Welcome to Clubhouse Chat page. Those of you who are not a member won’t be aware that the location of the Clubhouse is shrouded in mystery. The only way to visit it is via membership or an invite to the tearoom. Every few days, I’ll be sharing a conversation with all sorts of writers and authors at different levels of their writing careers. Over tea and cakes, or maybe a glass of something stronger, I shall be chatting with my guest about their work in progress, or latest book release.
Cafelit is an online magazine which posts a new story every day. To find out more click here CafeLit books are published by Chapel Town Books to find out more about the publisher click here. Today in the tearoom, I’m chatting to Cafelit writer, Dawn Knox about her entries in The Best of CafeLit 10. Welcome to the tearoom, Dawn. Lovely to have you back again.
Thank you for inviting me back.
Let’s start by asking you what made you write the story you decided to submit to Cafelit? Was it as seasonal call-out.i.e. Christmas, summer holidays, autumn, Halloween etc or just something you needed to get off your chest?
Three of my stories which are included in The Best of CafeLit 10 are part of a series of stories which were published by Chapeltown in October 2020 called ‘The Macaroon Chronicles’ The first, is ‘The Macaroon Chronicles Prologue and The Three Wise Monkeys’ https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2020/01/the-macaroon-chronicles-prologue-and.html?m=0, which is the introduction to the book and the first story.
The second, is ‘French for Cheese’, where Eddie the Bald Eagle (who is really a chicken) and Miss Haversham, a short-sighted and eccentric mouse start a fashion company together and the story tells how their business differences are finally resolved.
The last story is ‘Aleema’, where one of Eddie’s friends, Colin the lemur, is mistaken for an electronic gadget! https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2020/05/aleema.html.
Once Gill agreed to publish ‘The Macaroon Chronicles’, I sent in each story to her in turn, spaced a few weeks apart until they were all published on CafeLit and then Gill prepared them all for publishing as an ebook and paperback. This is my second such book—the first being ‘The Basilwade Chronicles’ which is written in a similar, quirky style and also, each chapter was submitted individually on CafeLit before the ebook and paperback were published in 2019.
However, I’m thrilled my fourth story was chosen to be included in The Best of CafeLit 10’ because it’s one which is very close to my heart. Sadly, in October 2020, my mum passed away. ‘A Lasting Impression’ came about one day shortly after she’d gone, when I was on my early morning lockdown walk, thinking about her. It didn’t seem possible she was no longer there and I was wondering—as I’ve done so many times since—where she is, and how she could have made such a huge impression on our lives and yet now be gone. ‘A Lasting Impression’ was the result of those thoughts. It’s not a piece I can read without crying. https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2020/11/a-lasting-impression_9.html
Did you use a writing prompt for your story?
‘The Macaroon Chronicle’ stories initially came about because of a writing prompt from one of my writing groups. We were given a list of unrelated objects from which we had to choose at least five, and then write a story about them. The items I chose were: a Hawaiian shirt, a billboard, a ballpoint pen, an electric guitar and fishing waders. You can imagine with such a list, the story had to be rather surreal! After reading out the story at my writing group, I thought I’d submit to CafeLit and I was thrilled when it was accepted. The following month at my writers’ group, I decided to carry on with the same characters and continue their story. That was also accepted by Gill for CafeLit and each month I wrote a new story and continued the adventures of the characters. Gill was happy to publish the stories as a book and ‘The Macaroon Chronicles’ was born.
For ‘A Lasting Impression’, I guess the title says it all. The prompt was my thoughts about my mum’s passing and my longing for something to reconnect us.
Did you write an outline first, or follow where the characters led you?
For the three ‘Macaroon’ stories, I thought about where I’d left the characters in the previous story and imagined a new adventure for them to become involved in. When I write a story, I often make notes and I usually have an idea of how each story ends although not necessarily how I’m going to arrive there! From time to time, things have happened which have taken me by surprise, particularly in ‘French for Cheese’ where I hadn’t anticipated the court scene at all. I’d planned that Eddie the Bald Eagle, (who’s really a chicken) would set up in partnership with eccentric and irascible, Miss Haversham, the mouse. But the cheese theme took over and their subsequent court battle which was presided over by the rather rapacious owl judge, took me by surprise!
‘A Lasting Impression’ came to me very quickly. I suppose I was trying to make some sense of the grief.
How do you create your characters? Do you start with a name first?
For the first story in ‘The Macaroon Chronicles’, I had the list of assorted items I needed to include from my writing prompt and, next, I tried to think of a character I could create who would be able to bring all those things together. By chance, I saw a video of Eddie the Eagle, British the ski jumper who stole so many people’s hearts in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary and I loved the name, so I borrowed it for the main character, who is actually a bald chicken with delusions of grandeur – hence Eddie, the Bald Eagle! But for other characters, it really depends. Sometimes I think of a name and then fit the character to it or vice versa. Miss Haversham, the absent-minded mouse, is first introduced in a story where she has wandered short-sightedly through a cellar and is covered in cobwebs, so Miss Haversham seemed like the perfect name! For Colin the lemur and Brian the monkey, I chose the characters first. They are members of a rock band and I tried to think of rather ‘unrock’n’roll’ names for them both!
Was your story told in your normal genre or did you try something different?
I’m not sure I have a ‘normal’ genre! I like writing in different genres such as horror, speculative fiction, sci-fi, romance, history and quirky stories. When it came to writing ‘The Macaroon Chronicles’, I found that trying to incorporate a Hawaiian shirt, a ballpoint pen, an electric guitar, a billboard and a pair of fisherman’s waders into a story seemed to push me towards the whacky and zany end of the spectrum, so I went with it!
‘A Lasting Impression’ is a sad and poignant piece because I was recording my thoughts at that time. I often find if I write about something which is very important, emotional or meaningful to me, I restrict myself to one hundred words. I wrote many drabbles when both my mum and dad passed away and mostly, they are too personal to share —but it seems to be a way for me to process the anguish of whatever is happening.
I’m not quite sure why I restrict myself to one hundred words but so far, it seems to work. If I have an idea and then write about it at length, somehow it appears diluted and my passion isn’t as obvious. One hundred words is usually sufficient to express an idea and hopefully, I show that in my book ‘The Great War – 100 Stories of 100 Words Honouring Those Who Lived and Died 100 Years Ago’ which is full of my impression of various aspects and characters in the First World War, a topic which touched me deeply.
What do you enjoy most about being part of the Cafelit community?
I appreciate Gill’s encouragement and support as well as the fact she is so approachable. She seems to work tirelessly and keeps up with the latest developments, always presenting us with new ideas and challenges. Many of the CafeLit authors have become friends and a wonderful community has grown up with people who are helpful and encouraging – both online and in person. I love the camaraderie and the support of everyone and the fact I’ve made so many friends who understand my passion for writing.
How long have you been writing and what got you started?
I’m a relative newcomer, only having been writing for about eighteen years although I’ve always made up stories in my imagination—I just never got around to writing them down. The event which started me writing, was one day when I was helping my son who was a teenager at the time, with his creative writing homework and the ideas I gave him to coax him to write, prompted me to finish the story! It really started there. An upset in my life in 2015 resulted in me writing more frequently when I realised it gave me peace of mind and allowed me to escape. From that time on, I began to write every day and to appreciate how important it is for my mental wellbeing.
What’s the one thing you would give up to become a better writer?
I’ve given up watching television in order to have more time to write and hopefully to improve. And since there are limited hours in a day, I’ve also given up drawing portraits which I used to spend a lot of time doing. I can only hope that reading more widely and writing more often will help me improve. And if not, well, I simply love writing anyway!
Thank you, Dawn. To find out more about Dawn’s writing check out the link below:
Dawn Knox’s Amazon Author’s Page
If you want to find out more about Clubhouse Member’s Books don’t forget to check out the Clubhouse Bookshops too.