Michelle Ward talks to Beryl Phoenix 98fm
Being interviewed on Michelle’s Eat My Brunch show on Phoenix 98fm was a daunting prospect, but Michelle made the experience easy with her chatty approach and pertinent questions. The interview took place via the telephone, a reflection of Covid 19 precautions, so I had no journey to the studio and could speak from my desk.
Barbara Dynes talks to Beryl P. Brown MA
What type of writing do you do?
For years I concentrated on short stories. Some were published and I had some success in competitions but, when I decided to up my game by taking a Masters at Manchester Metropolitan University (Manchester Met), I decided on the “novel route”. The tutorials were geared to 20th century literature and my dissertation comprised an entire novel. I still dabble in the occasional short story competition.
Have you always been interested in writing?
English was my best subject at school but a career, a husband and child and six horses focussed my attention for several decades and writing got left on the back burner. In the year 2000, I joined a creative writing Adult Education class in Ringwood and the muse was set free.
Have you a writing routine?
Being retired, I am flexible in what I do but I write better in the mornings so, if there are no other commitments, I deal with household matters and emails first and then write until lunchtime. Occasionally, as I shut down the computer at night, I think of some gem that I simply must get down and burn the midnight oil for a while.
Do you do a lot of preparation – copious notes, etc – before you write the piece?
For novel storylines I plan about five chapters ahead but often don’t stick to them. May’s Boys is set in 1944/45 and I did a lot of research and checking to ensure the facts were correct. If I need a kick-start, I use a spider gram/mind map to get my imagination flowing.
How much revision do you do?
Tons and tons. I read the previous day’s work and edit that before continuing and then edit again and again as the work progresses.
Which writers have influenced you over the years and why?
It’s a cliché, but as a child I adored Black Beauty by Anna Sewell (I still have my childhood copy). Today it would probably be considered anthropomorphic but the empathy she had with the horses has stayed with me forever. I endeavour to get right inside my characters’ heads so authors like Anne Tyler, Carol Shields and Ian McEwan contribute to my writing aspirations.
Any favourite authors, either fiction or non-fiction writers?
In the last couple years, I been trying my hand at something in the thriller genre so, as well as the authors above, I’ve begun reading writers such as Jane Harper, Robert Galbraith and Peter May (I skim the violent bits). For me, the essential ingredient of a good thriller is to keep the reader guessing right to the end, rather than larding it with graphic violence.
My short story Almost Lost in Tanslation was published in the In Touch with group of magzines that cover North Essex and Suffolk May 2020 issues.
May’s Boys Launch and Book Signing
Saturday 29th February 2020
The Strawberry Tearoom
Olivers Nurseries, Witham, CM8 3HY
A great day at the House of Lords courtesy of Baroness Floella Benjamin, President of SWWJ, who hosted the AGM and led a fascinating tour of the House. Inspirational to be in the company of writer friends and make new acquaintances.
My entry for Retreat West’s August 100 word flash fiction competition is long listed.
My new membership of the SWWJ has borne delightful early fruit. My entry, Life at Sea, has won the ‘Winner Takes All’ competition. The prize will be presented at the annual prize giving event in March 2020.
125th Anniversary Lunch of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists. I was delighted to be accepted for membership of the SWWJ following my visit to the Society’s lunch at the Stationers’ Hall in London.
Retreat West “Fire” themed flash fiction competition – My entry is shortlisted.
Suffolk Magazine – A Closed Box – Beryl’s second-placed story at Felixstowe Book Festival 2018 is published in the April issue of Suffolk Magazine (p.94) and beautifully presented over three pages.
BookTalk : Fiction in a Corner of Essex. My article on North East Essex authors is published in the Suffolk Book League Journal
Arvon Residential Course, Lumb Bank, Hebden Bridge An inspiring week with tutors Sanjida Kay, Adam Lebor and guest speaker Felicia Yap. This Literary Thriller course included exercises, on-screen examples of the genre, author readings and, of course, constructive 1:1 sessions with the tutors. My work in progress, Kidnap By Chance, was well received overall and the positive suggestions made by the tutors much appreciated.
Third place Brentwood Writers’ Circle – My entry ‘Storm Force’, about the Great Storm of 1986, took 3rd place against stiff competition in the Nancy Meggs 2018 non-fiction competition.