Writer Of The Week: Dor Barlow

Our Writer Of The Week is Dor Barlow. Dor’s story, “Spicing Things Up”, is in Special 260, on sale this week.

Baking and cooking work to good effect in the story. Where did the story idea come from?

I think the idea initially came from the weekly task of coming up with a menu everybody’s happy with! But I was also thinking about how personal the recipes we use can be. I have so many memories associated with food and cooking, and there’s always great delight in finding a way to make an old recipe new and exciting.

It was a very lovely friend of my mum’s who gave us the tip about beetroot with cottage pie, and now we always think of her when we have it. I wanted the story to recognise and celebrate the care, skill and love that goes into feeding a family.

When it comes to writing, do you follow a set plan, or do you prefer to write with unbridled freedom?

I’m somewhere in the middle. I usually start with a paragraph to outline my initial idea and identify those basics of what characters want and what’s stopping them. I’ll try and work out the ending and any major plot points I’ve thought of, so I have a rough framework to follow – but none of it is set in stone.

I find good things happen when I let the story develop organically and think about what decisions the characters would make and what that will cause to happen as a result.

What was the last story or book you simply couldn’t put down?

The Fellowship Of Puzzlemakers” by Samuel Burr – it’s a fun, cosy read about a young man who’s been left a puzzle to solve that will reveal the biggest mystery of his life. It’s uplifting and joyful, and I loved it.

If you could ask two famous people over for dinner, past or present, who would they be and why?

Mary Berry because I’ve had such a lot of success with her recipes over the years. She’s the first place I go when I’m looking for a new cake recipe or a hearty dinner. She definitely deserves to put her feet up and have somebody else do the cooking for a change.

My second guest would be the author Marian Keyes – she is hilariously funny, but she’s also full of absolutely devastating emotional truths. I’d love to cook her dinner to say thank you for everything her books have taught me, as a person and as a writer. I can’t wait to sit down with her new one once I can find some time to properly enjoy it.

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

I live in a very small, very old village and am lucky to have the most beautiful view out of the window next to my desk; especially at this time of year when the trees have been full of pink blossoms and the lambs are running about on the hills. Needless to say, I probably shouldn’t spend quite so much time gazing out of it.

I do the bulk of my writing on my computer, but when I am stuck, I’ll grab a piece of paper and write my way through what’s going on for my different characters – something about writing by hand helps me to slow down and consider things I’ve missed.

​What’s your one top tip for aspiring writers?

Try new things! Read a book you didn’t think you’d like, or have a go at writing a story in a different genre – there are lots of competitions and callouts with themes you can use as prompts, even if you don’t intend to submit them.

I’ve always learned a lot from having a go at things I’ve turned out to be terrible at.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.