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.



On Self-Publishing Our Doris

It’s no secret that self-publishing has taken off in a big way in recent years.

A lot of books are self-published daily, some say it’s due to the easiness – uploading a book to one of many POD sites and hoping for the best – and indie writers losing faith in mainstream publishing. There are arguments for and against self-publishing and there are those who still stigmatise the industry as being nothing more than vanity at its worst.

When I was younger I did not believe I would self-publish a book. Completely against the idea, I listened to everything Writing Magazine said – I would not read self-published books, would not entertain the idea that they could possibly be good.

I’m not sure when I changed my mind.

When I began to write Our Doris I did not plan on anyone else in the world seeing them. During writing bursts at the Macclesfield Creative Writing Group, I would scribble down a short anecdote about Doris and forget about it until the next week. Over time the stories grew, characters appeared, characters stayed and folk commented that they’d like to see a book about Doris.

The group have a few writers who have self-published their own books, purchasing ISBNs from Nielsens and using printers to get their books out there. I’ve helped create two anthologies that we’ve sold to local people.

I had a conversation with Margaret Holbrook, local indie author, and the idea to create a book of monologues grew from there. I would ten monologues to a set amount of words, similar to a radio series, in that each should take half an hour to be performed. I didn’t think there would be any place in mainstream publishing for the book and had grown accustomed to the idea of doing all the work myself.

I’m a bit possessive of my work so this meant I could do the cover design and book design myself. I knew that the work would most likely be difficult – I’d have to ask book shops if they would take my book and although Waterstones will accept self-published books you have to go through Gardners.

I had the backlog of material to go through and thought I could spend a month on the book, bring it out and hope the writers’ group would purchase copies. After that I envisaged nothing more happening. With Nielsens you have to buy ten ISBNs right off the bat, and I thought I’ve got about sixty years left on the planet, I could use them in that time.

I’ve researched my options – considered posting the monologues to this blog – but I like the idea of a physical book. As I finish the book, I hope to arrange some readings and have spoken to a librarian already about possibly launching my book at their library.

There’s a lot going on; I imagine it’s going to get busier because I bought a diary – I’ve not made many appointments yet – only the odd open mic, but I’m getting there.

Until next time, that is all.