Persistent Storyteller – interview Lee Masterson (18 January 2007)

Introduction

Rob Parnell suggested I contact Lee Masterson to ask if she would consider being interviewed. I must confess now that for years I wanted to interview Lee but just never got round to it. However, with Rob’s recommendation, I quickly sent an email request to Lee and was most pleased she agreed. Without further ado, have great pleasure in introducing to you Lee Masterson …


Aneeta: Lee, thank you for agreeing to this interview.

Lee: It’s my pleasure! I’m honoured that you asked me to participate.

Aneeta: Please tell me a little about you – your background, your family, where you live and so on.

Lee: I live in the southern suburbs of Adelaide in South Australia with my wonderful, spoilt German Shepherd dog Cooper and a very neurotic black Persian cat named Scruffy.

Although writing is my first and favourite passion, I do have a ‘day job’ as well. I am a finance consultant within my own company (Eclipse Home Loans). Because of my financial background, I also write articles for finance or mortgage-related publications.

Aneeta: When did you first venture into the writing scene?

Lee: I remember when I was five or six years old, the teacher at school asked each student to write a story and present it like a book. Dutifully I wrote a story about a cat who wanted to be human, illustrated it and asked mom to help me make a cover for it. The teacher placed that little book on the library shelves for other kids to read too and from that day on I decided I would write more books to put on those shelves.

The first non-fiction sale happened when I was 16. I wanted to write for the local newspaper here in Adelaide. So I drafted an article, sent it out and they actually liked it!

The first paid piece of fiction writing came when I was about 18. I have always written weird little short stories that usually only see the inside of my filing cabinet (I write these just to get the stories out of my head – back then I used to be too paranoid to let people see those first creepy efforts). Anyway, I got brave one day, and entered one of these into a short story contest for the local newspaper in Adelaide. I received a cheque for $10 and publication. I still have the tattered, yellowed clipping from the newspaper somewhere…

Since then I’ve been published in many publications and in many formats all over the world. My non-fiction work generates my main writing income – I’m still working on developing a loyal audience for my fiction. Some of my work is published under a pseudonym, while other pieces are published using my married name.

Aneeta: It is your website, Fiction Factor, http://www.fictionfactor.com, by which I think people will most identify you. Please tell me a little about the history of this website. Why did you start it and has it achieved its aim?

Lee:  Fiction Factor was created throughout the latter part of 1999 and launched officially in 2000. Tina Morgan and I were frustrated by the lack of real information (at that time) for fiction writers wanting to learn about improving skill and get work published. We both belonged to several writer’s groups and forums and the complaint was global. So we decided to do something about compiling enough information to fill a site designed to help as many writers as we could reach.

In the past 7 years that Fiction Factor has been running, writing and researching articles has taught us both a great deal about our own writing. I know I’ve learned to look at my own work more objectively because of my involvement with Fiction Factor. We receive emails from people wanting to know the ‘how’ or the ‘why’ of certain topics and we research the answers to the best of our ability.

As the website is quite costly to maintain, we experiment heavily with ways to help keep Fiction Factor free to all readers. We really don’t want to begin charging people to read the newsletter or to visit the site, nor do we want to become one of those newsletters that contains more advertising than actual content. Boring!

I don’t believe we have achieved our original goal yet – there are still so many writers wanting to learn and improve and find a published home for millions of manuscripts. We will simply keep sourcing more information and more articles all with the aim of helping more and more people!

Aneeta: Tell me about the cost of maintaining the cost of a free newsletter! I understand you’ve created sister-sites to Fiction Factor. What do your sister sites specialise in?

Lee: As Fiction Factor got too big to simply encompass fiction writing as a whole, we decided to create the sister-sites. Each site is tailored to cater for an individual niche within the writing arena. In order of creation, they are:

Freelance Factor (http://www.freelancefactor.com) – dedicated to writers wanting to break into the fiercely competitive world of freelance writing.

Romance Factor (http://romance.fictionfactor.com) – a site purely for those writers wanting to learn about writing and publishing great romance.

Fantasy Factor (http://fantasy.fictionfactor.com) – catering to those writers with a love of creating new, fantastical realms in which to stage their fictional stories.

Horror Factor (http://horror.fictionfactor.com) – this one is my favourite! A site created especially for writers of the scary and the horrific.

Erotica Factor (http://erotica.fictionfactor.com) – we realised quickly that some romance writers found the more sensual side of fiction more compelling – and the market place is just as lucrative as any other – so we felt the need to create an Erotica site to assist those writers too!

Children’s Fiction Factor (http://children.fictionfactor.com) – compiled with the help of a very good friend and great writer, Robyn Opie, this site specifically focuses on teaching writers to write for a children’s audience.

Christian Fiction Factor (http://christian.fictionfactor.com) The Christian writers market is quite difficult to break into – unless you know the right way to go about things! Sourcing information for this site is a little more difficult than the others, but we have plenty of quality information available.

Sci-Fi Factor (http://scifi.fictionfactor.com) – Our newest addition to the family, SciFi Factor is dedicated to speculative fiction writers wanting to delve into the strange and exciting new worlds of Science Fiction. This site is still being constructed, but will be publicly available very soon!

Aneeta: I know you are also the author of several books. I’ll list them here and please give me a description of each one of them:

Lee:

Write, Create and Promote a Best Seller – I wrote this in response to an email query I received from a reader. I firmly believe that “Best-Selling” and “Best-Written” are not the same thing at all. A best-selling book is one that simply sells lots of books. A best-written book may be an award winning literary masterpiece that doesn’t sell anything at all!

So I wrote the book with the aim of trying to help writers to understand that writing well AND selling well are traits and tactics that can be learned and then applied to most manuscripts.

Write Here, Write Now! – This is more of a motivational book, co-written by Tina Morgan. The chapters include dealing with rejection in a positive manner, finding time to prioritise writing, not giving up in the face of adversity (or criticism) and defeating writer’s block

Short Fiction Market Guide – This is the first market guide in a series yet to be released. Covering as many short fiction markets across several genres and countries as I could find at that time, this guide shows writers that the short fiction market is alive and well – and pays very handsomely too!

Writing Short Fiction That Sells– During an interview with an editor a couple of years ago, I learned that many editors will look more favourably on a novel submission from an author with an established publishing history. This includes a portfolio of short fiction. Many novel writers don’t realise the advantages of writing short fiction and how it can greatly improve your chances of having a novel accepted. The act of writing short fiction can also help to hone writing skills, as the word limits force a writer to be more careful with word choice, thus making the writing much stronger.

The Stygian Soul – the Stygian Soulis an anthology of dark fantasy fiction, compiled by some wonderful fantasy writers! My own little contribution, Angel, is my first attempt at writing fantasy. I’m very pleased it was accepted into this high-quality anthology, as I generally write horror or science fiction!

Due for release over the next couple of months are three genre-specific market guides – one each for horror writers, sci-fi writers and fantasy writers. To my knowledge, these market listing guides are the most extensive of their kind anywhere on the ‘net to date.

In the pipeline are three financially oriented books, designed to teach people to budget well and easily, how to reduce personal debt quickly and effectively and how to reduce a mortgage quickly without scrimping or living like a pauper.

Aneeta: As you know, this website caters for storytellers. What advice would you give those who are embarking on storytelling for the first time?

Lee: It’s all about the story! Remember to tell your story in your own way and have fun doing it.

Once the story is out of your head and you’ve written ‘The End’, go back to the beginning and only then think about the mechanics of the craft. Look at your handling of elements such as pacing, characterisation, plot, setting, tone, conflict, narrative, dialogue, continuity – all the wonderful, mundane bits and pieces that bind together a fun tale and make it compelling to read.

If you think you’ve finished your edit, go back and read it again with a red pen firmly in hand. Cut out any redundant text or pointless prose. Be harsh!

This time, if you really think you’re finished, format it to submission standard, research and seek out your intended publication and send it out the door. Today. Now. Without hesitation.

Then you wait for either your wonderful acceptance or yet another rejection (which should never be taken personally. Simply file it under ‘R’ for rejection and submit the story to another publication the same day).

Aneeta: Lee, this is all I have to ask. Is there anything you’d like to add?

Lee: Yes. I would love to be able to tell all writers to PERSIST. No matter how hard it gets or how many people tell you it can’t be done – persist. Never give up on your dreams and goals. Never allow anyone to denigrate those ideals. Never tell yourself you can’t do it. Be positive. Believe in yourself and your vision of where you want your career to go, and then keep on persisting.

It will happen J

As Richard Bach said: A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit!

Aneeta: Thank you, once again.

Lee: It was my pleasure Aneeta. Thank you for inviting me!


This piece may NOT be freely reprinted. Please contact editor @ howtotellagreatstory.com for reprint rights.

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