I’d like to welcome Patsy Collins back to my website. Thank you, Patsy, for taking time to answer my questions.
Thanks for inviting me and asking them, Theresa. I’m always happy to talk about my writing.
You have written and published hundreds of short stories in magazines. That is quite an accomplishment. I understand that you have grouped a few of those stories together into themed collections. Congratulations, on your latest themed collection, Happy Families.
Q: With hundreds of your stories to choose from, how did you select the ones included in your latest collection?
A: In the same way I select stories for all my collections. I look through those which have been published or placed in competitions and list all those which I feel fit the theme. I never give up my copyright, so I’m able to reuse any of my stories in this way, but sometimes there’s an exclusivity period, so I check that won’t be an issue.
Next I look at the types and genres of stories. My aim is to get a good mix, so although there are two dozen stories on the same theme the reader still has plenty of variety. It’s never possible to please all the people all the time, but this way I hope to please most of the people some of the time. It seems to work as several times people have mentioned their favourite story in a collection, but they don’t all pick the same one. In the case of my free liquid themed collection, Not A Drop To Drink, each of the seven stories is the favourite of at least one reader who has told me their preference.
Finally I look at the lengths. I want each collection to be approximately the same length, so the printing costs are roughly the same and readers, whichever format they chose, will get the same value for money. Usually there are 24 stories, but if the finished book would be a little short, I add another.
Almost always I have some left over which I would like to have included, but couldn’t. That might be because they felt too similar to one or more of the others in some way – for example I wouldn’t want half the stories to feature sisters, or be set in the same location. It might also be because of the length. It’s because of these leftovers, and the fact I keep writing new stories, that I have more than one collection dealing with some themes.
Q: With five family themed collections, I assume you like writing about families. Why do you enjoy writing family focused stories?
A: Because I’m interested in relationships. All kinds of relationships. (I’ve published three collections of love stories, and some love and relationship novels too.) There are so many different kinds of family. As I say in the blurb there are those we’re born or married into and those we choose for ourselves. Each one has a story to tell… although that’s not quite right, is it? There are hundreds, thousands of stories in every family and each person will tell it differently.
Q: What was the inspiration for your clever cover design?
A: It’s a strand of dna forming the trunk of a tree, just as our families help form us into the people we become. Of course our biological parents physically create us, but that’s just the start. Every relationship moulds us to some extent – and many of these, especially while we’re at our most impressionable, are with our extended family and friends who are just as close as blood relatives.
I want to shift gears and congratulate you on your first audio book and ask you a few questions about the book.
Q: With six published novels, why did you choose Escape to the Country to be your first audio book?
A: Because it was my first published novel… sorry, that’s a really boring answer!
It’s not a boring story though. It’s a fun, escapist romance set on a small farm in Kent, England. There are interesting characters, lots of cute animals, a touch of crime and hint of mystery, loads of yummy food, a few love potions and other herbal concoctions. Also included are instructions for hand milking a cow and operating the hydraulics of a tractor – you never know when information like that might prove useful.
Q: Do you plan on having any more of your novels recorded?
A: Yes. In fact there’s a second available already! Hopefully they will all eventually be available in this format. First though I have to find narrators. It’s not something which just anyone can do, and it takes a lot of time to do well. Apparently it’s roughly six hours work per hour of recording. Then there’s getting someone with the right voice for the book. I’ve received ‘auditions’ from people who read wonderfully clearly, but simply didn’t sound like the character, or who I thought were too dramatic or not emotional enough for the genre.
Claire Storey who read Escape To The Country is an accomplished actress and has done a beautiful job. Her voice is perfect for the lighthearted romance. Deborah Keating who read Paint Me A Picture, which is rather less frothy, has a very different voice – I really felt she was channelling Mavis, my main character. Talented and adaptable as both narrators are, if they’d each read the other book, I don’t feel the result would be quite so good.
I’m not stopping at novels either. One of my short story collections, Coffee & Cake is currently in production as an audio book.
Q: What was the biggest lesson you learned during the publishing of your audio book?
A: It’s something I vaguely knew in theory, but hadn’t fully considered – that the reader adds something to the story. I don’t mean the narrator here, although of course their performances do add a great deal, but to the interpretation of the person listening in the case of the audio version, or reading with ebook and paperbacks.
I try to write with some humour, but it’s not funny unless a reader laughs. My efforts are creating emotion are nothing if the reader doesn’t care. And each person brings their own experiences and adds them to my words. If you’ve ever been wrongly accused you’ll sympathise more strongly with Leah in Escape To The Country than if that’s not happened to you. A reader who has ever experienced loneliness will be urging Mavis in Paint Me A Picture to develop the relationships which will allow her to finally have a life of her own. And anyone who has ever fancied something nice to eat or drink will be wishing Aunt Jayne would invite them into her farmhouse kitchen!