Welcome to Clubhouse Chat page. Those of you who are not a member won’t be aware that the location of the Clubhouse is shrouded in mystery. The only way to visit it is via membership or an invite to the tearoom. Every few days, I’ll be sharing a conversation with all sorts of writers and authors at different levels of their writing careers. Over tea and cakes, or maybe a glass of something stronger, I shall be chatting with my guest about their work in progress, or latest book release.
Cafelit is an online magazine which posts a new story every day. To find out more click here CafeLit books are published by Chapel Town Books to find out more about the publisher click here. Today in the tearoom, I’m chatting to Cafelit writer, Hannah Retallick, about her entries in The Best of CafeLit 10.
Welcome Hannah. First let’s order our drinks.
Hi Paula, Thanks for having me back on your blog! It’s been a while. Ooh, decisions, decisions. I think I’ll have a cup of coffee and a glass of port. It’s a bit late for the former and far too early for the latter…Perhaps they’ll cancel each other out. Yes, please, a biscuit would be great. I’m on a strict Eat What You Like When You Like diet, so I’ll just have four today. Thank you. Anyway, you have some questions for me?
The goodies in the tearoom are all slimming, Hannah so have whatever takes your fancy apart, from my staff 😉. It’s hard to get good staff these days. Let me start by asking you, what made you write the story you decided to submit to Cafelit? Was it as seasonal call-out .i.e. Christmas, summer holidays, autumn, Halloween etc or just something you needed to get off your chest?
I was blessed to have four stories in this collection. They weren’t written specifically for CaféLit, but I felt they would have a good home there. ‘Three Pairs of Bed Socks and Two Hot Water Bottles’ took place just after Christmas, starring an older lady who decides she’s sick of old people and wants to hang out with young people from now on. It was inspired by a good friend of mine, who told me exactly that! It’s written using only dialogue. I giggled a lot as I wrote the first draft in a café, and the friend I wrote it for laughed when she read it. Job done! I’m glad the CaféLit crew enjoyed it too.
Did you use a writing prompt for your story?
Life was my prompt…she says, cheesily. ‘Golden Hair’ was inspired by a visit to my late great-aunt’s care home. The residents were visited by young children who sang to them. As happens in the story, my great-aunt commented on a young boy’s hair and the strength of his voice. It has a sad edge to it, with the lady’s memory clearly deteriorating.
My ‘Do You Need?’ story was written for another wonderful anthology, 2021 Still Together, which is in aid of NHS Charities. In my story, a young girl sells toilet paper to help neighbours who have been left without because of panic buyers. I quite enjoy writing with prompts, especially for themed anthologies/competitions.
Did you write an outline first, or follow where the characters led you?
A bit of both. My stories don’t tend to be complicated plot-wise, so they don’t take a lot of outlining. I alternate between the planning and the writing, as required. My CaféLit 10 stories were more ‘character led’ I think.
How do you create your characters? Do you start with a name first?
Sometimes. I try not to overthink them, generally picking the first name that comes to mind, on the basis that I can change it later and just want to get started. The name tends to stick though; their identity becomes fixed. If I’m being fancy, I enjoy looking up different names, their meanings, and their popularity in certain years. (It’s useful for baby names too – seeing as I’m unlikely to have hundreds of children, I can bless fictional characters with the names instead!)
Was your story told in your normal genre or did you try something different?
These were all standard for me. One of them, ‘Dear Margaret, Love Fred’ was a series of letters from an elderly gentleman to his neighbour and shows the start of a relationship. I love telling stories by showing only one side of the narrative, because you have to read between the lines. That’s something I’ve done a few times now. I do like to experiment, to push myself into new territory, but then I come back to what feels like ‘me’.
What do you enjoy most about being part of the Cafelit community?
The charming people, such as yourself, Paula – and I’m not just saying that because it’s your blog. 😉 I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many wonderful writers and have had wonderful opportunities from being involved with CaféLit.
How long have you been writing and what got you started?
I’ve always written. I used to scribble ‘words’ on paper, pretending to write! I wrote a short book when I was eleven, but generally struggled to think of plots and finish pieces, which didn’t change until I reached adulthood. Now I can’t imagine not writing.
What’s the one thing you would give up to become a better writer?
I would give up washing dishes. … Oh, you mean give up something I like? Nothing. If I were prepared to give anything up, I would have done it already. (But seriously, if the Writing Muse would take my sacrifice of Washing Dishes, that would be perfect.)
Sorry I’ve gone on a bit – you’re just such a delight to talk to, Paula. And sorry for eating all the chocolate cookies. I was distracted!
Not at all. It’s been lovely chatting to you. I do hope we can meet up again soon. To find out more about Hannah check out the link below.
Hannah Retallick, writer and editor: https://www.hannahretallick.co.uk/
If you want to find out more about Clubhouse Members’ Books, don’t forget to check out the Clubhouse Bookshops too.