- Can you please tell us about you? Where do you live and how is your daily life?
I live in Bishop Auckland, North-East England, where I am a self-employed musician, artist and writer. As a musician, I am the fiddle player with in Irish folk/rock band ‘Share the Darkness’, and also give lessons in violin, viola and piano; as an artist, I work mostly as a commissioned portrait painter, but will try my hand at most types of fine art, and have been a televised contestant on both Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year and Landscape Artist of the Year; and as a writer, I’ll have a go at most things from novels to poetry to memoir.
- When did you start writing? How often do you write? Please feel free to mention your previously published works or awards or any other achievements in writing. We want to learn all about your writing life!
I started writing in my forties when severe health problems meant I could no longer go out to work. I was stuck at home, bored out of my brain. So I wrote a poem. And another. And another. Within a few years I had publishing deals which resulted in poetry collections, novels and a memoir, as well as a wealth of short stories and flashes in various journals, and a healthy smattering of prizes. Nobody was more surprised than me at this outcome, as I’d never imagined I would ever be a writer (I suffer from dyslexia).
- How did you feel when you learned that you won the 2nd Place of The London Independent Story Prize? How does it feel to have your work recognised?
This sort of thing always gives me a buzz. I’m very prolific, but sometimes wonder if I’m churning out absolute rubbish, so I send pieces out to be sure I’m not wasting my time. This sort of recognition helps enormously.
- What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing a Flash-Fiction?
The best thing is they’re quick, and when you’re a novelist, the idea that you can write a complete work in ten minutes is very enticing. The hardest thing is trying to distil an entire story into a tiny number of words, which will make the reader think they’ve read something that really matters and will stay with them.
- How did you come up with the idea for your LISP selected story? Is there a story behind your story? And how long have you been working on it?
All my stories are written extremely quickly, but I then return to them weeks or months later to trim them and make sure there is not a word out of place. There is no particular story behind this story, but I do like to explore relationships and memory in my writing.
- Can you please give us a few tips about writing a 300-word flash-fiction story?
If you want to write a 300-word flash, don’t set 300 words as your goal. My ‘300 word’ stories inevitably end up under 200. It doesn’t matter. Never pad it out just to get to a particular number. Do the reverse. You’ll end up with a much piece of writing.
- What's the best thing about writing competitions?
I never write specifically for a competition, but I’m delighted when a competition comes along that looks as if it will be a good fit for one of my pieces. I aim to get pretty much everything I write published, because there’s no point in writing it unless people are going to read it.
-Lastly, do you recommend the writers to give it a go on flash fiction story and LISP?
Flash fiction is fun to write, it’s quick, and there are loads of us doing it, so you can get lots of support and help. The sort of recognition you can get from LISP will give your writing a boost, whether you’re a beginner or an old hand like myself, so go for it.