The Writing Life is very pleased to welcome the lovely and talented Sally Cronin, author of the short story collection, ‘Tales from the Garden’.
Sally Cronin spent a number of years in each of the following industries – Retail, Advertising and Telecommunications, Radio & Television; and has taken a great deal of inspiration from each. She has written short stories and poetry since a very young age and contributed to media in the UK and Spain.
In 1996 Sally began studying nutrition to inspire her to lose 150 lbs and her first book, Size Matters published in 2001, told the story of that journey back to health. This was followed by another seven books across a number of genres including health, humour and romance. These include Just Food For Health, Size Matters, Just an Odd Job Girl, Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story, Flights of Fancy anthology, Turning Back the Clock and Media Training.
EPS: Welcome, Sally! Thanks for visiting with us.
SC: Thank you Eleanor for inviting me over to visit today. As with any writer the opportunity to talk about my work is always very welcome!
SC: Tales from the Garden is a fantasy short story collection for all ages.
EPS: Please describe what Tales from the Garden is about.
SC: The collection of stories is about statues, fairies and other magical beings that live in a garden and come to life at night when the humans are asleep. There is the usual mix of evil, beautiful princesses, and heroes with love stories and adventure; of course a wicked witch. There are stories about Roman Eagles and a Last Emperor, The Fairy Kingdom of Magia in the roots of the old magnolia tree and stone guardians in various forms who protect the humans as well as their fellow garden dwellers. There are 80 illustrations which I hope will be enjoyed by younger readers as well as fairy tale lovers of all ages.
EPS: I love the idea of including illustrations! How did you come up with the title?
SC: The simple answer was that the working title, Tales from the Garden, seemed the most appropriate. I checked the title out and did not get too many hits and most were about horticulture rather than fiction.
EPS: What inspired you to write this book?
SC: We have our house for sale here in the mountains to the north of Madrid. We arrived here 16 years ago and although I have spent time away from the house for work; it is our main home. The garden is large and we inherited several stone statues that the previous owners had bought but could not take with them. We kept finding more of them as we explored the various nooks and crannies of the garden and spread them around so that they could be seen. With the prospect of leaving this garden and knowing that most of these statues are too heavy to take with us, I decided to take their stories with us instead.
EPS: Wonderful story. What is your favorite part of writing?
SC: My favourite part of writing is the pre-keyboard process when it is still all in my head. Usually when I am swimming, walking or listening to music, which I do any chance I get, I get the basic idea and then start playing around with various scenarios until I create a solid storyline. I enjoy getting all the segments in a row and then swapping them around until I have the sequence more or less right. Then I sit down at the computer and blast it out without editing until I have something concrete to work with.
EPS: What have you found is the most challenging aspect of writing?
SC: I would probably say the final editing stages when you read the story or book through and put yourself in the reader’s position. What seemed logical to you can often have a step or two missing for the reader because they have not been through the same thought process. I am a very fast sight reader and this means I have to really slow down by reading aloud to ensure that the flow is right.
EPS: I am a fan of reading aloud for the same reasons. Who are some of your favorite authors?
SC: I bought my first Wilbur Smith when I was 11 years old. We had just come back to England after two years in South Africa and I loved everything about that wonderful continent. I have every one of his books, many in hardback. The second is Jean M. Auel who wrote the Clan of the Cave bear and then the rest of the series about Ayla, set about the time the ice was receding and there were still some Neanderthals left. Riveting but you need patience as there is often years between books because of the amount of research that Jean does for the novels. Apart from that I love a good crime thriller or historical novel that has been thoroughly researched.
EPS: What authors or person(s) have influenced you?
SC: Apart from Wilbur Smith there have been one or two teachers who allowed me free rein with my imagination. Although it was 57 years ago, I still remember my first teacher at primary school, who realising I could already read reasonably well thanks to my two older sisters, gave me more advanced books to read than the rest of the class. Her name is Mrs. Miller and I can still see her face today.
EPS: Do you have a favorite place to write?
SC: I love the office I share with my husband David. It is useful since he is a book designer and he is on hand when I need some advice. It is also our snug with our television and I have all my music and books to hand. It has shown us that when we downsize, our priority is to have a room that is big enough for us to share and surround ourselves with those good things in life.
EPS: Please tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?
SC: I think I have probably given away most of my secrets by now in the posts on my memories, but perhaps one of my regrets would surprise most people who know me. As I mentioned, I love crime novels and when I was eighteen and considering whether to take my dental nurse training further as a Royal Naval nurse, I also thought seriously about joining the police force. I was offered a place with the Royal Alexandra Nursing Service, so I turned down an interview with Hampshire Constabulary. As it turned out, life intervened and I did neither. However, in hindsight I wish that I had taken the police career more seriously.
EPS: What surprises or learning experiences did you have during the publishing process?
SC: I learn something new every time, and I think that is mainly down to the evolving nature of Indie publishing in general, but also the support system online offered by other authors. When I wrote my first book in 1999, it was a difficult process and not much easier for the second. Certainly in the last year or so it has become clear that as a writer you do need to be online with a blog and on social media as there is a vast pool of knowledge and experience on offer as well as support. I really do not think that most mainstream authors have caught up with that yet. Their marketing is done by someone else and whilst they might have lots of followers on social media I don’t believe that they interact with them to the same level as we do. I am sure that the combined efforts of indie authors to create a strong presence online will continue to drive the evolution of the industry to a point where it works more efficiently for us.
EPS: I would agree with you. Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?
SC: This is the first book I wrote on my blog first. It gave me a chance to gather feedback on the individual stories and try out various themes before committing to the book. The comments that the individual stories received gave me the confidence that there is a market available for the stories and I am doing the same with my next book with a short story every week that will end up being two collections at the end of the year.
EPS: Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?
SC: Your book needs to be as polished as any that has gone through a number of professional hands. That is tough as it costs money but if you feel that you do not have a particular skill then try to find a work around. For example, give the book to people you know who are avid readers of good books and also anyone you can find who has an English Language degree. Advertise at the local university or college. You may have to pay a small fee to a student but I have found that they appreciate the chance to work with an author. There are a number of computer programmes that can help. Spell check is an obvious one but there are more sophisticated ones that will also highlight grammar edits, as well. Finally, read and read again. It can be wearing, but leave gaps between reading and do something completely different and come back to it.
If you cannot afford someone else to design and format your book then take advantage of the free blog posts and also the very inexpensive books available with step by step guides to the complete process.
SC: I have my own website for the book which is attached to the main publishing site. This enables me to sell my books at a substantial discount. http://moyhill.com/tales/
EPS: Sally, where can we find ‘Tales from the Garden’?
SC: The book is available on Amazon and the quickest route is through my author page.
All my books can be found on Amazon or smashwords.
EPS: What’s next for you?
SC: I am really into short stories right now and two anthologies will be out by this time next year. I also have a People Management Development programme that is finished and is ready to go in the New Year. I will be using that as part of my training consultancy. I also have a WIP in the form of a book on care for the elderly in the home. I love a good plateful!
EPS: You certainly keep busy! Thank you for visiting, Sally. I enjoyed getting to know more about you, and I wish you continued success with your writing.
SC: My thanks for this wonderful opportunity to talk about Tales from the Garden and this wonderful, crazy world we inhabit as writers.
EPS: True words about the wonderful, crazy world of writing. Thanks again, Sally. Best wishes and Merry Christmas to you and your family.
Sally’s Blog: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/
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About Eleanor Parker Sapia
Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s careers as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language family support worker, and a refugee case worker, inspire her stories. She is a member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, and the Historical Novel Society, and a contributing writer for Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.
A Decent Woman, Eleanor’s debut novel, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends National Latino Book Club, and is listed in Centro Voices, The Center of Puerto Rican Studies, Essential Boricua Reading for the 2015 Holiday Season. Book clubs across the United States have enjoyed A Decent Woman. Eleanor is featured in the newly published anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel and a short story collection.