I'd like to welcome you to my interview with writer, Terry Tarbox. Enjoy.
Hello Terry. Could you please introduce yourself?
I'm Terry Tarbox and I'm based in Carlton Colville, Lowestoft.
Ah, Lowestoft. I know it well! How long have you been writing?
Since I was 10 years old.
So you've only been writing for about 10 years then. What first got you interested in writing?
I remember at primary school, writing an essay called The Rescue. My teacher was very impressed and read it to the class (at 10 years old that is glory). I was hooked from that day.
Do you attend a writing group?
Yes, at Lowestoft Library. It keeps me in touch with like-minded people, and most of all, it's great fun.
What genre(s) do you write? What drew you to this/these genre(s)?
I write for children. I love reading to children; they are so receptive and prepared to believe even the silliest stories. I like to write stories that entertain the adult reader as well as the listener, because if the adult laughs, the child laughs.
Are there any genres that you don't enjoy writing?
I have never really tried writing other genres. I suppose I should try but I am kept fairly busy writing for children.
What types of things to you write?
Short stories mainly, although I have written a fair amount of poetry.
Have you ever had anything published?
I started off my path into the writing world about six years ago by self-printing two small books of stories that I'd made up for my nieces and nephews.
I have one book published, The Willigrews. At the moment I am working on a second book which will hopefully be out later this year.
Have you sent your writing to agents/publishers?
I did approach some agents several years ago, without success. I received one rejection slip from MacMillan. They said they laughed out loud at my story but that was as far as it went.
Would you consider self-publishing/e-publishing?
I would consider self-publishing if I really believed my work was good enough and I could afford it.
I love books; the feel and the smell and the promise of what I am about to read. However, I am always prepared to try something new and different.
That's why I like books too. Have you ever entered any writing competitions?
One or two, in the distant past but without success.
Have you ever attended an open mic event for spoken word performers?
No, but I am going to attend one this month to check it out. Sounds like it might be fun and I like a challenge.
If you can read to children, you can read at an open mic! It is a very exciting experience, and a bit of an ego boost too! How important is it for you to share your writing?
I share my stories because they make me happy and I want children to feel the same.
What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?
I simply love writing. It frees my mind of everything else and when I am in the land of The Willigrews I am home. After all, they know me there. I can't think of a downside.
Who/what influences your writing? Where do you get your inspiration from?
My writing is mostly influenced by three people; Spike Milligan, Spike Milligan and Spike Milligan. In my opinion he is the funniest man who ever lived.
I know the first two people you mentioned, but I'm not sure I know the third. I'll have to look him up. How do you come up with your characters' names and personalities?
Sometimes when I am telling stories to children I make them up as I go along. I often ask if they have any ideas and they always give me lots of suggestions for names and situations. Also, a lot of my names are anagrams, e.g. two soldiers Partive and Parsleno = Private and Personal. Everything else is pure imagination.
Do you have a writing routine?
I normally write when I feel like it but recently I have been reading every month on the radio and I am running out of stories. Funny how much you can do when the pressure is on.
Do you start out with a complete idea for your stories, or do you just writing and hope for the best?
My characters, The Willigrews, are adventurous, therefore always looking for something new so I always have a goal of some sort, e.g. to find out who the first Willigrew was, they have to go on a long, perilous journey to find a character called Heafod, who lives underground. I start the journey with them and we meet all sorts of weird, wonderful and dangerous creatures on the way.
Well it's good to see that you managed to survive such a perilous journey to be here today! Do you have an editing process?
I always read my work several times to check for mistakes or different ideas. I also have quite a few children who follow The Willigrews on my website and they read them all and tell me what they think. My published book was edited by the publisher. I couldn't believe how many mistakes they found!
What is the most valuable piece of advice you've been given with regards to writing?
I have always enjoyed writing but never thought too much about publishing my work. I mentioned it once to a member of my family, however, and he said to me, "People like us don't write books." Whether he was using reverse psychology or not, I don't know, but from that day I was determined to prove him wrong, and I did.
So it wasn't really valuable advice, or was it?
I think it was. What advice could you give to a new writer?
I am always being asked by children for advice about writing and I always tell them the same thing. It sounds a bit obvious at first but I urge them to keep writing and never cross things out or throw work away. Also to enjoy writing just for the fun of it and one day you could be famous.
Apart from writing, what are your other hobbies/interests?
I am, of course, a keen reader, but I also love gardening, especially on my allotment where I get a lot of my ideas for The Williagrews.
What types of things do you read?
My taste in books is fairly eclectic. I do read quite a few modern books but, all the time, I am drawn back to Dickens, Conan Doyle, Hardy, etc.
If you could have written anything, what do you wish that could have been?
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens is, I think, the best story ever told. My favourite book, however, is 1984 by George Orwell. I was a teenager when I first read it and it really frightened me.
Do you have any favourite lines from novels/plays/poetry/songs, or any favourite literary quotations?
My favourite lines are from the poem Ozymandias by Shelley:
"My name is Ozymandias,
King of Kings,
Look on my works ye mighty and despair."
Also the lines from The Lady of Shalott by Tennyson.
"But Lancelot mused a little space
He said, "She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace,
The Lady of Shalott."
What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on six short stories for my next book and writing some new stories for the radio. I am also doing a 'homework' story for the Writers' Group.
I have been speaking on the radio and was interviewed on BBC Norfolk a while back. I also read my stories each month on Blythe Valley Community Radio.
I also do readings at primary schools and libraries.
You mentioned earlier that you have a website. Do you have a blog/Twitter/Facebook dedicated to your writing?
The website is www.willigrews.co.uk and links to where you can buy The Willigrews can be found on this site. I am also on Facebook and Twitter, just search for 'The Willigrews'.
Would you be able to provide a short piece of your writing?
This is taken from The Willigrews and the Gloopudds, a story from my book, The Willigrews. This is part of a story in which The Willigrews meet a group of talking feet.
The Willigrews and the Gloopudds
There was a short silence; it was standing next to a tall silence, which everyone ignored.
"We must stop them from reaching Willigrew," said Krowfin.
"How?" asked Rewsin.
"I think we should go and take a look," Longstint replied.
"That would be very dangerous," the second foot warned. "We tried talking to them but they threw their breakfast at us, eggs and bacon flying everywhere. We ran away before they started throwing the hash browns. Look, I've still got brown sauce on my big toe."
Everyone looked at the second foot and they could all see that it definitely had a big toe and it really did have brown sauce on it. Having seen this, the Willigrews knew the feet could be trusted. Everyone knows that anyone who tells the truth about brown sauce is trustworthy. There is nothing worse than a ‘brown sauce liar’.
The Willigrews waved goodbye to the feet (the feet waggled their toes in reply) and resumed their journey toward the smoke.
The little band of Willigrews trudged on and left the feet heading in the other direction. Their journey took them through a forest with very tall trees and very long grass. There was nothing short about this forest. The Willigrews walked in silence for a while; until Partive broke the silence (he was always breaking things).
"I wonder how far the distance is," he asked.
"The distance is always a long way away," replied Longstint.
"Even when we get there it will still be a long way away," he continued.
Krowfin was feeling very confused and felt a headache coming on.
Eventually the band reached a sign, which read ‘Warning, Gloopudds Ahead, Danger, low flying toast!’
© Terry Tarbox
Thank you Terry, and the best of luck with your future Willigrew adventures!