Monday 6 April 2015

Over the Garden Fence - Guest Post Patsy Collins

It is with great pleasure that I welcome Patsy Collins onto my blog. When I started Wendy's Writing Now, in the summer of 2012, Patsy was one of the first people to welcome me to blogland and has supported my blog ever since. Isn't that lovely.

Patsy needs little introduction as many of you will have come across her in the pages of the women's magazines or on her successful blog, Words About Writing and Writing About Words. Last month she took over the bible of the woman's magazine writer's world, Womag Writer's blog, so I am sure we shall be seeing even more of her!

Today though, Patsy is here to talk about the publication of her new collection of short stories, Over the Garden Fence. So without more ado, we shall begin.

Can you give me three words to describe your new collection?
Bouquet of stories!
I see that both Over the Garden Fence and your previous collection Up the Garden Path are garden themed. Could you tell my readers what it is with you and gardening?

I'm a very keen gardener; I have an allotment where I grow loads of herbs, fruit and veg and a flower garden at home which is designed to attract wildlife. When you're passionate about something it tends to work its way into the writing (you may have noticed a lot of my characters eat cake).

Also the allotment is a good place to think up stories. I'm not sure if it's to do with the fresh air and exercise, or the fact that I generally have my hands full and never have pen and paper with me when I'm down there.

Have you based any of your stories on real gardens?

I had to think about that one. They all seem real to me but I generally design a new garden for each story, just borrowing features from ones I remember.

'Teacher's Pet' and 'Everything is Fine' which are both in this collection are set in real gardens though - the fabulous rose garden at Mottisfont Abbey (Hampshire) and Greys Court (Oxfordshire) respectively.

You have recently taken over the popular Womag Writer’s blog and most of the stories in Over the Garden Fence have previously been published in women’s magazines. How long have you been writing for the womags?

My first sale was in 2005 - a story called 'The Garden' which is in 'Up the Garden Path'. I'd collected quite a few rejection letters by then though. All my rejections are shredded and added to the compost heap, so they eventually become pretty flowers and juicy strawberries.

Sales were widely spaced to start with, but each yearly total has been an increase on the previous one which is very encouraging.

Competitions are mentioned a lot on your blog ‘Words about Writing and Writing about Words’. Do you enter a lot of competitions yourself and have any the stories in the collection been winners?

I do enter quite a lot of competitions, usually free ones which naturally attract a lot of entries (almost all the competitions I blog about are free to enter). A couple of the stories in this collection have been placed in competitions and my first novel was published after a competition win.

The winning story in the current Writing Magazine is mine and one of the characters is a gardener. That'll be in the next collection.

Do you have a favourite story from your collection?

I think it's Black and White. For one thing it breaks a few womag 'rules' - I killed the main character in quite a nasty way and was mean to a cat (twice) yet still got it published in Woman's Weekly. It also uses the idea that what you do in life influences how happy you are, which is a bit of a sub theme in a lot of my stories. The garden it's set in is lovely too. I had fun creating that one and baking and eating all the cakes the character makes. When it comes to cakes, my research is thorough.

Having just brought out my own story collection, I can see we have different writing styles – what would you say your signature style is, if you have one?

I agree that our writing is different. I'm not sure I have a recognisable style, if I do it isn't something I do consciously. Generally my stories are uplifting and usually they're about fairly normal characters and situations; the kind of people the reader might know in real life, doing things they might do themselves in places they might visit.

You’ve published the collection in both ebook and paperback. What did you find trickiest about each?

The formatting! It's not really that difficult if you haven't already done something weird to the document, you take your time and carefully follow all the instructions, but ... Luckily friends and fellow writers came to the rescue after seeing anguished tweets and blog posts.

I'm always amazed at people's generosity with their time and knowledge, in some cases being of huge help to a person they've never met and/or assisting those who're competing in the same market.

Your novel, Escape to the Country, which I enjoyed very much by the way, has a farm as its setting. Is it possible that gardens or gardening could feature in a future novel?

Yes! Gardeners or florists have a role in them all so far, but gardening hasn't been the main focus (and it's not something I've done deliberately). I'd like to have a gardener as a main character though. A sequel to Escape to the Country with Jayne as the main character is a tempting idea. Those herbal potions of hers have potential, I think.

What would Patsy Collins like to be doing in five years time?

Spending all my time writing, gardening, travelling in our campervan ... oh, did you mean something different from now? I've done a few talks/workshops for writing groups and will be giving a talk to a reading group in the summer. I'd like to do a bit more of that kind of thing.
Thank you so much for joining me on my blog today, Patsy.

Patsy Collins lives and writes on the south coast of England. She's the author of hundreds of published short stories and three novels. When she's not writing she likes gardening, photography and cake eating. She shares her home with her husband and head with her characters.
Over the Garden Fence is available from Amazon here
How to contact Patsy:
Website here and here
Facebook here
Twitter here


  1. Great interview Wendy and Patsy. Just pre-ordered Escape to the Country, sounds a brilliant read.
    Good luck with that and Over the Garden Fence, Patsy, and with the continuation of WomagWriter 's Blog. I am sure it is a huge relief to me and many that mine of information will continue! :-) xx

    1. I absolutely agree, Sue. Kath did. Great job and I'm sure Patsy will too.

    2. Thanks, Sue. Hope you enjoy the book - and I'll do my best with the blog.

  2. Thanks so much for inviting me over to chat, Wendy.

  3. Lovely interview. I saw your story in Writing Mag, Patsy - looking forward to reading it. Love that you added rejections to the compost heap!

    1. Shame you can't do that with the ones on email, Rosemary!

    2. Thanks, Rosemary.

      Haven't found anything useful to do with electronic rejections yet - other than try to consider them as resubmission opportunities.

  4. I think Patsy will continue to do what she does.
    That's cool she's been so successful with her short stories.

    1. Thanks, Alex (I just keep quiet about all the unsuccesful ones!)

  5. Great questions Wendy, and good answers from Patsy too.

  6. Blooming good interview, Patsy & Wendy! Congratulations on the new collection and the Writers' News win too :)