Author Profile – BARBARA KUESSNER HUGHES

Our Author Profile series continues today with Barbara, whose short story The Respite was placed second in our competition at the beginning of this year.

Barbara was born in Malaysia and grew up there and in Singapore. She has had short stories and flash fiction published in four countries. In the UK, she has won the Flash 500 Competition and been listed in other competitions. Her stories have appeared in Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Anak Sastra, Reflex Fiction, Three Drops From A Cauldron and elsewhere.

Here, we find out a bit about her writing process.

Tell us a little about yourself and the kind of stuff you like to write.

I’ve written in many different forms, including novels and audio drama, but about three years ago I started concentrating on short stories and flash fiction, and I’m really enjoying it. Some of my stories are straight fiction, others have a fantasy element.

I was born on the island of Borneo and grew up in Malaysia and Singapore. I’ve lived in England for many years now, but I’m still very emotionally attached to South East Asia. I also have connections to Germany because my mother was a refugee from East Prussia who resettled in the West. In addition, I’ve moved around within England and spent time in Spain, so I’ve had many different cultural influences, and my fiction has diverse settings as a result.

Nowadays I live in Hertfordshire with my husband and two dogs. My children are away at university, so I have more time to write than before.

How long have you been writing and what got you started?

I’ve written on and off all my life. When I was seven, my teacher asked the class what we wanted to be when we grew up, and it suddenly sprang into my mind that I wanted to be a writer. Although at that time I was adamant that I would only write for children, because I didn’t like books without pictures!

What does your writing day / schedule look like?

I work part-time. I don’t have a writing schedule as such. When I have an idea for a new story, I work on it at every opportunity until I have a first draft. Then I go back from time to time and tinker. A lot of time may pass before I consider a story finished. I always have a few things simmering away, but I may not look at them for ages, and I often have gaps of a few days between bouts of writing. Writing every day would be too exhausting because when I’m inspired my sleep can be disrupted.

How did you find writing during lockdown?

It’s been quite a fruitful period for me. It’s been good to be able to forget reality and have a semblance of control in my own little worlds.

What successes have you had in the past?

I’ve previously won first prize in the Flash 500 flash fiction competition and been listed in a number of other competitions. I’ve had short fiction published by Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Three Drops From A Cauldron, Reflex Fiction and other publications, and have a story coming out soon in Storgy. Later this year one of my flash fictions will appear in a print anthology.

How do you feel when you see your work in print?

Delighted and honoured, but there will often be an element of stage fright and self-criticism, too…

Do you have a particular place where you go to write?

I usually write sitting on a yellow sofa with my laptop balanced on a cushion and my dogs lying next to me. This arrangement suits all of us!

Do you have any tips or advice for other writers?

Tip 1: A writer whose name I don’t recall recommended revising your work “until your mind fully inhabits the material”. That’s what I try to do.

Tip 2: Some people may labour away for years at a form which doesn’t really suit them. Experimenting can be helpful. Some nice things have happened for me since I went off at a tangent and tried writing flash fiction for the first time.

Tip 3: If you don’t already try to move with the times, it’s important to do so. I held myself back for years by being too attached to traditional notions about print publishing and ignoring the online world.

Planner or pantser?

Maybe a plantser? I don’t plot in detail beforehand á la JK Rowling, but certain points of a story tend to be fairly clear in my mind when I start.

Daily / weekly word count target?

I don’t think about word targets unless I’m writing with a particular publication or competition in mind.

You can visit Barbara’s website here.