JJ is delighted to be welcoming Kerry Hadley-Pryce today.
Kerry was born in the West Midlands in 1960. She wrote The Black Country whilst studying for an MA in Creative Writing at MMU, for which she gained a distinction and was awarded the Michael Schmidt Prize for Outstanding Achievement 2013-2014. She lives in the Black Country.
Connect with Kerry
Welcome to JJ!
Please summarise The Black Country in 20 words or less.
A couple about to separate have a car accident, think they’ve killed someone. Keeping it secret destroys them.
What was the idea/inspiration for your novel?
I wrote The Black Country as part of my MA in Creative Writing. I love stories with a dark edge, and stories set in real places. Oh, and I love secrets. I thought I’d enjoy writing something with a mix of all those things. And I did.
Please tell us about the characters in your book
Maddie Harper is an estate agent, Harry Logue is a teacher. They met at university, and that’s too long for them. To say they’re unhappy is an understatement, and both have the most horrendous secrets and the most terrible flaws that have built up over the years. They’re not likeable characters at all – don’t expect to find any redeeming features. Then there’s poor Jonathan Cotard, whom they briefly meet. I know it’s odd, but I’d like to think the reader is also a sort of character in The Black Country because they’re forced to make judgments, and these judgments will be completely influenced by another character, the narrator. You have to wait and see who that is.
Was there a scene that you enjoyed writing the most Kerry?
There were two scenes that just wrote themselves: one was the car accident scene, when Maddie and Harry are having an argument in the car and hit someone. I loved writing the tension in the dialogue and filmic action of it. The other scene – which actually started out as a short story – was the one in which Harry imagines confessing to Maddie about an affair he had. I loved the creepiness of his justification. I think readers will love that too.
Do you have a most creative time of day?
I’m a night owl. I think it’s something about the tensions of the day leading to a build up of darkness in my mind! So, I’m more likely to be writing late into the night. That said, I write using a pencil and paper (yes, a PENCIL – you read it right!) so I’ll be sneakily writing pretty much all day (when I’m supposed to be working. Shhhh.) (our lips are sealed)
Do you have a favourite place you go to for inspiration or a favourite activity?
I am a canal fanatic, and a runner. The two things go together well. Canals have always been a massive inspiration for me, and living in the Black Country, we have a fantastic canal network to enjoy. I love narrowboats and owned one briefly – one day I’m going to live on one. I run every day (yes, you guessed it, along the canal towpath!) and canals feature highly in both The Black Country and my current work in progress. I love the mystery of them and the quiet threat they hold.
Have you joined any writing groups?
Every year, I go to a writers’ centre in Inverness – Moniack Mhor – with a group of exceedingly talented writer friends. We spend a week being inspired by Nicholas Royle’s daily workshops and doing readings of our work. It’s a once-a-year massive injection of creativity for me and it concentrates my thinking completely.
There are some very talented writers who live in the Black Country, and we attend an open mic session at a local venue called Scary Canary each month where we can ‘try out’ some of our writing as readings. It’s essential, I think, to have some sort of arena to hear the views of others, and to hear what other people are writing. I’m lucky to have something like that close by. (sounds fabulous!)
Have you done any writing courses Kerry?
Any that you would recommend to others?
Yes, I wanted to have a ‘reason to write’ so chose a couple of courses that fitted in with my family and work commitments. It suited me to do correspondence type courses so the first one I did was an Open University course (it was A215 I think), which I absolutely loved. The OU produces such fantastic course material and I just loved the tasks and assignments. This led to me studying an MA in Creative Writing with Manchester Metropolitan University. I did the online course and it was absolutely fantastic. Maybe the online course wouldn’t suit everyone, but I know they have a part-time and full-time version. It’s one of the few courses that requires students to complete a whole novel. My novel, The Black Country, is my MA novel. I can thoroughly recommend that course. (I won the Michael Schmidt Prize for Outstanding Achievement, that’s how good I think it is!) (congratulations)
Finally, what are you currently working on?
Another dark, psychological thriller set in the Black Country called Broken Dolls. I’m about half way into the first draft. Because I love all that stuff about secrets and lies, this one’s about a girl who gets involved with a man whose daughter went missing some time ago. There are canals, deception, lies, the lot. I think if readers liked The Black Country, then they’ll like Broken Dolls. At least, I hope so.
Thank you for sharing today Kerry.
Wishing you success with all your writing projects.
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Salt Publishing (15 Sept. 2015)
Maddie and Harry: she’s an estate agent, he’s a teacher. They’ll say they live in the Black Country. They’ll say how they met Jonathan Cotard, explain how they later argued, had a car accident, thought they’d killed someone. Thought they had. And as they search for a truth, they’ll tell us their secrets, their mistakes. And we’ll judge them. We’ll judge Harry’s fling with a schoolgirl and Maddie’s previous life. We’ll judge the nature of love and violence, good and evil. The Black Country. For Maddie and Harry, it’s darker than it should be.