Finalist 2015 with 'Stolen Moments'
Everything she’d ever wanted: she simply took it until she didn’t want it anymore, whenever that might be. There was always something else to be had, something new. Alice never planned anything: that would have caused too many complications. She just waited to see what would fall into her lap. It always seemed to work out. Her latest acquisition had been no different.
This story came out of a memory from my teaching days of a child who stole repeatedly and could never see the problem with it – I spun that into the exploration of a character who had no interest/stake in consequence, and then pushed her behaviour to the limits of what a person with no moral filter could steal.
other short stories
She was even lovelier than memory had her, such beautiful skin, tinted more golden than the pale faces I was used to. My gaunt fingers splayed on the lace cloth, shirt cuffs shot back and revealing too much. I pulled them down, squared myself up, tried to look more like the man I once might have been.
A prize winning story from 2017, set in post-war Berlin in the early 1960s and another exploration of what it means to be a ‘monster’.
Jane waited. She always waited just at this point, opening up enough space to check the paperwork, to suggest a breathing space or an introduction before children were handed over to a complete stranger. Always offered, always ignored. A head shake, the folder flicked closed. “Well, that’s settled then.” Clarissa had already moved on: the lure of deadlines finally met and pre-dinner drinks actually drunk far more enticing. Jane wished it was different but what could she do? Still, this was just the first day, the first little test. Nothing was decided, not yet.
My favourite, as published in January 2018’s Writers’ Forum – Mary Poppins gone to the dark side. They all get there in the end.
Blood and Roses, published in January 2016 by Yolk Publishing. A re-imagining of the story of Margaret of Anjou, the much-maligned wife of King Henry VI and a key protagonist in the fifteenth century civil war known as the Wars of the Roses. Described by The Times as ‘An accomplished, absorbing tale.’
Paperback available through Waterstones and independent book stores and for kindle at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blood-Roses-Catherine-Hokin/dp/1910130044/ref
The Blurb: 1460 The English Crown – a bloodied, restless prize.
The one contender strong enough to hold it? A woman. Margaret of Anjou: a French Queen in a hostile country, born to rule but refused the right, shackled to a King lost in a shadow-land.
When a craving for power becomes a crusade, when two rival dynasties rip the country apart in their desire to rule it and thrones are the spoils of a battlefield, the stakes can only rise. And if the highest stake you have is your son? You play it.
My inspirational places
I am a Glasgow based writer who has been writing on and off for years, both fiction and non-fiction, but finally got serious when the youngest was not so young – a familiar tale I think! I have a passion for history and, in both my short and long fiction, for characters who have been misrepresented or misheard and those whose mind-set strays towards the darker side – I like a bit of moral ambiguity. As all writers are, I’m a huge reader and I read widely (or devour books as my husband puts it). Having read Jane Eyre at an early age I like a bit of Gothic, I also love magical realism and obviously historical fiction – you have to read and love what you write. If I could make people read any books it would be Wise Children by Angela Carter and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. And mine of course. I go to the cinema a lot, I like very loud music and I travel as much as I can: I have a son living in Berlin, an American husband and a daughter who has to travel to Dublin a lot and likes company – wise choices all!
I am a member of the Scottish Live Literature Database and can be contacted through this for workshops, including through schools and libraries. My most recent ones have included: How to Approach Historical Fiction, Writing through Place (using historic sites to stimulate fiction) and How to Structure a Short Story. I am always happy to do a book club or work with writing groups.
a WRITING LIFE
Perhaps the best writing advice that I can pass on is that there is no one guaranteed yellow-brick road to publication and for every writing tip one person gives you, another will give you the opposite. This is about finding the path through the maze that makes sense to you.
I was initially published by a small press and got an agent on the back of that rather than getting an agent first (I couldn’t, I tried) – many people do not want to go the agent route but it works for me as I need someone in my corner who I trust and who reins in the madness (or the ‘purple prose’ as she more kindly puts it). But even an agent isn’t a guarantee that the next book will get out there – it just means she gets the rejections first. I’ve learned a massive amount in the last two years and I’ve tried things that didn’t work as much as ones that did. Here’s a few things that make sense now to me:
- Decide what success means to you – what it means to other people doesn’t matter. I wanted my name on a novel and that novel in a physical book shop. Then I wanted to see it in a library. I managed both, with a lot of hard work, and now I want the next one in more bookshops and more libraries. Yes, I have dreams of films with Cillian Murphy crying in delight at the magic of my words but they are dreams not daft unattainable goals guaranteed to make me feel like a failure. Keep the boxes separate.
- Linked to the above – you have to spend time on social media and create platforms (aka Emperor’s New Clothes) but do not measure yourself by other writers, they make stuff up for a living. Trust me, I know enough ‘successful’ ones now and everyone has a public face – all the madness and the fear of failure is kept to private feeds, as should yours be.
- Rejection is part of the deal – the alternative is never submit and what’s the point of that? Sulk for a day and then learn from it. If you have an agent and they comment on your work, do what they say – you’ll give in in the end because they’re right and you might as well save yourself the time. And use an editor. Always.
- Learn your craft – Story by Robert McKee is great for structure, This Itch of Writing is the best blog ever, for me; there will be something that works for you.
- Write and write and then write again – I plan, I don’t care about word counts, I write longhand (now) and type up at the end of the day, I draft and redraft, I use short story competitions with feedback to keep learning, I like a notebook or twelve. None of that might work for you but something will so find out what.
- Find a writing community – mine has three people in it who I trust implicitly, I don’t need any more but I do need them. If nothing else, they will never say ‘I’d love to write a book but I just don’t have time.’ Never speak to those people again.
Our first anthology of short stories from The Scottish Arts Club Short Story Competition 2014-2018