Our last formal meeting on 6th April was a fascinating chat with Sue Hampton and husband Leslie Tate. It was very much a two-way discussion where we covered a variety of subjects but which were directed by our speakers and focussed on character.
Sue and Leslie are not what one might call a conventional couple. Both had previous employment in teaching but are now (amongst various other projects) full-time writers, with almost 30 books published between them in the last ten years. Added to this is Sue’s role as an Ambassador for Alopecia UK, having lost her hair in 1981, and Leslie’s experiences with gender identity. Both are very thoughtful and passionate about writing.
After introductions Sue read some brief passages from her books, highlighting the way the angle changes to reflect the intended audience (child, teenager or adult), but always retains her own voice and style. She is a firm believer in having an in-depth knowledge of one’s characters and any budding author should always start with identifying who their character really is.
There was also a reading from Leslie that showed how past experiences and memories can work with the emotions that were felt at the time. Both authors agreed that hardships and difficult conditions can be a gift, although it may not seem like it at the time. Without these experiences they wouldn’t necessarily be writing.
Various other elements were covered in our talk, such as finding your own voice and letting your own phrasings shine through, the concept of a shadow self (the ‘other’ you that is usually kept hidden deep inside), knowing the rules of writing (and when and why you should break them), and the fact that different locations will impact on how characters act.
A recommended read was Margaret Atwood’s short story “Isis in Darkness” (found within the book “Wilderness Tips“). We had an engaging and enjoyable couple of hours with Sue and Leslie and hopefully we’ll put some of their advice into practice!