Wednesday 19 August 2020

Dawn Knox - one of the winners in the 2020 Waterloo Festival Writing Competition.

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 
the story.   

What do you write? Why this in particular?  

There are three genres in which I mainly write.
Firstly, quirky, humorous stories, secondly, historical romance and thirdly, horror.
I find the quirky, humorous writing such as ‘The Basilwade Chronicles’ 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 place?

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 mostly write.

Do you have a dedicated working space? 

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 say it!

What are you most proud of in your writing? 

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  

How do you get on with editing and research?

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 and story-telling.

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 competition?  

I heard about it at the Chapeltown book launch at the end of 2017

Have you had any other success in short-story writing? 

I’ve had short horror and speculative fiction stories accepted for anthologies, as well as romances for women’s magazine such as My Weekly 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!

What for you makes a good short story? 

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 seeking publication?  

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.

Dawn’s Blog –
Dawn’s Amazon Author Page -

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