Author Interviews – a transactional process

I’ve recently been interviewed twice. The first was by Oaky for her ‘tell me about your book‘ podcast. The second was for Write On!

For written interviews such as the one I did for Write On! I was given the questions in written form. Write On! Magazine, first published in June 2019, is a quarterly magazine published by Pen to Print, encouraging writers to contribute and share skills so it should be no surprise that the questions were well thought out with a mix allowing for promotion of my work, something about inspiration and, space for discussion of process (isn’t it funny how as writers are all interested in each other’s writing process!).

For the telephone interview with Oaky (which you can hear at the highlighted link). I was just given a general invitation to ‘chat about’ my most recent novel Everyday Wendy. Oaky is in Texas and I am in the UK, so our first challenge was finding a good time to talk and I am afraid Oaky got the poor end of the bargain, having to start the interview very early in her day. She was so friendly and fortunately gave no indication that she minded her early start. I think we could have talked for hours. I am really happy with the interview.

A lot to think about….

It is a funny thing being interviewed and there is a lot to think about: Privacy for example—are we comfortable with personal disclosures relating to content, story drivers, or our even our location etc. Authenticity—are we presenting ourselves or some image of our authorly-self our friends would not recognise? Personally, I am finely tuned to spot inauthenticity, and it is guaranteed to put me off, so aiming for presenting authentically is important to me. What is the message or point—do I want to just sell my book or say something about why I think the story will have resonance for the reader? Of course, ‘making a great impression’ is important too. I guess most of us have pondered on these things for job interviews but author interviews are not so much about selling oneself as a great fit for a job role, as in selling a product—specifically ones’ book or books but it is critical to remember that is not all it is. Bear in mind the interviewer’s ‘job’ too—they might generously present the opportunity for authors to promote our work, but they have their own reasons to be interviewing in the first place — selling their product. Being interviewed is mutually transactional. If they are giving their time to help us, preparation to facilitate their interview process is just as important.

I’ve reflected on all these points since each interview—did I sufficiently think each through enough? Did I get the balance right? I think I probably wasn’t as concise as I could have been in the recorded interview. I might have given more attention to ‘sound bites’—short pithy potential headline take-aways to hook both reader or listener. Mostly though, what I learned is that interviews are fun. I hope enjoyment of the process came across in both these interviews and by the way, Write on! and ‘Tell me about your book’—thanks so much for the opportunity to be interviewed. I am grateful.

Hunting a story down

The downside of pneumonia is neglecting the blog and indeed, most other things. It was a dreadful illness I don’t want to even revisit in memory, so let that be enough of an explanation for the ridiculous amount of time since I last posted.

If I was forced to admit to any ‘upside’ to being ill, apart from entitlement to wear my PJs all day and not bother with anything much, it is that it gave me more time than usual to just ponder on the story of my next novel.

I have had elements of what I think is a potential book-length story floating around for a while. Potentially, I think it may be a good story of the sort I want to tell.

However, I am missing the ‘quest’ of the story. It isn’t an adventure type of story and doesn’t easily fit into the usual tropes of a quest. If I was pushed into a corner, I might say it follows the ‘odyssey’ type story in that there is a beginning and an end, adventures and challenges along the way and a satisfying conclusion. The protagonist is on a journey, though only in the sense that we all are to some extent. I cannot find the key element of the story and I am floundering trying to write my outline.

Thanks to Eileen Pan for the use of the image from Unsplash

As I pondered upon this, I wondered if it meant perhaps that the story should be let go of and I should move on to one of the hundreds of story ideas I have in my notebook instead, but it won’t disappear. It is nagging me to be told.

I guess I hoped the Muse might turn up and provide the answer. Indeed, she provided some. Thanks to the enforced time away from actual writing, I have well-formed characters in my head and some scenes only need transferring from my head to the page. Thinking time certainly helped flesh some of my ideas out, but I am still missing my ‘that’s it!’ key.

However, as Stephen King said in On Writing, we have to ‘go to work’—I understood this to mean show up and hunt the story down. So, rather than waiting for some ephemeral wordy alchemy, and using a pen and notebook rather than a keyboard (weird, yikes), I started to free write and I think I realised that my issue has not been about ‘finding the element’ so much as getting back into productive, creative thinking. The point is, I haven’t been ‘going to work’—I’ve been on a sickie and now I am not. I need to show up, go back to work and hunt that missing element down.

Royalties: Writing success?

At the end of the day, everything comes back to ‘why do I write?’

I got my first royalty payment from my publisher this week. Royalties covered the five-month period from June to October. It is always very lovely receiving unexpected money but it didn’t seem … very much. 

Thanks to Sarah Agnew via Unsplash for use of the image.

The total number of my books distributed over five months is 129 copies.  To be honest, it is a bit demoralising. I suppose I thought because it is a great story, well told it would gain traction and be noticed. I have neither the skills or, frankly, the physical energy or interest in becoming a marketing whiz. I thought the book could go off into the ether and do its thing. I guess I imagined the quality of the story and its telling would equate to spread which was probably naïve.

One colleague writer told me I shouldn’t discuss book numbers – that for reputational reasons I should big up success and maintain a mystique about book distribution. A university colleague told me those were the kinds of numbers some academic book writers aspire to. Many academic texts are written in the hope of being listed as essential course books but if they don’t get that holy grail, sales numbers may never rise above the double digits.

I don’t feel any great concern about what others might or won’t make of the numbers but it did make me reflect, a little dolefully perhaps, on the huge effort I had put into the book and whether it was worth it.  Writer ‘success’ is so beguiling and its siren call can easily sway attention away from what matters. I have never written for success.  Yes, I love it when my writing is well received but I write for the fun of it, for the moment I find just the right word, for the joy of a script that is as true and complete as I can make it. I write because it is part of who I am, part of my well-being, and an important part of every breath I take. A five-star review certainly warms the heart and I hope I have many more of them. Sales are very lovely indeed and I am grateful to everyone who chooses to spend their hard-earned cash on one of my books but numbers on a spreadsheet are not the important parts of my story.

I have started my next book and am also doing NaNoWriMo again this year – just for the fun of the challenge because writing is my story.

Thanks to John Jennings via Unsplash for use of the image

*I have subsequently had feedback that the manuscript needed further proof editing and it does – so that is currently being attended to and the book will be revised for its second edition.


‘Success’ revisited: I was out with friends and a reader recognised me from having seen me at a book reading event. He came over to tell me how much he loved my book.  It was honestly a lovely, lovely thing to have happened to me and I was thrilled. Just for a moment, I felt like a ‘proper author’ and starry. That little moment was worth a zillion book sales 🙂

Thanks to Towfiqu Barbhuly via Unsplash for the use of the image

#amwriting #authorlife #authors #bookblogger #books #creativewriting #greatreads #novelist #published #writing #writingcommunity #EverydayWendy #writingcraft

My novel is published. It is a work of love

My novel Everyday Wendy is now published. It is available online and some bookshops and libraries are stocking it. It is already a prize-winning book in that it made the shortlist for the Pen to Print prize 2022.  I find out in a week whether it is the prize winner of the shortlist.

This week I received a stock of complimentary copies from my publisher. It was ridiculously exciting to open the boxes. A friend who is also a published author offered the opinion that I should not give copies away. She said people who care about me or my work will buy the book (which is important for sales data and book chart ranking etc) whilst those who don’t buy it probably won’t be much bothered by receiving a free copy. It was too late. I had already posted at least half of my comp copies out to family and friends far and wide. The rest are being kept for my book launch event. Her advice certainly made me think though and it will definitely inform my future approach because I trust her and it makes sense. I see the wisdom, generosity, and experience in her words.

However, for this book, I was happy to send it out into the universe with love. I wrote the book because it was a story I wanted to tell. Almost all authors imagine the film star who will eventually fill the lead role, and I am no different, (Emma Thompson as Wendy, Peter Mullan as Andy for the record), in all honesty though I never really thought much past writing it.

The book is a work of love. Love of writing, love of my family and love of my sister Andrea who in the most challenging of times for her, nudged me away from the dark of crime writing and tedium of academic writing into lightness and positivity.  Love of my wife Cath who went above and beyond in believing in the story and supported me tirelessly to get it down on paper. Lots of love came my way when I was trying to turn this story into a publishable book. It is, at its root a story about love and family and community. It feels entirely right to me to keep the love flowing. So, I have sent it out in the hope that it is enjoyed and that it gathers some momentum and it either will or it won’t.  Either way, I am proud of it. It is a good story.  I am proud of myself for writing it. If that is where this story halts it’s OK but I believe it will get where it needs to be.

I have no idea what I’m doing post-publishing. Book launch?  How do I do one of those? Media and press releases? Social media drench? I will work it out of course because I have to give my book the best shot at becoming visible in a hugely crowded space but rather ridiculously (when I think about it now), I hadn’t thought this far or ‘what next’. I guess this is the post publishing admin required. I am on a learning curve.

In the meantime, according to Amazon sales data combined with my giveaways, at least 100 people this very week are reading my book. I hope they feel the love.

Everyday Wendy is available in both paperback and ebook. There is a direct link to my amazon page on the separate tab up top or click here

The Unreliable Narrator

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the ‘unreliable narrator’.

I read Catriona Ward’s ‘Last House on Needless Street’ (Viper Press, 2021) which is listed as ‘gothic thriller’, ‘horror’, ‘psychological thriller’ depending on which blurb you read. I am mindful of not giving away any spoilers so I won’t go into too much detail about my response to the book, other than I loved it. It wasn’t what I expected at all. I did not see the ending coming and, upon ‘end of the book review’ I was seriously impressed with the cleverly woven drip and hide of information throughout the story. This is a very well-crafted book with love and kindness at its heart.

There are several POV characters – including a cat!  Is everyone telling the truth?  What is the truth of any story anyway? I have pondered this a lot because my Mother died on the day I finished Ward’s book. 

People often say things about the aftermath of death being challenging and it is on so many levels.  Managing the practicalities of death admin whilst experiencing grief which ebbs and floods and fogs is exhausting. In the context of such a challenging path to navigate it is so so easy to fall into preciousness about stories.  Perhaps it was already obvious to everyone except me but my stories about Mam, are not the same stories that others share and similarly, theirs have, at times, appeared to be about someone I never even met. 

It doesn’t mean they are wrong, or that some stories are more valid than others, though it was interesting to me that I felt solid ground as the ‘reliable narrator’ while considering other stories, somewhat ‘unreliable’ and of course, this is actually nonsense.

Mam was the person who first introduced me to books

She taught me to read before I started school and then stood up to the teacher who demanded I read Janet and John books while, thanks to Mam, I was already relishing The Chronicles of Narnia. She is still sending me lessons from her Heaven (a story she believed but I don’t).

Readers to a large (but not exclusive) extent, need a reliable narrator because that is all they have when they invest their precious time in a story crafted to entertain. But as an author, I am now more consciously mindful that there is no objective truth, everything is subjective and everyone is someone else to everyone else – including themselves. Facts do not speak for themselves and that is perfectly right and fine.

I now understand more clearly that every single story has unreliable narrators. As a writer, I am a better storyteller if I consider how characters in my stories understand and respond to their perception of the ‘truth’ of any other character’s point of view.

Thanks Mam, for everything. Xx

RIP Yvonne Frances Collinson
31st January 1940 – 3rd April 2022

Mam and me 1959, Hull.


Definition: denoting a trial impression of a page or printed work

Definition: evidence establishing a fact or the truth of a statement.

I received the proof copy of my novel. This established the fact that my novel is soon to be published.

I am stupidly proud of it and of course, there will be the fanfare of a proper launch and endless tweets/social media posts and yada yada yada when the time comes (there are some typesetting errors to correct which is frustrating but part of the process), but for now… just enjoying the feel of it.

Queer Spaces

I’ve been lucky enough to be chosen as one of the writers contributing to the ‘Queer Spaces Live!’ project.  Developed by Roots – the queer Yorkshire touring theatre company and support funded by Arts Council England and The National Lottery Community Fund – the project aims to make collaborative work about ‘queer spaces’. The stories created will be shared at two live performances at the Stephen Joseph Theatre Scarborough and the York Theatre Royal in March 2022. 

I don’t struggle to make stories. I have far more stories than I have time to either write or craft. I know exactly which story I want to tell and contribute but the notion of queer spaces is so loaded with history and politics and pain and joy it feels incredibly important to me to tell it right and to tell it well.

I’ve been pondering on what exactly a queer space is

Is it about the environment – ‘in-space’ and ‘out space’? Certainly back when I came out there were very definite places where one could be reasonably safely out, and other spaces such as work where it was critical to be ‘in’ (teacher in 80s Thatcher Clause 28 Britain for example). As I write this I am mindful that there are many places in the world where ‘in-space’ is still the only safe space.

Is it about architecture? Dance floors in clubs, sites of sanctuary and refuge and the unlearning of shame, closets which concealed but also protected us.

I think of queer effort and energy put into constructing alternatives to heteronormative spaces and how over history they have changed from the dodgy, poppers smelling dens of debauchery of my youth to the out-and-fucking-well-proud-get-over-it-girlfriend cruises and high-end apartment complexes.  We queers changed space.

I think about how the personal is political and how we inhabited and embodied space, strutted like peacocks affirming ourselves and others and how in the taking of space we didn’t always take enough care about who was taking what from whom.

I think about queer history and experiences of queer spaces back in the day and contemporarily being different for each of us for a myriad of complicated and politically loaded reasons.

And I wonder if I can do justice to all these stories.

Gratitude to Sand Crain for the flag on building and Juliette F for the dancing queens images – via Unsplash. Appreciate your work guys. Thank you. xx


Arcade is a Scarborough based charity committed to making cultural, collaborative experiences happen.

Scarborough Stories is a community initiative co-produced by Arcade (@arcade_hello) and The Stephen Joseph Theatre.  It is, quite simply, a stonkingly amazing project and you should go and read their information about the project here

From Spring 2022 a stack of exciting workshops are being offered – completely free.

I was fortunate enough to attend a Creative Writing workshop led by Shan Barker of Arcade and Allie Watt of the fabulous Beach Hut Theatre Company (@BeachHutTheatre).  Participants were encouraged to think about how we individually respond and contribute to Scarborough – however we perceive it. Perhaps it should not be a surprise that responses and feelings had a commonality across the group – there was a lot of love for Scarborough!  Individuals wrote poetry and prose about favourite places, sights and sounds.  The stories will be shared using the #ScarboroughStories hashtag and collated for inclusion in the project finale later in the summer. 

I also had the joy of attending the ‘Explore your story through music’ workshop Led by Rebecca Denniff (@rebeccadenniff). This was always going to be a workshop taking me out of my comfort zone – although I like karaoke as much as the next singing in the shower person, I have zero musical talent. To be honest, at the beginning I did feel a little self-conscious as Rebecca had the group making and creating sounds to go alongside words laid on the floor in a timeline. I could baa like a sheep reasonably well but was significantly less able to voice other images of Scarborough – fortunately, there were a lot of very creative people in the room who could! Rebecca had us all creating sounds and soundscapes in no time and eventually, we actually came up with an entire (folk) song about Scarborough. It was like magic and great fun.

I hadn’t intended to go to any more workshops but they are so excellent I had to sign up for another being led by Jayne Shipley (@jaynewriting) – a textile artist who will be drawing on the history of sail and seaside to lead us towards new stories.  I can’t wait.

The series of workshops are all listed and there are still places in future workshops for Jaynes textile workshop, song writing and photography.  You’d be mad not to sign up!

If you have a Scarborough Story – of beach, donkeys, ice cream, the Castle, swimming, the beach huts, the pathways, the alleys, the amusements, the parks, the people, the theatres – whatever, do share it either via the portal at the above link or via social media using the hashtag #scarboroughstories.

Collated stories are going to be celebrated at the big finale taking place around Scarborough early in July.  I am sure it will be a magnificent event!

Thanks to ‘My life through a lens’ for ‘together we create’; Clark Tibbs for ‘do something great’ and Gonzalo Facello for the Scarborough images via Unsplash. Much appreciate your work guys!

Identity – who?

The OED defines identity as
‘The fact of being who or what a person or thing is’ or ‘a close similarity or affinity’.

The ‘fact’ part of the definition is a bit on the dodgy side (as far as my pondering goes anyway) because it is ‘a thing that is known or proved to be true’ while ‘true’ is ‘in accordance with fact or reality’.

Thanks to Brett Jordan for the image via Unsplash

It is a fact that the writer of this blog is LF Meleyal. That is the name on my passport and it is a true fact that the passport belongs to me. I have a close similarity to the person photographed on that document so it is safe to say, I am LF Meleyal – Lel to my friends, Dr Meleyal to people who ask me ‘is that Miss or Missus?’

But for a year this blog was called ‘The Guardian Review’ (why is explained on the tab pages at the blog page header).  Later it was labelled ‘Creative Writing: Competitions’. More recently I changed its name to ‘The Complex Scribe’ to accommodate the fact that the focus of the blog had shifted away from writing competition entry specifically onto general waffling about writing.

My novel is being published this year. The publishers, and colleague writers, have emphasised the importance of having a visible online ‘platform’. I have very definitely preferred the anonymity of not having my name or face attached to my blog. Partly this was because of my previous professional role.  I used to teach at a university and it felt messy having elements of me visible. It isn’t that I ever wrote about anything especially private, or controversial but I wanted a clear separation between work and non-work.

If I am really honest I probably also hid behind my blogs because I lacked confidence in my writing.  Imposter syndrome, as a million writers on twitter would agree, is acutely felt. Despite a reasonable track record of writing and the fact that I am now Chair of the Scarborough Writers’ Circle, it wasn’t until my novel was accepted for publication I developed the confidence to call myself a writer.

Now it is time to own it. I am LF Meleyal and I am a writer and that is true.

This is my blog.

Thanks for stopping by.

Pondering semi-colons; my book; and competition entries

My son bought me a copy of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway as a Christmas present. He is working his way through a long list of classics (admirable) and said of those he had read so far, this was his favourite. I had to confess I had not read Virginia Woolf. As a feminist, this seemed like a particularly shameful confession because although Woolf was conflicted about labelling herself a feminist, so many women I admire hold her in near saintly esteem. When I started reading Mrs Dalloway I remembered (at least one of the reasons) why I had avoided her work. The semi-colons.

As most people interested in the written word will know, the story details Clarissa Dalloway’s day as she prepares to host a party. She muses and ponders as various characters are introduced. The writing style is a jumbled, poetic and wordy stream of consciousness slipping between different narrative points of view.

The interesting themes of the book are widely discussed, debated and deconstructed but the thing that stops me being able to make any tiny contribution to the discussion is the semicolon.

The semicolon litters the book like particularly invasive confetti – it germs the book to a point where I can’t get past the irritation of it to enable me to see the work in all its discussed glory.

I have never been a fan of the semicolon. A recent editor of some of my work invited me to add them to a particular paragraph. I had to re-write the whole thing because although I could see where she was going with it, why the suggestion had been made – and even how it might subtly add nuance to the paragraph – I just couldn’t litter my text with them.

As we all know, a semicolon is used to link two separate, equally positioned but closely related ideas in a single sentence.

I understand they have more about them than simple lists. I completely get that they can add a particular quality to a sentence. I am aware of many great authors who not only praise their utility but consider they add beauty to text. I am not one of them. I am in good company.  Hemingway preferred short declarative sentences honed to acute sharpness.

In a written text I like the perfect word choice. Also, the weighty space of a period rather than the ephemeral dainty pause of the semicolon.

However, one of the great things that often happens when I finally read an avoided or neglected classic work is that I am forced to consider why I haven’t read it earlier. In this case, to revisit my animosity towards the semicolon. Perhaps, maybe I am considering a softening towards considering the possibility of it being (as Abe Lincoln said) ‘A useful little chap’. I’m not sure. I need to ponder…

In any case, I will of course finish Mrs Dalloway – because I think I should and also because I will look forward to discussing with my son why he enjoyed it so much but whether it will nudge me towards more semicolon use remains to be seen.

In other news…

I submitted my novel to the publisher’s deadline.  The wheels towards publication are in motion and after submission, I felt a little bit ‘what now?’.  It is a strange space to be in and I had a peculiar gap of feeling I should be writing but despite lots of ideas not having any motivation. It lasted for most of January. I don’t recall reading about gap management in any ‘writers process’ type scripts.  Stephen King and many others say they write word count every day – does this mean they don’t perceive ‘gaps’?

Anyway, fortunately, last week I suddenly got my AWOL mojo back and wrote and submitted three short stories to competitions, a trilogy of poems to an online anthology and started on my next novel.  So far no semicolons have been used.