The Writing Life

We’re a podcast for anyone who writes. Every week we talk to writers about their writing journeys and techniques, from early career debuts to self-publishers and narrative designers. We’ve featured Margaret Atwood, Jackie Kay, Sara Collins, Antti Tuomainen, Val McDermid, Sarah Perry, Elif Shafak and many more!

Brought to you by the National Centre for Writing at Dragon Hall in Norwich.

Kate Summerscale, the award-winning author of The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, joins the pod to talk to Chris about her new book, The Haunting of Alma Fielding: A True Ghost Story. They discuss the origins of the book, Kate's approach to research and how she had to track down the facts, and how the book sets poltergeists and the increased interest in the supernatural in the 1930s with the rise of Hitler and looming war.

Hosted by Steph McKenna and Simon Jones.

Find out more about what we do:

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Music by  Bennet Maples.

Emma Shercliff of Laxfield Literary Associates talks to us about being an agent outside of London and her efforts to better represent both regional writers and authors from Africa and the Middle East. Following a globe-trotting career with Macmillan, Hodder and Cassava Republic Press, encountering the Common People report prompted Emma to set up Laxfield Literary Associates with the aim of making agenting more transparent and representative of the population.

We discuss the challenges of representation, the lack of childcare support for writers, how and when to contact an agent and lots more - including the two prizes being run by Laxfield Literary Associates which you can find out about on their website:

Hosted by Simon Jones & Steph McKenna.

Find out more about what we do:

Check out our workshops and Agent Insights sessions:

Join our (free!) Discord community and say hi:

Music by Bennet Maples.

Want to be a more organised writer? On the pod this week we have Antony Johnston, prolific and bestselling creator of comics, novels, podcasts and more. He created the graphic novel that was turned into the movie Atomic Blonde, has worked extensively on his own comics as well as Marvel books, video games including Dead Space and Shadow of Mordor and numerous crime thrillers. His latest  book is The Organised Writer, a manual for professional writers based on Antony's own experiences and techniques. If you've struggled to stick to deadlines and carve out time for your writing, Antony is someone you need to pay attention to.

The Organised Writer is published by Bloomsbury and is available from all good bookshops!

Meanwhile Vicki jumps on the pod to discuss the challenges of our school work in Covid-19 times and our continuing efforts to keep delivering workshops to young people.

Hosted by Simon Jones and Vicki Maitland.

Join our Discord community:

FREE course: Supercharge your productivity:

How to write more and stay happy:

Find out more about what we do:

Check out Antony's website:

Watch Antony's film debut Crossover Point:

Music by Bennet Maples.

Multi-award-winning comics writer Kieron Gillen joins us on the pod today to discuss his methods for world building. Kieron is perhaps best known for The Wicked + The Divine, the hugely ambitious collaboration with artist Jamie McKelvie which presents a pantheon of gods who happen to also be pop stars, as well as UBER, Phonogram, DIE, Once & Future and Ludocrats. Beyond his own books he's also worked extensively with Marvel on X-Men, Thor, Iron Man and with LucasFilm on Darth Vader and Star Wars books. In the interview we explore the different challenges and opportunities of writing for established franchises compared to your own work, and how he approaches research and making things feel 'real' in fantasy stories. We spoke to Kieron just as he had been revealed as the writer on The Eternals, the return of a long-running series from Marvel.

This episode is part of our Early Career Writers' Resource Pack on World Building, which also features insight and tips from Abi Daré, Farhana Shaikh and Ian Nettleton. These packs are made possible by support from Arts Council England. See the rest of the pack here: 

Hosted by Stephanie McKenna and Simon Jones, who is barely able to contain his excitement.

More info on the Desmond Elliot Prize: 

Find out about what we do:

Kieron on Twitter: 

Music by Bennet Maples.

It's a very special episode this week award-winning US author and screenwriter Attica Locke joins us to deliver the annual Noirwich Lecture, in which she explores the ways that crime writing can challenge the distribution of power and authority at a structural and individual level, addressing how power, property and privilege intersect.

Attica’s most recent novel, Heaven, My Home, is an expertly-crafted thriller mystery, but also a sharp examination of ‘Trump-era’ America and issues of race, power, prejudice and white supremacy which still exist today. Her recent work as a television writer and producer includes When They See Us (Netflix); a portrayal of the 1990 wrongful conviction of five teenage boys from Harlem for a brutal attack in Central Park; and Little Fires Everywhere (Amazon Prime).

You can watch the live Q&A that followed Attica's lecture over on our YouTube channel: 

Meanwhile, Steph and Simon talk about free resources to help you keep writing through the latest Covid-19 lockdown rules and regs, what they're currently reading and the upcoming 'World Building' resource pack!

Noirwich is a co-production from the National Centre for Writing and the University of East Anglia. Find out more here: 

Hosted by Simon Jones and Steph McKenna.

Sign up to our newsletter and find out more about what we do:

Lewis Buxton on poetry in lockdown:

Jenny Offill and Joe Dunthorne about catastrophising:

Mark Stay on finding your new normal:

Ben Johncock's free productivity course:

End music by Bennet Maples.

Intro music from YouTube audio library.

Portrait by Jenny Walters.

RENDANG by Will Harris has been revealed as our new Book Club book! Flo Reynolds returns to the pod to introduce the book and why it's been selected for the book club. They also give some great tips for beginners on how to read poetry, so if you're more used to fiction and non-fiction don't feel like you need to sit this one out.

We'll be doing live Zoom sessions to discuss the book in October and you can jump into the book club area on our Discord community right away by clicking here:

If you missed our previous Book Club book, Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke, you can still catch up on the website where you'll find links to Flo's additional resources:

You can also rewind and catch up on all the Noirwich 2020 events over on the website:

Hosted by Steph McKenna and Simon Jones.

Music by Bennet Maples.

Is Hercule Poirot the world's greatest detective? Dr Mark Aldridge certainly think so, as he explores in his latest book Poirot: The Greatest Detective In The World. Mark is joined on the podcast for the Noirwich 2020 finale by crime writer Sophie Hannah, author of the Poirot continuation novels including the new The Killings at Kingfisher Hill. Their conversation takes in everything a Poirot fan could want, from discussing his best - and most unusual - cases, and why Agatha Christie's detective continues to be popular a century after his introduction.

If you missed any of the Noirwich Crime Writing Festival 2020, or want to rewatch or relisten, do head over to where you can find links to all of this year's amazing free events.

Hosted by Steph McKenna and Simon Jones. Event chaired by NCW Chief Exec Chris Gribble.

Music by Bennet Maples.

The Noirwich Crime Writing Festival continues with Anita Terpstra joining us on the pod from Leeuwarden in the Netherlands to discuss her crime writing. Talking with Flo Reynolds, Anita reveals her path to becoming published and how keeping the faith and continuing to write are essential. It's an inspiring and positive conversation.

Check out yesterday's pod with Paddy Richardson if you missed it and keep an eye on your podcast feed for our Hercule Poirot special this Sunday, featuring Sophie Hannah and Dr Mark Aldridge. Noirwich 2020 is packed full of amazing live videos, including appearances from Attica Locke, Oyinkan Braithwaite and Olivier Norek. Full details at over at

You can find the short stories by Anita over on the Noirwich blog: 

Hosted by Steph McKenna and Simon Jones.

Join our Discord community and ask us questions:

Photo by Harry Cock.

Music by Bennet Maples.

Noirwich 2020 has begun! Our crime writing festival is online this year, which means all the author events can be accessed for free here on the podcast and over on our YouTube channel. We kick off with an interview with Paddy Richardson, one of our 'virtual' writers in residence. Paddy is talking from Dunedin in New Zealand to our programme director Peggy Hughes.

Paddy Richardson is the author of two collections of short stories and seven novels. Traces of Red and Cross Fingers were long-listed for the Ngaio Marsh Crime Fiction Award and Hunting Blind and Swimming in the Dark were shortlisted. Through the Lonesome Dark was shortlisted for the New Zealand Historical Novel Award and longlisted for The Dublin International Literature Award.

Paddy has been awarded Creative New Zealand Awards, the University of Otago Burns Fellowship, the Beatson Fellowship and the James Wallace Arts Trust Residency Award. She has been a guest at many writing festivals and was one of the New Zealand writer representatives at both the Leipzig and Frankfurt Book Fairs in 2012 when New Zealand was the guest of honour. In 2019, she was awarded the Randell Cottage residency in Wellington where she spent six months writing and researching her latest novel to be published in 2021.

Read an extract from Swimming in the Dark:

Read A Soft Flowing Veil of Grey, an exclusive reflection from Paddy: 

Hosted by Simon Jones and Steph McKenna.

Join our Discord writer and reader community:

View the complete Noirwich programme:

Find out about everything we do and sign up to our newsletter:

Music by Bennet Maples.

Poet Flo Reynolds joins us on the pod to share their tips on getting published as a poet. This episode is packed full of practical advice, including what NOT to do, guiding you along the process of building your writer CV through zines and competitions towards being ready for larger pamphlets, chapbooks and collections. Flo has been writing for over ten years and is also an essayist and editor. Their debut pamphlet, the other body, is forthcoming from Guillemot Press in 2021. Recent poems have appeared in The White Review, Stand, The Interpreter’s House, amberflora, Magma, Datableed and more.

When they're not writing, Flo is a literature programmer who works here at the National Centre for Writing. You can usually find them on our Discord community, where Flo runs the NCW Book Club and the Drop-in Writing Sessions. If you've been to any of our workshops or festivals over the years, there's a good chance you'll have benefited from their programming skills!

Check out Flo's what-to-do checklist on the blog here: 

You can join our Discord community to ask follow-up questions here:

Hosted by Simon Jones and Steph McKenna.

Flo's website: 

Noirwich Crime Writing Festival:

Drop-in Writing Sessions:

Join the Book Club:

Music by Bennet Maples.

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