An Interview with Margaret Holbrook | #ComedyBookWeek










This week is #ComedyBookWeek started by the wonderful comedy writer Ana Spoke and I have had the opportunity to interview a great writer and friend Margaret Holbrook.

I often cite my influences at my events and one of the authors who helped me throughout the writing and publication of Our Doris is Margaret Holbrook. Margaret is an indie writer I met through the Macclesfield Creative Writing Group. Her work encompasses the entirety of literature with a great wealth of prose, poetry and script under her belt. Margaret’s second book  Cul-de-Sac Tales is one of the major inspirations in how I chose to set out my book.

Cul-de-Sac Tales is a series of comedic vignettes that focus on the residents of a cul-de-sac, each short focuses on a different month of the year. All told from the perspective of Rita they are a rather stupendous read.

I interviewed Margaret relating to Cul-de-Sac Tales and her writing process:

  1. What was your inspiration behind Cul-de-Sac Tales?

MARGARET: I came up with the idea for a character, who then turned into Rita and decided to give her a voice. She had to live in a cul de sac, it would give her a confined territory to operate from. The other characters followed easily once I’d finally shaped up Rita and her husband, Sid.

2. Why did you choose the format of interlinked stories?

MARGARET: Cul de Sac Tales was originally going to be one short story, Bungalows, Cul de Sacs, Neighbours, (the first chapter in the book). It was after that story’s first airing that it was mentioned to me that there could be a series of stories based around the cul de sac. I gave it some thought and began writing, knowing right away that there would have to be a link or some common ground for the story to work as a novella rather than a series of complete pieces.

3. Do your characters draw from people you know in real life?

MARGARET: The characters are totally fictional but some of the things that happen to the characters in the book have actually happened and some of the things the characters say I have heard people say. It’s amazing how good public transport and cafes are for giving unintended inspiration.

4. Will there be any more tales from the cul-de-sac?

MARGARET: It has been suggested to me by readers that they would like to hear more from Rita and her cul de sac neighbours, but I’m not sure that they will.

5. Have you any more projects in the pipeline?

MARGARET: I have a novel that should be out later this year and a poetry collection due out early next year, plus a novel to complete and a collection of short stories – enough to be going on with!

6. How did you start writing?

MARGARET: I’ve always written, I just needed a spur to make me pay it more attention. That spur came when I joined a writing group in Macclesfield.

7. When did you decide to become a writer?

MARGARET: I said when I was 7 that I wanted to write books…and a long time further on I’m pleased to say that I’m doing it.

8. Is there a special time of day that you write?

MARGARET: No! I just write when I can.

9. Do you plot books beforehand or write them off the cuff?

MARGARET: My books are plotted, my short stories are not; they are just written when an idea comes to me.

10. Why did you choose to publish your books independently?

MARGARET: Finding an agent and finding a publisher are both difficult and it seems the older you are the less likely it is to happen so I decided to take the bull by the horns; life’s too short.

11. What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of independent publishing are?

MARGARET: The advantages are that I have control over all elements of my books, and that’s a huge thing.

The disadvantages are many; you have to do all the work yourself, everything. You are a writer, publisher, distributor. Getting into bookshops is difficult, getting into bookshop chains is nigh on impossible and unless you’re wealthy to start with you can’t throw money at advertising and publicity. It’s tough…

12. Are there any authors or books that influence your writing?

MARGARET: I read a lot of stuff by many different authors but I like to think I write as me. I hope not to be influenced.

13. How can readers find you?

They can read more about me and my work on:

Events page not to be missed! Also check the shelves of your library or bookshop, I might be there, and if not ask!

Thank you to Margaret for answering these questions. If you haven’t read Margaret’s work before then you ought to, she explores various genres and is doing wonders as an indie writer.



Are you Afraid of the Words?

At the moment, folk are being taught that in order for them to succeed they need to be scared of creating work. If you are to write a novel then you must fear each word you put down, you must be petrified of your characters, and you must worry about every thought subsequent readers have of the work.

This is the only way you will succeed as a writer.

It is all right to feel anxious. I have had many issues in the past with my own writing. I have documented them here, but I believe that we shouldn’t tell writers that they must be anxious because that’s what writers do – sit at home, feeling anxious and watching re-runs of Jeremy Kyle with a carton of Tropicana and a half-eaten custard cream.

We should tell writers how it feels to have completed a novel; remind them of the glow and the sense of worth. It is easy enough for writers to give up, without other people making them feel there’s no other option. I have left plenty of projects behind – years ago if you were to read this blog, you’d find plenty of posts about projects that never saw the light of day or were never completed.

When you’re writing it can be incredibly easy to forget why you started writing your work in the first place. Ideas are easy, it’s the execution that’s difficult, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feel passion for the work. It doesn’t mean you should be scared of writing. It means you have to work harder to achieve something.

As a writer, you will be seen as lazy, you will be seen as a fool, and you’ll often be asked why. It will be brilliant. You are not lazy, you are determined. It would be foolish to leave the idea floundering in your mind, and not regret writing the book when it’s too late. And more often than not you’re writing because it hurts not to – there will be physical pain in your chest, and unfathomable sadness.

You should not be scared to write.

If you are passionate enough about a story that’s all you need. Throw all past ideas of difficulty out of your mind and write one word at a time. If you write just five hundred words a day, you can have fifty thousand words in three months. If you plot your novels that’s great, if you don’t plot that’s great as well. There is no right way to write. All writers have their own idiosyncrasies when it comes to how they write – it’s the best way to prove you’re individual.

Make a promise with yourself to complete your novel – the time span doesn’t matter. All that matters is finishing. It can be rough around the edges, it can be startlingly bad; it will be your novel, they will be your words and you will feel brilliant.

Until next time, that is all.