Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Victoria Watson is 'Letting Go'!

Isn't Twitter simply lovely sometimes? Example: I was panicking about organising a blog tour for the novel, sent out  a 'help!'  tweet, and made several new  writing friends as a result. Meet Victoria Watson, author of the short story collection,' Letting Go', who generously offered to host a blog stop even though she didn't know me or me book! 
So now. My turn to help spread the word about her collection which is now available for download on Amazon.  Good for her. I was allowed a sneak read - and she is here to natter.

So, I started off with a question about one of the choices that face a writer.  

Vanessa G: I very much enjoy stories written in first person - and was glad to meet your characters in this way. Was it a conscious choice to allow your characters to talk in their own voices? Why?

Victoria Watson: I don’t know why but I prefer to write in the first person especially when writing stories that have a twist because the reader then finds out crucial information when the character chooses to reveal it. I think the characters seem so realistic when they’re talking directly to the reader. Despite using the first person for many of my characters, I like to think they all come into their own. I am now trying to write some stories in the third person for my next collection. I’m enjoying experimenting with the voices and narration. I’ve just had a story published in I Am Woman’s first charity anthology and that was written in the third person. 
VG: Many of your characters are somewhat delusional and therefore unreliable narrators - a difficult thing to do. Can you tell me what tricks you employed to create the narrators of “Bye Bye Baby” and “Cry Baby”? 

VW: A lecturer of mine during my Masters programme told me to let the characters to lead the way. Much of the time, I don’t know myself what’s going to happen at the end of the story – that’s completely up to the character. I think “Bye Bye Baby” was initially going to be a happy story when I first started it but my character led me away from that entirely. “Cry Baby” started off as a writing exercise in the first year of my Masters programme and developed from there. Sadly though, some of that was based on personal experience so I felt I knew the unreliable narrator very well. I listen to music or watch TV when I’m writing. When I’m writing a particularly nasty character, I listen to loud rock music. I have to work myself up into a frenzy to get in that character’s state of mind. After I’ve stopped writing for the day, I sometimes find myself in a bad mood or an emotional state so sometimes have to take some time to get myself into my headspace again. Characters can be quite overpowering at times. I find that, when writing any character, you need to get to know them. You need to know their back story even if you don’t include that in the actual story. You need to know everything about them where possible. And once you’ve taken some time to get to know them, they will lead you wherever they want to go. 
VG: I think it is a very brave thing to do, turning your own negative experiences into fiction - congratulations. Thanks for the insights. 
Several of the stories have a very broad sweep, almost novelistic in approach. Can you see yourself turning any of these into novels? I am thinking particularly of ‘Inside” - in which a building is the focal point of a life - in your words “the place that defines the character”. I can see this as a novel - has that ever been a temptation or do you prefer the short form?
VW:  had some incredible reviews for ‘Inside’, many people who’ve read ‘Letting Go’ have said ‘Inside’ was their favourite story which was a massive buzz for me. When I write, I see the scenes I’m writing in my head as I write, a bit like watching a film in my mind’s eye so I guess that might be why people feel some of it has a cinematic feel to it. I’ve been writing a novel for two years which I started during my Masters degree but I find the idea of writing a full novel very overwhelming. I enjoy writing these short stories because I get bored with the same characters and plot after a while. I think I enjoy writing short stories at the moment because I’m still experimenting with voices and characters. I know a lot of novels that have started off as short stories and have been developed from there so I would never rule out expanding the stories I have written into longer pieces of work. I think with ‘Inside’ in particular, there is so much more I could work on because the building will have experienced so many different occasions and characters. 
VG: In “I Should Have Seen it Coming” you seem to be exploring the dangerous faultline between reality and fantasy. Without giving away the plotline of this (my favourite story!), can you explain how you approached this - did you plot out the story or did you let the character talk it out as you wrote? 
VW: ‘I Should Have Seen it Coming’ came about after I attended a psychic night at a local pub and, being the pessimist I am with a hint of wanting to believe, I found myself thinking how dangerous such a profession could be – for both the “psychic” and the customer. I think a lot of people who visit so-called psychics are looking for something whether it’s a message from someone they’ve lost or because they’re at a crossroads in their lives. In theory, psychics can bring a lot of peace and comfort to people but it could just as easily turn sour. I think some psychics truly believe they have a gift but I also believe that a fair few of them are very cynically preying on people who are desperate to believe. Again, the ending I had in mind was very different to the one that the character led me to. I’m not much of a plotter to be honest; I like to just see where the character leads me. 
VG:The powerful flash piece ‘John: Home Tomorrow’ has such an unlikeable character! I loved it. But at the end, I was glad and thought ‘oh good!’ when the twist came. Was that your intention? 
VW: ‘John: Home Tomorrow’ was written for a competition and it won a place in an anthology in 2011 (‘Home Tomorrow’, published by 6th Element). I wanted to portray a man who wasn’t a particularly nice person who quite evidently thought he would always get what he wanted despite many despicable acts. I think there are many people like John around the world: the kind that think money and power will buy them anything they want and that their behaviour can be as reprehensible as they like as they will still always “win”. My intention wasn’t to ‘wish’ bad things on people like that but I wanted to show that money and/or power can’t always protect you from everything. I love that story because I showed it to my brother, who never  reads and he was really impressed. 
VG: In ‘Keeping Quiet’, I was amazed at the detail and the way the character seems completely in control of this story - running through relationships and names exactly as people do - mentioning family members in passing in a sort of breathless buzz. A whole extended family is created in just a paragraph or two. As asked before, is the detail planned out or do you let the character talk and you write it down? I loved this line - “...now we sit here, staring at each other, grappling for any kind of conversation.” That is so true of so many people - and put so succinctly. In this story, too, the main character never takes the opportunities life puts in front of her, and ends up embittered and unfulfilled. Was this the deliberate ‘message’ here?
VW: The reason I wrote Betty’s story like this was because I imagined it as an internal monologue. I could see Betty sitting in her chair, day after day, regretting the decisions she made. For someone like Betty, I get the impression she didn’t have a lot of time to mull things over a they were happening as she was always so busy – caring for relatives, keeping up a façade that her mother insisted upon and so on – that retirement and subsequent disability was the first time Betty had really had time to consider her actions and decisions. I truly believe that it would be dreadful to be on your deathbed and think “what if” and I think Betty is the living embodiment of this: what if she’d disobeyed her mother? What if she had got married? What if she’d spoken up and not been a doormat to her younger sister? She’ll never know. I think Betty’s ending is possibly one of the first times she’s ever taken control in her life. As the title suggests, Betty has kept quiet all of her life and so I just let her talk. She had plenty to get off her chest! What saddens me about Betty’s story is that there are probably many relationships that end up like Betty and her sister – sitting there with nothing to talk about. This may be a sibling relationship but I think it is representative of many different kinds of relationships including marriages. People rub along together for decades, carrying out chores, doing what’s expected of them but then when retirement comes, they realise they don’t know each other or have anything in common. I didn’t chart any family tree – it all came very naturally to me. Mentioning family members in passing seems to be a common feature of many old people’s speech. They often mention “our so-and-so” without really ever explaining who that person is – they expect the listener to know because they do. 

VG: Tell me about the 'twist in the tail' - there are several examples here - notably ‘The Waiting Game’ - I was heart in mouth, and then... (!!) 
VW: I’m glad ‘The Waiting Game’ had your heart in your mouth; that was my intention! I wanted to build the tension up, have the same feeling of dread the protagonist is feeling so that the audience could feel the same emotions as the character when the big reveal happened. Since I was a child, I’ve loved the stories of Roald Dahl. I’ve read every single one of his stories at least once and I adore his ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ where the twists are very intelligent. I read those when I was twelve and I still remember those stories. There’s no way I could ever compare with Dahl but he has definitely been a massive influence on my writing. I do enjoy lulling the character and the audience into a false sense of security and then twisting the story. It keeps me on my toes. 
VG: And it certainly kept me on mine!  Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Victoria - and loads of good luck with the book. 

Well - there you go. If that has whetted your appetite, Victoria's collection 'Letting Go' can be downloaded from Amazon here.  

Bio: Victoria Watson achieved her BA (Hons) in Media, Communication and Cultural Studies from Newcastle University in 2008. She was awarded 'Young Reviewer of the Year' in 2009 and completed a Masters degree in Creative Writing in 2010. 
Victoria has contributed to publications including 'True Faith' (Newcastle United fanzine), NCJ Media's north-east titles The Journal, Evening Chronicle and Sunday Sun. She has also reviewed for Amazon, Waterstones and Closer Magazine.
Victoria had a story published in the 'Home Tomorrow' anthology published by 6th Edition Publishing in 2011. Her work is also featured in 'Off the Record: A Charity Anthology'. She published a collection of her short stories entitled ‘Letting Go’ in February 2012. Victoria writes a blog at http://elementaryvwatson.wordpress.com 
As a survivor of domestic abuse, Victoria is proud to be a founding member of I Am Woman. Victoria’s interests lie in women’s issues, particularly in the Middle-East. She is a supporter of the Women 2 Drive campaign in Saudi Arabia. 
Victoria currently lives in the North-East of England and dreams of living somewhere hot and sunny, paying the bills with her writing. 
Victoria loves nothing more than settling down to read a good book. 


  1. A very interesting post! Letting Go is a great collection and it is really interesting to read some of the thought processes that went into the writing. Looking forward to reading more from Victoria Watson and also Vanessa's The Coward's Tale, which looks great!

  2. Thank you, Vanessa, for introducing me to a writer who's new to me. *waves to Victoria* I'm looking forward to reading this collection--sound intriguing!

    PS. I love the cover.

  3. Hi Barbara and Sally,

    Thanks for writing such lovely comments. Barbara - The Coward's Tale is a great read. Sally - I really hope you enjoy Letting Go.

    Thanks to Vanessa for hosting me, it was a real treat!

  4. Yippee - glad to have you here, Victoria - and loads of good luck with the collection!