Thanet Writers Question Shane Spall

Writer and author Shane Spall answers the Thanet Writers Discourse Questions.

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© Shane Spall / Thanet Writers / Fair Use / Images Combined

My name is Shane Spall, I’m in my 60s; a late-bloomer baby-boomer. I left school when I was 14 and became a waitress.


This is when my writing career began; I listened and observed. I still have a huge inventory in my head and in notebooks of conversations and scenarios from that restaurant. For example, there was a secret love affair going on between the head waitress and the chef. I recently used a line I overheard, ‘He always gives me a nice bit of scrag end.’ It’s in my novel Fanny and Flo (a work in progress). I hadn’t a clue what the waitress really meant; I thought it was a joint of meat he was giving her. I was only 14.


These are very clever questions, the ones on the interview sheet, because one leads directly to the next. People in everyday situations influence my writing. Everyone has a story; even the most boring person in the world has something going on.


All of the above motivates me to write. I still use a notebook and scribble down conversations, I’m a word thief. I just move them around a bit, but I can’t improve on a nice bit of scrag end.


I wish I was like Graham Green—500 words before lunch, but I’m a lazy beast, it’s all or nothing, so mostly my writing habits are pretty bad. It’s 8 hours or 30 seconds—nothing in-between—although a deadline is a great motivator, otherwise I arrange flowers or turn out the fridge and feel bad.


As for what inspires me, I’ve already answered that, but once I get going it’s hard to stop. I wrote 80,000 words in two months recently, I sent it to my agent and she said she didn’t much like it—quite right too, hopefully now with her helpful notes it’s much improved.


A dirty fridge and wilting flowers hold me back from writing. Mind you, if I apply myself I could write a thousand-word short story about both. I’ll write a couple tomorrow after I’ve cleaned the fridge.


As a woman, my family is my greatest achievement, my kids are pretty amazing, and I can take a bit of credit for that. Above I state that I’m a late bloomer, I say this because I wasn’t published until I was 60, but I have a large box of my writing endeavours. A few years ago I had all my handwritten stuff typed and put onto my computer. I dip into these files all the time, so I guess that’s an achievement, that I have a fairly rich source of material, written over fifty odd years. I have so many voices I can use. Fanny is aged 20 in my novel and Flo is in her 60s, so bingo! I also won an award for my first book, The Voyages of the Princess Matilda—the British Travel Press’ Narrative Travel Book of the Year Award.


What advice can I give to writers? That’s easy—don’t buy flowers and don’t keep a dirty fridge.


I am presently attempting to trim chunks from my work in progress: Fanny and Flo. My literary agent wants 80k and every time I get rid of 5 thousand words I end up writing another 10 thousand.


What’s next for me? Tomorrow I’m going to trim 10,000 words—but first I’m having a mani-ped while I think about it, then I’ll put on a pair of marigolds and find a clean sponge.

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Shane Spall is from a large Midlands family. Her mother called her Number Five and her father after a character in a Western.

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