Kate Bradley’s third novel The Sisterhood was published by Simon & Schuster this spring. An alumna of the Creative Writing Programme, here she talks about how the course set her on course to publication.
When do you first remember wanting to be a writer? I think I always knew I wanted to be a writer. My childhood had character and story creation at the heart of it. When I was young, I made an elaborate mini village in my garden populated by animals: I created the houses; a barter system; characters – I was away. From a young age, I loved to read and always wanted to create my own stories, but it was as a teenager, that I first remember telling a friend that I was going to write a novel – by then it had become a case of when, not if.
Why did you decide to join the Creative Writing Programme? And how did you find out about it? It was recommended to me by a work colleague. By that time, I was getting up earlier each morning to carve out time to write in a coffee shop before work. When I heard about the CWP I loved the idea that there was a course where I could take my writing – and its development – seriously. I enrolled and started in 2005 and never looked back.
Who were your tutors? Richard Crane and Susannah Waters – they were incredibly encouraging, wise and generous with their time.
What was the most impactful element of the course for you? Without a doubt, learning to edit through others critically engaging with my work. The workshopping element – as well as the feedback provided by the tutors – meant that I learned to reflect on what did and what didn’t work. Additionally, it developed my ability to show rather than tell. And, as much as it hurt, I also understood that I need to cut some of my more overworked figurative phrases!
Did you start writing your first novel on the course? Yes, I finished my first novel on the course. It taught me a great deal about structure and story and resilience.
What happened after the course finished? After the course, myself a few other students didn’t want it to end. We set ourselves up as an informal group and continued to workshop each other’s work. Now, I know that the Advanced Writing Workshops are in place for people who have finished the Creative Writing Programme – that would have been ideal for me.
How did you finish your novel and get your publishing deal? I finished my first novel by simply not stopping – I had a story I wanted to tell and I wanted to tell it. I remember being overjoyed at completing it – but the joy simmered as I didn’t get any interest. I wrote another one which faired better and, through a mentoring scheme and further work, I was signed to my dream agent. My mentor is still my editor – the amazing Katherine Armstrong and I’m blessed to be able to call her my friend. A strong, talented editor is so important: they help you shape your novel to the next level. I’d recommend all writers seeking an honest voice – and obviously the more experienced and skilled the better.
Tell us about your novels?
TO KEEP YOU SAFE (by Kate Bradley) is a psychological thriller that asks, how far would you go to save someone else’s child? Jenni, an inexperienced teacher finds herself the only person that can protect 15-year-old Destiny from a gang intent on kidnap. But Jenni finds that herself in a situation dangerously out of control.
WHAT I DID (by Kate Bradley) is a psychological thriller that follows Lisa after she takes her child to a remote cottage to hide him from his dangerous father. But she wakes, having been knocked out and knows that he’s found them. The story follows how Lisa fights to keep her son safe – and what happened before to bring them to this point.
THE SISTERHOOD (by Katherine Bradley) is a dystopian thriller set in Orwell’s world of Oceania from 1984. This feminist reimaging from Julia’s perspective follows her search – with her Sisterhood, a group of subversive rebel women — for a way to break the oppressive regime of Big Brother. Written for both those who have read the original text and those who haven’t, it examines ideas of control, oppression and hope.
What’s next for you? I’m currently writing a near-dystopian thriller scheduled for publication in 2025 by Simon & Schuster.
Do you have a ‘day’ job in addition to your writing career and, if so, how do they complement one another? I teach English Literature part time in a secondary school. They definitely complement each other – my writer skills are used to teach creative writing and analysing high-quality literature gives a better breadth and depth to my writing. I’m also used to holding young people’s attention – which helps with developing pace!
What are your top tips for someone starting out in their writing career?
Seek good advice from people who know about writing or publishing; the best writers then take the advice.