Writer of the Week: Pat Thornborough

I am delighted to welcome Pat Thornborough as my Writer of the Week. Pat’s latest Father Carter story features in our bumper Dec 22 issue, currently on sale.

Father Carter has become a “Friend” Christmas tradition. Can you remember when the first Father Carter story appeared, and did you have any idea then how he would endure?

The first Father Carter story (which was only intended as a one-off) was published in the Christmas Special 1998. I had no idea he would endure for so long. There have been approximately 50 stories about the village of Little Fenkyle for Christmas and throughout the years since. I was searching for a name for the village with my granddaughter sitting beside me doing her homework. Her maiden name was Fenella Kyle and on the cover of her exercise book was written Fen Kyle. So – I had the name for my village. Ideas sometimes come at the moment they’re most needed.

Readers will also know you, of course, as the creator of Betty and Val, and the lovely women of the Stella Maris convent, too. They’re both popular serials. Can we look forward to more stories about them?

I’m working on a synopsis for a new Stella Maris serial right now. If it’s approved, then the hard work begins.

I shouldn’t ask you this, but do you have a secret favourite of the Stella Maris ladies? I know – the very idea!

Yes I have – it’s no secret. It has to be Sister Imelda who can fix most things (which I admit I can’t) and is always ready with love and strength.

I don’t know anything about your writing background – how did you come to write for the “Friend”?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer from way back in childhood when I discovered that the squiggles on the paper meant something. With two children grown-up and flown the nest, I enrolled at college for two terms of Creative Writing and from there was invited to join a writers’ group who were of enormous help. That was in 1994 when my first story about a nun and a Christmas pudding was published in the Friend.

Notebook and pencil or laptop? Kitchen table or study? Blank wall or inspiring view?

I begin my stories longhand in a large notebook with a pencil. I can get much closer to a character in that way. As the story unfolds, my writing gets faster and I know that my laptop must take over. By the way, a blank wall is a better aid to concentration than an inspiring view. There are too many of those where I live.

And a PS: What’s your one top tip for aspiring writers?

The most important thing in the very life of a story is the characters. Most important is the viewpoint character through whose eyes the action is seen. Give him/her a problem – make it worse – and then get them out of it as quickly as possible. “Follow” your character around until you know them well. Their likes, dislikes, tastes and dress (which may not resemble yours in any way). When you know them and can walk beside them – then it’s time to write.

Best top tip is to keep on writing, get the hunger and never give it up. Good luck, everyone!

Next issue on sale Jan 2, 2019, cover dated Jan 5. 

Shirley Blair

Fiction Ed Shirley’s been with the “Friend” since 2007 and calls it her dream job because she gets to read fiction all day every day. Hobbies? Well, that would be reading! She also enjoys writing fiction when she has time, long walks, travel, and watching Scandi thrillers on TV.