After a month’s break, welcome back to my book of the month feature. To kick us off for 2018, I’d like to welcome Mary Smith to my blog. Over to you, Mary…
Thank you so much, Hugh. I’m truly honoured and excited to be here on your brilliant blog.
What’s the name of the book?
Donkey Boy & Other Stories, which, as the name implies is a collection of short stories.
Tell us a little about the stories and the characters.
I’d have said there wasn’t a connecting theme but author Margaret Elphinstone who provided a testimonial for the back of the book describes the characters as ‘disinherited by mainstream cultures’, and I’m happy to go with that.
There’s the donkey boy of the title story, a young lad in Pakistan, who is confronted by a moral dilemma and there’s a visually impaired man in a residential home in Scotland who battles with staff over his socks. An adopted girl raises questions of identity, and a Victorian mouth artist is desperate to leave the circus. Then, there’s Molly who, when she can see something in some people’s eyes, knows all the nasty dark things the person has done.
It’s a slim collection but an eclectic mix of stories, characters and locations.
Where do your ideas for your stories come from?
Ideas come from anywhere and everywhere: memories, overheard conversation, things people have told me, visual prompts, life. Donkey Boy is based on an incident I experienced in Pakistan. The donkey boy really did question my lack of makeup and the colour of my teeth, though that’s not why I presented him with a moral dilemma!
Three Boys and a Piano was from a photo called Boys Smashing a Piano by Phillip Jones Griffiths, and the story was complete in my head almost from the moment I looked at the image. Miss Biffin was mentioned in a book on quirky characters and worthies in southwest Scotland. Born with no arms and legs, she became a mouth artist in the circus. Further research turned up another Miss Biffin, born in Somerset, who was exhibited in a sideshow. Thanks to a patron she became, for a while, a famous portrait painter. One day, I’d like to tell her story, too.
I have no idea where Molly, in The Thing in Your Eye came from – she was nattering away in my head for ages until I told her story!
Who do you think the book will appeal to?
I think – I hope – the book will appeal to everyone who enjoys short stories, especially if they like stories which make them think and question – and maybe smile sometimes.
Where can people buy the book?
It’s available on all Amazon outlets. This is the link which should take readers to the Amazon page wherever they are in the world: www.smarturl.it/dbaos. It is also available as a paperback for the many people who still like a ‘real’ book.
How long have you been writing?
Since I was very young (a long time ago) and felt compelled to write adventure stories à la Enid Blyton. I think it would be called plagiarism today. Then, appalling teenage angst-ridden poetry on love and life, about both of which I believed I knew everything; press releases and reports at work; a first attempt at memoir of my time working in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This was in the days of posting the first three chapters and a synopsis, and it felt like my submission was on a piece of elastic. I started writing articles then, and their acceptance and publication gave me the confidence to keep going. I guess I could have answered that by saying ‘many years’.
What plans do you have for future books?
I’m working on a local history called Secret Dumfries, to be published by Amberley Publishing in 2018. I’m enjoying the research, finding stories and quirky facts about the town’s history which people may not know. And I’m working on turning the material from my blog, My Dad’s a Goldfish, into a memoir about caring for my Dad through his dementia. That sounds like a laugh a minute doesn’t it – but actually, there is a lot of humour in it as well as frustration and anger and tears.
What three pieces of advice would you give to someone who wants to write and publish a book?
Read. Writers are readers first.
Believe in your story and persevere.
Beg, borrow or steal the money for a professional edit. It is impossible to see your own mistakes.
What does blogging mean to you?
I can’t imagine life without the many friends I’ve made through my own blog and through following other blogs. And they are real friends. Being part of the blogging world has led to so many wonderful connections, to support which has been phenomenal, often humbling, and always entertaining, enlightening and thought-provoking.
Thank you for joining us today, Mary. It’s so good to interview another author who has published a book of short stories.
If you have any questions or comments for Mary, then please leave them in the comments, and she will come back to you.
Mary Smith is a writer, freelance journalist and poet based in Dumfries & Galloway in south-west Scotland.
She worked in Pakistan and Afghanistan for ten years, where she established a mother and child care programme providing skills and knowledge to women health volunteers. She has written a memoir, Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women, about her work in Afghanistan and the country also provides the setting for her novel No More Mulberries.
Mary’s poems have been widely published in poetry magazines and anthologies, and her first full-length poetry collection, Thousands Pass Here Every Day, was published by Indigo Dreams.
She has worked in collaboration with photographer Allan Devlin on two local history books: Dumfries Through Time and Castle Douglas Through Time. She is now working on Secret Dumfries to be published in 2018 as well as turning her blog, My Dad’s a Goldfish, into a memoir about caring for her dad through his dementia.
Donkey Boy & Other Stories is her latest publication.
Connect with Mary
Buy link for Donkey Boy & Other Stories: www.smarturl.it/dbaos
Blogs: https://marysmith57.wordpress.com My Dad is a Goldfish
and my brand new blog https://marysmithsplace.wordpress.com/
Amazon Page US: http://amzn.to/2ecvjbP
Amazon Page UK: http://amzn.to/2jGw9A9
No More Mulberries (A novel set in Afghanistan): http://smarturl.it/nmm
Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni (Memoir from Afghanistan): http://smarturl.it/dcbm
Thousands Pass Here Every Day (poetry collection): http://bit.ly/2hMjhbp
Dumfries Through Time (local history): http://amzn.to/2hEQJww
Castle Douglas Through Time (local history): http://amzn.to/2jGOJIh
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