What’s your writing background? When did you begin writing and what inspired you?
I always wrote stories as a little girl; I’d fold an A4 sheet of paper into quarters and make little books. I quickly realised I would never be an illustrator but I’ve always loved writing (and reading) stories.
When I was fifteen, I started writing some jokey match reports and articles for a magazine called ‘True Faith’, which is a Newcastle United fanzine. I used to get a lot of praise for that but once I left school at 18, the writing fell by the wayside.
When I was twenty-four, I entered a competition in my local newspaper called ‘Young Reviewer of the Year’. There were ten young ladies and gents and the competition was for whoever showed the most promise in the culture section. I ended up going to see plays, concerts, shows, reading books and listening to CDs. I also got to see a special press preview of ‘The Dark Knight’ ahead of general release which was one of my entire life’s highlights. The following year, I was declared the winner.
By then, I’d started a masters in creative writing at Northumbria University and I’d rediscovered my love of writing.
I was offered a place on journalism training, which I took up, but left after four weeks after realising my strengths lay in fiction and features.
Earlier this year, I released a collection of my short stories and flash fiction entitled ‘Letting Go’ (http://amzn.to/RcJZE8). Since then, I have built up a good following on my blog and was the official blogger for Whitley Bay Film Festival.
I’m inspired by all sorts of things. A lot of things I read or watch on TV or film seem to spark ideas off in me. I can literally be inspired by a person I see in the street, or a situation I hear someone mention. I genuinely do get inspiration from everything.
How often do you write? And how do you manage to fit in writing among other commitments?
At the moment, I am finding it tough to find time to write as I have recently started a PGCE in teaching for the post 14 sector. In plain English, that means – by June 2014 – I will be a qualified teacher and then hope to find a lecturing post. I wrote one story a couple of months ago and I found out I won first prize in a competition run by a local council. So that was really lovely to hear, a great boost to my confidence.
I carry a notebook around with me everywhere I go so I make notes when ideas come to mind and hope to develop them eventually. I don’t think I will have “homework” over Christmas but I’m actually going abroad so hoping to relax while I’m away.
I work part-time due to a health issue so, along with treatments, regular medical appointments and work, time can be quite tight. I have to be careful not to overdo it although writing is handy when you can’t do much else.
In which genre do you most enjoy writing?
When I was younger, I thought I would write chick-lit but my stories tend to be a lot darker. I love Roald Dahl and Alan Bennett. Dahl writes about the fantastic even in the most mundane; for example in ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ a woman bludgeons her husband to death with a leg of lamb then feeds the murder weapon to the detectives investigating her husband’s disappearance. Alan Bennett writes generally about the everyday but there’s always some sort of sting in the tail.
What draws you to write in that genre?
I guess I’ve read plenty of stories like that and I, as a reader, have always enjoyed the twists. I think it gives the reader the opportunity to use their imagination as they second-guess the ending. I think it also gives me the chance to be more inventive and honest. Some people might enjoy happy endings – but are they really realistic?
Can you tell me about your current project(s)?
I am putting together a collection of stories set in the Middle East. I think the media tend to show one aspect of the Middle East but there is so much more to the area than what you are shown on TV here and in America. I also have another collection in progress of short stories, just stories that are in my usual style – with a twist in the tail.
What are your writing plans for the future?
I’d love to combine my love of reading and writing with teaching. I already run a small weekly creative writing class on a Saturday morning and I’d really like to extend that to a college class or even working in a university. I’m never happier than when I’m running the class (unless I’m in Oman). I’ve only been running it for eight weeks and one of the ladies who attends has come on leaps and bounds. I’ve been getting some great feedback too.
I do have a novel that’s at about 20,000 words and I would love to finish that and get it published. But it is up to me to finish!
Where can people find out more about you?
You can download my first collection of short stories and flash fiction, ‘Letting Go’, here.