Congratulations on winning our October contest with “A Lie In”. What was the inspiration for this story?
Originally the story was about a woman from a mining community who was feeling a bit panicked by the idea of her husband’s impending retirement. The 50th anniversary of the Aberfan disaster in which 116 children and many adults died, was all over the UK news while I was editing my story and I quite suddenly felt I shouldn’t let it pass without comment. I didn’t want to write about the tragedy itself – I suppose I didn’t feel I was up to doing it justice – and so I put some distance between it and my characters, in time and place.
What does a typical writing day look like for you?
I daydream about that ‘typical’ writing day often. Up early, four hours of serious prose, lunch, an afternoon nap, back for the editing … In reality, like most writers, my writing has to be fitted in around my money-earning job.
There are days when I feel inspired (although on re-reading it’s often more like mania), and I write for hours at a stretch. But most of the time I need a bit of bullying. I belong to a group of writers who meet fortnightly to critique each others’ work. It’s too embarrassing not to turn something in so I do my best to spend at least a small part of every day either writing or editing.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to see where an idea takes you?
No outline or plot. Just ideas that percolate as I’m peeling the spuds or hanging out the laundry. Once I start typing I think I know where the story is going, but oddly enough that’s hardly ever the case. I like to think of this as my writer’s brain doing its stuff, but I suspect it’s just the result of an undisciplined mind.
What are some great books you've read recently?
Atonement by Ian McEwan
Anglo-Saxon Attitudes by Angus Wilson
Thérèse by François Mauriac
HMS Surprise by Patrick O’Brian
Great House by Nicole Krauss
Some years ago I started writing a short story. The inspiration came from my memories of first seeing my grandmother-in-law’s art studio. The story evolved as I wrote, with the studio based on reality but the characters all from my imagination. I was pleased with my effort but spent some time tweaking it. I read it out to my writing group and received very positive feedback. My tutor encouraged me to submit it to a competition.
Metal, smooth beneath fingertips. The turn of a handle, the squeak of a faucet. A stream of water flowing to life. Cold, slow to heat up, slower still to be hot. Quick to cool. A brief window. Narrower than the one on the wall, shut tight against the Colorado winter. Slipping out of a maroon sweater. Zipping out of stiff jeans. Bare feet on tile. Overgrown toenails. Pale body in motion, stirring the moonlight, mindful of windows. Neck to the left. Tongue to shoulder.