Ashley Lloyd Smith’s background is in theatre; writing, directing and acting. He is a Drama graduate of Aberystwyth University and post graduate of the University of Surrey. His plays have been performed on three continents. His theatre has been banned in venues in his home town of Derby and his films on Facebook.
He has written over a hundred micro stories (seventy words or less) and performs these and his other writings around the Midlands. He has also written three children’s novels.
Ashley is also a keen walker and runner. He also blogs regularly on his transition from the luvvie world of theatre to the less extrovert world of writing.
Ashley is married with one son, and lectures at the University of Derby.
Below is a short interview with him, focusing on his thoughts about writing.
Check out his upcoming book: Pizza with Jimbob & Twoforks
Did you always want to be a writer?
I think I did but because of my dyslexia I rather gave up on the idea. I couldn’t read fast enough and back then there were no spell checks. By the time that arrived I had given up on it. I went into theatre instead and only came to writing for page, rather than stage, when I had the idea for this novel and decided in a happy romantic whirl (I was on a lovely Valentine’s Day stay in a real tepee) to keep going with it until it was long enough to be counted as a novel. Like the day I woke up early and decided to run a marathon before work. I just wanted to say I’d done it and not given up.
Who inspired you to start writing?
Loads of children’s authors I could blame for that, in particular Ivan Southall the Australian genius and his Hills End, but as an adult I’d have to say Sam Shepard, the recently deceased Hollywood actor and playwright. At university I read a lot of plays because of my degree in Drama. Strindberg and Ibsen were favourites, but Shepard showed what could be done with small moments of action that could have a ricochet impact on a reader. I think everything he did had a hint of Samuel Beckett in it, so you’ll find with my writing all has a hint of Shepard. I’d like to be able to write like Rushdie or Kundera but if I ever get compared to Shepard I’ll be happy!
What is your crucial advice for writers?
I don’t know tons but I can give two basic points. First write on something that doesn’t connect to the internet and don’t have a phone anywhere near that does. If your book is research heavy that might be a problem but basically I wouldn’t bother having anyway of distracting yourself like that. Secondly get someone to edit your work after you’ve done a couple of drafts. I know this could end up costing money but my novel went from unreadable to something I’m looking forward to people reading, all through advice of an editor. It’s still your work but it’s just honed. And anything they cut you can always use somewhere else.
What would you not do again as a writer?
Send anything off until I’d got it as good as I could. I gave a writer my novel. She was hardly the same kind of writer and not my target audience. It was in a terrible state and I am seriously embarrassed I did that. On the other hand getting people to read your work as much as possible for feedback is something I would encourage. And take what they say with seriously and without complaint. You have to take criticism and in the end it’s up to you what you do with it. Although I would take a few weeks to think it though before embracing or rejecting anything, to get an emotional distance from it.
Where do you like to write?
That’s an easy one. Anywhere! Whenever I have a good idea or spare hour I love to get writing and if that’s at my grand old writing bureau overlooking the street that’s great, but if it’s in a forest then that’s just as good. With the hot weather I decided to write outside with my top off and got a lovely tan to go with thousands more lovely words. I’ve never been one for sunbathing so the tan was a bonus!
How is writing novels and writing for the theatre similar?
When I came to write a novel I thought I was a beginner but I wasn’t really because I’d been writing plays for over fifteen years, so some of the things writers can find difficult, I didn’t. Dialogue is the most obvious advantage it gave me, having this background. I can think my way into a character to make it snappy, poetic but also real.
My biggest problem for me is I sometimes give only sketched descriptions which leaves the reader with a lot to fill in because I’m used to working with little scenery but with strong visual impact from the actors. This is the part of writing I’m working on most as children’s novels cry out for a bit more of it.
What else are you writing?
Too much! That sounds like a good thing and I am pleased to not be bereft of ideas but recently I had a writing break for a week that consisted of hours of going through a couple of dozen notebooks and lifting out every story, idea, poem that never made it on to my computer and making sure that there was this digital copy.
I’m at the point now where so many of my projects need an injection of work on them that I don’t know where to start. Two full novels, (plus two in only note stage) five children’s novels, two of which are part of a worked out series, lots of poems and short stories that could do with touching up before being sent to competitions, magazines and anthologies, plus my favourite quick writing past time the micro story (50 to 70 words. I text them to people). I have about a hundred of these that I’m considering self-publishing with guest editors, to keep the interest in my writing going once my novel has been published.