Carry a writer’s notebook — seems a bit of a cliche but the amount of material that becomes lost and forgotten is a shame. Wait for ideas to present themselves rather than go looking for them — I don’t spend time in front of the computer waiting for inspiration. Do something else until you’re suddenly struck with a possibility!
As a part of our series about “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Artist” I had the pleasure of interviewing Auriel Roe.
British author and artist, Auriel Roe spent the earlier part of her career teaching high school literature, drama and art in England and in international schools in Egypt, Germany, Turkey and Spain. She started writing seriously when one of her short stories was shortlisted for a major writing competition. Her debut novel ‘A Blindefellows Chronicle’ was #1 in humour in Amazon US, Canada and UK.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
My family was always on the move when I was growing up because my father was constantly on the lookout for a better job. It wasn’t great to start a new school every few years. We were often near some countryside in which I liked to wander with my dog. I recall following formations of geese for long stretches until I became disorientated about where I was. When I wasn’t following geese, I hung around the streets until dark, playing with neighborhood kids. We were an enterprising bunch for our age, coming up with little ideas to help local charities such as when we organized a fete at the end of our road. Things like this helped fill the long summer holidays.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
It was somewhat accidental. I awoke one morning with a strange thought: What if a man in his sixties has his very first crush? From this, I wrote my first novel, Blindefellows, completed six months later. Since this time, I prefer to wait for the seed of a novel to pop into my head rather than go and find it. It’s easier this way and there is no shortage of possibilities.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I was inches away from massive success soon after I started writing in a dedicated way seven years ago. I was shortlisted for a national short story contest and the writers each got up and read an extract in front of the audience. Mine went really well and brought the house down. When I sat down afterward, a fellow next to me said that I’d definitely win. As they were about to announce the winner, I uncrossed my legs in readiness to walk forward to receive my prize, but a different name was called out and the audience seemed kind of surprised with their trickle of applause. The winner’s story was topical and it was interesting to see how this will often win over something that’s better written.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m not working on a project at the moment as I haven’t yet been struck with inspiration and that is fine, I keep myself busy in lots of different ways. I have a tingle of an idea regarding my dog who is obsessed with pigeons and, with my art skills, I am thinking of a picture book about that. It could be fun.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
I became more interested in the genre of memoirs and decided to create a website for well-crafted short pieces. Since beginning www.memoirist.org I’ve been interacting with some superb writers. Memoir is an underated genre and writers without the celebrity factor find it difficult to find a publisher. I find observations of every day life fascinating. Interestingly, a writer who had been very well known in another genre submitted a memoir to us and wanted no mention in the bio section of what she referred to as her ‘former life’.
Where do you draw inspiration from? Can you share a story about that?
My latest inspiration has been drawn from my adolescence in particular which I have written about in my new book A Young Lady’s Miscellany. It was a difficult few years concurrently coping with a fractured family and with bullying at a new school. Looking back on it, I have surprised myself in that I’ve also been able to see the funny side of what was, at the time fairly traumatic. My two novels are drawn from my time as a teacher so are set in schools and the main characters are teachers.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Often our pieces in memoirist.org reflect and support important world events. During the Black Lives Matter protests, we published Christopher Parent’s ‘Girl in the Doorway’ about a girl teetering on the periphery as she struggles to find her place as the first black child in the author’s school. Due to its poignancy framed by the background of a new wave of protests, it quickly notched up nearly a thousand views.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Carry a writer’s notebook — seems a bit of a cliche but the amount of material that becomes lost and forgotten is a shame.
Wait for ideas to present themselves rather than go looking for them — I don’t spend time in front of the computer waiting for inspiration. Do something else until you’re suddenly struck with a possibility!
Only write what interests you — I can tell when my writing seems forced when my interest starts to wain. Best to abandon it.
Most agents/publishers won’t read beyond your opening paragraph if they read it at all, which is why writers are almost conditioned to have a startling opening — I’m a bit tired of opening books with all these hook lines. Feeling like a fish being reeled in. I wish we could return to a more subtle age where everyone was more patient, before the advent of the quick-to-satisfy ‘google brain’.
At the end of the day, write for yourself and your own pleasure because life is too short to focus on pleasing the masses! Oh, and don’t feel like it’s a personal slight if you get a bad review. Inevitably, your book won’t be for everyone and that is a good thing.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
With my recent exploration of the memoir genre, I’ve realized how beneficial it can be. Once the writing starts, many new memoiries are unlocked and there is a massive jump in self knowledge. I think more people should have a go at it because it puts a lot of things in perspective which can affect the outlook on the present. It’s also fascinating to recollect in detail and see how our pasts have a large part in shaping us.
We have been blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she just might see this.
Author Margaret Atwood is my fourth cousin and obviously a very busy lady. I feel that contacting her as a distant relation and waving one of my books under her nose would be rude and presumptuous but to have lunch and for me to tell her about our shared link to the Greenwood family might be interesting for her.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!