Meet the Author: Charlotte O’Farrell

Please write about the inspiration for your piece, “Lakeside Summers”.
We all remember those forbidden places from our childhood: places we were told we weren’t supposed to go. With ‘Lakeside Summers’, I tried to tap into that feeling of venturing somewhere dangerous. If you’re constantly told not to go somewhere, that’s just going to make it more appealing.

I love writing flash fiction. I write a tweet-length story every day based on prompt words, so it’s great to see this form of writing getting more attention.

Do you find writing is energising or exhausting?
The only exhausting part is just before you start. There are so many distractions, so many things you probably “should” be doing rather than working on your latest story. But once I’m past the first sentence it’s one of the most energising feelings imaginable.

I can get lost in writing, when things are going well. I’ve been known to set an alarm so I don’t get engrossed and miss the end of my lunch hour!

Do you believe in writer’s block?
To an extent, I do believe in it. I wrote stories all the time as a kid but hardly finished anything from my late teens to my late twenties. I’ve got a drawer full of pretty notepads with one or two pages filled with unfinished novellas – I’d get the idea, start, then it would quickly fizzle out! As life got busier I told myself I just didn’t have the time for writing.

What I was missing was the realisation that writing’s a habit. If you sit and wait for inspiration to strike, you could be waiting a long time. Now I block out certain times and write, regardless of how motivated I feel at the start. Everyone’s different of course, but that’s what works for me.

How did you celebrate your first story acceptance/publication?
The first story I sold was to a small, niche horror zine. It paid 5 American dollars. It may as well have been a million: I was a published writer at last! I felt great all day.

I enjoyed a nice meal with my husband and daughter and joked that I was now on a par with Stephen King. Nine months on, I think I still might have just a little way to go to match Mr. King…

What book(s) inspired you to begin writing?
I’ve always been into horror, so I grew up with Goosebumps and similar creepy kids’ stories. This eventually evolved into adult horror novels.

What helped most was reading a wide range of books from all different genres, eras and cultures. I was lucky enough to have the chance to study English at university, which introduced me to whole new worlds of literature. It was a fantastic way of learning how great stories are put together and expressed.

Have you read anything that made you feel differently about fiction?
There are so many examples of a book changing my view, but one that always stands out is ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’ by Lionel Shriver. That novel has a first person unreliable narrator, and I thought it was brilliantly done. It’s one of the few books I’ve returned to and read again many times. It improved the way I approach writing stories in the first person.

More recently, I worked for a while in an audiobooks firm as an assistant acquisitions editor. Around the same time I started listening to podcasts regularly on my commute, including horror story ones like NoSleep and the Wicked Library. Both of these experiences opened my eyes to audio and how it can enhance the storytelling experience. When I’m writing a short story and a paragraph isn’t reading back well, I sometimes use text to voice to see where it needs changing. It usually works!

‘Lakeside Summers’ by Charlotte O’Farrell appears in Tall Tales & Short Stories Volume One.

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