I've been very pleased to be involved in judging the Waterloo Festival Writing Competition
over the last three years. We're currently putting the three e-books we've produced of the winning
entries into one paperback book to be launched on 5 December. In recognition of this, I'm
publishing an occasional series of interviews with some of the winners. Today I welcome Dawn
We chat about writing in particular and the winning story in particular. There is also an excerpt of
What do you write? Why this in
There are three genres in which I mainly write.
quirky, humorous stories, secondly, historical romance and thirdly, horror.
I find the quirky, humorous writing such as ‘The Basilwade Chronicles’ mybook.to/TheBasilwadeChronicles
and ‘The Macaroon
Chronicles’ (coming soon, both published by Chapeltown Books), the easiest and
most enjoyable to write and I love creating eccentric characters and putting
them in whacky situations. So that’s probably my favourite way to write.
Historical romance, I find harder to write and yet, I feel
drawn to it and to the research needed to be able to – hopefully - give the
story some realism. It usually takes me much longer to write but once I’m
finished, I’m always really pleased I persisted.
And occasionally, I’m
tempted to indulge the darker side I didn’t know I had, and to write horror!
What got you started on writing in the first
I’ve always made up stories in my head but never had the urge
to write them down until about eighteen years ago when I was trying to help my
son with his essay homework. I tried to give him a few ideas to inspire him to
get his homework done – and I failed completely! The ideas didn’t motivate him
but they did me, and I went on to write the story myself.
Do you have a particular routine?
During lockdown, I’ve been getting up earlier than I used to
and going for a walk in the garden. I dictate my current work in progress into
my phone as I walk, and it converts speech to text. Later, I transfer that to my
computer. Other than that, I don’t have a routine. I do everything I need to do
to keep the household running and then any spare time is mine to do as I like.
While I’m doing chores, I listen to audiobooks. The time that remains, is
precious so I don’t use it to watch television – I either read or write – but
Do you have a dedicated working
I’m really lucky to have an office just off my bedroom in the
attic which is quiet and since it’s up three flights of stairs, I don’t get
interrupted very often!
When did you decide you could call yourself a writer?
Do you do that in fact?
It took me a long time to refer to myself as a writer and if
I meet someone new, I don’t usually have the nerve to describe myself as such. I
still feel a bit of a fraud. I’m more likely to write that I’m a writer, than to
What are you most proud of in your
I’m most proud of my two World War One plays which were
performed by a professional production company in England, France and Germany.
Using research from the plays, I wrote the book ‘The Great War – 100 Stories of
100 Words Honouring Those Who Lived And Died 100 Years Ago’ that I describe as
‘the book in which you’ll find my heart and soul’. I’ve had some touching
organic reviews for the book which was shortlisted for three book awards mybook.to/TheGreatWar100
How do you get on with editing and
I try to immerse myself in any research by reading and
listening to audiobooks about that particular subject and/or era. I’m currently
writing a book set during the 18th century and have several factual
and fiction books set during that time which I’m reading and listening to so
that I can get a feel for that time period, the people who lived in it and the
language they used.
Some people recommend that a writer shouldn’t start editing
until a piece of work is complete but I often edit partially-finished work and
try to get it into shape. I don’t like to get too far into a work in progress
without tidying up a bit. I like to feel that I’m not leaving too much of a mess
when I move on to the next bit!
Do you have any goals for the future?
Not any specific goals. I’d like to keep writing for my own
enjoyment and hopefully, for others’!
Which writers have inspired you?
I think I was probably particularly inspired by any author
whose book I read when I was young. I didn’t realise it at the time but I was
absorbing their styles and their voices and developing a deep love of reading
Now let's talk about your stories in the Waterloo Festival collections
I have a story called ‘Never a Coward’ in the 2018 collection
and one called ‘Rising from the Ashes’ in the 2020 collection.
What inspired you to write these?
The first story, ‘Never a Coward,’ was set during the First
World War. I’ve often wondered about the women of the ‘White Feather Movement’,
who handed out white feathers to men they assumed were shirking the fighting. I
wondered how they felt when the true horror of what the men faced in the
trenches became known. It would be interesting to find out how many of them,
regretted their actions and how many believed what they’d done in trying to
shame the men was justified.
The second story, ‘Rising from the Ashes’, was
inspired by the dreadful bush fires which raged across Australia at the end of
2019 and into 2020. My family and I went to Australia for Christmas and were
rather nervous about doing so, but miraculously, we didn’t see any evidence of
the fires – other than on the news reports. In one interview, a woman said that
her life was usually filled with music but since she’d lost everything to the
flames, the music had died - and that phrase struck me and remained with me,
inspiring my story.
How did you hear about the
I heard about it at the Chapeltown book launch at the end of
Have you had any other success in short-story
I’ve had short horror and speculative fiction stories
accepted for anthologies, as well as romances for women’s magazine such as My
and People’s Friend
. In addition, Bridge House Books have
published a single author anthology of my speculative fiction, sci-fi and quirky
stories entitled Extraordinary
– stories to take you out of this world! mybook.to/Extraordinary
What for you makes a good short
It doesn’t matter how short it is, it has to have a
beginning, middle and a satisfying or a funny ending.
Do you have any tips for new writers or writers
Read and write. Write and read. And keep going. Don’t
take rejection personally. Take note of
any criticism and make changes if
necessary and then submit elsewhere.
And now an excerpt from one of Dawn's stories:
Rising from the Ashes
Drops of rain pitter-pattered on the scorched, mangled
metal which had once been Amy’s roof. The storm was welcome but it would’ve
been more useful if it had arrived several weeksbefore, during the height of
the drought. Such a deluge might not have halted the bushfire which had swept
through the small township of Warringa, but it might have prevented it from
escalatingto the inferno which had capriciously consumed one building, yet
spared another. Such blazeswere common around Warringa at this time of year
but Amy’s neighbour, Peggy, who’d beenborn in the township eighty-nine years
before, had never experienced anything like it.And now, like Amy, Peggy had lost her home and everything in
it to the bushfire. “Warringa!” the
elderly lady scoffed, “What a joke!” The town’s name was an Aboriginal word, meaning“Cool Place”.
Peggy had looked after the newly-weds, Amy and Mike,
when they’d arrived from Sydney, thirty years before – young and eager to build
their own house and start a family. Twins, Ben and Josh,
had been born several
years later but at age eighteen, they’d left for Sydney and had not returned.
Amy and Mike had stayed in Warringa, missing their sons, but content in the
idyllic backwater, in
the house they’d built together.
And now, here at Amy’s feet, lay the twisted, tangled
remains of everything they owned. A buckled saucepan lay next to the charred
skeleton of a chair. It alone remained whilst its companions and the table they’d
surrounded had been reduced to ashes by the fickle flames. Incongruously, in
the garden, the stone birdbath appeared untouched.