Write On! interviews author Alice Fowler
Alice says, “I write both short stories and longer fiction, and my debut short story collection, The Truth Has Arms And Legs, came out in July. My writing is inspired by the stuff of everyday lives: love, loss, second chances, motherhood, resilience and our ability as humans to change and grow. The natural world is another powerful source of inspiration.
I won the Historical Writers’ Association short story competition in 2020 and the Wells Festival of Literature short story competition in 2021. Other stories have been short- and longlisted in prizes and printed in anthologies. My historical novel-in-progress was longlisted for the 2021 Stylist Feminist Fiction Prize.
I live in Surrey with my husband and teenage sons, and find most writerly conundrums can be solved while out walking with my rescue lurcher dog.”
WO: How would you describe your writing to someone new to it?
AF: I try to go very deeply into my characters’ lives. Despite their relatively small word count, short stories are brilliant for this. Quite often I set my stories within a tight time frame, then dive deep into a character’s thoughts and memories. I hope that, by the end, the reader will really feel they have come to know that person.
People quite often say my stories are ‘moving’ and ‘full of heart’, and I’m very glad when they do. If I make myself feel emotional when I’m writing, I’m pretty sure the reader will feel something too.
Aside from that, I really enjoy the crafting of sentences. I spend a lot of time thinking about rhythm and seeking the perfect word for whatever I’m trying to convey.
WO: Can you tell us a bit about your latest book, The Truth Has Arms And Legs?
AF: Of course! It’s a collection of 12 short stories, some historical and some set in the present. They’ve been written over the last five years. Subjects range from a 1920s gypsy girl racing barefoot against the village girls in shoes, to a mother home-schooling during Covid.
The collection has received wonderful endorsements from writers such as Wendy Erskine, Vanessa Onwuemezi, Sally Bayley and Imogen Robertson, for which I’m extremely grateful.
WO: What inspired you to write in the first place, and what inspires you now?
AF: I first remember writing creatively at my very old-fashioned primary school. The headmaster taught a subject called ‘Composition’ which really meant writing stories. I can still remember the excitement I felt, dreaming up those early stories. In fact, I still remember some of them today.
Now, I’m always on the lookout for ideas. Sometimes I draw inspiration from places I visit. One story in the book, Tide Change At The No-Eye-Contact Café was inspired by a riverside café in a Cornish village I know well. I also draw on chance remarks, and moments of courage or weakness that lodge with me, that I use as the springboard to a story.
WO: The current issue of Write On! explores the theme of ‘Literary Passions And Guilty Pleasures’. With that in mind, what would you say fuels your literary passion in terms of both reading and creating? Do you have a bookish guilty pleasure that you’re happy to share?
AF: I love reading, and read very widely, but I don’t ever feel guilty about it. I think that as a reader – and certainly as a writer – the more varied styles and subjects you experience, the better.
I certainly suffer creative guilt, though; not getting down to things as quickly as I should!
WO: What one piece of advice would you give an aspiring writer?
AF: I’d say, join a writing class. However good a writer you are, you can’t beat the experience of reading out your work to others, and giving and receiving feedback. If you try a class and don’t like it, keep looking until you find one that suits you and encourages your writing.
WO: Question from Twitter user: @lisalovesbooksx Who are your author friends and how do they support you?
AF: That’s a good question. One thing that’s really changed for me over the last few years is finding good author friends. I work closely with the historical writer Joanna Foat. For the last four years or so, we’ve been meeting weekly to critique each other’s work. That’s invaluable, both in terms of setting weekly deadlines, as well as sharing knowledge and enthusiasm.
Another more recent author friend is Tracy Fells, whose short story collection will be published by my publisher, Fly On The Wall Press, later this year. I’m looking forward to a shared book launch with Tracy in October.
I quite often connect with authors via Twitter and then meet for a coffee if they live nearby. That’s been a wonderful way to make new friends. As writers, we always seem to have a lot in common, and a lot to say.
WO: Can you tell us anything about future projects?
AF: I’m working on a historical novel, The Awakening Of Lily Ash. It’s an unconventional love story, inspired by two real-life characters in mid-Victorian Surrey. I’m working hard on it at the moment, and hope to submit it to agents soon.
WO: Lastly, if you could choose one fictional animal/creature to be a pet or companion, who would it be and why?
AF: I’ll have to choose Bill, the black standard poodle in Kathleen Hale’s wonderful children’s book, Orlando Keeps A Dog. It’s the story of what happens when Orlando the Marmalade Cat, his wife Grace and their three kittens take on a large and boisterous poodle as a pet.
I have a real-life dog whom I’d never want to replace, but as a fictional adoption, Bill would be a lot of fun.
You can find out more about Alice Fowler here and connect with her on Twitter and Instagram @alicefwrites. The Truth Has Arms And Legs is available to buy from Amazon or Waterstones or direct from Fly On The Wall Press
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I really enjoy the crafting of sentences. I spend a lot of time thinking about rhythm and seeking the perfect word for whatever I’m trying to convey.