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

Second Stage – The Importance of Theatre Outreach

I’ve previously blogged about my experience of writing and performing a monologue as part of a Roots Touring production of ‘Queer Spaces’. The production was staged at The Stephen Joseph Theatre and also the York Theatre Royal.

The Assistant Producer and Literary Coordinator of the Stephen Joseph Theatre, the talented and lovely Fleur Hebditch (@Fleurhebditch) saw the production. She subsequently Directed the performance of my script again as part of the SJT’s ‘Second Stage’ which is described as a showcase for new writing talent.

My monologue was performed (beautifully by Jacky Naylor) alongside excerpts of scripts by Annie Fox (@anniekathfox) – ‘The Sleepwalkers’; Elizabeth Godber (@elle_godber) – ‘An Unexpected Birth’; Cara Christie  (@CaraMChristie) – ‘Influenced’; Jingan Young (@jinganyoung) – ‘Hong Kong Tragedy’; Steven Bloomer (@stevenbloomer)– ‘The Burn’ and Sadar Mohammed’s ‘Ducks’.

After the performances, Annie, Elizabeth, Steven and I were invited to participate in a Q & A session with the audience. We had loads of astute questions from an enthusiastic audience and it was a warm, fun experience. It was also affirming to gain the support and encouragement for my writing.

And that is the point. The excerpts of plays showcased were without exception seriously good. Each touched on some thought-provoking themes including loss, dementia, and abuses of power. I personally hoped to be able to see each and every script fully staged and performed and from the audience reaction it was obvious others hoped for the same. But as any writer will confirm, it is ridiculously difficult to get one’s work noticed and scriptwriting has a difficulty niche all of its own.

The Stephen Joseph Theatre – in addition to being a pioneering theatre, film, and music venue with a reputation for delivering a marvellously diverse and entertaining programme also has an extraordinary participatory ethos. Its outreach programme involves all ages and communities, and actively seeks to encourage and support new writing, acting and performing talent and I cannot state strongly enough how important I think this work is.

I know from personal experience that freeing imagination is liberating. Through a process of enabling communities to represent their own experiences, the process of identity formation is strengthened and a sense of belonging and contribution can be facilitated. Moreover, the opportunity to present new voices means the opportunity for different life experiences to be seen and heard. Theatre outreach is progressive, arguably political, and has huge potential for the generation of positive and respectful approaches to social coexistence.

I am hugely grateful to the team at the Stephen Joseph Theatre for showcasing my work and for their dynamic approach to ‘theatre in community’.

I can’t end this post without giving a big shout out to the fabulous cast.  Andrew Dunn (@theMr Andrew Dunn); Siu-see Hung (@siuseehung); Sarah Pearman (@_sarahpearman); Chris Jack and Jacky Naylor.  They were amazing.


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 Revisited

In a previous blog post I pondered on what ‘queer spaces’ are

My contribution to the Roots Touring production of ‘Queer Spaces Live!’ was a reflective piece on, specifically, dyke bars I frequented in my younger days. I spoke about how the UK community/communities of queers fought so hard for the right for any and all spaces to be inclusive but we hadn’t, arguably, considered what we might lose once they are.

Thanks to the amazing Tyler Whiting for the photo!

Almost all of the spaces I came out into and grew up in have gone.  Some we are well rid of (Wednesday evening community centre women’s discos, bring your own booze, finished at 10:00, dodge the mean feral youths who waited for us on the way out) but other spaces were places of growth and love and fun and adventure.  They were places to meet and belong.  They were uniquely lesbian and gay spaces – The Alex, Vox and Sill in Hull, The Marlborough, the Candy Bar and Revenge in Brighton. Four of those venues are closed.  One is no longer a dyke bar but advertises as ‘everyone is welcome’. Only one specifically identifies as a specifically gay venue. 

Does it matter?  Should we lament the loss of so many distinctly queer spaces or celebrate that everywhere is potentially our space now?

I don’t know 

What was fascinating about the Queer Spaces Live! production was that each of the performers spoke of claiming space in one way or the other, but a thread throughout each was that the spaces needed to be claimed. Whilst people were radically empowered to take the spaces there was a centrality to the essential nature of the spaces as queer; as distinct; as vulnerable.

The performances within Queer Spaces Live! Suggested to me that Queer Space is still, on the one hand contested for its challenge and, on the other hand, a place for forming identity. Queer spaces are still places of resistance. Do they need to be distinctly queer spaces to offer this?

I don’t know – but I think so

The Roots Touring Company created a queer space.  It is what it does.  For me there was an exciting circularity to the space being created and what the performers did with it – and that it felt like a space of bold activism as well as the creation of beautiful art.

I must give a shout out to the people involved.  Oh. My. Days.  My colleague performers were extraordinarily talented – and generously supportive of my own lack of performing talent (note: I am now a BAFTA level talent on acting ‘milling about’ thanks to their teaching – I owe you guys 🙂 ).

• Phoenix Andrews
• Emma Bates
• Joy Cruickshank
• Erin Enfys
• Arden Fitzroy
• Max Percy
• Ela Portnoy
• Eliza Beth Stevens

presented stories of growth and love and challenge and joy and each were MAGNIFICENT.  Keep an eye out for these names because they are uniquely and breathtakingly talented and they are going to take over the whole world.  I can hardly believe I had the privilege and joy of sharing a stage with them.

None were forced to be involved in the performance.  Like me, they chose to be in it – to invest their time and energy and share their powerful, compelling stories and lay themselves open to critique. It seems fairly safe to presume that also like me, they thought this was an important space to create.  Were we individually and collectively invested in the creation of a specifically queer space?

(Eliza and Ela at Portal Bookshop in York. An inspiration for Eliza’s monologue)

I think so

I have to also give a shout out to the team that made Queer Spaces Live! happen. Producer Steven Atkinson, Director Ali Pidsley and Dramaturg Frazer Flintham. Despite the fact that I am literally old enough to be their mother and we play for different teams, I have a bit of a crush on all of them. A magician once told me that magic only looks convincingly effortless with hours and hours of work and commitment to being the best. These three created magic. They held the making of the performance so carefully and safely they enabled us all to grow. I am a better human being, more confident, and proud of myself because of their talent and I will literally never forget them for enabling me to perform

(Steven, Frazer and me after rehearsals).

Queer spaces provide us with places we can be ourselves and lower our defences.  They give us a place for celebration and being together – and also places where we can value each other.

Queer spaces are where we are but not everywhere we might be, is a queer space

Until we can be confident about inclusivity, queer spaces have a crucial role in resistance to oppression.

Thanks to Roots Theatre Touring Company for creating one.  

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.