Tuesday 26 February 2013

Writer - Ruth Snowden

I'd like to welcome you to my interview with writer, Ruth Snowden.  Enjoy.

Ruth Snowden

Hi Ruth, can you please introduce yourself?
I'm Ruth Snowden, from Cumbria.
How long have you been writing?
I wrote my first book when I was eight, which was a long time ago! I've been writing professionally for about 15 years.
What first got you interested in writing?
I spent a lot of time ill in bed as a child and began writing to amuse myself.
Do you attend a writing group?
I attend Whitehaven Writers. I started going in about 1998.
Why do you attend a writing group?
In order to meet other writers, get ideas and feedback, and to give something back by encouraging other people.
What is the most valuable thing you have taken away from your writing group? 
Friendship. Inspiration.  And a pair of green amber earrings.
What genre(s) do you write?  What drew you to this/these genre(s)? 
I write non fiction in the holistic/alternative/psychology field. I was drawn to this genre by my life-long interest in dreams - this interest, plus my degree in psychology, brought me my first commissions. I also write magical fantasy type fiction for children and adults. I was drawn to write fiction because I love reading stories, particularly good children's stories. I have also written poetry since I was a child, when I read poetry at home and learned poems off by heart at school.
Are there any genres that you don’t enjoy writing?  Why?
I'll have a go at most things, but I'm not much good at romantic fiction - probably because I don't enjoy reading it, so it doesn't flow. I don't think I could write a historical novel either, because I haven't the patience to research it properly - I prefer to make stuff up! Probably lots of others, but I can't say I have tried them all by any means.
What types of things do you write?
Mostly books. Also poetry, blogs, tweets and the occasional article for newspapers and magazines.
Have you ever had anything published?
I have had many books published by HowToBooks, Hodder, McGraw-Hill, Piccadilly Press and Wild Women Press. You can find out more and buy most of these on Amazon. See my author page on Amazon at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ruth-Snowden.
Most of my adult non- fiction books are about Freud, Jung and dreamwork.
My children's books are magical adventure stories. I am concentrating on these at the moment.
More information about some of my books and work in progress can be found on my blogs - see question 29 for the links.
I have also had lots of newspaper and magazine articles published, but not many recently, as most seem to use in-house writers these days.

Have you sent your writing to agents/publishers?  Have you received any rejections?
Yes - publishers listed above, and I have an agent. I have had loads of rejections over the years but thankfully a lot of positive results and commissions too!
That shows that the hard work pays off and you have to take the rough with the smooth.  (sorry, I think I just swallowed a book of clichés!)  Would you consider self-publishing/e-publishing?  Why/why not?  Are you interested in eBooks, or do you prefer the old fashioned paper-made books?
I have recently self-published two children's novels on Kindle. The first The Island That Wasn't There was published originally in paperback by Piccadilly Press. Return to Hildaland is the sequel.  I love books in both forms - paper and electronic - each has its own merits.
Who/what influences your writing?  Where do you get your inspiration from?
I get my creative inspiration from nature, landscape, history, myths, legends, literature, people and ideas from my writers' group. My dreams are also a rich source of ideas. Some of the more zany episodes in my stories have been lifted directly from peculiar dreams of mine, and I am not above poaching those of friends as well, but only with permission!
How do you come up with your characters’ names and personalities?
I don't know where my characters come from - they seem to find me! Often I dream about them, or they wake me up in the morning with vivid ideas and demand that I write about them. So I guess they arise from my unconscious. Often a character is an amalgam of people I know, and may also have some aspect of myself, past or present. I sometimes take names form gravestones, or from the telephone directory. Occasionally I earwig conversations in cafes and pick up interesting names and snippets!
Do you have a writing routine?
I don't have a routine at all. I dislike routine and write when the muse takes me. Sometimes I let my mind lay fallow for a few days, but then I might write obsessively for weeks. I am often very creative around full moon.
Do you start out with a complete idea for your stories, or do you just start writing and hope for the best?
I usually begin with words, phrases, characters and visual imagery then kind of throw them all together and watch what happens, like watching a film. I never know at the outset what is going to happen.  I am not an organised writer when it comes to fiction - this is strange seeing as I also write non- fiction, which has to be very organised.  I think the two genres use different parts of my brain. 
Do you have an editing process?  Do you have someone else read over your work?  Do you read your work aloud to yourself in front of the mirror?
I always edit my own work thoroughly and then brace myself to have it pulled apart again by editors, friends and my agent before it gets published. My agent has an almost supernatural ability to winkle out the bits I know deep down are no good! I also read stuff aloud at the writers' group - it's amazing how many errors you can spot that way, and I get feedback too.  But not in front of the mirror, no.
What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?
I enjoy it when I read back through something I have written and feel amazed and wonder where such fantastic stuff has come from. I enjoy it when I get `into the zone' and my words flow effortlessly.  And I enjoy it when I meet up with my creative friends and we bounce wild and zany ideas around. And I guess I hate it when I get stuck in one of those dreary cycles of stupidly trying to write something to `fit the market.' This utterly kills my creativity. And I hate marketing, public appearances and tax returns. I just want to get on with the writing in peace and I have a strong inner conviction that really those things ought to be someone else's job.
How important is it for you to share your writing?
Essential. I am a story teller - what's the use of telling stories to nobody?
Have you ever entered any writing competitions?  Have you ever won?
Yes I have entered a few, with little success, but I once won a competition in the Independent, to write the first paragraph of a novel.
Have you ever attended an open mic night for spoken word performers, and either an observer or a performer? 
I have performed open mic poetry a lot in the past but I don't enjoy it - in fact I find it draining  and a bit embarrassing. It has had a very negative effect on me actually - I no longer write poetry much, because the whole poetry scene seems to be about performing and showing off. I am an introverted poet L Surely I am not the only one?
What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?
Less is more, so edit rigorously. When I first became a professional writer a publisher told me that my great strength lay in the way I used words sparingly and left the reader to use their own imagination. A common error in inexperienced writers is to overdo the explaining!
What advice could you give to a new writer?
Keep going even when things get tough. Write from your soul.
Apart from writing, what are your other hobbies/interests?
Druidry, nature, caravanning, crafting, artwork, playing the Celtic harp, yoga.
What types of things do you read?  Do you think your writing reflects your book tastes?
I read all kinds of things. Magazines, blogs, tweets, websites, novels, good children's novels and non-fiction, especially in the alternative health and spirituality area.  So yes, my writing definitely reflects my reading tastes.
If you could have written anything, what do you wish that could have been?
Exactly the things that I have written!
That's a great attitude!  Do you have any favourite lines from novels/plays/poetry/songs, or any favourite literary quotes?
How on earth do I choose? I collect more of them all the time and record them in my journal. Here's a recent one that really made my spine tingle. It's from The Resurrectionist, by James Bradley:

`My father died when I was twelve. We found him half a mile from the house, huddled in the wall's low lee. His face turned away from the world, into the dark stones, his body half covered by the snow. The sky overhead as fragile as an egg.' 
That's what I mean by less is more - there is so much power in these few stark sentences describing the harsh reality of life for ordinary people in Victorian England. I will definitely be looking out for more books by this author - although this one is not for the squeamish!
What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on editing several of my children's books and getting them up on Kindle. A bit of a steep learning curve there! This is the area I am really concentrating on at the moment, as I would dearly love to get well known as a children's writer. So any promotion in this area would be much appreciated - I have included an extract below in question 31. See also children's book blog link below.

Also working on a series of books for women about getting in touch with your inner Wise Woman and keeping a spiritual journal. See Wise Woman blog link below.
Do you have a website/blog/twitter/facebook dedicated to your writing?  
For details of all my available published books: See Ruth Snowden author page on Amazon at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ruth-SnowdenMy blogs all have extra material that is not in my books, and updates about work in progress. The addresses are as follows:For dreamwork: www.exploringdreams.blogspot.comFor Wise Woman stuff: www.wisewomanjournal.blogspot.comFor children's books: www.hildaland.blogspot.com
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
You can also follow Cocklepuss, the magical catfish from Hildaland, on Twitter @Cocklepuss
And myself on Twitter @RuthSnowden

Would you be able to provide a short piece of your work?  
(The following is an edited extract from The Island That Wasn't There, an exciting magical adventure story for children aged 8 upwards. You can buy the Kindle edition, and its sequel Return to Hildaland, on Amazon.)
`Her skin was pale blue-green, and it looked kind of slimy, like a fish. She looked really ill, I thought.

Half of her was buried, under a mass of twisted seaweed and bits of old rope, so I could only see to her waist. But she looked about my size, perhaps just a little bigger.
I nearly screamed when I saw her eyes. They were huge and very dark, like fish eyes, or some sort of weird insect thing. The silver-grey light from the clouds reflected in her wide-open pupils.
She smiled then, sort of, and began to speak. Her lips were thin, and her teeth were pointed – sharp-looking. But her voice was quite ordinary.
‘Thank goodness,’ she said, rather unexpectedly, ‘can you help me get out of this lot?’ She pointed to the seaweed that was tangled all round her legs. I hesitated for a moment – I was still wondering if she was some sort of giant insect . . . or an alien maybe?
I yanked the seaweed off and then began untwisting some hairy old blue rope. All of a sudden a big lump of weed came away, and I could see her legs underneath. She had weird tights on. Sort of fishnet ones made of gleaming pearly stuff.
I stared for a moment, forgetting it was rude. ‘What’s wrong?’ she asked, pulling a long strand of green weed out of her hair. It was exactly the same colour, so it looked as if she was actually pulling her hair out.
‘Your tights,’ I said, ‘I’ve never seen any like that. They’re really cool,’ I added hastily.
‘Tights? What are tights?’
I pointed. ‘On your legs. Your stocking things.’
She looked really blank. Her wide black pupils stared into me, swallowing me like dark holes in the sea. ‘Legs?’ she said, with a slight shudder. `Mermaids don’t have legs. We have tails!’ '
© Ruth Snowden 
Thank you very much Ruth.

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