When I first started blogging, way back in 2006, Aliya Whiteley’s was the first I remember reading regularly. If memory serves, both of our first books came out at about that time. She also accepted a short story I wrote when she was the editor over at Serendipity. I like her. She’s ace.
And she has a new book out. A short story collection. It’s called Witchcraft at the Harem and it’s a bit different to the other things she’s written (funny crime novels). I’m delighted to welcome her here today to talk about that and, why writing isn’t a straight line.
AND, if you pop a comment below I’ll put you into a draw to win a copy of the book. Do it. It will make you happy. (I’ll make the draw at the end of the week.)
Over to Aliya…
Why Writing is not a Straight Line
Once upon a time I wrote two comic crime novels, and was lucky enough to get them published. That led to a contract and an agent. I thought my writing life was about to become plain sailing.
I like comedy writing, and I like the crime genre. They’re not the only types of writing I like. Commercial or literary, romance, fantasy, horror, science fiction – I’ve written them all with varying degrees of success. When comic crime paid off I told myself and my agent that I’d only write in that genre from that moment on, and my agent told me I was making a wise decision. She wanted me to build a brand. But as I attempted to write only in one direction, strange things began to happen in my novels. Just telling the story from A to B had never held any interest for me, but now monsters from hot countries and strawberry pickers from outer space started to turn up. I had great ideas for short stories, too – challenging ideas, nasty ones, peculiar ones.
Basically, it began to occur to me that didn’t want to write crime after all. My brain was not interested in thinking exclusive thoughts.
I fought it for a couple of years. Wrestling with your creative subconscious is like wrestling ghosts in the dark with your hands tied behind your back. You don’t win. As soon as I admitted defeat, I felt so much better about myself and my writing, and I hit a really production period of short story creation that could loosely be called literary fantasy writing. A lot of the stories in my new collection from Dog Horn Publishing, Witchcraft in the Harem, spring from that period.
It’s not that fantasy writing is new for me – I’d say the fantasy genre was my first love as a reader. From Diana Wynne Jones I progressed to Piers Anthony, and then David Eddings, Guy Gavriel Kay, and Michael Moorcock. I loved those books before I discovered George Eliot and Charlotte Bronte, or thought about trying to write for myself. I think the genre of fantasy allows me to feel free in my writing and my imagination after a period when I felt contained; anything can happen, from a head appearing in the cabbage patch to a cloud of butterflies sweeping you out of a hot air balloon.
So it’s not so much that I changed genre. I only stopped fighting what was there all along. I don’t know if I’ll ever write crime again, but if the ideas come to me I won’t push them away. And I won’t apologise for my imagination or my writing. Witchcraft in the Harem contains stories that are disconcerting, dark and lyrical – sometimes funny, sometimes not. But they’re all mine, and I’m proud of them.
Don’t forget to enter the draw now…