Saturday 22 April 2023

Chat with Nicole Fitton

 Today I talk to Nicole Fitton whose flash collection Soaring we have published recently. 



What do you write? Why this in particular? 

 I write books and short stories in genres that I enjoy reading. I’ve always been a fan of contemporary, historical, and short story fiction so it was an easy progression to write within these genres.


h What got you started on writing in the first place?

I think writing is a part of my DNA. Some of my fondest memories are from primary school where we had to create and design magazines and newspapers, I was always encouraged and supported by my teachers and I will be forever grateful to them for the confidence they gave me to write from such an early age.


Do you have a particular routine? 

I write mainly at the weekend and in the early mornings – that’s about as ‘routine’ as it gets. I have a day job so it’s difficult for me to work at other times.


 Do you have a dedicated working space?

Yes, I do. Covid threw a spanner in the works when I had to use my creative space for my day job. The feel of my home office changed and I found it really difficult to concentrate on my writing when I was surrounded by work stuff. Last year somebody locally was selling a Shepherds Hut. The stars aligned and after a lick of paint and a bit of a refurb the hut now sits proudly in my garden. I’ve named it The Story Room because that’s exactly what it is. It’s a very special place and I know I’m incredibly lucky to have it.



How supportive are your friends and family? Do they understand what you're doing?

My family and family are extremely supportive, although unlike me, most of them are not avid readers. So, whilst they are incredibly encouraging, and nod in all the right places I’m really not sure they have a scooby about it all.

 What are you most proud of in your writing?

I’m most proud of the connection that readers have with my work, it really is beyond words when readers tell me how much they’ve enjoyed my work. It’s always an absolute delight hearing from readers and my heart swells.


Which writers have inspired you?

Too many to mention but Margaret Atwood, Maya Angelou and JoJo Moyes would be right at the top.

Then about Soaring. Tell me about this book.


Soaring is a collection of short stories that I’ve written over the last five or six years. The stories are all wildly different in terms of length and style yet the red thread holding them all together is a central theme of hope. This was not a conscious decision and was a pleasant surprise when I was deciding which stories to include in this collection. Soaring contains short tales which can be read in one sitting. The book was designed so readers can easily dip in and out depending on how much time they have. A quick bus ride read or twenty minutes over a coffee – there really is something for everyone. A lot of the stories within Soaring have either been awarded or short listed in various short story competitions and it’s been wonderful to be able to include the

What inspired you to write this?

All of the stories within Soaring started life as a nugget of curiosity. From newspaper articles to overheard conversations my curiosity would turn into ‘what ifs?’ Then my imagination would take over and the writing would begin. Most of the stories within Soaring were written in one sitting.

 What's next?

I’m currently working on a sequel to my second novel Forbidden Colours. I have the beginning and middle scoped out, but so far the ending hasn’t yet revealed itself – it’s all very exciting and one of the reasons I love writing so much.

How can we get a copy of the book?

Soaring is available from all good high street book shops or online via The Bridgetown Café Bookstore  or Amazon 

Do you have any events planned?

I’m planning a Soaring book launch in May here in Devon; it’s quite a scary prospect and I’m already over analysing it!



Wednesday 19 April 2023

Today I talk to Liam Bell about his writing and his collection, Stories



1.      What do you write? Why this in particular? 


I mostly write novels, but this book is an A-Z short story sequence inspired by words marked as ‘rare’ in the Oxford English Dictionary. I started that sequence as a kind of ‘sandpit’, essentially, in the gap between working on two novels, so that I could experiment with different ideas, characters, voices and genres.


2.      What got you started on writing in the first place?


Back in secondary school, in my final year, we had a writing workshop with a short story writer called Val Thornton. She read a story of mine and wrote ‘I’d like to publish this’ on the final page. She was editor of an anthology titled New Writing Scotland and it was published the year after. I had no idea, at the time, how fortunate that experience was and that first acceptance kept me going through a lot of rejection and frustration in the coming years. I owe Val a lot!


3.      Do you have a particular routine? 


I teach at a university, so my routine is often dictated by the pressures of the teaching schedule and the semester. When I do have a sizeable stretch of time to focus on my writing, though, then I always write first thing in the morning through until lunchtime and then go for a walk or a run to clear my head. That’s my ideal day, with maybe a spot of reading or just time with the kids in the afternoon…


4.      Do you have a dedicated working space?


I’m really fortunate in that I have a lovely office up at the university – looking out on a sunny courtyard – and a desk in the spare room at home. The majority of this collection was written at that desk, I’d say, but I did write some stories up at the university or out and about on trains or in coffee shops.


5.      When did you decide you could call yourself a writer? Do you do that in fact?


Love this question. I think I probably started calling myself a writer after my first novel was published but, in retrospect, I’d encourage anyone to begin calling themselves a writer at the point where they begin to take the process of writing seriously. If you’re dedicating time to writing, to improving your writing, then you’re a writer.


6.      How supportive are your friends and family? Do they understand what you're doing?


Yes, my wife and daughters are very supportive of my writing and of the family time they lose to me closing the office door. I think I’m also very lucky in that my parents are both avid readers and have always been enthusiastic cheerleaders not only of my writing but of the various decisions – in terms of courses and further study – that I’ve made in order to develop as a writer.


7.      What are you most proud of in your writing?


I think I’m most proud of the variety in my writing. I’ve often worked across genres and, particularly, with different structures and narrative points-of-view. Rare Stories is a good example of that, in many ways, because I tried to play with as many different narrative tools, techniques and forms as I could…


8.      How do you get on with editing and research?


It might be my background as an academic but I love both editing and research. Editing is an opportunity to hone and sharpen something, to really focus on making writing it the best version of itself, and I find that incredibly fulfilling. And research is, similarly, a chance to fully immerse myself in a task in a way that allows me to retreat into a wee cocoon of focus…


9.      Do you have any goals for the future?


My goal, always, is to have enough ‘credit’ in the bank to write the next book. Unfortunately, that doesn’t really mean ‘credit’ in a monetary sense, but more that there are enough readers (or potential readers) out there to make pursuing the next idea worthwhile. As long as I feel that, then I’ll keep writing.


10.    Which writers have inspired you?


The first writer I was conscious of being inspired by was William Boyd. He is a novelist who is able to write a gripping plot, but also able to give a real depth to his characterisation. More recently, I buy everything written by Sarah Hall, Sarah Moss, Ross Raisin and Max Porter. I read a lot, but those four are the four where I buy each new book without even reading the synopsis because I just know I’ll love it…



Please write as much or as little as you like for each section and supply as many pictures as you like. Also let me know your latest publication and supply me with a link if it's not on Amazon. 

Then about the book:



1.     Tell me about your book.


Rare Stories is an A-Z sequence of short fiction (each around 1000 words) based on words designated ‘rare’ in the Oxford English Dictionary. Originally, I wrote them as a series of flash fiction posts for the blog on my website, but they’ve now been brought together into a full collection for the first time. 


2.     Tell us about your research for this book.


Thankfully, the OED website allows you to filter and search through their entries, so I searched for all words marked as ‘rare’ and then noted down the definitions which piqued my interest. I wrote them at the rate of one a week, so I would sit with the definitions for only a couple of days before deciding which of them had the most potential as a ‘prompt’ and then I’d get writing…


3.     What inspired you to write this?


One of the characters in my third novel, Man at Sea, is a young boy in Malta who’s writing dictionary entries with his father. I started each of the chapters with these entries and really enjoyed the process of coming up with the fictional definitions. In doing so, I realised how useful obscure or quirky definitions could be as a jumping off point for a story so I began this sequence…


4.     What's next?


I’m currently working on edits for my fourth novel, The Sleepless, which is forthcoming from Fly on the Wall Press in September 2023. It’s a thriller, set in a commune on the west coast of Scotland whose disciples believe that sleep is a social construct and that we should be moving towards ‘wakefulness’.


5.     How can we get a copy of the book?


Rare Stories is available via the Bridgetown Café website or Amazon.



6.     Do you have any events planned?


I’ve had two lovely readings, at Book Nook Stirling and at the Seagull Trust Bookshop in Falkirk, so far. At the end of May I’m delighted to be giving a small workshop to the Denny Writers group and I’ll also be headlining the Balloch Open Mic night. The local writing community has been so welcoming and supportive of Rare Stories and I’ve particularly enjoyed reading a couple of the more experimental and performative stories aloud!

Tuesday 18 April 2023

Launching Face to Face with the Führer

A pistol, an anteroom a Führer: will she shoot him?

Is this fiction or is this a true story? Well, if it’s true story, she obviously didn’t. It could be fiction but maybe not completely. Does she shoot him if it is? There’s one sure way to find out.

I’m holding two launch events for this book. One is on-line on 18 the May and the other is at The Met in Bury on 24 May. On 18 May the focus will be on this book, the fourth in the Schellberg cycle. The event on 24 will be about the whole cycle.

The cycle is based on real events but there is a lot of fiction there. Fiction is used here as method for exploring unestablished facts.

The essence of the true story is that a school sheltering disabled children was protected in Nazi Germany. It seems like a miracle that it survived. The cycle attempts to unpick that miracle. How did it survive? And what of the ordinary young German women who surrounded this event? What was life like for them?

An exercise book full of letters found in an attic partly answer these questions. This was a starting point for finding the answer to that question. You can read more about the Schellberg Cycle here.

Face to face with the Führer focuses on a Holocaust survivor, mother of another survivor and daughter of a victim. She might also be described as one of our feisty women. (Chapeltown Books, Feisty Women series)

Sign up for the on-line event here. More news about the one at The Met to follow.