Ask the Author: Carys Bray

This week, I interviewed the lovely Carys Bray, author of A Song for Issy Bradley, about her writing process.a song for issy bradley

This is the story of what happens when Issy Bradley dies

Published in the UK in June, A Song for Issy Bradley has been hailed as wry, smart, and moving. Told from different perspectives, this beautiful debut novel tells a tale of grief, love, and moving on.


Photo credit: Colin McPherson

I wanted to know what inspired Bray to become a writer:

I read a lot as a child and I wrote some terrible Enid Blyton fan fiction, but when I grew up I stopped writing. It was only after my youngest child went to school that I began again. Around that time I read The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields and I realised that there was a tremendous amount of material in ordinary, every-day lives.

Her ideas come from ‘all sorts of places. My short stories often come from fleeting thoughts: what if you could buy children at the supermarket? What if an old woman made a real gingerbread house? etc.’

A Song for Issy Bradley began in the same way, but the ‘what ifs’ were bigger. What if a family experienced a terrible tragedy? What if the dad had an unshakeable faith that things would be all right, but the mum needed to whole world to stop while she re-evaluated everything? What if their little boy really believed he could fix everything with a miracle? The result of this was a heartbreaking yet enriching, full of humour and warmth.

Bray’s tips for aspiring writers include finding publication opportunities, and sending your work off to them. She recommends magazines such as Short Stops and Paul McVeigh for short fiction, as they hold regular competitions.

Try not to be discouraged by rejection, especially a rejection that encourages you to submit again or includes positive comments about your work – editors are really busy and often unpaid, they only say nice things if they mean them! Some competitions that charge a fee are worth entering but, on the whole, I’d advise writers not to pay for the privilege of submitting work.

Incredibly, Bray still feels insecure about her writing:

Publication isn’t a panacea.. I still feel like a bit of a fraud when I refer to myself as a writer. I’m not sure when or if that will change – maybe it won’t, maybe it’s necessary in order to keep me on my toes, I’m not sure.

Bray was brought up in a devout Mormon family. In her early thirties she left the church and replaced religion with writing. She was awarded the Scott prize for her debut short story collection Sweet Home. A Song for Issy Bradley is her first novel. She lives in Southport with her husband and four children. She is currently finishing off her PhD, and is beginning a second novel.

Bray has already done a few readings and signing, but she’ll be doing some more at various literature festivals in the autumn – Dundee, Wells and Sheffield, so far. If you want to find out more information, visit Bray’s website.

A Song for Issy Bradley will be BBC Radio Four’s Book at Bedtime for 2 weeks, starting tomorrow, so tune in! The novel is also available on Lovereading.co.uk, the UK’s No1 book recommendation website.

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