I have had the pleasure of interviewing Chandler’s Ford writer Allison Symes.
Allison Symes loves reading and writing fairytales.
Novels are her first love, though she also flirts with short stories, occasionally has a fling with poems and now writes radio scripts.
Allison, who are your favourite authors?
Allison: My favourite authors are Jane Austen, Terry Pratchett and P.G. Wodehouse. My websites are Fairytales with Bite and This World and Others. One website explores my novels, the other advertises those and my short stories and tells you a little about me.
I also love the Winchester Writers’ Festival.
How has writing shaped your life?
Allison: I can’t imagine life without writing something. I loved English at school and used to enjoy, at junior school, what were known as SRA cards. These were colour coded with differing stories at various levels of difficulty and I took to these like the proverbial duck to water.
However, it took my turning 30 and the birth of my now adult son to make me start writing in earnest. I’ve always wanted to have books on my shelves I chose (done and continuing!) and some which I’d written (still working on it!).
How has your Christian faith shaped your life? Does it feed into your writing?
Allison: My Christian faith is my bedrock. I love the stories of Jesus (my favourite is the Good Samaritan).
I was brought up in the Baptist tradition, went to a lovely Church of England in my late teens (and married there) where I discovered the Book of Common Prayer.
Thomas Cranmer’s wonderful prose should not be forgotten.
I don’t write directly Christian stories but my novels show the Fairy Queen seeing God as her ultimate boss, Eileen, my rebellious fairy godmother, treating God with respect but trying not to bother Him given He is busy and her daughter, Jenny, who is a practicing Christian. Her discovery her mother is a fairy godmother which makes her a half-fairy rattles Jenny.
What is your link with Chandler’s Ford? What do you like best about it? How can Chandler’s Ford be improved?
Allison: I married into Chandler’s Ford and have lived at my current address since 1993. I love the fact Chandler’s Ford has lots of trees and green areas and it is easy to get to Winchester, Southampton, Eastleigh and Romsey.
My bugbear is the tendency to knock down bungalows to replace them with mega-houses.
There is a danger of losing “old” Chandler’s Ford. I’d also love proper resurfacing works to be done to Merdon Avenue. You feel every bump on the buses. (It isn’t Xelabus’s fault!).
Do you know something about Chandler’s Ford that we don’t know about?
Allison: The only thing I can think of here is I saw a book of old Chandler’s Ford photos which show the oak trees in front of my house 100 years ago.
The oaks were mature then so the mind boggles at just how old they really are.
It’s a pity there’s only one real way to age a tree accurately. I hope our oaks keep standing for decades to come. And raking the leaves up makes a great keep fit exercise!
Tell us about the Fairy Kingdom in your stories
Allison: It’s a tradition in fantasy there are areas where the links between our world and other dimensions are thin and can be crossed.
My novels depict a bungalow and garden which was the site of an ancient link to the Fairy Kingdom. Jenny who moves in to the bungalow on her mother’s advice is horrified to discover the link still exists and wonders exactly what Eileen has let her in for – with good cause.
Eileen deserted her calling as a fairy godmother and old world for love. Sadly for Eileen, and Jenny, the Fairy Kingdom has no intention of letting Eileen go. It can also use Jenny.
Eileen’s revelation of her past makes Jenny realise she must be half-fairy (something that is quickly proven as Jenny discovers magical talent emerging which she cannot stop).
Eileen tells Jenny she must learn how to use magic properly, if only to defend herself from those of a more villainous magical disposition. This doesn’t go down well.
Jenny was enjoying marriage and working life. When Jenny becomes pregnant, she fears for her child’s future too – again with good cause.
The Fairy Kingdom itself is run by the Queen (Roxannadrell, Eileen’s cousin). The Queen has a Council similar to that used by our Queen Elizabeth Tudor.
The Fairy Kingdom has a divine mission to keep an eye on Earth and its inhabitants. It also nicks Earth’s best ideas in terms of machinery and inventions as these save magical energy.
No matter how powerful a magical being is, everyone looks to save this energy to avoid being drained by using too much in one go, so anything to help achieve this is welcomed. Eileen is not impressed with the nicking of good ideas and doesn’t feel it is honourable given the Fairy Kingdom despises humanity for its warlike and polluting “qualities”.
But hypocrisy is not a crime in any world and the Fairy Kingdom continues to pinch ideas it likes and uses them (though the jury is out in the magical world as to whether pinching television and calling it “fairyvision” was such a good idea as it has given them a presenter called Roherum. He is to journalism what Benny Hill’s “Ernie, the Fastest Milkman in the West” is to classical music!).
In part 2 of the interview, Allison will share with us useful resources of publishing.