Welcome to the very first 10 question quiz with the Nicola Kristine Adam book club (come join the chat on Facebook). Today we pick the brains of former journalist and now short story and novel writer A.J.Ashworth. If you have a particular author you would like me to feature – or would like to take part yourself – please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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- What’s your name and where do you come from?
Andrea Ashworth – although I write as A. J. Ashworth to avoid having the same name as another writer. I was born and bred in Blackburn (Lancashire, UK) and am back living here after a few years in Yorkshire.
- Do you write fact or fiction and in what genre?
I write literary fiction and creative non-fiction. I’m a published short story writer: my collection Somewhere Else, or Even Here won Salt Publishing’s Scott Prize and was published by them in 2011. I wrote a novel after that which unfortunately didn’t find a publisher. I’m currently writing another novel as part of a PhD in creative writing at Edge Hill University.
- Are you traditionally or self published and which route do you consider best?
I am traditionally published. Self-publishing has never appealed to me, although I have no issue with other people going down that route. I think that writing is hard enough though without having to deal with editing, typesetting, printing, distribution, etc. as well! However, for me, it’s also about quality: while I may not always like certain traditionally published books, I can be more certain of the quality because it will have been seen by numerous pairs of eyes during the writing and editing process.
- What is your work schedule like when you are writing?
Currently I’m writing every day in order to try and finish my novel by autumn. However, I don’t have a strict schedule. I don’t always write first thing – in fact sometimes I end up writing at the end of the day and into the evening. I just go with the flow really. I don’t aim for word counts either. Instead I just write for as long as it feels good and then stop.
- What advice would you give to budding writers?
Read widely so that you can become more familiar with what’s possible and what works or doesn’t work. Also, write for yourself – nobody else – and certainly not for any kind of market.
- Who/what are YOUR favourite authors/ books?
I have always been drawn to American short story writers such as Raymond Carver, Tobias Wolff, Amy Hempel, Lorrie Moore, etc. Raymond Carver is who turned me onto short stories many, many years ago. I also love British short story writers such as David Rose and Elizabeth Baines, and many others (most of whom you can see in the collection Red Room: New Short Stories Inspired by the Brontës which I edited in support of The Brontë Birthplace Trust). A favourite novel of recent times is British writer Alison Moore’s The Lighthouse, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and which I wished I’d written. Another favourite novel is Michael Cunningham’s The Hours which is a split narrative centred around Virginia Woolf’s writing of Mrs Dalloway. It’s beautiful and structurally interesting and, again, I wished I’d written it.
- Are you a plotter or a pantster? (i.e do you plan out your work of fly by the seat of your pants?)
Definitely a pantster. Whenever I’ve tried to plan my writing, it all goes out of the window as soon as I write. I get my ideas on the page and so I just follow where the stories and characters take me during the writing itself.
- What helps you focus?
I don’t like any sound when I’m writing, so I wear earplugs (even if it’s already quiet). I just find it helps me focus better and is now part of my process. I also use Freedom software, which blocks out the internet, meaning you don’t get caught up in things online and instead can just write.
- How long did it take you to write your book/books?
My short story collection was written during an MA and took about three years in total. My first (unpublished) novel took about the same. My current novel has been in my head since about 2014 and is unfinished as yet.
- Where can we find your book/s?
My short story collection and Red Room are available on Amazon and other books websites. I’ve also recently written a piece of creative non-fiction for the book What Doesn’t Kill You: Fifteen Stories of Survival (Unbound, 2020) about my experiences with panic and anxiety. This, too, is available in various places online. More about Andrea’s work HERE