I’ve always considered myself to be quite thoughtful which I guess is really important as a writer. I actually like to literally think out my stories long before I start to type them. I often find myself preoccupied with ideas for stories when I’m trying to sleep. I think that’s quite a good representation of me – once I start thinking about something, I can’t stop! One of my favourite past-times is people watching and that inspires me a great deal. I’m interested in human relationships, what makes people tick and why some people decide to take a more subversive path. I also like to write about issues that matter to me, for example domestic abuse and women’s rights.
Did you always want to be a writer?
Ever since I was a little girl, I’d fold pieces of paper up and write stories on them. When I was fifteen, I wrote humorous articles for a Newcastle United fanzine (in the
) but after that, I let my
writing slide for several years. It was only at the end of my undergraduate
degree that I decided I wanted to try writing again. From there, I took a
Masters degree in Creative Writing. It is a real dream of mine to be a
professional author. I did briefly take a journalism course before realising
that I didn’t have a thick enough skin to doorstep grieving relatives – my
strengths lie in fiction and reviewing. I’m not good with the hard-hitting
Letting Go is a wonderful book with eight beautifully written and insightful short stories. Where do you get your inspiration from when you write?
There are lots of things that inspire me. Sometimes it’s a news item, a person I’ve met or a conversation I’ve had. My short story ‘Inside’ was inspired when I saw a supermarket being demolished and it just grew from there. ‘I Should Have Seen it Coming’ came to me after I’d been to a psychic evening with a friend. During that evening, I’d observed all sorts of people sitting in a bar waiting to pay a hefty amount of money to someone with a few props and potentially a wild imagination. I’m not saying I don’t believe in it but I do think there are some people who may take advantage of people who are quite vulnerable. ‘Bye Bye Baby’ started with a song title and, sadly, ‘Cry Baby’ was based on a previous experience I’d had.
What are you currently working on?
I haven’t been entirely strict with myself recently so my main focus has been plotting stories in my head. I have very little typed up although my main plan is to release a collection of short stories about modern life in the
I’ve been lucky enough to spend some time in and Oman and I would like to write about the
region. There is a perception of Muslims that isn’t particularly positive at
the moment and I want to demonstrate the fact that – like all other regions of
the world – bad people are actually outnumbered by good. I also have 20,000
words of a novel written which I started in 2010 whilst doing my Creative
Writing degree. I think I have a rather original idea but at the moment, it is
sitting unfinished. Sometimes I think I hold myself back because of a fear of
What process do you go through to define your characters?
I take quite a while to think about my characters and their physical traits as well as their personalities. By working out a back story in my head, the appearance of the character seems to come quite naturally. It’s all a bit bizarre when I think about it. I don’t necessarily include all of the information I have about my characters but to be able to understand them and convey their story accurately, I need to gather as much information about them as possible.
What type of research did you do for your stories?
Luckily, thus far my stories have tended to be about things I’ve had some experience of. Although there are certain things I have no prior knowledge about – like police sentencing - and I need to do some wider reading or research. Luckily, with Google and the internet, it’s pretty easy to find information out. I’m also lucky that I have a vast network of friends with different life experience and they’re always happy to help. Generally speaking, my research is more about me getting to know my characters.
What do you hope readers will experience while reading your stories?
In a way, I hope my readers get a smile out of my stories. It seems a bit of an odd thing to say when I reflect on the subjects I’ve written about but I like to think that, even in the darkest of scenarios, there is a small chink of light somewhere in there. I would like to think my writing could provoke some sort of realisation in readers that some people’s lives are really tough and it’s not always obvious at first glance that something may be wrong. I write a lot about inner turmoil and repressed emotions. I hope my readers appreciate that they may too encounter people who aren’t fully expressing themselves.
Do book reviews have an influence on your writing?
It’s always lovely to get a nice review but I think it’s important when you get a critical review to take the comments on board – provided that the criticism is constructive. I know that not everyone will like what I write – taste is a very subjective thing. I don’t like every book I read but I do try to be constructive when I critique them. At least then the author might have an idea where they could improve in future. There is nothing more disheartening for a writer than a reviewer taking it upon themselves to try to drag you down for no reason and unfortunately I, like many other writers, have encountered that. I know there are plenty of people who do enjoy what I write and I will keep writing as long as they keep enjoying my work.
Are there any Authors who have given you inspiration?
I love to read so I would say there a lot of writers who’ve influenced me but no-one more so than Roald Dahl. He’s been a favourite author of mine since I was a child and I honestly can’t imagine any other writer ever replacing him in my heart. I really respect Mohsin Hamid and Khaled Hosseini who have become really popular in the West despite writing about cultures which are “different”. Chris Cleave has written two great novels – ‘Incendiary’ and ‘The Other Hand’ (AKA ‘Little Bee’). I like different writers for different things; for example, I’d love to be as funny as Helen Fielding or Sue Townsend – their Bridget Jones and Adrian Mole books are great reads.
This is your chance to speak directly to readers who haven’t discovered your book. What would you like to say to them?
My collection of short stories is about ordinary people who are caught up in events that are generally beyond their control. A lot of my characters repress their emotions and their memories, as many of us do in real life. I hope that you will find the stories interesting and unique.