Keddie Hughes talks about her new novel, Small Change, which is set in Glasgow.
Can you tell us more about your latest book, Small Change?
It tells the story of Izzy Campbell, an ordinary housewife and mother swept into the excitement of political activism and a dangerous love affair that forces her to confront what she wants from life. It’s set in Glasgow in 2011 and the drama within Izzy’s family is a microcosm of the wider social issues of the times, football sectarianism, Scottish nationalism and the problems of alcoholism.
What inspired you to write this book?
In my professional life, I help people to achieve their full potential so Izzy’s journey to follow her dreams is a struggle that I hope will resonates with my readers. I set the story in Glasgow – where I was born. Growing up, I was aware of the sectarianism tensions between Catholic and Protestant football supporters. It was a hatred that mystified me and troubled me and seems to be so much part of normal life, that no one talks about it much these days. So I wanted to write a story that talks about sectarianism as ‘Scotland’s secret shame’ so that it never become normalised and acceptable. Glasgow itself is an amazing city. It inspires me with its contradictions – voted the friendliest place on earth by Rough Guide and at the same time has some of the highest levels of violence and sectarianism conflict in Europe.
Do you have a favourite part or scene from Small Change? Could you tell us why you love it?
I like scene where Izzy is preparing for her final evening with her lover Sean. It captures the battle between her rational mind telling her to grateful for their time together and her emotional heart wishing it didn’t have to end.
It was her last evening with Sean. She brushed her hair in short quick tugs, reminding herself that she was not going to be one of those pathetic souls who cried and moped. She would be grown up and gracious in their farewell. Absolutely no tears. After he was gone, she would re-invent herself, be a stronger, better and more capable person because of him. Get a job. Rescue her crumbling family.
She leaned into her bedroom mirror, her freckles seemed more prominent than usual. Sean had spent the last evening trying to count them, kissing each one as he counted. It was a jokey gesture, but it had moved her in a way that had felt frightening. She was in danger of being overwhelmed by him; like a swimmer stepping into the sea, not realising how strong the undertow would be. Well, after tonight, she was heading back to shore, to dry land and the safety of her old life. She should be thankful that she had experienced such a lover, but she didn’t feel thankful. Instead, wishful thoughts crowded her mind: forlorn and foolish.
Do you see yourself in any of the characters in your novel?
Flaubert was once asked where the character Madame Bovary came from? He replied ‘c’est moi.’ (It’s me) I understand what he means, as all my characters have a bit of me in them. Even the bad guys! Delving into the ‘dark corners’ of my mind can feel a bit scary but the character soon takes over and becomes a separate person. It feels a bit like I’m a sourdough starter – giving my characters an initial boost from my inner world, so that they can grow and develop in their own unique and often startling ways.
What does your average writing day look like?
First thing in the morning, I walk our dog in the beautiful country side around my home. It’s a great way to prepare for writing – being inspired by nature clears my mind and makes me feel happy and optimistic about the day ahead. I then work steadily until late afternoon (including a short break for lunch). I take a longer break then, to catch up on normal life outside my writing bubble. In the evening I may well sneak back into my study and revise/edit what I’ve written during the day. At night my characters often appear in my dreams and give me feedback on what they’ve done in my novel. They often tell me to change something as it was out of character. I always listen to them – they are usually right!
What is a great book you’ve read recently that you would recommend to others?
I read widely so here are two recommendations that reflect the range of my tastes.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is sensational. It tells the story of a Starr, a young black girl in LA and her struggle for justice for her friend who was gunned down and killed. It’s bright, funny and powerful.
As I lay Dying by William Faulkner. An American classic that I re-read recently. It’s a powerful story of a dysfunctional family burying their mother. It’s a masterclass in writing from different points of view.
When did you decide to write and what prompted you to start?
I was a passionate writer at primary school, winning a national short story competition when I was 9 years old. I went on to read English Lit at University but then real life intervened (marriage, two children, a successful career in Industry and Academia) and I never wrote a word of fiction for the next thirty years. In my mid fifties, I wrote a thesis for my Doctorate Degree and I thought – if I can write seventy thousand words on an academic subject, I can surely write a fictional novel. I haven’t looked back since. I have written three novels, Small Change is my second novel to be published.
What is your favourite and least favourite thing about writing?
At the risk of stating the obvious, I love writing itself – allowing your imagination free reign, seeing and feeling the story and characters emerge is an almost magical process. The worst part is doing things like this! I feel like a hermit crab that’s been prised out my shell talking about myself and my work. I would prefer to let my writing speak for itself and for me to be allowed to stay in my shell!
What is the one thing about you that your readers would be surprised to know?
I am never short of new ideas. It’s like the universe is continually offering me inspiration for my next story. I see a man on the train reading a text on his phone and he seems upset. I notice he’s bitten his fingernails to the quick. Before I know it, in my head, I’ve created a whole back story about him, his life and what he’s going to do next. I always carry a journal with me and I scribble down the best ideas. It’s great fun but sometimes hard to switch it off!
What are you working on next?
A murder mystery/ psychological thriller with a sprinkling of the supernatural!
Murder, marital troubles and the murky world of football corruption collide into one woman’s life in this dramatic new novel, set against political upheaval and Sectarianism in Glasgow in 2011.
Forty-two year old Izzy Campbell wants more to life than husband who is over fond of a drink as well as a fanatical Rangers supporter. For as long as she can remember she’s always put her family’s needs first, but with her son turning eighteen she decides it’s time things change. Izzy signs up to volunteer at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and enrols to study for a part time degree in Social Sciences, where she meets fellow student and SMP candidate, Bridget, who encourages her to start a career for the first time, something her husband Jim does not support. Meanwhile, Jim’s security company is preparing to make a bid for a contract with his beloved Rangers, in spite of the Club’s reportedly murky finances. So when Izzy encounters charismatic journalist, Sean Docherty who reveals to her that he is investigating alleged financial corruption at Rangers, she finds her loyalties torn. However, hoping to protect her husband, and with her interest piqued in more ways than one, she finds herself ffering to help Sean with his research unaware of his family connections to the murder of a young Celtic fan. A murder her husband witnessed.
Growing up in Glasgow, in a staunchly Protestant home, with a Rangers fan for a father, Keddie Hughes is no stranger to the blight of Sectarianism which she refers to as ‘Scotland’s secret shame’. However, she’s quick to highlight that her story isn’t only about the problems surrounding football. As a self-proclaimed woman entering the ‘third age’ she wanted to create an authentic and relatable character in the form of Izzy. Through her main protagonist, Keddie acknowledges the struggles that women can often go through —from self-doubt to loneliness and feelings of invisibility — when faced with the prospect of their children growing up and moving away. Combining her own experiences as a psychologist and executive coach, Keddie hopes that her character’s journey will provide inspiration and understanding to others and show them that even small changes can add up to make a big diﬀerence in life.
Keddie Hughes was born in Glasgow and she’s worked for over thirty years in executive coaching and leadership development for large multi-national companies. In 2012 she completed the Faber Academy writing course and later enjoyed writing for eighteen months under the mentorship of author Jill Dawson. Today Keddie lives in Buckinghamshire where she dedicates as much time as she can to writing.