Morgen: Hello, Della. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Della: Way back in the mists of time when I was in my early twenties I bought a house with a guy – we did it as a business project but later we became romantically linked. He decided we didn’t have enough interests in common so he asked me if I fancied joining a writing class with him. He lasted a term, I carried on. I still go to that class. It’s run by Ian Burton and is at Kinson Community Centre, Bournemouth. My erstwhile boyfriend actually said to me one day that I would never sell anything, so it’s been quite good fun proving him wrong. 🙂 I did bump into him a couple of years ago and he said he’d read a couple of my restaurant reviews!
Morgen: I started by going to writing classes (lead by crime writer Sally Spedding) in 2005 and was hooked. You’re best known for your women’s magazine short stories, do you have a favourite genre and do you write any genres that they wouldn’t take, so submit elsewhere?
Della: I try to write what sells – but I think if I had to choose a favourite it would be either light hearted or very emotional. I know that’s two different ones, but it’s hard to say which I like best. Depends what mood I’m in. I also write fantasy – as in odd other worldly stories occasionally. I also write erotica, but under a pseudonym.
Morgen: I didn’t know that (about your pseudonym… maybe I should interview her another time :)). Your short stories have been published in Bella, Best, Candis, Grace Magazine, My Weekly, People’s Friend, Take A Break, That’s Life, The Lady, The Weekly News, Woman, Woman’s Weekly, Writers Forum, and Yours – some of whom no longer take fiction, why do you think this is? Is there anything you think that might make them change their minds? 🙂
Della: I hope it’s nothing to do with my stories. 🙂 Seriously I think it’s because not enough readers want fiction in their mag. It’s usually supply and demand with magazine editors. I doubt they’d take away something lots of people want. I have lots of students who join my writing classes wanting to write short stories for mags, but they admit they don’t actually read any.
Morgen: What a shame, and of course every writer should read, maybe they stick with novels (most people do). I have just over 100 of your short stories – I’m a nerd, having your 100+, and nearly 3,300 others, listed on an Excel spreadsheet… all in the name of research – I’d love to have been Ali or Tina in ‘The Banoffee Pie Survey’!
Della: Blimey, I’m stunned!! Tee hee, The Banoffee Pie Survey was real – well, in as much as that I did a Banoffee pie survey, it was great fun. Tasty!
Morgen: Research can be tough, can’t it. 🙂 You’ve also had short stories in charity anthologies (including the gorgeous ‘Waiting’ from Sexy Shorts for Summer, I loved that Lisa and Mark were writers, and found it such a powerful story – yes, I was sniffing at the end – I also have Sexy Shorts for Christmas… Chefs… and The Beach. :)). It must have been thrilling to be involved.
Della: Thank you Morgen, I’m touched that you liked Waiting. One of my favourites. No truth in that one I’m afraid.
Morgen: Two of your novels were published by Accent Press, who also publish Jane Wenham-Jones, did you find them or did they find you?
Della: I met Hazel Cushion at a writing conference, having submitted stories for her anthologies, and I asked her if she’d like to see a novel I’d written and she said yes. It went from there.
Morgen: They do say “it’s not what you know but who you know” and I’ve met some great people (including Jane) at conferences. You also have four Ulverscroft ‘Linford Romance Library’ large print books published, was there a reasons for going with them rather than Accent?
Della: I think there are six or seven out now – and actually these are all ex Woman’s Weekly serials, that’s why they are in that format – they weren’t really long enough for Accent, although I hadn’t actually asked them. Maybe I should!
Morgen: I only self-publish my novels / collections but maybe it’s not a bad thing being with more than one publisher (like banks)? According to Smart Academy, you’ve written over 1,000 short stories, how do find the time to do write so much? Do you manage (or have) to write every day? Do you ever suffer from, or believe in, writer’s block?
Della: I’ve written a lot more. I’ve had over 1000 stories published and loads are rejected. I stopped counting at 1000 some time ago, but it’s not that surprising. I have been writing them for twenty-five years. I write most days. I love it. And no, don’t believe in writer’s block, although it’s definitely like wading through treacle some days.
Morgen: What an image. 🙂 What happens when you first sell a story to a magazine, do they send you a contract and then it’s official, and you just submit thereafter? Is there anything a budding writer should watch out for?
Della: I think some mags send you a contract. To be honest I’ve forgotten what they do when you start. The only thing to watch out for is to avoid selling All Rights if you can. Some mags insist on that these days. I don’t sell All Rights. Because then it means the story is no longer yours.
Morgen: Ah yes, I’d heard that. With these days of ePublishing, it’s even more important. Initial submissions to magazines are, on the whole, postal, once you’ve been accepted can you submit by email? Are there any that are still postal only?
Della: People’s Friend and Take a Break are both postal only I believe.
Morgen: You would think that it’s more work for them but then I like to edit others’ works on paper so it makes sense, and although emailing is quicker (and free) the submission process is still timely in most cases. I’ve just mentioned ePublishing, have you self-published anything?
Della: No, but I wouldn’t discount it.
Morgen: It’s easier than most people think (I have a guide on it on http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/ebooks/how-to-create-an-ebook, with sub-pages on designing covers and creating tables of contents). Are any of your books / stories available as eBooks?
Della: All of the books published by Accent are available as ebooks. They include my novels, Passing Shadows and Helter Skelter and my ‘how to write’ books. And the Dog with Nine Lives. I also have a range of short story anthologies called the Daily Della series (5 in each one) published as ebooks by http://Soundhaven.com. Soundhaven also publish my Writers’ Toolshed series which is new. We’re hoping to do more of those.
Morgen: I’ve heard of your Toolshed from the writing magazines (I subscribe to them all), and I love your Daily Della cover. 🙂 Do you get to keep any of your story titles or do the magazines tend to change them?
Della: It depends on the magazine’s policy. Woman’s Weekly rarely change them. Take a Break often change them.
Morgen: I guess you have to not be precious about them, and they know their audience best. Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Della: Quite a bit of say yes. That’s one of the advantages of working with Accent and Soundhaven. They are both very amenable and nice to work with.
Morgen: 🙂 What are you working on at the moment / next?
Della: My agent is currently trying to sell my last novel, which is actually (in my opinion) the best thing I’ve ever written. But it’s a hard market. I may end up self-publishing that if we can’t find a publisher. I really want it to see the light of day. I’m in love with the character who is a deeply flawed lady. I could write several books about her. She’s also in the process of selling a book I co wrote with author, Peter Jones, called How to Eat Loads and Stay Slim. I’m also thinking of writing a Toolshed about how to write erotica – as I edit that for Xcite Books and I know quite a bit about it. And it’s fun. I’m also thinking of writing another Xcite novella for their romance series.
Morgen: Series are very popular (agents have told me that :)) and if you love her, I’m sure your readers would too. Do you generally plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it? Is your process different with short stories to novels?
Della: I start with a character and a problem and go from there. I don’t plot. I can’t. I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work for me.
Morgen: For me neither. The characters tend to take over anyway (which I love). Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Della: They either come fully formed or they take ages. I think my best ones are the ones with the most flaws.
Morgen: They have to have them, no one is perfect. 🙂 Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Della: I do loads of editing. 😦
Morgen: Which no doubt makes your writing stronger – like marketing, it’s a necessary evil (my two least favourite aspects of writing). Do you have to do much research for your books or stories?
Della: Yes – and it mostly involves talking to people who have experienced what I want to write about.
Morgen: The joy of the internet is that was always have a captive audience. 🙂 Most magazines also prefer a female protagonist, but your stories ‘Bad Habits’, ‘Chasing Dreams’ and ‘It’s lovely, honest’ feature main male protagonists, how do you get into their heads?
Della: I like writing from male viewpoint. It’s a challenge to see if I can get it right. I loved writing in Finn’s viewpoint in Passing Shadows. I was in love with him from the outset. He wasn’t based on a real person. I think fantasy men are probably more fun than real ones. Probably I’m biased because my marriage has just ended. Maybe you shouldn’t quote me on that.
Morgen: OK. I won’t tell a soul (although being single and have just released a book inspired by my dating experiences – The Serial Dater’s Shopping List – I tend to agree). 🙂 They say write what you know, how much of yourself do you put into your fiction?
Della: I put all of my emotions into it – so a lot. Emotion is at the heart of good fiction, I think.
Morgen: Absolutely. You mentioned earlier that “loads” of your stories have been rejected. How do you deal with them and what advice would you give authors who have had the same experience?
Della: I have zillions of rejections. I’ve cried over them. I still do sometimes. But I’ve learned to toughen up. If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen. That’s very harsh but it’s true in publishing. And I very much want to stay in the kitchen.
Morgen: That’s great to hear, and it does show. It’s all about finding the right thing for the right person. Writing friend Helen Hunt has had pieces rejected by every magazine in England (when I think there were more than there are now) which eventually went to Ireland / Sweden publications. That’s also the joy of eBooks – they can be any size so if they can’t appear in print (for whatever reason) they can still find an audience. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Della: Oh yes!
Morgen: 🙂 You were involved in Vanda Inman’s Write Space Short Story Competition Short Story Competition, how did that come about?
Della: I met Vanda, a fabulous lady, at Caerleon Holiday for Writers one year and we ended up deciding to have a go. I’d like to work with Vanda again if either of us have time. 🙂
Morgen: Let’s hope she’s reading this. Do you enter competitions yourself? Are there any others you could recommend?
Della: I enter a few. I recommend the ones that have judges who know what they are doing. The well established ones like the Bridport are great.
Morgen: They are. I’ve not entered it but one of my Monday poets has and was long-listed. Many writers think that it’s above them but you have to be in it to win it. Your non-fiction book ‘How To Write And Sell Short Stories’ was recommended by Helen M Hunt in her guest post for me last September entitled ‘Writing short stories for women’s magazines’ (and by Joanna Barnden whose shorts courses I went to a couple of years ago). There’s so much to say about short stories, how did you decide what to include / leave out? And, evil question, what do you think sets it apart from other short story guide books?
Della: Well, then, tricky – I guess there are standard things that must be covered in short stories, such as plot, characters and dialogue, so it was easy to decide what to include.
What do I think sets it apart? Well, I think it’s easy to understand. I’m quite accessible I think. Also, I don’t write about anything that I haven’t done myself. I’m not regurgitating facts I’m passing on what I have learned (the hard way) what works, and what doesn’t work.
Morgen: Your latest guide is ‘Moving On: From Short Story to Novel’, apart from the word count, what do you see as the differences in the formats?
Della: Gosh, this is a big question; it took me a whole book to answer it.
Della: In one word it’s development, but I do go into that in detail in the book, i.e. what it means. I think that to-date the Moving On book is my best in terms of knowledge. I tend to learn all the time and I constantly revise what I learn for the writing books. Actually my latest guide now is the Toolshed series.
Morgen: Your other non-fiction book ‘The Dog with Nine Lives’ tells “the extraordinary story of how Della spent her savings to give a death-row dog from Greece a new life in Britain. Once settled in her new home Lindy used her remaining eight lives as she overcame many life-threatening events, including being swept down the river, falling out of a car travelling at speed, being chased by a stampeding herd of angry cows and surviving a rare form of cancer.” Have you used any of these events in your fiction?
Della: Very probably. I loved Lindy with all of my heart. And dogs quite often feature in my stories.
Morgen: I have a dog. 🙂 You have a ‘Dear Della’ column in monthly magazine Writer’s Forum, have there been any questions you’ve been sent that stick in your mind for all the right or wrong reasons? Was being their ‘cover girl’ (January 2009) fun or scary? 🙂
Della: I was thrilled to be the cover girl. I once had a question from a guy who wanted to know why he was still single at 56. But I think he misunderstood what the page was for, bless him!
Morgen: <laughs> You run a variety of workshops, which must be fun, how did they come about?
Della: I absolutely love to teach. I love it nearly as much as writing. I teach weekly classes in Bournemouth and quite a few one-day Saturday courses too. See my website (http://www.dellagalton.co.uk) for details.
Morgen: It’s a shame I live so far away… You also provide critiques, how important do you think a second opinion is? What’s the most common mistake you find writers making?
Della: Most writers send out their work before it’s ready. A long, long time before it’s ready. All writing can benefit a great deal from being edited and polished. I think it’s the difference between a sale and a rejection.
Morgen: That’s very true. I think most of us write a story, edit it then send it out. I’ve prepared stories then not got around to submitting (I haven’t for a few months actually and the aforementioned Bridport listee nags me about it!) then I’ve gone back to them and found stupid errors. Time for writing to marinate is so useful, plus it lets us get on with something else. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Della: Yes, I have two actually; one for my full-length work and one who sells short stories abroad. I think they are brilliant to have in these two areas. But it’s getting less vital possibly to have one today.
Morgen: It’s unusual for short story authors to have agents but then you’re far more prolific than most so it’s encouraging to hear. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Della: As much as I can. Marketing is fun. Especially when it’s on Facebook to which I am addicted.
Morgen: It is, but then the addiction can be overwhelming and all of a sudden it’s getting dark. 🙂 What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Della: My least favourite aspect of it is that I’m still poor. It’s very hard to make a living from writing. And I work a lot of hours, but I don’t really mind that.
Morgen: Me too. I’m fortunate in that I have two lodgers paying the bills (and that’s about all that money covers) so I’m not reliant but my savings won’t last for ever… which is a good push for me to get submitting again! What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Della: If you really love it and are prepared to work very hard, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll be published. There is always a market for excellence. Actually the last sentence isn’t my quote, I think Linda O Byrne (previous fiction editor of Bella) said it. But I love it.
Morgen: It’s very true. I know of two authors who have either given up or are thinking about it. I can’t ever imagine doing that (even if I just wrote for myself) but if the passion’s not there it does make it much harder to have the determination. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Della: I wish I knew. 🙂
Morgen: 🙂 Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing and your teaching?
Della: I edit other people’s writing for Accent Press and Xcite Books, so I guess I’m pretty immersed in writing.
Morgen: I do some editing (mostly unpaid for friends / fellow writer on my blog) and find it’s always easier to critique others’ writing because I don’t know the meaning / inspiration behind what they’re trying to get across. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Della: Dog walking. 🙂
Morgen: Ah yes, me too. I come up with some of my best ideas in the local park (an old racecourse so it’s huge). Are there any writing-related websites that you find useful?
Della: Womag is my favourite blog: http://womagwriter.blogspot.co.uk.
Morgen: Ah yes. I do hope to have Ms Womag here one day. The request has gone out and we chat online so hopefully… You’re on Twitter and have an author page on Facebook, are you on any forums or networking sites? How valuable do you find them?
Della: Twitter is brilliant if you want to know a fact or if you want to reach a lot of people fast. Facebook is more informal but great too for promotions. I’m on the odd writing forum and they are fun too, but there’s only so much time in the day.
Morgen: There is indeed. Time and I used to be good friends but we fell out last year, I’m hoping we’ll get reacquainted this year. 🙂 You also have a blog, how do you decide what to blog about?
Della: I’m not very good at it. Do you have any tips?
Morgen: <laughs> Easy. Just get loads of guests and they write the content for you. 🙂 Well, there’s a lot of putting it all together but I’ve had nearly 200 guest bloggers coming up with some great advice. Not a lot about short stories though… 🙂 Your website is http://www.dellagalton.co.uk, which includes your blog and links to buy your novels and non-fiction books, we’ve already mentioned Twitter and Facebook, is there anywhere else where can we find out about you and your writing?
Della: I also have Daily Della page on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/DailyDella and Amazon author pages (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Della-Galton/e/B001K7P4XK and http://www.amazon.com/Della-Galton/e/B001K7P4XK).
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Della: Thank you so much for asking me to your blog. I’ve enjoyed it.
Morgen: You’re so welcome. It’s been great having you here (I’d been meaning for ages to ask you – Teresa Ashby’s next on my short story interviewee wants list :)). Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Della: How did you know about so much of my work? I was amazed when I saw how many references to it there were. Do you have a team of researchers working for you? 🙂
Morgen: <laughs> No, just me and my clones (the internet). 🙂 Thank you very much, Della, for joining me today. Short stories being my first love, I’m thrilled you could be my six hundredth interviewee.
Also, I’m proud of how well the Toolshed – How to Write and Sell Short Stories (see cover above) is doing – now a kindle book.
And hot on the heels of Ice and a Slice will be the long awaited book, How to Eat Loads and Stay Slim, which I co wrote with Peter Jones. Just in time for summer that one. 🙂 Here’s the website for that one: http://howtoeatloadsandstayslim.com.”
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on this blog but everything else (see Opportunities on the main blog) is free.
If you go for the interview, it’s very simple; I send you a questionnaire (I have them for novelists, short story authors, children’s authors, non-fiction authors, and poets). You complete the questions, and I let you know when it’s going to go live. Before it does so, I add in comments as if we’re chatting, and then they get posted. When that’s done, I email you with the link so you can share it with your corner of the literary world. And if you have a writing-related blog / podcast and would like to interview me… let me know.
Alternatively, if you’d like a free Q&A-only interview, I now have this blog, https://morgensauthorinterviews.wordpress.com, on which I’ve rerun the original interviews posted here then posted new interviews which I then reblog here. These interviews are Q&A only, so I don’t add in my comments but they do get exposure on both sites.
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