The Story Behind the Story

Francesca and Elaine reveal the inspiration behind some of their short stories.

Francesca: While the ideas for my short stories come from numerous sources, I have to confess that a number of them have come from my own family. The tales I build around these incidents are generally fictional, though there are exceptions. More on that later.

T to B, Allas (as 'It's My Life!) and Woman's Era.

Allas (as ‘It’s My Life!) and Woman’s Era.

On one occasion I was trying to recall my great grandmother’s old fashioned scullery for a story set in World War Two. I was wondering what happened to the numerous coronation mugs on her dresser, some dating back to Edward VII, when a new story was born. Memories Are Made of This, published in Sweden’s Allas and India’s Woman’s Era, is about, ‘Nan’, who hoards far too much memorabilia. Her daughter, rather unkindly, calls it ‘tut’ and attempts to clear it out. My gran wasn’t a hoarder like Nan, who luckily has a grandson who comes to the rescue.

'An Alternative Christmas', renamed for The Weekly News.

‘An Alternative Christmas’, renamed for The Weekly News.

The inspiration for An Alternative Christmas (published in The Weekly News as Party With a Twist) came from my older son and his partner, who are what some would call, ‘alternative’. It’s the tale of a street suffering a Christmas power cut and how you shouldn’t always take people at face value. 

Tiger Lilies for Aunty Carlota, published in Norway’s Hjemmet and Sweden’s Hemmet contains rather more of the original thirty-four-year-old tale.

R: Hemmet, L: Hjemmet

Left: Hemmet Right: Hjemmet

In it, Lottie loses her favourite great aunt and one of the older nephews, Renzo, tries to squirrel away the aunt’s possessions for himself. In the process, a tiger lily necklace, willed to Lottie, goes missing. Aunty Carlota is based on my great aunty Carmela, and Lottie is me. Renzo, in reality my dad’s cousin Luigi, did much to manipulate my aunt’s will and stole items that were meant to be part of the estate, including a necklace (a Madonna rather than a tiger lily). The tiger lilies came about because I took a bunch of them to Aunty Carmela a week before she died, as does Lottie. The story’s theme of avarice and how cheaters don’t prosper sadly wasn’t the reality.

Sometimes it’s very satisfying to put right a wrong, if only in fiction.


TAB CoverElaine: I often get ideas through conversation or people watching. The news or articles also often spark ideas, as well as looking at old photographs. Once I start mulling things over, my idea tends to sprout wings and it takes me wherever it wishes to go.

I’m not altogether sure what sparked my ideas for the short stories I have written, or the novels, mainly because some of them have been quite random.

Other story ideas that I’ve had have evolved. I wanted to write something about going to a garden centre, no idea what, but that ended up being how it ended.

I think I usually have a one sentence idea, which is usually a setting, like the garden centre or an office, but that quite often doesn’t end up being what my story is about.

The story was called One Step Closer

The story was called One Step Closer

One of my favourite short stories, A Dorothy Moment, was published in Take A Break Fiction Feast. The story was about someone retiring from work and buying a pair of high-heeled red shoes that would never be worn.

The idea came to me as I stared aimlessly out of the office window where I work, wishing I could retire, and that is how my story starts. It is written in the first person and all through the story, it is believed that the modern shoes are for that person. It is only when the end of the story is reached, it comes to light that the husband has bought them for his wife. He knows she could never possibly wear them but he has seen her eyeing them in the shop window, so it is his last extravagance before he retires.

That’s what staring aimlessly out of the window gets you.


What has inspired some of your stories?



A Virtual Welcome To Wendy Clarke

Francesca and Elaine are proud to welcome Wendy Clarke to their blog. Wendy decided to make changes to her life three years ago and hasn’t looked back.

Wendy Clarke

Wendy, with over a hundred short stories published you are certainly a prolific short story writer, where do you find your ideas from? 

The word ‘prolificIMG_1083’ still sounds strange to me, as it seems like only yesterday I was dropping my first story in the post box and keeping my fingers crossed that the editors of the magazine might like it. In answer to the question ‘where do I get my ideas?’ there are many ways. The first is remembering small incidents in my life that might work as nuggets to write a story around – for example my story Out of the Dark in this month’s People’s Friend Special is written around my fear of the dark. I would say my next method is to listen carefully to others, especially my friends. One morning a good friend told me that her daughter sent texts to her signed by her new little grandson… what a gem of a story! That one ended up in Woman’s Weekly. Other than that, I read newspapers, keep my eyes and ears open and never, ever go out without a notebook!

How many short stories do you write a week and is there a pattern to how you write them?

Oh, yes. I am very strict with myself. I write one story a week unless I am on holiday (and even then I am scouting for ideas). As to when I write them, it depends on what I have on my calendar that week. I am not a slave to my writing; I write around other things that I do. It is nice to have a story written at the beginning of the week, though, so that I can move on to other writing tasks such as my blog, marketing my story collection and of course writing my novel!

What made you decide to publish Room in Your Heart?book cover-1

I wrote Room in Your Heart because I was frustrated that once my stories had been published in the magazines they would never be seen or read again. Also, a lot of people I know (like my family) aren’t readers of the magazines that contain fiction and I wanted to be able to show them what and how I write. As a lot (though by no means all) of my stories are romances, I decided to make Room in Your Heart a romance collection. Don’t be fooled by the title, there are a range of stories in the collection – all previously published in The People’s Friend – but they are by no means slushy.

Will you publish another book of short stories and how do you decide what to include?

The Last Rose - kindleFunny you should say that! My second collection, The Last Rose. is being published on Monday – it would be lovely to see everyone at the launch party on my blog Wendy’s Writing Now. I decided to put together the second collection after receiving fabulous reviews for Room in Your Heart and requests for another. The theme of The Last Rose is ‘family and friendship’. It will be published for kindle and in paperback and is available now to pre-order – perfect if you’re looking for a Mother’s Day gift. This time I have chosen stories that have been previously published in a variety of national women’s magazines and I am very excited about it!

I know this year you joined the Romantic Novelist Association New Writers Scheme (RNA NWS) so does that mean you are taking the giant leap into writing a novel?

Gulp… yes it is! I never seem to be satisfied with doing just one thing. Although I love writing short stories, I have also written articles and serials and a novel seems the next logical step. I had been thinking about the possibility of writing a novel for a while but it was only when a particular story of mine was published a year ago that I thought, now that could be taken a lot further. I joined the RNA NWS to give me the push I needed to make a start. I know I won’t have it finished by the time I have to submit for a critique in August, but I hope that I will have something decent to show. It’s certainly a learning curve.

Thank you very much for having me on your lovely blog and for being such a great host.


Link to Amazon: Room in Your Heart

Link to Amazon: The Last Rose