Friday 13 September 2019

Diane Simmons #interview #writerslife

This week I am delighted to welcome Diane Simmons to my blog.

What genre would you say your books fall into, or do they defy classification?
I mainly write flash fiction. My recently published collection, Finding a Way is a series of connected flash fictions on the theme of grief. Told from various points of view, it follows four people over a three and a half year period as they deal with the loss of a family member
An Inheritance, my forthcoming pamphlet from V Press, is a historical novella-in-flash. It is a family saga dealing with the themes of money, greed and inheritance. 
What made you choose the genre for your books?
Having only ever written short stories, I was introduced to flash fiction by Pauline Masurel and I embarked on a flash course with Fish Publishing in 2011. Although I enjoyed it, I declared that I didn’t think flash was my thing. But the course had provided me with lots of material which I sent out to competitions and the pieces went on to do quite well.  Encouraged, I began to write more flash and now rarely write anything else.
I first came across the idea of connected flash fiction collections when I proofread some of Calum Kerr’s novellas-in-flash (Saga, Graduation Day, Apocalypse). I very much enjoyed them and was intrigued by the form. When Bath Flash Fiction set up a novella-in-flash competition, I decided to have a go at writing one.  This eventually became my forthcoming pamphlet An Inheritance. Apart from the final one  in the pamphlet, all the stories in An Inheritance were specifically for the collection.
Finding a Way came about in a very different way.  After the death of my daughter, Laura, in 2015, I found that I wrote little else other than  stories about grief. I eventually realised that it could make   an effective collection, perhaps helping those dealing with grief themselves or for those not knowing how to help a grieving friend or relative. As with ‘An Inheritance’, each story can be read individually, but the book as a whole has a narrative arc.
Tell me something about yourself that readers might not know
I recently bought an outdoor table tennis table after wanting one for years. It’s good to go out in the garden and hit the ball about as a break from sitting at my desk all day. I tend to get a bit obsessive about things and I’ve worn the grass out in places.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
My only real hobby has always been reading fiction. But I love to socialise as well. In the last few years flash fiction has greatly improved my social life and I enjoy reading my stories at events. The flash community is a very lively and inclusive place and some people I’ve met on twitter have become close friends. We all enjoy getting together and talking about writing. I am a director of National Flash Fiction Day and hospitality organiser for the Flash Fiction Festival UK and both those roles keep me very busy.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I wrote a book when I was about nine called The Trees of Treasure. It was heavily influenced by Enid Blyton. Apart from the stories I wrote at school, I didn’t write anything else again until I was forty-seven. Starting a creative writing course with The Open University was a life changing experience for me.
How many books have you written?
Apart from the one when I was nine, I’ve written two collections of flash fiction and have also had about another seventy or so short stories/flash fictions published.   
What is your work schedule like for your books?
I try to make writing the most important commitment to a working day, but don’t always achieve that. I tend to write best when there is something else I should be doing.  I used to be very much a line a day kind of person, but in writing An Inheritance and Finding a Way, I worked at a much quicker pace. With Finding a Way, I set myself the challenge of writing the first draft of a new story every week and enjoyed editing and improving the stories as I went along. With An Inheritance, the first version was written within a few months as I had a competition deadline I had to meet.  I used to have horrendous back problems and at times have only been able to sit at a computer for a few minutes at a time. But my back is now very much improved which helps with my output. I’ve learnt to go for walks to give myself a break, but if I’m busy it annoys me having to do it.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have on your computer?
I have just the beginnings of a new novella-in-flash that I started writing a few months ago. I’ve had to abandon it for now while I get on with the edits for An Inheritance. I have quite a few unpublished short stories and flashes on my computer, but I tend to finish a story once I’ve started it.
Do You Google Yourself? What did you find that affected you most (good or bad)?
Yes, I love googling myself. I get frustrated that I share the same name as a character in the television programme Family Guy. I really dislike many pictures of me that I find on the internet and dislike having no control over them.
As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
I never really had a clue. My parents always said that I wanted to be a nurse, but I have no memory of that and there could hardly be a profession I am less suited to.

Diane Simmons is a co-director of National Flash Fiction Day and part of the organising team for the UK Flash Fiction Festival. For three years she was a reader for the international Bath Short Story Award and has twice been an editor for Flash Flood. She has helped judge several flash competitions, including National Flash Fiction Day’s Micro Competition and Hysteria Flash Competition.  In 2017 and 2018, she co-edited the Flash Fiction Festival anthology.
Diane has been widely published and placed in numerous competitions.  ‘Finding a Way’, her debut flash collection on the theme of grief,  was published by Ad Hoc Fiction in February 2019 and was recently shortlisted in the 'Best Short Story Collection' category of The Saboteur Awards.
You can find out more about Diane on the following links:
Twitter: @scooterwriter

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