Bonus! Ask Me Anything


Huge thanks to those of you who posted questions for the very first The Links Ask Me Anything! Answering was a lot of fun, and I hope you enjoy reading.

Before we get stuck in, a reminder that Season 2 of The Links is coming very soon, on June 7th—tell your friends now so they can catch up on Season 1!

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Onto our questions and answers:

Where did the idea for The Links come from?—Jonathan V

I had been thinking of starting an email newsletter for a while and I wanted to do something a little different from others I had read, so I thought I’d try writing fiction—I wasn’t aware of any other fiction newsletters when I started (although I’ve since come across quite a few). I live in a tenement building similar to The Links’s 8 Pechey Terrace, so in the earliest days of January, in the middle of lockdown, I looked around and thought, ‘I could write about a tenement’.

I was quite pleased with the idea for a few days until I remembered the 44 Scotland Street series, which I love, and had a crisis of confidence worrying that people would think I was trying to rip that off. But I decided the ideas were different enough that it didn’t matter, and ploughed ahead.

What's your favourite soap opera?—Charlotte Mac

I don’t actually watch any soaps, although my mum watched Eastenders so I grew up watching that, and like every other British child of the 80s, I watched Neighbours and Home And Away religiously. But a lot of what we call prestige drama is just soap with a bigger budget—Games of Thrones was a soap opera with dragons.

Do you outline the whole series out before you write it? And how much of the ending do you know before you start?—Terrell Johnson


I knew there was going to be a big fire—I wanted the traditional soapy thing of a huge event affecting all (or at least most) of the characters, and I knew the plot points I wanted to happen by the end of the season—like Erin confessing her secret, and Katie finding out about Angel having sex with Sergio. I outlined enough so that I had an idea of what needed to happen each week to get to those points, but the weekly outlines weren’t particularly detailed. This is the outline I had for Katie’s storyline in the second week of Season 1:

Katie, nudged by Angel, applies for a waitressing position at the restaurant

That became three scenes: Katie seeing the ‘help wanted’ sign, applying for the job, and Sergio debating whether to employ her.

Are you aware of the concept of ‘architects’ and ‘gardeners’ in continuing fiction, and which do you consider yourself to be?—Indy Smith

What a great question! For those that aren't familiar with this idea, the jist is that ‘architects’ plan their stories out in detail before writing them, and ‘gardeners’ start to write and tend to the story as it emerges. I’m definitely much more of an architect, but I do a little bit of gardening—the character of Maeve emerged in the process of writing, as did Aidan and John’s relationship.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own newsletter? What are the pros and cons of using Substack? And how did you grow your email list?—Eve

I’d say you have very little to lose by giving it a try. I’ve found Substack very easy to use, although the editing/formatting function is a bit limited. I can’t say much about the pros and cons because I haven’t compared it to any other platforms, although I’ve heard good things about Ghost. Growing your email list needs much more attention than I anticipated, but if you keep sharing with friends and on social media, it should start to grow. Substack has a couple of good articles here and here. One thing I did was place classified ads in other newsletters, which was an affordable way to reach likeminded readers.

Hi, loving The Links! I notice you don't mention covid or the pandemic at all, is that a conscious choice?—Emma Williamson

It was a conscious choice, for two reasons. 1) We’re living through the pandemic and it’s horrifying, so I didn’t think anyone would want to read about it in something that’s supposed to be an entertaining distraction. 2) Not mentioning it makes writing easier: I think we all know by now that being stuck at home with nowhere to go can get very boring, very quickly—I needed the characters to be able to get out and about and interact to make their stories dramatic.

I think you write quite visually, and obviously you refer to The Links as a soap opera - did you write it to be a TV show? Would you like to see it made?—Nancy

YES OF COURSE I WOULD!! Having it made into a TV show would be incredible, but no, I didn’t write it to be a TV show, it was always going to be an email—it was an experiment, really, in whether writing fiction in this way would work. I think it’s going well so far?!

Writing 3 episodes a week must be a lot—how do you manage? How close to publishing time do you finish writing?—Jess M

When I started planning The Links, I decided on a launch date far enough ahead that I had time to write a fair bit—I think I had written four weeks’ worth when the first episode was published. I don’t have all that much time to dedicate to this, so I keep to quite a strict schedule: I give myself two hours to write each episode, and I can’t stray far from that or I’ll fall behind.

I just finished reading Season 1. I got lost a couple of times keeping track of the different characters and where they lived in the building - how many apartments are there? And have we met the residents of all the apartments or are there other characters yet to be introduced?—Chris Topher

My apologies! I try to make it clear where everybody lives in relation to each other, but I can understand if it’s confusing—so I’ve put together the handy graphic below as a guide (I will not be accepting comments on my graphic design skills at this time 😝). And no, we haven’t met all the residents. There are two flats on the second floor, and you’ll have to read Season 2 to find out who lives there.

Thanks for reading—please feel free to ask questions at any time! Look out for one more bonus post next week, before Season 2 starts on June 7th.


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