We’re very pleased to bring you an interview with Maria Clark, whose story ‘Letters of Love’ was shortlisted for the Sunderland Short Story Award 2018.
You can pick up Maria’s story, as well as the other stories shortlisted here.
I began writing by accident. The day I could hold a pen to paper and form words against the white was the day I wrote my first story. Now, as A-levels and university visits appear to take up much of my time, writing serves as a solace against the world, where I spend most of my time playing my oboe and dreaming about speaking French fluently. To me, writing is like breathing. Although I know it may look unsociable when I suddenly whip out a notebook and start scribbling in the middle of a conversation, I can’t help it! It’s who I am, and who I intend to be for the rest of my life: somebody wanting to live in her imagination every single day.
What are you currently reading?
I am currently reading ‘The Canterbury Tales’, by Geoffrey Chaucer – although we are studying ‘The Merchant’s Tale’ at school, I have been completely captivated by the realistic characters on the rest of the pilgrimage – and I am in awe of Chaucer’s use of allusions!
Tell us about your story? What inspired it? Why this story? Why now?
My story, ‘Letters of Love’ explores the celebration of a lifetime relationship. Having been inspired by my own parents’ anniversary, I wanted to convey the message that love can last, despite the fact media and newspapers are often publicising divorce and affair scandals.
How do you form your characters? I know some authors, JK Rowling famously, base some of their characters off people they’ve encountered in life, is this something you’ve ever done or would do?
I prefer to start with a blank slate, and construct a character from their very first cells, up until their deepest and darkest fears. Although I find it more interesting to develop a character from scratch, I find the characters tend to form themselves without my control – though, inevitably, there will be traces of people I have known and met!
What do literary awards as a whole mean to you? And more specifically, what does the Sunderland Short Story mean to you?
I think literary awards are an excellent way to celebrate your own writing and to celebrate others’ within the writing community. However, I believe the most important thing is for you to be proud of your own work: and if you to have gained something from it – whether it be a new perspective, a new emotion, or a recollection – then you can call yourself a writer. The Sunderland Short Story Award is very special to me: I am very proud and touched to have been shortlisted out of so many wonderful entries – and I hope to enter next year’s competition also!
How do you view your writing journey so far? Where would you like to be in 5 years time?
I am very pleased with my writing journey so far, and hope I am only at the beginning! I have been writing ever since I could touch pen to paper and am currently dividing my time between editing my trilogy and writing short stories (although school work does tend to get in the way!). In five years, I hope to see myself in my final years of university – with my ultimate goal being publication of my trilogy.
Are there any genres or styles you find yourself especially drawn to? Do they have a special connection to you? And are there any that you’ve never written but would like to experiment with?
I am particularly drawn to writing historical fiction, but mainly in eras where a lack of historical research allows my imagination to reign. My family are very passionate about history and throughout my childhood I have traipsed from French medieval castles to the Parthenon in Athens, which have encouraged me to visualise a time lost to the past. However, I have also recently discovered an interest in fantasy, which, I suspect, has largely been influenced by my love for the ‘Harry Potter’ books and ‘Lord of the Rings’
In the future, I would like to experiment with writing more realistic, modern fiction, potentially addressing topics relevant in our time, as I believe it is important for important issues to be expressed and publicised as much as possible.
Who are some of your favourite authors? And have you read anyone who’s lesser known right now, but who you think is going to be huge? Except yourself, obviously.
My favourite author is Louisa May Alcott with ‘Little Women’, although I am a great fan of Alison Weir, Joanna Courtney and Michele Moran. I think for new authors, everyone has the potential to find success, if they stay true to their writing.
What advice would you give to writers? And what advice would you have liked to hear this time a year ago about your own writing?
The first piece of advice I would give to writers is that if you don’t enjoy writing your story, the reader isn’t going to enjoy reading it. Also, I think the wonderful thing about writing is that age does not have an impact – whether you are young or old, or confused between the two, writing will always remain constant.
A year ago, a piece of advice I would have liked to have known is that sharing your work isn’t a bad thing. Yes, plagiarism may always be a worry, but being able to hear people’s reactions to your work and comments on how to improve will ensure that you are taking steps in the right direction. Since setting up my website, I have gained more confidence in my writing – and through sharing, I have realised that doing the thing I love is made even more special when there are others to sit with you, crying or laughing over the characters.