My review of ‘Did Anyone Die?’ can be found at: http://bookwormink.co.uk/2/post/2011/11/review-did-anyone-die-by-stella-stafford.html
So Stella, what started you writing and is it something you always wanted to do?
I have written for pleasure and amusement ever since I could do so. Quite recently I found a little book for children that I wrote by hand when I was 5. It wasn’t very good but then I was five! But I have never written a full length novel intended for adults until I wrote “Did Anyone Die?”
Do you write full-time or do you have another career?
I suddenly found myself with time to write ‘Did Anyone Die?’ because I had given up work to look after a disabled relative. After two years being a carer my relative died. So for the last year I have had much more time for writing and I suppose you could describe it as my full time occupation. However I think of it as a very enjoyable hobby. Although I don’t have another regular career at present I do a lot of things that are not writing, like voluntary work and singing. I am also a perpetual student, I am nearly always taking a course of some sort. (I also have a husband and children!)
Describe your typical writing day.
I usually compose the next section that I am going to write while I am walking in the countryside, I write the whole thing in my head, descriptions, dialogue, everything. I walk for at least an hour, usually longer, in the morning and another hour in the afternoon. When I get back in it’s a rush to get to the computer and type it all up before anything interrupts me. Sometimes I grab a sheet of paper and scribble down a short summary before I start typing. My subconscious writes the plots for me, its ideas are much better than the original vague plot that my conscious produces before I begin writing each novel. My characters, who are all very strong minded, voice the thoughts of my subconscious. They all argue with me about what they were supposed to do and even make me re-write whole sections. They are always right and I have to agree with them.
What inspired you to write ‘Did Anyone Die?’
My disabled relative loved reading and read around twenty books a week but wouldn’t re-read the same book. The local library were brilliant at finding and supplying books but it was getting difficult to find enough and so I decided to start writing suitable books myself. This was, on reflection, obviously ridiculous as it takes far longer to write a book than it does to read it. But it seemed like a bright idea at the time. Once I had begun to write, however, the novels and characters became part of my own life and the original reason why I had started writing became irrelevant. I write because I find writing enjoyable in the same way that I find reading books that other people have written enjoyable. I am pleased when my books are published but I would enjoy writing them just as much if this never happened. The Little Wychwell Mystery books are set in Oxfordshire and Oxford because this is the world in which I live and when I started writing ‘Did Anyone Die?’ I seemed to remember hearing a piece of advice that you should write about ‘what you know’. However I have just completed my first science fiction book which is about a world that definitely doesn’t exist and has no connection with my own life.
What projects are you working on now?
The second Little Wychwell Mystery, the sequel to ‘Did Anyone Die?’, which is called ‘A Very Quiet Guest’, Is being published in May so I am still involved in reading final proofs for that. I am currently writing the fifth Little Wychwell mystery at the minute. I have recently finished writing my first science fiction book. I have just popped a rather ad hoc book called Nature Notes and Other Musings 2011 on to Kindle, this is an edited version of my nature tweets from last year. I have also just started writing poetry again, I had some poetry published when the children were small.
How do you publicise your work?
This is the part of being an author at which I am truly terrible! I use Twitter and Facebook because my publishers advised me to do so and because, since I started using both of them in a rather grumbly way, I have found what a wonderful supportive community exists on both of them. I do tweet and FB post adverts for my books from time to time but I still feel rather embarrassed about doing so. I was brought up to believe that ‘self praise is no recommendation’ and I find this concept very hard to shake off. I have a book Facebook page and an author website. I very much appreciate sites like Bookworm Ink who are kind enough to review my book for me or to interview me!
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Enjoy writing and love it for its own sake!
Other than your own, what’s your favourite work of fiction?
I have such a lot of very favourite books! It would be very hard to choose just one. I love classic authors like Dickens, Tolstoy, Thackeray, Wilkie Collins, Poe, the Brontes, Leroux, Elizabeth Gaskell….. But I also enjoy modern authors like Jasper Fforde, Michael Ondaatje, Yan Martel, Umberto Eco, John Wyndham, Gabriel Garcia Marquez….. If I want to read something lighter I really enjoy Georgette Heyer. I quite often choose to read non-fiction, especially travel books.
Which author had the greatest influence on you as a child?
When I was a child I still preferred reading classic books so my favourite authors were Laura Ingalls Wilder, Elinor M Brent Dyer, Elizabeth Nesbit and Noel Streatfield.
Finally, and most importantly, you’ve lost your wallet, who do you enlist to help you find it, Poirot or Miss Marple?
I wouldn’t want to enlist either of them as I would almost certainly finish up dead, a trail of further murders usually happen around them before they solve the very first mystery. I think I would rather enlist Sherlock Holmes or Inspector Maigret. But if I have to choose Miss Marple or Poirot I would prefer Poirot parce qu’il est très charmant!
Stella Stafford’s webpage is www.stellas-home.co.uk. She can be found on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Did-Anyone-Die-by-Stella-Stafford/221583511185270 and her Twitter id is @stellastafford