with Lee Masterson
(This Interview was first shown in the August 2003
issue of "My Writing Friend" ezine)
What prompted you to form Fiction Factor? How has it
fulfilled you? What have you learned from it? What's the
Tina, Ciara and I began Fiction Factor together after
noticing that there were no ezines dedicated solely to
the craft of writing fiction (at that time). Almost all
other writing ezines and magazines try to cater to all
writers across quite a broad spectrum. We simply wanted
to cater for the fiction writing niche and be able to
help new writers to learn a little about the publishing
world and improve their writing at the same time.
In the past 2 1/2 years that FF has been running, writing
and researching articles has taught us all a great deal
about our own writing. I know I've learned to look at my
own work more objectively because of my involvement with
the ezine. We receive emails from people wanting to know
the 'how' or the 'why' of certain topics and we research
the answers to the best of our ability.
The biggest problems we face as a team are probably
distance and time, followed closely by our miniscule
budget. Tina and Ciara live in Ohio. I live in Australia.
The time difference can be awkward - especially when
daylight savings changes over - but we manage.
I work full time, as well as trying to maintain my
writing schedule, so finding time to research and write
new articles for Fiction Factor is often challenging. I
am also responsible for maintaining and updating the
website and formatting the email newsletter each
fortnight, so every second Wednesday evening is taken up
with this task.
As the website is quite costly to maintain, we experiment
heavily with ways to help keep Fiction Factor free to all
readers. We really don't want to begin charging people to
read the ezine, nor do we want to become one of those
newsletters that contains more advertising than actual
long have you been writing? What made you put that first
story down on paper?
My first story was written when I was five or six. The
teacher at school asked students to write a book.
Dutifully, I penned a cute story about a cat who wanted
to be human, drew the appropriate pictures and asked my
mom to help bind it into a nice cover. The teacher placed
it on display in the school library, and from that point
I was determined to see more of my work on those shelves.
I've been writing in whatever spare time I can find ever
What got you started?
Determination to prove that I could write for a living,
despite the amount of people who told me I couldn't.
you write in a particular genre? If so, what genre is it?
Um... when writing fiction, I do tend to favor science
fiction, although I also write across quite a few other
genres easily - dark fantasy, erotica, humor and romance
(I use a pseudonym for these). I also have a strong
tendency toward supernatural horror when I'm in a dark
mood, or if I've had a bad week at the office.
Have you been published? What was the first story? Where
was it published? How long did it take?
Yes, I've been published in many publications and in many
formats all over the world. My non-fiction work generates
my main writing income - I'm still trying to develop a
loyal audience for my fiction. Some of my work is written
under a pseudonym.
The first non-fiction sale came when I was 16. I wanted
to write for the local newspaper here in Adelaide. So I
drafted an article, sent it out and they actually liked
The first paid piece of fiction writing came when I was
about 18. I have always written weird little short
stories that usually only see the inside of my filing
cabinet (I write these just to get the stories out of my
head - I'm usually too paranoid to let people see those
creepy efforts) Anyway, I got brave one day, and entered
one of these into a short story contest for the local
newspaper in Adelaide. I received a cheque for $10 and
publication. I still have the tattered, yellowed clipping
from the newspaper somewhere...
your favorite author and why?
Oh gosh! That's a hard question to ask of a compulsive
I guess for the "all-time favorites" I would
have to say Stephen King, or maybe Wilbur Smith, or
possibly Ian Irvine - and all for the same reasons: The
writing is well-paced, the plot is logical without being
overly predictable and the characters are always
amazingly well-drawn. I can get lost in some of those
books for days.
For the "warm, fuzzy" favorites, I would say
Anne McCaffrey or J.K. Rowling - cute, light reading.
Nothing too serious.
For the "escapism" favorites, my favorites
would then tend to be John Grisham or Jackie Collins -
the characters are stereotypical and the plots are
predictable but the stories are fun...
did you deal with rejection letters, if you received any?
All rejection letters go into the filing cabinet, filed
under "R" for rejection in a manilla folder. I
write the date each rejection was received and cross-reference
it on my submissions spreadsheet (so I know that piece of
work is ready to go out the door to someone else the same
What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of
I don't think that any element is necessarily more
important than the next. While I prefer character driven
stories, other people love reading descriptive passages
that pull them into the world they're reading about.
However, I also don't think any of the elements can be
ignored: pacing, characterization, plot, setting, tone,
conflict - they're all important.
do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any
I do keep a separate file for each work in progress,
outlining the basic plot, the pacing structure and the
main cast of characters. This helps to keep me on track
for who is supposed to be in each scene, where the scene
needs to go and what details need to be clarified before
continuing on to the next bit.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
Unwind? Relax? These are completely unfamiliar terms...
Seriously, when I can find the time, I curl up on the
sofa with a good book, or lay back in the spa with a good
book. If the weather permits, I find that taking my dog
for a walk really clears my head after a long day at the
What does your family feel about your writing? Are they
It took me a while to train family and friends to realize
that my office is off-limits when I'm working. My husband
does not actually like science fiction, and he finds my
non-fiction work is focused on subject that are not to
his taste, but he is always willing to support my passion.
My mom is definitely my biggest fan. She keeps a scrap-book
filled with clippings and print-outs and copies of all my
What inspires you? Who inspires you?
Music is my inspiration. I always have music playing when
I write. The mood and tone of the music usually dictates
the mood and tone of my writing. If ever I get stuck
during a particular passage, I will find a piece of music
that suits the tone of what I'm trying to write and play
that one song over and over and over... until I get the
passage right. It drives my husband nuts.
Are you working on any projects right now? If so, what
I'm working on several things at the moment - fiction and
non-fiction. Tina, Ciara and I have been working on a
collaborative novel. It's humorous science fiction and
it's a lot of fun to write. The entire book has been
written via email or instant messaging conversations. The
characters are ridiculous and the situations are worse,
but it makes us giggle.
I also have a completed draft of a non-fiction book in
the editing stage - I'm still at a loss for a title for
this one. It's a "how to write, how to get
published, how to market your writing" kind of book.
I'm hoping to find some time to finish the final edit
I have a couple of other novels in various stages of
progress - but these have been put to one side for the
moment in order to finish other projects. Non-fiction
work is always on-going - for magazines, local
newsletters, newspapers - whatever I can find.
And I am always adding new non-fiction articles to
you ever get Writers Block? If so, what do you
I find that writer's block can't exist if you actively
plan what you are going to write before you sit down and
write. It also helps if you can banish the idea of
writing from "start to finish". I tend to write
the scenes that strike my interest first and then the
surrounding details become much clearer.
What is most frustrating about writing? Most rewarding?
Most frustrating - not having enough time to write up all
of the ideas in my "Ideas" file.
Most rewarding - receiving positive feedback from someone
who enjoyed my work enough to take the time to tell me.
you have any kind of writing schedule? Can you tell us
I don't have a set schedule, but I do write something
everyday without excuse. I will write in whatever spare
time I can find. Generally I work around things and try
to compromise with those around me. For example: I will
sit in the living room beside my husband in the evenings.
He will watch television, while I scribble madly into a
notepad. Quality time, huh?
Or I will go to bed early and sit up with a notepad
instead of a book. I talk to a mini-recorder in the car
on the way to wherever I'm going. I stay at my desk
during lunch and type with one hand while trying to eat
with the other. I will happily sit beside a tree with a
notepad and pen while the guys go water-skiing. I will
take my laptop on longer trips and type while my husband
So there is no schedule, only whatever time I can create
for myself around a marriage, a social life and a hectic
full time career.
How do you write? Long hand, computer, tape recorder,
Whatever is available works fine. I can always type it up
What is the best piece of advice youve given as a
writer? Whats the worst?
Hmmm... I do try not to give advice. Rather, I try to
write articles that reflect some of the research that
backs up the information on a given topic. I'm always
mindful that words in print can come back to bite!
I were sitting down to write my very first story, what
would your advice be?
Tell the story your own way, forget about anyone or
anything else and have fun!
What advice would you give to writers just starting out?
1. - READ. Read a LOT! Read work that you love, and read
really bad work. Read outside of your preferred genre,
read the junk on the backs of cereal boxes. You will
begin to learn what makes a good book great, and you will
learn to spot what makes a bad book a lemon at 500 paces.
2. - LEARN! Learn everything you can about the usage and
effect of the language you write in. Take the time to
refresh anything you learned about grammar and spelling.
Learn to edit properly. The biggest thing new writers
overlook is the need to edit. There is an odd belief
getting around that, just because the words are on paper
(or on disk), they are somehow permanent. The best works
are always heavily edited and re-written, and then edited
again. Never be afraid to cut words or scenes, or even
entire chapters, that are redundant. Learn what makes you
laugh or cry, or react in any way. Learn to put that
knowledge to good use.
3. - PERSIST. Never give up on your dreams and goals.
Never allow anyone to denigrate those ideals. Never tell
yourself you can't do it. Be positive, believe in
yourself and your vision of where you want your career to
go, and then persist. (I would love to add patience and
perseverance here, but they both fall under the "persistence"
banner, too, don't they?)