Elizabeth Chats With…Allison Symes
Today’s guest is a fellow Swanwicker. She is a writer of short stories (including flash fiction), novels and some poetry; and she loves writing what she calls fairytales with bite. She is also a keen blogger, for Chandler’s Ford Today and for More Than Writers, the blog of the Association of Christian Writers (of which she is currently Membership Secretary). I am delighted to be chatting today with Allison Symes.
Hello Allison and welcome. Let’s start with an old favourite. What was your favourite subject at school — and which was the lesson you always wanted to avoid?
My favourite subject was English, no surprises there. I always loved composition time when we could invent stories and never understood why others in my class groaned at the thought. That should have been an early indicator the writing life beckoned. It wasn’t but it should have been!
There wasn’t a lesson I wanted to avoid – I quite enjoyed the sciences, especially Biology, though I did find Physics hard going. It was the first subject I dropped when it came to making my options. My Physics teacher was disappointed. He’d hoped I’d take it to exam level as he thought I was doing well!
If you had to escape from a fire, what three things would you take with you?
My Bible (the one given to me by my late dad), my Saturday Night at the Movies Classic FM album (so many wonderful tracks on there), and my laptop.
How do you relax?
I listen to a lot of classical music but find I am most relaxed when I am writing, funnily enough, so I combine the two! Away from the writing desk, and when it is possible do it, I love a good swim. Writing and swimming take me away from everyday worries. I think it’s what I love most about them!
If you could change one thing about yourself or your life so far, what would it be?
I would have started writing seriously much earlier than I did. It took two major life events – the birth of my son and turning 30 – to make me realise if I was going to write, I had better get on and do so.
Of course I had no idea how long it would take me to learn my craft and find my niche as a blogger and flash fiction writer. So the thought of wasted time when I could’ve been writing does make me gnash my teeth a bit but of course you can’t know this. I would always advise anyone thinking of writing to just get on and do it and have fun with it. It is what I should have done.
What would be in your ‘Room 101’?
Anyone who doesn’t like books. I once heard at a Book Fair “I don’t read books” as someone went by my stand. I had to resist the urge to say “why are you here then?” and why their friend had dragged them to a Book Fair goodness only knows!
All calories to be removed from food that we like (oh and in prosecco and Baileys as well) so we can enjoy these things without worrying about calorie intake!
Bad reviewers who criticize books which they clearly haven’t read properly.
I think I’ll stop at three things!
If you could meet one person from history, who would it be — and why?
Tough call but I would love to meet Jane Austen. Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourite novels and I would love her to be able to see just how popular her work still is now. I wonder what she would make of Colin Firth as her Mr Darcy in the BBC adaptation…would love to chat and find out her views!
Also I think Austen came up with one of the most compelling characters in fiction – Elizabeth Bennett – and one of the worse – see below for more. I would like to quiz Jane about the latter too.
There is a saying: to make the punishment fit the crime. Which character from fiction would you like to punish — and how?
Fanny Price for being SO boring. Her success in Austen’s Mansfield Park depends, to my mind, a lot on the failure of others. Elizabeth Bennett stuck to her principles and “earned” her success if you like.
I just don’t see that as being the case for Miss Price and I would love to quiz Jane Austen about that. Why didn’t you liven Miss Price up a bit, even allowing for the context of the time? Elizabeth is far more lively (as are Emma and Anne) so it is not as if it can’t be done!
Watch a film, go to the theatre, read a book or talk to friends — which would you prefer?
I love doing all of these things so it is hard to pick a preference. In an ideal week, I’d do all of these! But if I have to pick only one I would talk to friends. For one thing, we could talk about books we have read, films we have seen, trips to the theatre we’ve enjoyed!!
What would you have printed on the front of your T-shirt?
Don’t offend the writer. I will have you edited.
What is it about flash fiction that you love so much?
Inventing characters. Given flash is so short and has to focus on, usually, one character per story, I have to keep on inventing people. That has always been my favourite aspect to storytelling so this is a win-win for me!