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27 November 2014
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Black cat

NY writer: Imogen McCallum

In between looking after her three children, "going around roundabouts too many times" and eating buttered toast, Imogen loves to write stories based on random thoughts and overheard conversations.

About the author

I live in the beautiful city of York, but I’ll always have my Northumbrian heritage running through my veins. It’s there that my love for story began. My earliest memories are of the telling of folk tales and legends and I suppose in lots of ways it was only natural that I’d start spinning stories myself.

My first book, aged six, was ambitiously entitled “The Mystery of the Lost Cat.” The characters were somewhat familiar and most definitely plagiarised, drinking lashings of ginger beer and enjoying endless summer holidays with no adults in sight. However, I never did find out what had happened to the missing feline, and thirty years later its owner must be going out of her mind with worry!

I wrote all through my teenage years, but stopped during my twenties when such things as imagination and unicorns weren’t as cool as being in the pub with my friends. Now a mum of three small children, I think that fiction is a preferable alternative to reality - especially when there are nappies to be changed.

I write about anything and everything that catches my attention. It’s amazing what can spin out of a strange snippet of conversation you’ve overheard on the way past people in the city centre. Before you know where you’re at, you’ve got a real character developing beneath your fingers, and suddenly there’s a tale to tell.

Story telling is addictive, but I have other mad passions too. I idolise my Apple Mac laptop, love nothing better than fast driving. I enjoy going around roundabouts too many times, just so I can pick a road and head off into the unknown for an adventure. Village pubs, shopping for shoes, hot buttered toast with a nice cup of tea. What more could anyone want?

Hubby to do the ironing might be good for a start…

About the story, Nine Tenths of the Law

The idea for this story came after I'd been doing a variety of short pieces developing voice and character in the first person. My cat was snoozing on the windowsill beside me and I idly wondered what it would be like inside a cat's mind...

audio Listen: Nine Tenths of the Law, by Imogen McCallum >
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The plot unravelled from there, as felines are notoriously possessive of their owners, and it was clear how such a cat would react to a new boyfriend in his female owner's house.

The creative process

Ideas and inspiration come from everywhere. We have so many shared experiences and tales that we tell to friends: "You'll never guess what happened when..." We're all telling stories all of the time. It's a natural part of us.

The best way to write is to actually do it. Using your own experiences is an excellent starting point. First drafts can be infuriating and cringing and something you wouldn't even show to your nearest and dearest, but once the story is there it's a real pleasure to rewrite and develop plot and characters fully the way you wanted them to be in the first place without worrying about the story itself.

No writer gets it "right" first time, and not every story works the way you thought it would. You learn as you go. You've got to settle into a style and pattern of writing that works for you. I need three or four hours to work undisturbed on something (not easy with small children in the house!); an author friend of mine scribbles notes all of the time and writes them up in equally short bursts. It has to suit you and your lifestyle - but be careful that you don't use the "I'm too busy" excuse or you'll never do anything at all. Squeeze something in somewhere most days if you're serious about it.

Getting people to read your stories is terrifying, but it's important to get honest feedback. Sometimes a line you thought was hilariously funny actually isn't, or some phrasing just jars, or the characters are two dimensional. But there's nothing like the feeling you get when they love it and everything has come out right.

Write and enjoy it. Nothing's more important than that!

Imogen McCallum

last updated: 03/06/08
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