Our penultimate Writer Of The Day is Christopher Goulding. Christopher’s story, “Sweet As Toffee”, appears in our 155 Anniversary issue, on sale now.
Can you tell the readers a little bit about Dainty Dinah?
Horner’s Toffee Factory was a real place in Chester-le-Street, the small town near Durham where I grew up in the 1960s, and Dainty Dinah was the character they used in their advertising. The factory closed down in about 1965, but I vividly remember passing it on my way to primary school as a small child – the alley between the factory and the railway line really did smell of caramel. My story is loosely based on the real events whereby my mother and father met in 1939/40.
Was it a story you always wanted to write?
That factory and its beautiful smell clearly made a lasting impression on my young mind. I’ve since bought a few vintage Dainty Dinah toffee tins for nostalgic reasons. I also once wrote and acted in a Victorian murder mystery drama featuring a parlour maid called Dinah, who worked in the house of factory owner Mr Horner. It was at a performance of this in a local country house hotel that my wife-to-be first set eyes on me.
Some writers like to set their stories in areas where they live or know about? Is the north-east important to you as a writer?
Yes, very important. I started as a non-fiction writer and I had several publications about the history of the north-east. My first published work of fiction was a children’s fantasy in which the statues of Newcastle come to life on Christmas Eve.
Do you feel “The People’s Friend” is a good fit for your style of writing?
Yes. My mother subscribed to the “Friend” for as long as I can remember. It was always around the house and I started reading the stories at quite an early age. It gave me an early love for the short story format and the variety of different writing styles and genres.
Notebook and pencil or laptop? Kitchen table or study? Blank wall or inspiring view?
I keep notebooks for jotting down ideas, random thoughts, and making diagrams, but I don’t write my stories in them. I’ve been using laptops (and before that, desktop PCs) for years, both at home and at work, so I find them most comfortable for writing at length and in detail.
I’m fortunate to have an upstairs study with my desk in a bay window. There is a road outside, but it’s not too busy or distracting first thing in the morning, which is when I like to write. But if I have the house to myself, I like to use the kitchen table from time to time: it’s a change of scenery and it’s less cluttered than my desk.
What’s your one top tip for aspiring writers?
Read, read, read! I’ve always been a keen and regular reader of newspapers, magazines, novels and non-fiction. There is no better way to learn what good writing looks like. Reading the work of other writers is an excellent and entertaining way to absorb and appreciate such things as style, structure and the creation of characters.