Tell me about your books
I have several collections of short fiction published: mostly short stories, but more recently, flash fiction (very short stories of 500 words or less). My short fiction is contemporary and veers towards literary, exploring issues in modern life: dementia; family break-ups; disability; homelessness…. but also, happier themes such as love, and luck. I have been lucky enough to be listed and placed in several writing competitions for my stories, including being shortlisted in The Bridport Prize, and first place for Flash 500 competition last year, which were great confidence boosts.
Recently, I have been working on a lighter, ‘feel good’ novel, called The Landlord of Hummingbird House. This is quite different, and so I am publishing it under a pen name – Jane Harvey. It’s about a 32-year-old woman who needs somewhere to live, following the end of a relationship. She meets her neighbours in Hummingbird House, and the novel sets about exploding her assumptions about them that are based on first impressions. Oh, and there’s a mystery along the way, too!
How and when did you start writing?
I have written on and off all my life, including studying creative writing as an option as part of my English degree. Around that time, I had some poetry published and was writing fairly regularly but with no real plan. Life took over, and along came a career and a child, and then in 2018 I made a decision to commit properly to writing, regularly. I set myself writing targets and entered lots of competitions. It worked – writing is now fully embedded in my life and something I think about, or do, every minute that I can.
How does a story begin for you?
Stories often come when you have a moment to let your mind drift – at least, they do for me. Driving a regular route, washing your hair, doing the dishes, etc. Stories don’t always come to me in the same way – sometimes it’s the setting, sometimes the twist, often the character that comes first. Occasionally, it’s simply an odd little phrase or an unusual word that grabs me, and it all unfolds from there…
What have been your greatest obstacles to overcome when writing?
Time is a huge problem. Writing, if you want to be published, and sell, also involves a great deal of marketing and tracking, organising, etc. You are constantly having to promote yourself, and there is a lot to learn about social media, publishing etc as well.
The second obstacle is me, and the dreaded ‘imposter syndrome’. Half of the time I feel great, and happy in my work, and then I will be filled with angst and think that I am being utterly ridiculous, pursuing writing. It is very easy to doubt yourself. I imagine all writers feel like this sometimes.
What has surprised you the most with your writing?
I have been amazed how generous people are with their praise, support, and time. So many people – some of whom are only acquaintances or even that I have never met in person – have offered their support one way or another. It affirms my belief that most people are good.
What do you consider your greatest writing accomplishment?
It’s natural to me, but I know that how prolific I am has impressed some people. I have published two full story collections, one flash fiction collection and a micro collection of six stories in the last three years, as well as being published online and in other anthologies, such as the Bath Flash Fiction Award. On top of that, last year, I wrote two novels – Hummingbird House, about to be published, and another, darker novel, that I’m returning to, soon.
Is the experience of writing story stories different to writing a novel or novella?
Writing short stories is great because it gives quick gratification for the writer. You can plan and complete a story in days. A novel requires far more patience…
Skills wise, writing a novel requires more subplots and fleshed out characters with backstories, so there’s more to consider and juggle, and remember, as well.
How does interacting with other writers help you?
Other independently published writers are a huge source of support because they can empathise with the struggle. They are also usually generous with their knowledge and will share inside information or recommendations. There are some amazing on-line groups on all the social media platforms, and I have been blessed to meet some great people.
What current projects should we be looking out for?
I am reviewing my other novel once this book is published and will be sharing with my editor. I am considering querying this book to agents but am undecided.
In the meantime, I plan to publish a chapbook of poetry before the end of 2021 as well. My poetry is irreverent and mostly very accessible and candid. I am easily bored, so the idea of this quite different project appeals to me.
What is your ultimate dream as a writer?
To be a writer full-time, earning enough to contribute to society and to our family budget.
What advice would you give other writers?
Don’t wait. Don’t delay. There will never be a perfect time to tell your story. As Karen Lamb said, ‘a year from now you will wish you had started today’.
Dreena Collins was born in Jersey, Channel Islands, where she now works in education; she has a background in teaching, with a degree and a Masters’ degree in English Literature, as well as postgraduate teaching and Special Educational Needs qualifications. She lives with two males and a dog.
Previous publications include poetry featured in Mslexia magazine and Interchange periodical. She has been shortlisted and longlisted in several writing competitions, including the internationally celebrated ‘Bridport Prize’.
Things that Dreena loves include comfortable shoes, island holidays, spicy food, irreverence, and her family.
She dislikes intolerance (and Jaffa Cakes).
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