In Albion One, Lorna Walsh gives Her Majesty the Queen a robot. Here’s the opening paragraph:
Few people knew that the Queen was fascinated with gizmos. At the opening of Parliament, beneath the weight of the crown, she had often longed to replace a little of the pageantry with gadgetry. An animatronic model of herself could wear ermine without perspiring, wave tirelessly from balconies, and endure the entirety of the prime minister’s weekly visit with an indefatigable smile. However, decorum dictated that the Queen should decline even a turn on the Wii at Christmastime, and she could do nothing but watch her great grandchildren compete in dance-offs with a desire that her face could not convey.
What made you pair up the Queen and a robot?
I attended a writers’ workshop at The Grotto in San Francisco a few years ago, and one of the exercises was to find a news story that would inspire a fiction piece. I saw a report about a visit that Queen Elizabeth made to a high school where she was shown the kids’ robot creations. The juxtaposition of centuries’ old tradition and youthful innovation was just too delicious.
I immediately loved the contrast between the tradition of monarchy and the transience of technology. Then, as I thought about my fictional version, a deeper story emerged about the very human fear we all have of becoming obsolete as we age, and I wanted the reader to reflect on this, too.
The story is intended to be lighthearted and enjoyable on the surface, but I build the pathos as the relationship between “Albi” and “Liz” develops because, as a reader of short stories, I love it when an author strikes the right balance at the end of a story between resolution and resonance. I hope that I came somewhere near hitting that bittersweet end note that stays with the reader awhile.
Score. I thoroughly enjoyed it very much.
How long have you been writing?
Since I was very young. I still have the handwritten manuscript of a novella called Marianne, which I wrote when I was eleven. At that age, I was into books by Virginia Andrews, as well as the Sweet Valley High books, so Marianne is a cringe-worthy mash-up of those influences. I wrote bits and pieces up until I went to university to study English Literature, where the only writing I did was writing essays about writing. But when I graduated, I started writing short stories more seriously. Twenty years later, I’m still at it.
That’s dedication! Do you write full-time? If not, what do you do for a living?
I am a full-time writer and editor. I set up my own editing and writing business two years ago and now work for a range of clients, including three publishers. My professional wordsmithing is exclusively nonfiction—mostly business and lifestyle books with a smattering of memoir—and I’m especially passionate about what I call “mission-driven” books (nonfiction that is trying to make a difference). I write a blog called Books with Spine on this subject, which can be found on my website: www.ideal-type.com.
I’m fortunate to make a good living with words, but it takes away a lot of time from my fiction writing.
I would imagine so. Do you only write short fiction? If not, how does writing a short story differ from writing a novel? (Other than the obvious length/time.)
My first love is the short story, but I decided to find out if I had a novel in me. Thankfully, I did and wrote my first (as yet unpublished) novel, Ghost Star. Three years after finishing that novel, I’m about 20,000 words short of finishing a first draft of another novel, which is based on a short story I wrote that was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2016. That short story now forms the first chapter of the novel.
For me, writing a short story is all about the essence of something. Every word, every sentence, every paragraph must have that essence at its core. I have to be more disciplined when writing a short story and slaughter many more darlings than I would if I were writing a novel because the boundaries of a short story are tighter. In a short story, your ideas are sheep in holding pen. In a novel, your ideas are sheep scattered all over the hillside.
So true. What does your typical “writing day” look like?
I don’t have a set routine, sadly.
Don’t feel bad. Few of us do. Most of us try, but then, this happens:
It’s been some time since I’ve written fiction because work has taken over. I work with words all day (often seven days a week), so I don’t have the mental energy for my own writing most of the time. That is the downside to turning your passion into your day job. But I plan to take more chunks of time off this year when I can focus on MY writing.
I wondered whether your day job used up all the words. It must be a bit like a carpenter whose house is falling down. Or, in my case, when my husband asks me to fill out paperwork for him (I do it all day at the day job.).
What are you currently reading?
I’ve just finished Carson McCullers’ Reflections in a Golden Eye, and I’m now reading Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald. Both are amazing, and both are very short (about 80 pages and 130 pages respectively). I am fond of the novella because it combines the powers of the short story and the novel … and reading novellas means I can get through more fiction!
What advice would you give aspiring authors?
Write from the heart and always have humility. Enjoy it, work at it, and savor every little success. I’ve met too many “undiscovered” writers with huge egos who are bitter about not being able to find an agent and envious of published authors who are producing “inferior” work to their own. Every writers’ group has at least one of these people. Don’t be that person!
Where can readers learn more about you and your works?
I don’t have an author platform at this time, but you can find me at www.ideal-type.com and follow my blog, Books with Spine.
There you have it. Check out Lorna Walsh’s great story in Running Wild Press’s Anthology of Stories, Volume 2. Click the image for details.