A short interview from the Word + (copyright Leeds City College 10th October 2013).
Aside from work you are studying an MA. What course is this?
I’m currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Sheffield Hallam University and go to classes there on a Wednesday evening. The course will take me a few years to complete as I have to write a book as part of it. I’m a bit worried about that but fingers crossed I’ll get there.
How do you find fitting it around a full-time job?
Fitting my course around a full-time job is tricky but not impossible. I have to be good at time management and very organised. I also need to take time out to rest when I need it, so I sometimes have very lazy weekends. The most difficult thing is switching between my work brain and my writing brain but I seem to be managing this okay at the moment, hopefully my boss would agree with that!
Have you always been interested in creative writing? What made you decide to do the MA?
I’ve always been interested in creative writing, since being very young, but for a lot of years I felt like writing was just a hobby. Last year I decided I wanted to take my writing more seriously and have a go at writing a book so I applied to the MA and they agreed to take me on. I wanted to do a masters degree because I felt this would be the best way to improve my writing and also to meet other writers and start building a network of brilliant creative people to hang out with.
Have you been published yet?
I’ve recently had a short story selected for publication as part of the Napkin Project, which I’m really excited about. I had to write a flash fiction, which is a short story of fewer than 1000 words, although this competition wanted stories of 300 words or less. The theme was Halloween and my piece is called Neighbourhood Witch. It’s about pets, zombies and trifle.
All the winning flash fictions are being printed onto napkins and circulated in Indie coffee shops in Leeds, Toronto and Brisbane.
You also write a blog. Is this something you set yourself the challenge to do and if so, why?
I set up a blog because I know how important it is to have an internet presence if you’re a writer, even a writer in training. To get the blog started I decided to set myself a 35 day flash fiction challenge, which meant that I had to write a new short story every day and post it up on the blog before midnight. I got lots of feedback through doing this, which was really helpful and encouraged me to keep going. The flash fiction challenge definitely helped me to improve my writing and I was really pleased that I managed to complete it, although it did take my brain about a week to recover afterwards. Now I’m trying to add new posts on a regular basis.
A blog is also a useful tool for finding out about other writers. It’s really inspiring reading other people’s blog posts and their stories.
Is there a genre of literature that you prefer (either to read or to write) and do you have an all-time favourite writer?
I try to read as widely as I can and love all sorts of different genres, from fantasy to crime to historical fiction. One of my favourite authors is probably Neil Gaiman. I’ve just bought his most recent book but as I have a very long reading list for my MA, I might not be able to start this for a while. I like his writing because it is fantastical and yet he writes so skilfully that you never question what happens in his stories. And his characters are wonderful. He’s clearly a very clever and talented man.
I also read a lot of children’s and young adult (YA) fiction because this is what I would like to write myself. I would be very happy if I could write something anywhere near as good ad Hunger Games – this is one of my favourite YA books.