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  • Writer's pictureKeely Oshaughnessy

Interview with Rachel Canwell

Rachel is a blogger, reader and writer. As a book blogger she's amassed quite the following and maybe that's because her enthusiasm for words shines through everything she does. Rachel's stories are often witty, honest, and sharply observed. She has a skill for noticing the tiny moments of everyday life, capturing them just so and imbuing them with weight and importance.

Rachel creates characters you can relate to, characters you want to root for. Her debut collection, Oh, I Do Like to Be, bustles with characters you feel you might have met walking along the pier two weekends ago.

One of my favourite stories from her book was first longlisted in the Winter 2021 Reflex flash fiction competition. "Elizabeth – Sunny Shore Guest House Room Number Two," as it's now titled, is the story of a toxic relationship, there's a darkness that grows and tightens as you read, and the sunny seaside facade is peeled away to reveal the truth. But like most of Rachel's flashes there is hope nestled in the ending.

Meet the author:

Rachel Canwell is a writer and teacher living in Cumbria. Her debut flash collection Oh I Do Like to Be will be published by Alien Buddha in July 2022. Her short fiction has been published in Sledgehammer Lit, Pigeon Review, Reflex Press, Selcouth Station and The Birdseed amongst others. She is currently working on her first novel. She is also one quarter of The Northern Connection Podcast

Rachel's picks were: Rachel broke all the rules and picked a whopping 34 questions. (But that's okay as we like rebels!)

What makes you a writer?

RC: The fact that I want to create and I have stories tell. I used to think it was getting published but it’s so much more.

Do you own any pets and what are they called?

RC: A Dog called Orla, cats Moses and Jessie

What keeps you writing?

RC: My need for sanity and the feeling that I want to leave something behind.

Would you rather watch ten episodes of Family Guy, The Simpsons, or Bob’s Burgers?

RC: None, cartoons are for kids?

When it comes to submitting stories, do you leave it until the last possible minute before a deadline?

RC: It depends. Often yes, and today is a case in point.

Do you keep a journal or diary, writing, dream or otherwise?

RC: No. I’ve tried, but life gets in the way.

Are you a good speller?

RC: Nope! Spell check is my friend.

What does your dream ice-cream sundae look like?

RC: Pistachio and chocolate

Would you rather, a day at the water park or at the cinema?

RC: Cinema

Have you or would you ever skydive?

RC: No but never say never

What’s the strangest story you’ve ever written?

RC: One about a carpet that hasn’t found a home!

What makes you most nervous when it comes to writing?

RC: What people will think, but I am working hard to overcome this.

How do you really feel about form rejections?

RC: I accept them as part of the deal. Sometimes they sting more that others.

What’s your film guilty pleasure?

RC: Life of Brian by Monty Python

Name you first celebrity crush

A young Keith Chegwin

RC: Six-year-old me was in love with Keith Chegwin. All hail the 70’s.

Do you keep track of your rejections and what’s this year’s tally?

RC: I keep a loose track of where I have submitted, but I don’t count my rejections.

What do your first drafts look like?

RC: Messy! They start in notebooks and then make it to the computer, when I can’t read my writing anymore.

Where is the best place you’ve ever lived?

RC: I live in The Lakes which is pretty special, but I loved living in Lincoln as a student.

Where are you right now?

RC: Sitting in bed on a lazy Sunday morning.

What is the album you could listen to on repeat?

RC: Abbey Road by the Beatles or Graceland by Paul Simon.

Honestly, how many times a day do you check Submittable/refresh your email?

RC: Too many.

What are the recurring themes in your writing?

RC: Motherhood, in all its many forms.

What are your hobbies or what do you do for fun?

RC: Reading whenever I can and walking on the Northumberland beaches.

The stunning Northumberland coast

Can you listen to music while you write?

RC: No, but I often listen to it before.

What is your favourite method for generating new stories?

RC: Going for a long walk seems to work for me. I never come up with ideas sitting at a desk.

Who’s writing is a must read?

RC: Sarah Moss, Hannah Kent and Lucy Caldwell are all sublime. Witches of the words.

What is a surprising fact not many people know about you?

RC: Three of my four children were born at 32 mins past the hour.

Who would win in a fight, a piece of flash fiction, a prose poem or a drabble?

RC: I am going with flash!

What’s your job besides writing?

RC: Assistant Head in a Special Needs school

What’s your reading guilty pleasure?

RC: As a teacher, I don’t think any reading is guilty – read what you want – just read!

When did you start writing?

RC: I've been writing on and off for years in secret. I started submitting just over a year ago.

Which genre or style of writing are you most comfortable writing?

RC: Definitely prose. Have tried my hand at poetry and not there yet!

What is the shortest piece you’ve ever written?

RC: Thirty words! I have written a lot of micros that come in under 100 words.

What’s your favourite piece you’ve had published, to date, and why?

RC: Tricky one. I have had several pieces published about the Fens and that is where my novel is set too. My grandparents and parents grew up there, so it has a special place in my heart.

How do you feel about twist endings?

RC: I love a genuine twist but they are hard to pull off without feeling contrived

When making a cup of tea do you pour the milk in first?

RC: Never!

What do you normally eat for breakfast?

RC: At the moment, sweet omelette and fresh fruit

What’s the best or worst piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?

RC: Best piece: make a mess and don’t worry about its destination.

What are you currently reading?

The Devil and The Dark Water by Stuart Turton and Wendy Erskine’s short story collection.

Tell me five items you have in your refrigerator right now.

RC: Eggs, Halloumi, blueberries, peppers, pickled onions


If you've enjoyed Rachel's pithy and quick fire answers as much as I have then you can follow her on Twitter @bookbound2019.

Or check out her great book blog, Book Bound, where she reviews an eclectic mix of fiction- historical, flash, literary and much more. On top of being a successful blogger, she's also part of The Northern Connection podcast.

Rachel's fabulous debut flash fiction collection, Oh, I Do Like to Be, published by Alien Buddha Press is available now on Amazon. Grab yourself a copy, slap on the sun cream, fight off the seagulls and enjoy the salty sea breeze ruffling your hair!


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