My next interviewee is Denise Hayes who was awarded second prize in the Fantastic Books Publishing short story competition with Bar-Code.
Denise works as a Senior Lecturer in English and Creative Writing at Newman University, Birmingham, UK. She says that what inspires her are facts, jokes and her favourite authors J.G. Ballard, Jorge Luis Borges and Philip K Dick. She has published poems in Hearing Voices and Mslexia and flash fiction in the Salt anthology Overheard: Stories to Read Aloud. She co-runs the Twitter project @Gregueria1 and the creative writingwebzine Nucleus.
Despite her publishing track record, I was amazed to find that Denise had never before entered a short story competition. So when did she hear she was in amongst the prizewinners and how did she feel? Denise says, ‘I heard that I'd won as soon as the results were posted online. I was delighted not only to come second but also to find that my other story, Human Fossil, was also on the short list and would be included in the anthology. I've never entered a short story competition before so I was particularly thrilled to do so well - and in my favourite genre. I felt my stories gave space to female protagonists in a genre that some readers feel is more male oriented - I wasn't sure if this would affect my chances of success so it was great to find both of my women made it into Fusion!’
Since this was a first, I’m curious to know what motivated her to enter. ‘Publication was a strong motivating factor,’ Denise tells me. ‘But I also really liked the ethos that radiated from the Fantastic Books site. As a Yorkshire woman I also warmed to Fantastic Books northern location! The involvement of established writers was also a strong factor in my entering the competition. I've worked quite a lot in Linguistics and I also enjoy thrillers and crime fiction so I have huge respect for Danuta Reah as an academic and an author. It was wonderful to be published alongside the strong stories from both Danuta and Stuart.’
Denise helps others with their writing, but as a shortlisted author, she worked with the editorial team at Fantastic Books Publishing. How did that feel? Denise says, ‘The editorial process was extremely helpful. In my teaching role I often give editorial advice to others so it was great to be on the receiving end of such perceptive and professional advice. It's encouraged me to sharpen up my prose and to make my characterisation more subtle.’
What is Denise currently working on? She tells me she always has several projects on the go, ‘but my main project is a young adult novel Rediscovering Ameriga that involves a bit of fantasy and some social messages about the dangers of constructed identities online.’ This sounds to me like more to come in the mode of Bar-Code which is great news for science-fiction fans.
If you want to know more about Denise and her work, you can follow her on Twitter at @Dennysaze or have a look at her academic profile.