Holly Sykes is a writer and a secondary school teacher of English. Having taught in London for ten years, she is now back in the north-west where she grew up. For one day each week, when she is not teaching in a school on the Wirral, she sits in a quiet room with a blanket over her knees and escapes into stories, both reading and writing them, until it is time to collect her sons from school. In the five years she has been doing this, she has had eleven short stories published in various literary magazines, including Dream Catcher, The Stand, Firewords and Scribble.
In her writing, she likes to start with a landscape or a character and let the action unfold from there. Travelling, even locally, can provide a great start to a story, and she has found seeds of an idea in a sleepy, retired mill town of Cheshire, a burnt-out Brighton pier and the heathery wilds of the northernmost tip of Scotland.
Q: If you could travel back in time, which of the great writers would you like to meet and why?
A: Great writers seem rather intimidating, but I’d love to meet some great characters: Elizabeth Bennet, Miss Havisham, Mrs Dalloway. A cup of tea with Nelly Dean at Wuthering Heights is my dream.
Q: Is there a book that you keep going back to, and if so, how many times have you read it?
A: I don’t really return to individual books, but I return to authors like Sarah Waters, Zadie Smith and Anne Tyler, and get unreasonably cross when I run out of their books.
Q: What is the least interesting part of writing for you?
A: Although I don’t find any part of writing uninteresting, I struggle with the middle bits when trying my hand at longer fiction, especially sustaining pace. But beginnings are thrilling – that first taste. And endings can feel like such a relief, when it’s gone well.
Q: Do you have a favourite quote? (From a book, film, song, speech…)
A: ‘I’m wondering what to read next.’ – Matilda by Roald Dahl
Her car glides around the bend and suddenly the colours change. The light sky is swallowed by a darker cover and the yellow fields of barley and oats become bottle green and mud brown: land for livestock, not crops. A flooded field shines silver: a reflection of the slate-grey sky, the sun gleaming through the …