This week, our Writer of the Week is debut author, Steven Burford.
Read his funny story, “No Room”, in our Christmas bumper issue, out now.
Teachers and former teachers will especially relate to your story, “No Room”. Where did you get the inspiration to write it?
From bitter experience! For a number of years, I was a high school drama teacher, and there was always at least one “Harrison” in every cast. (In fact, although I haven’t actually directed a nativity play, I have directed several pantomimes starring teachers, and there was always a “Harrison” in those, too.)
The thing about kids like Harrison is, although they make you tear your hair out, they can be the most energetic and creative of performers, and often end up stealing the show.
This is your debut story for “The People’s Friend” . What led you to submit your story to us? And how did you feel when it was accepted?
“The People’s Friend” continues to publish and promote shorter fiction when so many other magazines have abandoned it. I really respect that, and very much wanted to be a writer for the “Friend”, so I was absolutely delighted when my story was accepted.
Do you have a favourite genre to write in?
Over the years, I’ve written in a wide variety of genres (probably too wide a variety). When I started writing, my stories were mainly science fiction, fantasy and even horror, because those were the kind of stories I devoured as a kid.
Since then, I’ve published a series of police procedural novels, the Summerskill and Lyon series, which I love writing, even though I find it hard to write about criminals because I’m so boringly law-abiding.
Overall, though, I suppose I’d have to say I’m probably at my most comfortable when writing “true life” stories: snapshots of the ordinary with the emphasis on life’s absurdities because they allow my wayward sense of humour free rein.
Which authors do you admire and what is the best book or story that you read this year?
Aargh! The question that always makes my mind go blank. Jane Austen is someone I come back to again and again for her insight and humour, although even she can’t match the one-off brilliance of Thackeray’s “Vanity Fair”, my all-time favourite novel.
The best book I’ve read this year, though, would be a very different kettle of fish: Douglas Stuart’s “Shuggie Bain”. Raw and honest.
A bit of festive fun! What is your favourite part of Christmas?
I love Christmas! I love the way it brings out the best in people, and I love the madness of the traditions. (A tree – in the house!) But perhaps oddly, it’s the anticipation I enjoy more than the actual day itself. Christmas Day with my loved ones is always wonderful, but there’s always just a touch of melancholy there that the best bit, the looking forward to it, is over for another year.
Notebook and pencil or laptop? Kitchen table or study? Blank wall or inspiring view.
Definitely a laptop. Over the years, well-meaning friends have bought me gorgeous notebooks and pens, but they always seem too fine for use, and I tend to lose them anyway.
I do most of my writing on my kitchen table, partly because my tiny flat doesn’t have anything approaching a study, but mainly because the kitchen is the warmest and least cluttered part of my home.
And because I have never learned to touch type, the view when I’m writing is pretty much of my keyboard. I have a splendid panorama of the Malvern Hills through my kitchen window, but to be honest, they could be on fire and I wouldn’t notice if I was writing because I have to focus on not hitting the wrong keys.
What’s your one top tip for an aspiring “Friend” writer?
Write what moves you, and don’t be discouraged if at first people don’t “get” it. Writers used to talk about how they could paper a room with their rejection slips. I can’t say that because my rejections come via email, but I’ve got enough of those to fill a large hard drive.
For more from our Writer Of The Week series, click the tag below.