Interview by Rupert Dastur
What was your first encounter with short fiction and how has this relationship developed over the years?
My first encounter with short story fiction was reading Jeffrey Archer’s short story collections: A Quiver Full of Arrows, A Twist in the Tale, The Collected Short Stories, And Thereby Hangs a Tale. I also enjoyed watching Tales of the Unexpected on TV.
Which other short story writers have influenced you?
More recently, Jeffery Deaver – Twisted, More Twisted, Trouble in Mind; Stephen King – Night Shift, Bazaar of Bad Dreams; Patricia Highsmith – Little Tales of Misogyny, and James Patterson’s Book Shots series.
What particularly appeals to you about the short story genre?
I like a quick read, being a busy lady in retirement. I struggle to concentrate for long periods, and enjoy a short story collection, because they are pacey, punchy and succinct, and are easier to dip in and out of.
How would you describe the short story?
In a nutshell a thrilling short story should have a compelling plot, intriguing characters that are believable, ingenious twists, thrilling scenes and showdowns between characters.
What makes for a successful short story?
A successful short story has an attention-grabbing story title; a killer first line that hooks the reader; a fast moving plot that gets straight to the point without waffle; has characters and events that stir the emotions of the reader; and ends with a strong, memorable last line.
What is the greatest challenge in writing short stories?
The greatest challenge is writing succinctly while ensuring that the reader doesn’t lose interest.
How difficult was it to move from non-fiction to fiction writing?
Initially, it was a huge challenge, because a totally different skill set is required in fiction writing. Therefore, I had to get to grips with the basics of creative writing first, and then master the specific techniques, linked to crime thriller writing. In order to do this I joined a couple of local creative writing groups, and accessed an online short story course.
How has being a member of a creative writing group influenced your work?
It’s raised my game in the standard of my writing by listening to other talented writers. It’s inspired me, given me new ideas, and offered a critical friend forum.
What can you tell us about your short story collection?
Twelve Thrilling Tales focuses on the darker side of modern life, with an added touch of humour. Stories include: a diamond heist, international property fraud, kidnapping, accidental death, mistaken identify, identity fraud, poison pen letters, arson, and murder by being buried alive, explosion, assassination and poisoning. Each story offers an unexpected twist in the tale, whilst exploring the popular themes of malice, greed, jealousy, innocence, justice and retribution.
How did you decide on the titles for your short stories?
A couple were offered by my creative writing course tutor. Some were derived from newspaper headlines. Others were my own creation, based on the theme of the story.
Where do you get your inspiration from for your short stories?
Being a regular cruise passenger, travelling abroad, listening to snatched conversations while out shopping, or travelling on public transport; getting ideas from the crime thriller books I read, and from TV crime thriller dramas such as Columbo.
Where do you get your ideas for your short story locations & settings from?
Many are places I know because I have been on holiday there, either abroad or in the UK. Others are based on the locality where I live in Merseyside.
Which short story in the collection do you like the best and why?
The story I like best in the collection is ‘One of those nights at the Hotel California’. It offers the reader a couple of unexpected outcomes at the end of the story, and challenges the readers’ expectations about the main character. I don’t want to say more than this, because it would give too much away.
Do you have a writing routine?
Not particularly. I write when the mood takes me. I do however write more effectively in the early morning, as that is when my creative streak is at its best, for some reason.
Do you ever use writing prompts for producing your short stories?
Very rarely, and only when I have had a long summer break from attending a regular creative writing class.
What advice would you give to other aspiring short story writers?
Immerse yourself in the genre you prefer to write in by reading prolifically. Attend a regular local creative writing group. Buy one or two practical How to Books, in relation to short story writing, and specific to your chosen genre, in addition to a purchasing a Dictionary and Thesaurus. Go to a workshop or an annual literary festival on your chosen writing genre. Keep a small note book with you when you are out, and by your bedside, for those inspirational moments that occur in the early hours. Try to write something every week.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?
Don’t get bogged down with the technicalities of writing, just write, otherwise nothing of substance will ever appear on paper.
What future writing projects have you got coming up?
I’m in the middle of writing the sequel More Thrilling Tales. After that is completed, I don’t know what will materialise next. I don’t want to get on a writing treadmill again, as I write for pleasure and not for financial gain.
Why do you think writing is important?
Writing is cathartic. It helps to get worries, thoughts and ideas down, before they vanish, or cause further anxiety. I always feel so much better if I have made a list, written a letter to a friend, sent an email, a tweet or a text.
Thank you for speaking to us, Rita.
Rita Cheminais is the author of twenty previous bestselling academic books on special educational needs. Twelve Thrilling Tales is her first collection of crime and thriller short stories. Rita lives on Merseyside and is a film and TV extra, a voice over and a promotional model in her spare time.
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