Tag Archives: Alison May

INKSPILL 2018 Feature – Interview with Alison May ALL THAT WAS LOST



Alison May (2)

What inspired you to write All That Was Lost?

All That Was Lost is an idea that I’ve had on the back burner for a long time now. I started writing a rom com about a stage medium years ago, but the subject matter was pulling the story in a darker direction. And my rom com heroine had a mother, who was also a medium, and had been in the business for years and years. She was a total pro at what she did. And that character seemed so much more interesting than my twenty-something main character. So the rom com (and the daughter) got ditched and I put my old pro centre stage, where she belongs.


Patrice isn’t a classic heroine. What drew you to that character?

I’m fascinated by the question of to what extent our personalities are formed by our upbringing and to what extent we get to choose who we are.
Patrice is an extreme example of that. It seems that she’s based her whole life on a lie – what does that do to a person over fifty years? Does the lie become truer because someone sells it hard enough?
I was also really excited to write a slightly older heroine than I’ve written in the past. Patrice has decades of good and bad experiences that colour every decision she makes. I think we often cast older women as supporting characters – someone’s mum (as Patrice started out!), someone’s grandmother, someone’s wife – so putting all the complexity that Patrice has built up over her life at the heart of a story felt good.

What are your top tips for new writers trying to write or publish their first novel?

Just write the sodding book. That is always the top piece of advice. There’s lots of stuff you can learn and develop in terms of craft and understanding story structure, but none of that will help you if you don’t get some words down on the page.
Following on from that, listen to advice, but make your own decisions. There are a lot of writing tutors and consultancy services out there – I’m one of them – but what none of those people can do for you is find your voice and work out what sort of stories you want to tell. That has to come from you, so don’t let all the advice that’s out there overwhelm who you want to be as a writer.


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INKSPILL 2018 Feature – All That Was Lost By Alison May



Alison May was a Guest Writer for INKSPILL back in 2015. We are delighted that this September Alison launched her latest novel ‘ALL THAT WAS LOST’. This afternoon we are happily featuring Alison May and her new book on INKSPILL.

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alison book launch poster

Author bio

Alison is a novelist, short story writer, blogger and creative writing tutor who grew up in North Yorkshire, and now lives in Worcester. She has worked as a waitress, a shop assistant, a learning adviser, an advice centre manager, a freelance trainer, and now a maker-upper of stories.

Alison won the RNA’s Elizabeth Goudge trophy in 2012, and her short stories have been published by Harlequin, Choc Lit and Black Pear Press.

Alison has also been shortlisted in the Love Stories and RoNA Awards.

Alison writes emotional fiction, and her seventh book, All That Was Lost, was published by Legend Press in September 2018.

She also writes modern retellings of misunderstood classics, in collaboration with Janet Gover, under the penname Juliet Bell. Alison is currently Vice-Chair of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

alison all that was lost

You can find out more about Alison on her website: www.alison-may.co.uk, by following her on Twitter or Instagram @MsAlisonMay or on her facebook page: www.facebook.com/AlisonMayAuthor/

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‘Intriguing with a cast of complex characters that keep you fascinated, this is a page-turner and surprisingly tender’ Katie FForde

‘A resonant, emotional story about grief, loss and love with a complex, tragic heroine—a fake psychic reaching the end of her career. Although it’s about death, this story is never depressing, and ultimately it’s about recovery and healing’ Julie Cohen

‘A beautiful and compelling story that delves into what is real, what we are willing to believe and the power of grief’ Liz Fenwick

‘”All That is Lost” is a bold, beautiful thought-provoking novel, that sensitively confronts difficult themes’ Rowan Coleman

‘It is a triumph. What Alison May has produced is an intimate and affecting study of loss, grief and identity that is just wonderful.’ Linda’s Book Bag

‘What an interesting and unique book… a fascinating, at times heart-wrenching, look at secrets, the cost of keeping them hidden, and whether hiding them requires lies.’ Fireflies and Free Kicks





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This is the 6th year AWF has hosted INKSPILL. Spend some time delving into our Archives.

From 2014 

Guest Writer Heather Wastie on Editing a Poem.


Heather Wastie headshot

From 2015 

Our Guest Writer interview with this year’s Featured Writer – Alison May. Find out about her latest novel tomorrow.


Alison May (2)

From 2016 

Our Guest Writer Workshop with Roy McFarlane – Writing their presence



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Photo by Janko Ferlic on Pexels.com

INKSPILL Library Open



We hope you enjoyed the archives on offer in the NEW library yesterday. Here are some more links for you to enjoy from previous INKSPILL retreats. 




with Alison May




with David Calcutt Poet, Writer & Playwright.






with Nina Lewis 







Neil Gaiman



with Gaia Harper 




Deanne Gist and her Two Minute Tips



In 2016 I was lucky enough to book Roy McFarlane as a Guest Writer and he produced an in depth workshop series exclusively for us. 

You will find links to other parts of his INKSPILL workshops at the bottom of the post, I strongly advise you trawl through all the exercises. It is more Masterclass than Workshop!


Roy McFarlane Workshops on Writing Loss 




INKSPILL – Guest Writer – Interview with Alison May


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Guest Writer – Interview with Alison May

alison may author GUEST

1) Can you tell us how you got into writing?

It started, as I guess it does for most writers, as a hobby. I think the first thing I tried to write was a play, I co-wrote with my best friend from school when I was about ten. I don’t think we ever finished it, or indeed ever got past writing ‘Our Play’ at the top of a piece of paper.

Fast forward to when I was twenty-five and slightly bored at work, and I signed up for a creative writing course through Birmingham University. That evening class turned into a six year part-time degree, during which I switched from thinking I wanted to be a very serious playwright to writing romantic comedy novels instead.

2) What can you tell us about your current novel?

My latest release is Midsummer Dreams, which is a contemporary romantic comedy inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream. My full-length novels tend towards the grittier end of the rom-com spectrum, rather than the lighter, fluffier end. I’m interested in all the different ways that people manage to screw up perfectly decent relationships, and then I make jokes about those poor sad messed-up people, but they’re imaginary people so it’s fine.

Alison May midsummer dreams

The novel I’m working on at the moment is my first non-romance book, and is about a mother who’s lost her son, a man who’s lost his mother and a woman who says she can talk to the dead.

3) Why Romance?

Well, why not? Love and death are basically the two main things that fiction writers congregate around, and many of the authors I love are (or were) romance writers for at least part of their career – Charlotte Bronte, Shakespeare, Marian Keyes, Terry Pratchett (yes really – Sam Vimes and Lady Ramkin are one of the best drawn couples in fiction thank you very much). I’m not personally particularly interested in romance in the ‘hearts and flowers’ sense, but I’m very interested in love and relationships, so I write about those.

4) What tips would you give to any budding Romance Writers?

Join the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers Scheme (http://www.romanticnovelistsassociation.org/join) – it has limited places and only opens for new applicants in Dec/Jan each year and you have to get in quick, but once you’ve joined you’re a member of the RNA so you get to rub shoulders with a whole load of published authors (and publishers and agents) who are generally generous and supportive beyond any reasonable expectation. You also get to submit your novel-in-progress for a critique from a published author in your genre, which is invaluable.

You were probably expecting tips about creativity and art and finding your voice, and they’re all good and lovely things, but ultimately being a writer is about cracking on and doing it, and joining the New Writers’ Scheme is one of the best ways I can think of to crack on and do it.

5) How do you do your research?

I really don’t if I can possibly avoid it. I essentially write books about twenty and thirty-somethings getting drunk and making poor life choices, which requires very little research for me! Some writers love research – I find it tiresome. My first degree was in history so I think it gives me flashbacks to being at Uni and having to spend whole terms reading about tenth century peasants *shudders*

6) Where do you get your ideas from?

I have no clue, but I’ve never been short of them. Ideas are the easy bit of writing, and they don’t even have to be that good at first glance to build a novel out of – ‘Well it’s sort of like Twilight, but there aren’t any vampires and he’s into kinky stuff’ is a terrible idea, but EL James made it work.

I think I have an ongoing interest in the lies that people tell themselves and the ways in which they self-sabotage, but beyond that I just write about whatever pops into my head, and the problem is usually forcing myself to focus on one idea at a time, rather than trying to come up with an idea to start with.

7) Can you tell us a little about the process of writing a novel?

How long does it take?

As long as it takes. Over recent years I’ve written one full-length novel and one shorter novella each year, I don’t really have a ‘normal’ process for writing a novel. With my first book, Sweet Nothing, I had a couple of months where I was out of work, so wrote 2000 words a day every morning Monday to Friday for eight weeks and got a first draft, and thought ‘Oh this is really easy.’ Of course, that first draft was beyond awful, and I’ve never managed a nice neat 2000 words a day that consistently since.

Some things have stayed constant though – my first drafts are always terrible. I’m a much better editor of my own work than writer! I don’t always write a complete first draft before I start revising anymore though. Usually I get to about 65-70,000 words in and then start revising and write the last 20,000 words after I’ve reworked the first bit. And it’s different for different books – if I’m writing a novella I tend to plan a bit more and work to a bit more of a schedule. With a full length novel I prefer to keep things a less structured at least to start with.

8) What is the allure of writing for you?

You can do it in your pyjamas without leaving the house. What’s not to like?

And now my (slightly more) serious grown-up answer – writing is the love of my life, alongside my husband who is, obviously, also the love of my life. Love is magic like that. There’s always enough of it to go around. I’m generally very dispassionate about writing. I get uncomfortable when people say ‘Oh I just have to write.’ I’ve never really felt compelled to write, but I am much less pleasant to be around if I’m not writing.

9) Can you tell us a little about how you found your publisher?

In the traditional sort of way really – I submitted Sweet Nothing to various agents and publishers and got rejected. Somewhere along the line I moved from having standard rejections to getting ‘We really liked this but…’ rejections (which, weirdly, are way way more disheartening).

At the same time I put the manuscript through the RNA New Writers’ Scheme for critique twice, and my second feedback report suggested submitting to Choc Lit, who are a small publisher of romance and commercial women’s fiction. Happily they accepted Sweet Nothing, and went on to publish Midsummer Dreams, and my Christmas Kiss novellas as well.

10) What did it feel like to see your first novel in print?

Completely awesome. The day my box of author copies of Sweet Nothing arrived I basically sat on the floor stroking them all afternoon. Worryingly, that is not an exaggeration.

11) Can you tell us about some of your central characters?

Essentially I write dysfunctional people who mess up their relationships in (hopefully) interesting ways. Romance readers are always interested in heroes, but I tend not to write big strapping alpha male types.

Probably two of my characters that I love the most are Ben from Sweet Nothing – he’s a mathematician and proper full-on nerd. I really wanted to write a romantic hero who was attractive because of his brain; it’s an urge that I can totally trace back to having been in love with The Doctor pretty much ever since I was allowed to stay up at watch Dr Who back in Peter Davison’s day. At the other end of the spectrum, I also adore Alex in Midsummer Dreams. He’s a total flake; he sleeps around; he has no impulse-control at all – I wanted to get away from the idea in romantic fiction that the heroine is automatically looking for a super-dependable guy who’ll always look after her. If your heroine can look after herself, why not give her a hero who’s just going to be awesome fun?

12) Asking which one of your books is your favourite – may be asking you too much – can you tell us about your favourite bits from some of your books?

At the moment I’m particularly proud of Midsummer Dreams. Books usually develop and warp as you write and edit them, changing (often for the better) but moving away from your original idea. I think Midsummer Dreams is probably the book I’ve written that is closest to the book I set out to write, if that makes any sense at all.

And there’s a scene in a car park in it, which I’m not going to describe in detail, in case you read the book, but writing it was probably the most fun I’ve ever had at my writing desk.

13) What is your favourite part of the writing process?

Those very rare moments where you write something and you just know that it’s right. I generally only have about one scene like that per first draft though, so apart from that, my favourite part is the editing and revising. I love taking a book that doesn’t work at all apart and rebuilding it into something good. That’s part of why I love tutoring and mentoring developing novelists as well – you get to help them make their novel work, without having to do any of the tiresome first draft writing.

14) What is the most challenging part of the writing process?

Slogging out the first draft. Ugh.

And, of course, the moment (and there is at least one for every book) where I just know with absolute certainty that the whole thing is a steaming pile of poo, and that I can’t write, and I can’t fix it, and all the previous books were flukes. Those moments are horrible, but inevitable, and actually, I believe, essential to making the book better. If you never reach a point where you think the whole thing is a steaming pile of poo, then I suspect you’re not being sufficiently self-critical about your work.

Alison M Christmas

Huge thanks to Alison for this exclusive INKSPILL interview.

honeyman Interview by Nina Lewis

Buy Alison’s books in the AWF Shop CC bookshop-window Garry Knight




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David Calcutt caldmore david-portrait-1

Plays: https://global.oup.com/education/content/children/authors/david-calcutt/?region=uk

An engaging adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s classic novel

Author Thomas Hardy and Adapter David Calcutt

Suitable for:  Teachers of English and Drama of students aged 11-14

Price:  £10.50

ISBN: 978-0-19-837544-9
Publication date: 25/01/2016 (estimated)
Paperback: 144 pages
Dimensions: 216x170mm

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Robin Hood: http://store.barefootbooks.com/uk/robin-hood.html

This lavishly illustrated picture book makes a wonderful gift title to complement Arthur of Albion and The Arabian Nights, and features nine tales including: ‘Robin Becomes an Outlaw’, ‘Robin Meets Little John’, ‘Robin and the Widow’, and ‘Robin’s Last Battle’.

Retold By: David Calcutt

Illustrated By: Grahame Baker-Smith

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Fairacre Press: http://web236.extendcp.co.uk/fairacrepress.co.uk/tag/david-calcutt/

Road Kill, by Nadia Kingsley and David Calcutt, is a journey into the secret lives of our native animals. It starts in town, travels through suburbia, onto country roads, and then into the woods – where fact and myth mingle.
36 pp + 4 pp
245mm height, 170 mm width
3mm squareback spine
Full colour cover
First published December 2012
£4.00   (includes post and packing)
ISBN  978 0 9568275 1 7
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The Life and Times of the Tat Man: https://www.treepress.org/scripts/the-life-and-times-of-the-tat-man-dad1259a-777e-4390-8e98-5913bc8f7802

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Tony Barrett asThe Tat Man (photo by Stuart Williams).

Tony Barrett asThe Tat Man (photo by Stuart Williams).

CC bookshop-window Garry Knight

Alison May alison may author

Her romantic comedies, Sweet Nothing, http://bookgoodies.com/a/1781892415

Would you risk everything for love?

Independent, straight-talking Trix Allen wouldn’t. She’s been in love once before and ended up with nothing. Now safely single, Trix is as far away from the saccharine-sweet world of hearts and flowers as it’s possible to be.

Alison May Sweet Nothing

Midsummer Dreams http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00XJOEJTM

Four people. Four messy lives. One night that changes everything …
A modern retelling of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Alison May midsummer dreams

and the Christmas Kisses series http://bookgoodies.com/a/B011M9DZE0 published by Choc Lit.

Alison M Christmas


You can find out more about Alison at www.alison-may.co.uk, on facebook at www.facebook.com/AlisonMayAuthor, or by following her on Twitter @MsAlisonMay

CC bookshop-window Garry Knight

Daniel Sluman

Sonia Hendy-Isaac © 2014

Sonia Hendy-Isaac
© 2014


© 2014 Nine Arches

“Daniel Sluman has looked mortality square in the eye and given it shape. These poems are crafted with a striking maturity, each with a heartbeat and blood in its veins. If poetry has a purpose, then this is it.” Helen Ivory

“Daniel Sluman’s debut collection crackles with energy; his language is physical, fast-paced, passionate, fearless. A real discovery by Nine Arches Press.” Penelope Shuttle

Daniel tweets here

INKSPILL Day 1 Meet Our Guest Writers



Meet our Guest Writers for 2015, who have generously given their time for free to give us insights into their writing lives.

GUEST David Calcutt

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David Calcutt is a playwright, poet and novelist. He has written many plays for the professional stage, community and youth theatre, as well as original plays and adaptations for BBC Radios 3 and 4. Several of his plays for young people are published by Oxford University Press, including “The Terrible Fate of Humpty Dumpty”, “Lady Macbeth”, “Beowulf” and “Dracula”.

He also has three novel for young people published by Oxford University Press, and one by Barefoot Books, “Robin Hood”. His poetry appears widely in both print and online magazine, and he has published three pamphlets of poetry: “Outlaws” by Iron Press, and “Road Kill” and “Through the Woods” by Fairacre Press.

David has worked as a resident writer in care homes, St. Giles Hospice and a community garden and has also both written and directed several large-scale community plays. His most recent work for theatre is the one-man play, “The Life and Times of the Tat Man” which is currently still on tour with Regional Voice Theatre.

GUEST Alison May

alison may author

Alison is a novelist, short story writer, blogger who grew up in North Yorkshire, and now lives in Worcester. She worked as a waitress, a shop assistant, a learning adviser, an advice centre manager, a freelance trainer, and now a maker-upper of stories, and novel-writing tutor.

She won the Romantic Novelists Association’s Elizabeth Goudge trophy in 2012, and her short stories have been published by Harlequin, Choc Lit and Black Pear Press.


GUEST Daniel Sluman

Sonia Hendy-Isaac © 2014

Sonia Hendy-Isaac
© 2014

Daniel Sluman is a poet who was born in Oxford, in 1986. He started writing poetry when he embarked on a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing in 2008. Since then he has been published widely in UK based print journals and e-zines. His poems have appeared widely in journals such as Cadaverine, Popshot, Shit Creek Review, and Under the Radar.

He received an MA in Creative & Critical Writing from the University of Gloucestershire in 2012 and his debut full-length collection, Absence has a weight of its own, was published in 2012. His second collection, ‘the terrible’, will be published Autumn/Winter 2015, also with Nine Arches Press.



INKSPILL Programme 2015


INKSPILL 2015 Programme

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Having given yourself the gift of a writing weekend, I am sure you are eager to see how it pans out. Timings are given in GMT, posts will remain active beyond the weekend and can be commented on at any time.

We dream of conversations between participants on threads, do make the virtual seem real and join in actively throughout the weekend.

  • Participants without WordPress accounts can sign in as a ‘Guests’.

Throughout the weekend if you prefer, you can email directly to:

awritersfountain[at]hotmail[dot]com or join the closed Facebook Group


If you want to share work that you are considering submitting you can share it on the closed Facebook page and it won’t be considered published. Let us know you have done that with a link back in the comments box, so we can find and read your work.

Please appreciate that I may not have time for individual responses over the weekend.


SOCIAL MEDIA – Share links throughout the weekend across social media.

INKSPILL – The Programme 2015

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DAY 1 inkspill pink

9:00 Coffee and a writing challenge


10:00 WORKSHOP: Exploring Self


11:30 Introducing Our Guest Writers Alison May, David Calcutt and Daniel Sluman.



Inspirational writing video By Rae Dover

Discussion on writing on the hop and how to deal with rejection.

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12:30 LUNCH – after lunch we start back with a short excerpt from an Amy Tan interview (2008), you may be interested in watching the full interview (1hr 23 mins) if so, maybe view it with your lunch.

13:45 INTERVIEW short video an interview by Roger Rosenblatt with Amy Tan (2008)


14:30 GUEST WRITER Interview with David Calcutt





16:40 GUEST WRITER Interview with David Calcutt Part 2

17:40 GUEST WRITER Interview with Alison May



18:00 Free time to spend on your own writing from this retreat or projects you are currently working on.

19:30 Poetry Film ‘The Beach’


Followed by another


21:00 Night Write challenge


And for those of you who do not wish to sleep, links will be shared from the 2013 INKSPILL retreat to keep you busy!


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9:30 Coffee and a short film.

10:00 Beautiful Ugly Writing Challenge


11:30 GUEST POET Daniel Sluman Interview



11:50 Free time to spend on your own writing from this retreat or projects you are currently working on.

12:00 Lunch – As it is Sunday, take a break.

13:30 How not to Waste Time – Article & discussion


14:00 WORKSHOP Weather and Folklore


16:00 REFUGEES – An exploration of poetry, writing and person.

CC books-759 Johannes Jansson

17:30 Explore the Archives, including Guest Posts from 2014


20:00 Evaluation & Ending – this will include a quick and easy click poll (rather than a 2 sided sheet of A4 evaluation), please take a few moments to leave your mark. Thank you.

A BIG Thank YOU post


CC Nick Papakyriazis The INKSPILL posts will remain active – the LIVE element is over. There will be no more INKSPILL related posts until next 2016.

Thanks for coming!

*Over the following week this programme will have active links embedded and be posted to the top of the blog roll to help you navigate to specific parts of the INKSPILL programme.

If after that, you wish to find retreat posts use the keyword INKSPILL in Categories at the bottom of the page OR click 24th or 25th on the OCTOBER calendar to the right of the screen.

INKSPILL PROGRAMME 2015 inkspill pink


SAT 24th Oct SUN 25th Oct
Writing Challenges

In Nature

Night Write

Writing Challenges

Beautiful Ugly


Meeting Guest Writers FREE TIME TO WRITE

Exploring Self



Weather & Folklore

Video & Discussion

On writing & rejection

Poetry Films & Shorts


How Not To Waste Time


With Amy Tan (2008)

David Calcutt Guest Writer

Alison May Guest Writer


Daniel Sluman Guest Poet



Historical Research

Writing Historical Fiction

How to Write a Short story

The WHY Technique

Archive INKSPILL 2013 





How To Get Rejected

Making Time To Write

Writing Doctor Who

What You Get From Writing


Archived Links


Stephen King On Writing


On Her Writing Journey

Editing A Poem

Histrionic water

Spaghetti hoops


William Gallagher Guest

Writing Motivation

You vs Yourself


Thoughts on Writing & Editing Part 1

Thoughts On Writing & Editing Part 2

INKSPILL – 2015 Guest Writers Revealed


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Later today the INKSPILL programme will be revealed, giving participants chance to see what is on offer and of interest to them over the this weekend (24/25th October).

There will be more information released on our Guests and their books, links will be available for you to explore and buy tomorrow.


David Calcutt

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alison may author

Alison May

Daniel Sluman

Sonia Hendy-Isaac © 2014

Sonia Hendy-Isaac
© 2014

THE AWF BOOKSHOP is NOW OPEN CC bookshop-window Garry Knight