Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Glimmer Train Short Story Competition

Glimmer Train's Very Short Fiction Award
Deadline: April 30, 2014
Follow glimmertrain on Twitter
1st place wins $1,500 and, of course, publication in Glimmer Train Stories.
2nd place wins $500, or, if published, $700.
3rd place wins $300 or, if published, $700.
Make a Submission
If I listen to the world, it pours prompts, it gushes prompts. It takes discipline to pay attention and watch.—Stefanie Freele
Other considerations:
Entries should not exceed 3,000 words, but any shorter lengths are welcome. (Writing Guidelines)
Winners and finalists will be officially announced in the July 1 bulletin, and contacted directly the previous week.
Reading fee is $15 per story. Please, no more than three submissions per category.
Simultaneous submissions are okay. Please notify immediately if your submission is accepted elsewhere.

Aura Estrada Short Story Competition

Aura Estrada Short Story Contest
Deadline: October 1, 2014
Judge: Ruth Ozeki
Prize: $1,500
Complete guidelines:
The winning author will receive $1,500 and have his or her work published in the July/August 2015 issue of Boston Review. First runner-up will be published in a following issue, and second runner-up will be published at the Boston Review Web site. Stories should not exceed 5,000 words and must be previously unpublished. Mailed manuscripts should be double-spaced and submitted with a cover note listing the author’s name, address, and phone number. No cover note is necessary for online submission. Names should not appear on the stories themselves. Any author writing in English is eligible, unless he or she is a current student, former student, relative, or close friend of the judge. Simultaneous submissions are not permitted, submissions will not be returned, and submissions may not be modified after entry. A non-refundable $20 entry fee, payable to Boston Review in the form of a check or money order or by credit card, must accompany each story entered. All submitters receive a complementary half-year subscription (3 issues) to Boston Review. Submissions must be postmarked no later than October 1, 2014. The winner will be notified in the spring of 2015 and publicly announced by July on the Boston Review Web site.
Please enter online using our contest entry manager. This requires payment using a credit card.
Or mail submissions to:
Short Story Contest, Boston Review
PO Box 425786
Cambridge, MA 02142

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

2014 Over The Edge New Writer Of The Year short story competition

2014 Over The Edge
New Writer of The Year competition
Major Sponsor: Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop,
other sponsors to date:
ISupply, Quay Street; Ward’s Hotel Lower Salthill;
 Clare Daly TD, Kenny’s Bookshop & Derek Nolan T.D
Closing date: Wednesday, August 6th, 2014
In 2014 Over The Edge is continuing its exciting annual international creative writing competition. Since its inception in 2007, it has grown to become one of the most important competition’s for emerging writers in Ireland and internationally. The competition is open to both poets and fiction writers worldwide. The total prize money is €1,000. The best fiction entry will win €300. The best poetry entry will win €300. One of these will then be chosen as the overall winner and will receive an additional €400, giving the overall winner total prize money of €700 and the title Over The Edge New Writer of The Year 2014. The 2014 Over The Edge New Writer of The Year will be a Featured Reader at Ireland’s leading literary reading series, the Over The Edge: Open Readings in Galway City Library, on a date to be scheduled in Winter 2014/15. Salmon Poetry will read, without commitment to publish, a manuscript submitted to them by the winner in the poetry category. Doire Press will read, without commitment to publish, a manuscript of short stories submitted to them by the winner in the fiction category. The winner in the poetry category will have one of the poems from her or his winning entry published in the January 2015 issue of Skylight 47 magazine.
Entries should be sent to Over The Edge, New Writer of the Year competition, 3 Carbry Road, Newcastle, Galway, Ireland. Entries will be judged anonymously, so do not put your name on your poem(s) or stories. Put your contact details on a separate sheet. If you live in Ireland and wish to be informed of the results by post, please enclose a stamped addressed envelope. OTHERWISE, YOU DO NOT NEED TO ENCLOSE A STAMPED ADDRESSED ENVELOPE.
Criteria: fiction of up to three thousand words, three poems of up to forty lines, or one poem of up to one hundred lines. Any of the aforementioned is one entry. Multiple entries are acceptable but each must be accompanied by a fee. The fee for one entry is €10. The fee for multiple entries is €7.50 per entry e.g. two entries will cost €15, three entries €22.50 and so on. Fee payable by cheque or  money order to Over The Edge. The competition is open to writers worldwide. We accept payment in Dollars, Sterling, Australian Dollars, Canadian Dollars and so on. Writers from outside the Euro area can calculate the payment for their entry here WE ALSO NOW ACCEPT ONLINE PAYMENTS. See the below for details. If you pay the entry fee online you must still post us a hard copy of your entry/entries and enclose with it a note saying ‘entry fee paid online’. PLEASE INCLUDE THE EXACT NAME IN WHICH THE ONLINE PAYMENT HAS BEEN MADE SO THAT WE CAN VERIFY. 

To take part you must be at least sixteen years old by September 1st 2014 and not have a book published or accepted for publication in the genre in which you enter. Chapbooks/ pamphlets excepted. Entries must not have been previously published or be currently entered in any other competition. The closing date is Wednesday, August 6th, 2014. A long-list will be announced at the August Over The Edge: Open Reading in Galway City Library on Thursday, August 28th, 2014 (6.30-8pm). THE LONGLIST WILL BE AVAILABLE, BEFORE THAT, AT CHARLIE BYRNE’S BOOKSHOP FROM 5PM ON THURSDAY AUGUST 28TH.  The shortlist will be announced at the September Over The Edge: Open Reading in Galway City Library on Thursday, September 25th, 2014 (6.30-8pm). The winners will be announced at the October Over The Edge: Open Reading in Galway City Library on Thursday, October 30th, 2014 (6.30-8pm).

Eleanor Hooker lives in North Tipperary. Her debut collection of poems The Shadow Owner’s Companion, published by The Dedalus Press in 2012, has recently been shortlisted for the Strong/Shine award for best first collection in 2012.  Her poetry has been published in Poetry Ireland ReviewThe Irish TimesThe Stinging FlyThe SHOpCrannogCan CanAgendaPOEM: International English Language QuarterlyNew Leaf, and in the anthology I Live In Michael Hartnett. Online her poetry has been published in Wordlegs, And Other PoemsInk Sweat and Tears and Poethead.  In June 2013 Eleanor won the Poetry Ireland/Trocaire poetry competition (Published Author Category). In 2011 she was a winner in the Frank X Buckley Flash Short Story competition at the Irish Writers' Centre, was joint second prize winner in the William Trevor/Elizabeth Bowen International Short Story competition. In December 2012 a winner in the ten word short story competition held by @shortstoryday. Eleanor has a BA (Hons 1st) from the Open University, an MA (Hons.) in Cultural History from the University of Northumbria, and an MPhil in Creative Writing (Distinction) from Trinity College, Dublin. She was selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series in 2011. She is the Vice-Chairperson of the Dromineer Literary Festival. She is Helm and Press Officer for Lough Derg RNLI Lifeboat. 
For further details contact Over The Edge on 087-6431748,
or to make an online payment see
Major Sponsor: Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop,
other sponsors to date: ISupply, Flood Street;
Ward’s Hotel, Salthill; Clare Daly TD, Kenny’s Bookshop & Derek Nolan TD

Friday, 18 April 2014

Listowel Writers Week

Festival Programme 2014

The talking is over, the planning is done, the events finalised and we are  delighted to unveil details of our annual literary festival, which will take place as always in the historical and intimate surroundings here in Listowel, Co. Kerry from 28th May to 1st June 2014.

We are now entering our 43rd year, proud of it and will continue to be known as the festival long renowned for bringing together local and international novelists, poets, playwrights and audiences in what is now widely regarded as the Literary Capital of Ireland.

This year’s international authors include IMPAC winner
Gerbrand Bakker, Jim Crace, Tishani Doshi, Douglas Kennedy, Dinaw Mengestu and Aminatta Forna. Ensuring Irish fiction remains robust and continues to flourish are new literary sensations, Booker and IMPAC nominee Donal Ryan, Goldsmith’s Winner Eimear McBride and Belfast’s inaugural Poet Laureate, Sinead Morrissey.

The festival will celebrate Nobel Laureate,
Seamus Heaney in a special Poetry Aloud event, where gifted, young award-winning students will read from the poet’s best-loved work.

We will also be remembering that 2014 is the 100th Anniversary of World War 1 and the 20th Anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide with a Panel Discussion featuring BBC foreign correspondents
Fergal Keane and Andy Kershaw, and Army Officer and author Tom Clonan.

The National Children’s Literary Festival at Listowel Writers’ Week will run in conjunction with the main Festival and is jam-packed with events for children of all ages and their families. It will feature an alternative cultural school tour, “authors in schools” day, workshops, picnics, book clinics and most importantly, Chocolate! Starring at the Festival will be celebrated children’s authors John Boyne, Alan Early, Siobhán Parkinson, Sarah Webb, Steve Simpson, Claire Hennessy and 12 year-old author Joe Prendergast.

A recent initiative, Operation Education: A Teen Focused Arts Festival for Transition and 5th Year Students, is now entering its second year.  One of its objectives is to introduce the students to a poet who will be on their Leaving Cert course as well as stimulating and enthusing students with a varied programme of events.
The New Writers’ Salon will continue to showcase the best and most exciting emerging poets and prose writers in Ireland today, with the opportunity for budding writers to read their work at an open-mic session.

All this and much, much more…

Speaking of this year’s festival, the Chairman, Sean Lyons, said “Less than a year after man first walked on the moon, a group of visionary people gathered to plan the first Listowel Writers’ Week. Since then, only a dozen people have walked on the moon but tens of thousands have thronged the streets of Listowel to share in a celebration of Irish and international culture and literature. This year, while the moon is deserted, we will bring an exciting and varied programme of events to Ireland’s Literary Capital, here in the heart of north Kerry.”

And when you’ve mingled ‘till you’ve tingled and absorbed the Magic that is Listowel, you can bed yourself down in the newly established Festival Glamping Site; perfectly located in Listowel’s beautiful park in the heart of the town full details here;

or Call: 087 9750110

Tickets for all events at this year’s festival are now available online and open for booking on

Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair 2014-15

Novel Fair 2015 launch event next Thursday 24 April at 7pm and would love to see you there if you are available and interested in submitting again for next year's competition. 
We will be open for submissions as of 24 April and to kick-start things we will be chatting to author and former Novel Fair winner Daniel Seery and Eoin Purcell, Editorial Director of New Island Books who will share their experiences of the Fair. The deadline for submissions is 24 October. 
So, if you're looking for some insights and some useful submission advice, we'd be delighted for you to join us at the Centre. See our website for more details.  
We also have lots of summer courses available to help you on your way to writing that novel: 
We hope that you've been continuing your writing since your last submission and here's to a successful writing year. 
Best wishes, 
The Irish Writers' Centre Team
Have a question? Email: OR call 01-8721302.  

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

short story competitions-what judges want.Kate Dempsey for Boyne Berries

Here are some of the things I hope to find:
  • I’d like some poems in form please, sonnets, pantoums, ghazals, rhubaiyats etc. Give it a try.
  • I like pieces that make me see something in a new light.
  • Pieces I haven’t read before umpteen times.
  • Pieces that are multi-layered and take time to unwind.
  • Having said that, I don’t have much time for writing that is so so obtuse, so obscure, it makes me feel frustrated or plain thick. It shouldn’t take a machete to get to the point.
  • Pieces that love language, love words, make me fall in love with new words
  • Show me something new, show me the feeling, let me picture the image.
  • Leave some gaps for me to fill in myself.
  • Pieces that are honest
  • Pieces that are sly
  • Pieces that catch me out, make me laugh out loud
  • Pieces that leave me gulping
  • Pieces with a subtle turn
  • Pieces that come at me from left field
  • Science pieces. Love Science. And Maths
  • Pieces that take risks

Where stories begin.....

Photo: We just like this pic!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Tips on writing a short story Huffington Post

Every story has a beginning, middle, and end. But the secret to successfully getting a short story published is to add something special to your storytelling mix…something that captures the attention of editors and readers alike. While there are no hard and fast rules for creating a great short story, here are a few industry secrets that will help your writing stand out:
Identify The Heart Of Your Story. Explore your motivations, determine what you want your story to do, then stick to your core message. Considering that the most marketable short stories tend to be 3,500 words or less, you’ll need to make every sentence count. If you over-stuff your plot by including too many distractions, your story will feel overloaded and underdeveloped.
See Things Differently. Experiment with your short story’s POV. A unique, unexpected voice can provide the most compelling, focused experience of the central story. Just be careful that you don’t inadvertently give the story to a nonessential character. Narrating the story line through a character who’s not central to the action is a common mistake many new authors make, often with confusing or convoluted results.
Opposites Attract. Elements that work against your character’s central desire will keep the reader intrigued and prevent your story from getting stuck. You can also try approaching your core idea from an unusual direction. Dialogue, setting, and characterization are all areas that will benefit from an unexpected twist.
Craft A Strong Title. This can be one of the most difficult—but one of the most important—parts of writing your story. How do you find inspiration for a great title? Have friends read your story and note which words or phrases strike them or stand out. These excerpts from your text just might hold the perfect title. Try to stay away from one- or two-word titles, which can seem to editors as taking the easy way out.
Shorter Is Sweeter. Resist the urge to go on and on. With a shorter short story, you will have more markets available to you and thus a better chance of getting published. Here at Writer’s Relief, our submission strategists and clients have noticed that editors consistently prefer short stories that are under 3,500 words over longer ones.

Joseph O Connor on the short story

Joseph O Connor extract on the short story from the  Fish website 1997
The single fact I can be sure about is this: writers are watchers. The one and only thing they have in common is an ability to look at the everyday world and be knocked out by it. Stopped in their tracks. Startled. Gobsmacked.
My favourite short story writer, Raymond Carver, has this to say:
Writers don’t need tricks or gimmicks, or even necessarily need to be the smartest fellows on the block. At the risk of appearing foolish, a writer sometimes needs to be able to just stand and gape at this or that thing – a sunset, or an old shoe – in absolute and simple amazement.

Another writer I love, Flannery O’Connor, put it even more strongly:
There is a certain grain of stupidity that the writer of fiction can hardly do without, and this is the quality of having to stare, of not getting the point at once.
There is only one trait that writers have in common and that’s it. They watch for the extraordinary magic that lies in the everyday. A writer is always quietly looking and thinking. Not willing inspiration but just being open to the world. This quiet looking and thinking is the imagination. It’s letting in ideas. It’s trying, I suppose, to make some sense of things.

Monday, 7 April 2014

wise words

"Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared."

Jonathan Cape Is Accepting Unsolicited Submissions

Jonathan Cape Is Accepting Unsolicited Submissions

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Throughout the month of June unpublished and emerging writers will have a rare opportunity: the chance to submit their work directly to one of the world’s most prestigious literary imprints, Jonathan Cape.
UK-based Jonathan Cape is a imprint of Penguin Random House’s Vintage Books. It publishes the likes of Ian McEwan, Philip Roth, Audrey Niffenegger and Anne Enright.
Jonathan Cape - Unsolicited Submissions
This account of Jonathan Cape’s development was published in 1971 to mark its fiftieth anniversary.
Unsolicited submissions will be open between 1 June and 30 June. To submit their work, writers are asked to email an initial 50 pages of prose fiction as an attachment to These pages can be part of a novel or novella, or they can be short stories.
Together with the 50 pages writers should also include their contact details and a covering paragraph with ‘any information you think might prove helpful in considering your submission’. The submitted writing can be a work in progress.
Submissions sent after 30 June will not be read so get in quick. After this date, Jonathan Cape will once again only accept submissions via a literary agent.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Yeovil Short Story Competition

Yeovil Literary Prize

An opportunity to enter three different categories of writing in this exciting contest for writers everywhere. Organised by the Yeovil Community Arts Association.
·                                 Aspiring writers throughout the world are invited to enter this prestigious writing competition.
·                                 All genres are welcome.
·                                 Agents and Publishers regularly search for new talent.
·                                 See what happened to previous entrants after being placed in the Yeovil Literary Prize.

Category 1
Requirement :
Synopsis and Opening Chapters (combined maximum 15,000 words)
Judge :
Elizabeth Buchan, international best-selling novelist
Prizes :
1st £1000   2nd £250   3rd £100
Entry Fee :

Category 2
Short Story
Requirement :
maximum 2,000 words
Judge :
Mavis Cheek, esteemed short story judge
Prizes :
1st £500   2nd £200   3rd £100
Entry Fee :

Category 3
Requirement :
maximum of 40 Lines
Judge :
Annie Freud, highly respected poet
Prizes :
1st £500   2nd £200   3rd £100
Entry Fee :
£6 one poem ; £9 for two ; £11 for three

Local Prize
Western Gazette Best Local Writer Award
Requirement :
Enter any of the Categories - must live in Somerset or Dorset
Judge :
YCAA Committee
Prizes :

The writing competition runs from 1st January and closes on 31st May each year

The Journey by Mary Oliver


‘The Journey’ by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice – – -
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
‘Mend my life!’
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations – – -
though their melancholy
was terrible. It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice,
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do – – – determined to save
the only life you could save.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Hennessy Literary Awards nominee Helen Murrray

Interview Questions : Helen Murray

How do you structure your writing time-daily, weekly, how many words per day/week?
I'm not the most organised of people but saying that I have a very strong priority list which I shuffle about regularly. The top two on that list rarely varies; writing and family. For me it's important  to separate them. I find it difficult to write at home as the children, the animals, the internet and the laundry compete for my attention. Therefore, I drop kids to school most mornings and plant myself in the Maynooth's NUI Kilkenny campus library and stay there until it's time to do the first school run. The house work can wait, plus it's easier to do when morale is high from writing. I don’t do word counts either as I find it becomes more about quantity and not quality.

What's the best thing about seeing your short story published in the new Irish Writing Hennessy award in the Independent Newspaper.
When I think of the list of people launched as a result of the Hennessy Literary Awards my mind is agog, Anne Enright, Neil Jordan, Patrick Mc Cabe, Joseph O'Connor, Colum McCann, the list goes on and on. To have been picked as a nominee is an immense honour. I know there is a high volume of entrants and the email from Ciaran Carty to say I'd been short listed was without doubt one of the proudest moments of my life. It validates the effort and sacrifices I have made to write over the last few years.

What motivates you?
For me, writing is a disease. I'm unsettled and cranky if I'm not doing it. Expression is the only tool I have against the complexities of life. When I'm not writing I tend to get overwhelmed. The motivation is very much pressure based. I need to open the valves and this is how I do it.

Do you have to be selfish to succeed?

What is the cost of success?
Historically I think writer's have always found it difficult to maintain a living and write. To do it and maintain a family is nigh impossible but it can be achieved if everybody is on board. My kids are very supportive and understand I may not always be available to them, although a lot of my writing is done in the car between school activities. Kilkenny Artlinks have provided me with an Arts bursary so this has helped. Not working full time impacts financially, nonetheless I do feel the cost stops there and can easily be written down when a piece of work is published and appreciated.

Do you have a big overall plan /five year plan?
The overall plan is to keep writing. Perhaps trying different styles and medium's like radio, theatre or essays. I'm very motivated by social issues and use social media as a means of communication and expression. I would imagine that will continue. A lot of things depend on the outcome of my first novel. I tend to respond to situation's and opportunities rather than plan them.

What do you do to keep focused, ie when you get stuck or think you've lost your way?
I take a break. When I run out of road on a character or a scene I leave them. I may pick up the thread of another or sometime's I come out of the story and look at it from a different perspective completely. I set myself a list of questions that I feel need answering when I'm writing. Thing's like; What am I trying to say? Would that character really do that? Is the perspective honest? Mostly I try to trust the process and not get too critical of blockages.

What made you a writer? Family/childhood/background/ life experiences?
All of the above probably. I was a sensitive child and like most children I took the world literary believing adults had it all figured out. Unlearning these things was both liberating and traumatic. I used books, movies and music to escape and they rarely let me down, hence the great love affair.

Who influenced you most as a writer?
Too many to mention and unfair to pick one, writers, musicians, film, I really needed what they had to say. I trusted the stories and the emotion's in them more than anything around me. The commonality of feeling helped me feel understood and not ‘quite’ so weird. I believe the arts reflect the mental health of a community and that is why freedom of expression is so important. It might also explain how Ireland has produced such a deep wealth of writers and performers.

Do you believe that you have a message or wisdom to impart in your writing or are you philosophical?
I'm mostly philosophical. Having grown up in an alcoholic home and becoming one myself I realise that it is impossible to change another human being. You can only change yourself, case point, 'How many therapist's does it take to change a light bulb? One, but the light bulb has to want to change.' My story's are such, if you connect it is probably because we have passed the same road,  like travellers, we share that moment, but there our path's probably divide. I'm not trying to give advice or impart any morals in my stories, I guess I'm just sharing an experience.

What is the most difficult part of writing?
Trying to find excuses not to do it.

What skill's serve you best for your writing talent?
I'm not too constrained by rules. In fact, I'm mostly ignorant of them and I think that has worked to my advantage. Knowing how to use spell check too as I am the worst’est ever.

Are you a people watcher and is this essential to being a writer?
I don't know if it's essential I only know that I do it. I love sitting in my car watching people . I 'think' I'm deducting who they are, by how they act or dress but more often than not I get it wrong. People are not stereotypical. I try not to be small in my thinking.

What inspires you?
Everything. I'm either drawing parallels between thing's or questioning the validity of them. The human condition is wonderful and complex and so I do as an adult what I did as a kid. I poke it with a stick to see what happens.

Is writing work or ability? Can you put a percentage ratio on it?
That's a good question. What springs to mind is a sport's adage, 'You can teach skill but you can't teach talent.' Of course the perfect combination is to have the maximum in both. Skilled people can succeed more often than those with talent, mostly on the premise they have practised stamina, understand the rules; the business end of writing and won’t crash and burn under the stress. Whereas the more beautiful books, the few and far between that don't adorn our shelves remain so because the raw talent needed to produce them lends themselves to the more unconventional, disarrayed personality who cannot steady themselves to the task. I hate to think of the stories’ left unwritten by the very nature of the rule that produced them. 'I'd sing you the blue's only my heart is broken.'

Who /What has helped you most along your writing journey?
I think it's a good idea to join a writing group. I joined one when I decided to legitimatize my desire to write. It gave me an outlet for my work, the skill's to present, the comradeship and support of fellow writer's and the time I needed to develop. From my first writing course I met people who told me about the Creative Writing in Maynooth where I wrote the short story The Science of Falling which attained me the Hennessy nomination. There is such a long list of people I need to thank. Someday I may get the opportunity to let them know how much their support has meant.

Is it possible to make a living out of writing?
I don't know yet. I hope so.

What would you must like to be remembered for?
Being happy, challenging people and going full throttle for the whole journey.

Are you a thinker, a dreamer or a do'er?
All three at different times.

Where does creativity come from?
I think creativity is an energy that comes from outside and through us. Much that same as light passes through a stained glass window onto a floor. So many mediums and vessel's needed to capture that one moment and then gone again. It's important to be awake to all these energies and happenstance.

You are a journalist by profession and is it difficult to change hat's from journalism to fiction- what are you happiest at?
They are two completely different things. I think one is of the mind and the other is of the heart. Working as a journalist you have little control over assignments and as such this can make writing something of a job, whereas the other is about passion. Notwithstanding, there are some very passionate journalist but I'm definitely happiest as a writer.

What character's in fiction do you most like and why?
I guess I’ll keep coming back to Andy Dufresne in Stephen Kings Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. There’s a reason why this movie/book always finds itself in the top five 'best ever movie' list. I read it first when I was a young teenager. King wrote four novella's and put them together in Different Season's where arguably the Shawshank Redemption is the best. The main character, Andy Dufresne, framed and locked away for a crime he didn’t commit begins his journey, green, angry and determined to prove his innocence. His story is one of survival of the terrible truth, that life isn't fair and that, in fact, it can be downright cruel. King gives us an amazing character, intelligent, educated, passionate and above all unquenchable. It is characters like him that remind me of who I am, what my fight is and what life is all about. I still get goose bumps when I think of the pure genius evoked in the making of that character. Remarkable.

What do you like to do to relax?
Watching really bad TV in front of the fire helps turn my brain off. Other than that I find housework quite relaxing once the stereo is on  very high. Suffice to say I don't relax very often.

What make's writing good?
There is nothing better. A chance to create something from nothing. To connect and affect, inspire or disgust, inform, reveal, challenge, turn on or off; whatever the case may be. It’s a dance between strangers, never the same with any two. To sit in someone's psyche as many sit in mine. The opportunity to communicate, share and affect make's it better than good, it's a privilege.

What makes a winning  story?
That's subjective really. For me it's when a writer leaves the reader in. A winning story for me asks the reader, 'what do you think?' not, 'here’s what I think.'

When you are choosing a book what do you look for? An attractive cover, the first page or a middle extract or the blurb.
It's an unusual process really. I'm like a magpie usually attracted to the cover first. The publishers are quite good, categorizing styles with tones and font to match the content. I go for the cover first, muted colours, clean, sharp, odd. Then I briefly read the blurb, flicking to the first chapter. I'll know within one or two line's if I'm going to have a row with myself over buying it.

If you were to start over again - what would you differently?
Not one thing.