Wednesday, 11 September 2013

From Short Story Writer to Novelist - An Interview with Patsy Collins

I'm thrilled to invite the very talented, Patsy Collins to Writing Allsorts for a wee chat about her journey from short story writer to novelist.

So without further ado...

Hi Patsy, welcome to Writing Allsorts. Thank you so much for visiting. Please catch your breath, and tell us a bit about your success as a short story writer.

A Chance to brag? Oh, go on then ... My first short stories were published in 2005 in The Lady and The Weekly News. Eventually Woman's Weekly, Take a Break and My Weekly also saw the light. Since then I've had over 250 published in magazines in England, Ireland, Australia and South Africa and online and in anthologies. See, international success me!

A short collection of my stories, Not A Drop to Drink,  is available to download FREE HERE

Other stories are available from Alife Dog Fiction at 39p HERE

How long had you been writing short stories before you took the next step – and what pushed you to take that step, if anything?

I'd been writing short stories for a few years, with no intention to write a novel when one particular story started getting out of hand. I couldn't seem to leave it alone and kept thinking about Mavis, the central character and wondering what she was doing. After about 50,000 words I realised it was no longer a short story (I notice little things like that) That story is now my novel, Paint Me a Picture.

Have you ever entered or won any competitions?

My novel, Escape to the Country, beat more than 600 others in a competition and was published as a result.

I had previously tried to get an agent, with no luck at all. I'd also contacted Mills and Boon who wrote me a three page letter saying why they liked it, and why it wasn't for them. A lot of it was very positive, but it also showed me a possible reason for my lack of success with agents - Escape to the Country isn't a traditional romance. It has a crime element to it (the competition I won was for a crime novel) the secondary characters have far more than a cameo role (the story is as much about friendship and family relationships as about romance) and the setting is much more than a backdrop (it's set on a farm and there's a lot of scenes involving animals and mud). It's harder to sell books that don't easily fit a genre. Paint Me a Picture is even worse from that point of view.

By the time I'd entered the competition I doubted I'd interest an agent or mainstream publisher.

Do tell us a bit about your self-published novels

I self published my next two novels. As I've said, I realised how difficult it would be to get an agent or mainstream publisher involved. Unfortunately (for me) novel writing competitions are usually for unpublished authors, so this seemed the best option.

The books were edited and professionally proofread before I uploaded them for kindle, and later as paperbacks. Luckily I had, by that time, married someone who could do my covers.

Do tell us a bit about your novels, and how we can get our mitts on them!

Escape to the Country romance/chicklit/contemporary can be purchased HERE

Paint Me a Picture character development/contemporary/hard to define can be purchased  HERE 

A Year and a Day romance/chicklit can be purchased HERE

Have you always wanted to write a novel, or was there a time when you thought you would only write short stories?

When I first started creative writing classes I just did it for fun. I didn't really expect to write a short story anyone would want to pay for and it never occurred to me that I might be able to complete a whole book.

I did rather like the idea of being someone who had written books though.

Do you still write short stories, and if so how do you juggle both?

I spend more time writing short stories than I do novels, but I always have a novel or two on the go as well. It doesn't feel like juggling to me as working on different things comes naturally. I like to leave first drafts (of any length) for a while before editing or rewriting. The best way to get a clear break from them is to write something else.

How I'm feeling also affects what I want to write. Sometimes I'm not in the mood for a key emotional scene, or maybe I'm fed up and want to write something light to lift my mood. If I've not got much time, then adding to something rather than starting afresh is good. If I'm feeling picky then final editing checks are the ideal task. Other times getting completely lost in a story will suit me perfectly.

Do you prefer to write novels or short stories?

That's right, I prefer to write short stories or novels!

Have you any advice to a short story writer who may want to move on to writing novels?

Give it a go. If it all goes horribly wrong you can always delete it and claim it was brilliant but a computer virus destroyed it and you're too distraught to ever try again. (That's what happened with my play).

What do you feel is the main difference between writing a short story and a novel?

Novels are bigger. Obviously they're longer and therefore take longer, but that's not quite what I mean. They're not just a series of short stories with something holding them together and they're not just one really long short story. It's a bit like the difference between adults and children. Adults aren't simply larger children who've lived longer. Well actually some are ... I'll try it with cakes. A wedding cake isn't just a huge cupcake is it?

So there you have it. Novels are bigger short stories with a layer of marzipan.

Which do you find easier to write, a novel or a short story?

Some of my short stories have been easy to write, as have some novel scenes. Some of each have required much more time and hair pulling. It's not the easiness which keeps me going, but the difficulty in stopping.

Have you ever written a short story that you think would work well as a novel?

Yes, The First Day HERE became Paint Me a Picture. Since then I can tell early into the first draft if the idea will fit into a short story or not. Generally I don't think that an idea that works as a short story would work as a novel, but I expect there are exceptions.

What do you think are the pros and cons of moving from a short story to a novel?

Novel writing can be disheartening as it takes so long to finish and then the chances of selling it are so low. Because the writer puts so much into a novel, its failure will hurt much more than that of a short story.
Of course it might be a tremendous success and the writer will naturally be delighted. There's nothing wrong with hoping for that, but if it's your only motive for writing the novel then you're likely to be disappointed.

If you have an agent or publisher, do you think being a successful short story writer helped get you noticed?

I had a reasonable track record with short stories before I got rejected by agents and publishers, so it's obviously not a huge help. I think that all the agent or publisher is truly interested in is if they'll be able to sell your book.

Do you think self-promotion is an important part of being a novelist?  If so, what are your thoughts on self-promotion?

I do think it's important, yes. More so for those who're self published, or published by a small press, but it seems everyone has to do some. I'm not keen on doing it and I'm not alone in that. Writers want to write and promotion takes up writing time and energy.

We have to do it though. If people don't know about our books they can't read them and if they're not read there's little point in writing them.


Patsy Collins can be found at


Paula R C Readman said...

Wow, I didn't realise you have had some many short stories published, Patsy! I feel like such a newbie... Thank you for sharing Patsy with us, Amanda

Patsy said...

Thanks for inviting me over, Amanda. Do hope I haven't come across as overly modest ;-)

Patsy said...

Paula, I've been writing them for 11 years now.

joanne fox said...

Great interview. Love the cake analogy. What does it mean if I like the marzipan better than the cake?

Patsy said...

It means you'll have to write a trilogy, Joanne.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Amanda and Patsy for an informative interview. I think you're modest Patsy, it's hard work to even get a short story to a sale-able stage. I know that because I've been sending out for years, and haven't had a womag story published yet... one day though.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Funny interview! I've never though of a wedding cake as a big cupcake either.
Patsy knows her stuff when it comes to short story contests, that's for sure!

Wendy's Writing said...

Thank you for the interview, Mandy and Patsy - the cake analogy is perfect.

Amanda said...

Thank you everyone for dropping by
:-) and again to Patsy for such an entertaining and informative interview. X

Patsy said...

Suzy, I sent out for years with no luck too. Getting something published isn't easy and requires lots of things to go right, but you'll get there I'm sure.

Thanks, Alex.

Glad you liked that, Wendy. It made sense to me when I typed it, but I wasn't sure it still would when people came to read it.

Karen said...

I love the idea of blaming a computer virus if your novel goes horribly wrong :o)

I do agree that writing short stories is a nice way to have a break from the novel-writing. I can't imagine not doing one or the other, though!

Great interview.

Patsy said...

Odd isn't it, Karen that we take a break from writing by writing something else. Seems to work though.