win an e-book edition ofEllen’s Tale(unless already read in which case The Storyteller’s Tale)
How to winA comment on each visited host site gives you one chance to win, also on my sites on those days I am posting there during the touran extra entry will be given if you mention the post on Twitter or Facebookan extra entry will be given for a mention of the post/tour on your own blogLet me know where you have spread the word., with a link.So make sure you comment on this post, mention it to Alberta on her blog to be in with a chance to win. Also if you mention it on Facebook or Twitter you will get a bonus chance to win.