Archive for February, 2012

The Beast gets invited to another party!

Posted: February 22, 2012 in News

Rummaging through the 930 emails in my VirginMedia spam file for one that should have reached me but didn’t, I came across a request from an actor/film maker/director for permission to make a short film of The Beast Next Door. Damn, I thought, getting no reply he’ll have moved on to someone and something else. But he hasn’t, and is still interested, which is very exciting!

It’s funny how a story sometimes gets a life of its own, as Deborah Rickard said here a couple of weeks ago. The Beast has won the Story of the Month on Circalit, been published on the free Ether Books App, and had a podcast made of it by the writer’s magazine Words with Jam. It is on the Circalit Reading Group list and I heard yesterday that Ether Books use the story (among others) to attract new investors for ongoing developments, which is incredibly flattering. And it all came from seeing a pot of geraniums outside a run down council flat!

I’ve been warned that the process of fundraising for making the film is likely to be slow, but I’ll post any developments as they occur. Meanwhile, I need to try and come up with another story that gets up and runs around by itself. That’s the tricky bit…

Interviewing the Stars

The last time I’d written any large amounts of non-fiction articles was during my creative writing distance learning course. And to be honest, I really enjoyed it. I adore research, so this was bliss. Dates, figures, places.

And it helped my fiction work too. Not only the need for regimented research, but also by burrowing into the subject to drain out every morsel of information.

From memory, I passed with honours as I managed to sell a couple of pieces – I got a travel piece accepted in a caravanning magazine, and a bio piece on Catherine Cookson published in the North East Times.

So, when the new literary magazine, Words with Jam, opened its doors – I was drawn back into the world of non-fiction articles. And I was lucky enough to be allowed to write about a subject I’m interested in – the progression from the written novel into other mediums.

With the second anniversary of the magazine looming, we needed something fresh. A conversation between myself and the editor went something along the lines …

How about interviewing the authors? 

Me? I said. 

Yeah. It’s worth a try. 

Okay boss … but don’t blame me if every door gets slammed in my face.

But so far, you know, not a single refusal!

Yes, there are a few that don’t respond to emails (or even agents who don’t respond to them) but, in the main, writers are just like you and I. They love their craft, are proud of their work – and in most cases more than pleased to talk about it. And you know, it has been a wonderful experience in so many ways. Wonderful at how affable and easy to contact most writers are. Wonderful to learn that in a good many cases, these successful authors have had just as many knock-backs and rejections as the average budding wannabe.

I like to send a wide selection of questions, usually twenty in total – and ask the author to respond to twelve or more. And each interviewee so far as answered pretty much every question. And I’ve never had to tamper with any reply!

In the past few issues, I’ve concentrated on crime. The brilliant Anne Cleeves gave an insight into how her love of the North East transmitted onto television – and her thoughts on working with the superb Brenda Blethyn as Vera. Peter Robinson gave us an insight into how he felt having finally secured a television deal for DCI Banks after a decade waiting; and Mark Billingham divulged how his thoughts on seeing his nemesis Tom Thorne hit the small screen.

I’m going to move away from my love of crime now – and look at other genres, taking in adaptations for theatre and the big screen. I’m not telling who yet – you’ll have to subscribe to the magazine to find out. But there are some biggies in the offing!

I’m thoroughly enjoying my new role of interviewer, and it’s amazing how much you can learn from speaking to people who’ve lived your dream.


If you’d like to read any of my interviews, please subscribe to Words with Jam – it’s free!

If you’d like any information about the authors discussed, please find relevant links below:

My website, for details of my own crime fiction novels.

And so the story continues…

Writers often refer to their stories as their ‘babies’; an analogy which often rings true long after leaving the metaphorical womb because stories, like babies, go on to gain independence and often surprise you with what they get up to.

Even during the conception of ‘The Black Widow’, this particular baby threw a surprise at me. I’d intended it being a 2000-3000 short story but as soon as I’d introduced the female protagonist, attempted to gain reader empathy and established some conflict, the story turned round and told me what to do and suddenly I knew I had to end it with a swift slice of the knife. Hence the twist in the tail which neither I nor I hope, my reader, expected. Thus, a piece of flash fiction was born.

Fortunately it didn’t need much of a ‘rub-up’ to make sure it was as polished as I could manage, because I’d just noticed the Cazart Flash Fiction competition and its imminent deadline. I whisked it off to fettle on its own like a child at nursery and forgot about it (so not quite like a child then). A few weeks later I got an email announcing the winner.

That feeling you get when you see your story’s title in the number one position is almost akin to when you hear your child’s achieved good exam results, and even when the prize money isn’t great the reverberations bring their own rewards and surprises. But the story goes on …

As a result of winning the competition, ‘The Black Widow’ was published in the Cazart Authors Anthology in June 2011 (as well as online), and then a local community group asked for a recording of me reading to link it to their website. However, a professional quality recording was required.

I looked forward to the studio experience and, remembering when I used to co-present a folk music programme for BBC Radio Bristol in the 1970s, thought it would be a doddle. Eventually, ensconced in my acoustically padded chamber, armed with microphone, muffler (to diffuse plosive sounds) and manuscript, I was raring to go.

Why is it you can read a story out to yourself in private without a hitch but as soon as a disembodied voice calls through a speaker; “When you’re ready, then!” your teeth start to trip over each other and your tongue rolls into confusion? And, I found, it’s not like simply talking or presenting on the radio. Reading a story out loud requires considered momentum, expression and, depending on the story’s point of view, a degree of acting to convincingly become the character. I soon relaxed though, and got into the flow by remembering to take breaths at suitable moments and that when I tripped over my words, all I had to do was pause and start again at a convenient point. Mistakes can be cut out in the editing.

The feedback was great and I revelled and relaxed for a while in a post-success bubble, until Bea Moyes from Ether Books sent out a missive encouraging Ether authors to submit story recordings to My Word Radio, a radio station you can listen to online or download as a free App for iPhones etc. Once again, a professional recording was required. But hey – I had one of those! I packed it off post haste and chewed my nails.

Smiles of joy and sighs of relief when it was accepted! It first went on air at the end of January and will be repeated on Saturday 4th February 2012 at around 3pm, and further repeats will be scheduled. But the story doesn’t end there.

As a result of the broadcast I’ve been asked if I’d like to do more radio presenting, been invited to write a piece for another local community publication and, of course, Sue kindly invited me to guest on this blog.

And so, like a child, the story – and the surprises – go on…


Deborah Rickard trained as a journalist in the 1970s. After raising her children she took up writing again in 2009 while studying for her BA (Hons) degree in Literature. She has since had short stories published in women’s magazines, an anthology of short stories and online. She’s also achieved some competition success and had a short monologue performed by the Bristol Show of Strength Theatre Company. Deborah has some short stories available on the Ether App for iPhones and has work featured in the anthology; ‘Pay Attention: A River of Stones’. You can hear a recording of Deborah reading ‘The Black Widow’ on YouTube.

Deborah Rickard