Leonora Francis is a name you will recognise if you are a reader of women's magazines. She started writing the year before me and we have followed similar paths - from short stories to serials. I though it would be interesting to find out more about this magazine writer's writing life.
How long have you been writing and what made you start?
This is a true story. I wrote a book in my late twenties and received a lovely rejection letter from a publisher, with feedback, and they asked me to write another one. I should have, but didn’t. If only I knew then what I know now.
I didn’t put pen to paper again until four years ago. I was helping my daughter with an essay and it kick-started my love of writing. My son encouraged me to send my stories out to publishers. I did. And here I am.
Can you remember the first magazine story you sold and has your style changed since then?
I will never forget it. It was a humorous story about a granddaughter encouraging her granddad to give up smoking in exchange for removing her navel ring, which he hated. An acceptance was waiting for me from Shirley Blair at The People’s Friend when I returned home from work one day. That was in early 2011 but I didn’t really get to grips with writing until 2012. I learnt so much in those early days and I never gave up.
And yes, my writing style has changed. After that first acceptance, which I put down to the quirkiness of the story itself and not my style, I wrote many, many stories. They were all rejected. That is, until a kind editor at the People’s Friend personally contacted me by email. It was from him that I learnt about ‘voice’, which in turn helped me to engage with my characters. There are only so many themes that you can write about and I believe the story is almost secondary to characterisation. I thank my editor for bringing this to my attention.
How do you keep track of all your submissions, rejections and acceptances?
I have a lovely spreadsheet and use pretty colours for acceptances and rejections. More importantly, there’s also a short section to add a few words as to why the story was rejected. In the early days I used that section as a learning tool. I still do!
Briefly describe a typical writing day?
I’m brightest in the morning and write in bed. Yes, in bed, with my laptop on my knees! I exit my bed at about mid-day to start editing. I don’t edit in bed. I find some other room in the house and always edit on a paper copy. Don’t ask me why. I try to finish at about 3 o’clock, but if a story has gripped me, I can write into the early hours of the morning, which drives my husband mad.
What made you move from short stories to writing serials?
My stories were getting longer and developing into these huge dramas, especially the period ones. In late 2013 I received emails from both PF and WW asking if I would like to attempt a serial for them. I was excited and rushed into it without thinking. Fortunately, my first serial for Woman’s Weekly, Amos Browne, made the grade. My attempt for PF was a disaster.
Do you have any bad writing habits?
I don’t plan, so I have no idea what’s going to happen in any of my stories until just before I type, ‘The End’. It can be costly. More than once I’ve reached part 3 of a serial and got stuck. I’ve had to abandon a few because of it. I also have an obsession with commas and exclamation marks, but I don’t think I’m alone in that!
If you could write in only one genre what would it be?
It would have to be Sci-Fi or Fantasy. Andre Norton books were my first love and I’m just about to finish reading book 3 in the Tawny Man Trilogy by Robin Hobb. The only downside with writing Sci-Fi or Fantasy is that your memory has to be pretty good otherwise you’d have to constantly check your notes. You’d also have to have a fairly good understanding of all the technical/science stuff. I’m not sure I can write one until I try.
Do you write in the same genre that you enjoy reading?
Before I started writing seriously I didn’t read much in the way of crime or romance. When I think of an idea for a story I rarely have romance in mind. My stories seem to turn into romances as soon as a strong male character walks on stage. As for crime serials, I concentrate less on the actual crime and more on character development. One day someone is going to clock that the crime itself doesn’t quite ring true or that it would have been impossible for the perpetrator to have ‘done it’! Seriously though, writing outside your comfort zone can be so much fun.
What are your future writing plans?
I won’t give up trying to write a serial for The People’s Friend. (My mother would be overjoyed! So would I!) After that, I’d like to attempt that Sci-Fi novel. I’ve got an idea forming, but it needs a lot more development before I crawl into bed, open my laptop and start typing. Saying that, I’m not sure I’ll ever abandon short stories because adore writing them.
Leonora Francis was born in Leicester and now lives in South London. She’s had over a hundred and twenty stories published in women’s magazines, and is currently writing her sixth serial for Woman’s Weekly. Leonora thinks she’s normal but her friends say she’s eccentric. Sometimes she has to agree with them.
You can find out more about Leonora on Facebook