Hannah Kate

poet, short story writer and editor based in Manchester

September 20, 2017

3 Minute Scares is back for its second year!

North Manchester FM presenter Hannah Kate wants you to scare her this Halloween! She’s asking people throughout Greater Manchester to submit their scariest 3-minute stories for her annual creative writing competition. Writers keen to be crowned Greater Manchester’s spookiest wordsmith can submit a recording of their mini-tale via Hannah’s website, with the best entries being played on air on the Halloween edition of Hannah’s Bookshelf on Saturday 28 October. Winners will also have the chance to read their story at the Boggart Hole Clough Halloween Lantern Parade later that evening.

The Halloween flash fiction competition will be judged by horror author Simon Bestwick and Dr Sorcha Ní Fhlaínn of MMU’s Centre for Gothic Studies, with the writer of the best entry receiving a prize from Breakout, Manchester’s real life escape room game. Entries need to be 3 minutes long, meaning a word count of 350-400 words. The judges will be looking for style and originality, as well as how scary the story is.

Last year’s competition was won by Ian Peek, with a terrifying little tale about Jack o’Lanterns. North Manchester FM presenter Hannah Kate says: ‘Ian set the bar pretty high with his winning entry last year, but I’m looking forward to seeing what this year’s competition brings. The standard of entries from all over the region last year shows that there’s a lot of talent for terrifying out there.’

All writers need to enter the competition is a computer with a microphone… and a good story. Entries can be recorded via Hannah’s website. More information and rules of the competition can also be found on the website.

Hannah’s Bookshelf is North Manchester FM’s weekly literature show, and it goes out live every Saturday 2-4pm. The show has been running since January 2015 and has featured guests including Rosie Garland, Ramsey Campbell, Tony Walsh and Gwyneth Jones. The show broadcasts on 106.6FM for North Manchester residents and through the ‘listen online’ feature for the rest of the world.

September 20, 2017

North Manchester FM: Hannah’s Bookshelf, Saturday 23 September, 2-4pm

Catch Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester FM this Saturday at 2pm. This week, my guest will be the fantastic Tony Williams.

Tony is a writer based in Northumberland. His novel Nutcase (Salt, 2017) is a retelling of the medieval Icelandic Saga of Grettir the Strong set in present-day Sheffield. He has also published a book of flash fiction, All the Bananas I’ve Never Eaten (Salt, 2013), which won Best Short Story Collection at the Saboteur Awards. His poetry books have been shortlisted for the Portico, Aldeburgh and Michael Murphy Prizes, and his pamphlet All the Rooms of Uncle’s Head (Nine Arches, 2012) was a Poetry Book Society pamphlet choice. He is Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Northumbria University.

Tony will be doing a launch event for Nutcase in Manchester on Thursday 28th September, 6pm, at MMU Writing School, along with Antony Rowland, who will be launching his new poetry collection M.

I’ll be talking to Tony about Nutcase, sagas, flash fiction and Sheffield. And, of course, he’ll be sharing his selections for this week’s Apocalypse Books.

Tune in on Saturday at 2pm on 106.6FM (if you’re in the North Manchester area) or listen online (if you’re further afield).

Missed the show? You can listen again here:

September 13, 2017

North Manchester FM: Hannah’s Bookshelf, Saturday 16 September, 2-4pm

Tune in to North Manchester FM on Saturday at 2pm for Hannah’s Bookshelf. My guest this week will be the brill Sara L. Uckelman.

Sara is an assistant professor of logic and philosophy of language at Durham University by day and a writer of speculative fiction by night. Her research interests include interactive logic and questions of meaningfulness, especially the unique issues of meaning that fiction, and especially fanfiction, pose. She has had short stories published in Pilcrow & Dagger and Story Seed Vault and forthcoming in anthologies published by Hic Dragones and Jayhenge Publications, and is one of the organizers of the new SFF Reviews website.

I’ll be talking to Sara about her academic work, as well as her fiction, and about her new review site. And, of course, she’ll be sharing her selections for this week’s Apocalypse Books.

Catch us on Saturday at 2pm on 106.6FM (if you’re in the North Manchester area) or listen online (if you’re further afield).

Missed the show? You can listen again here:

August 31, 2017

North Manchester FM: Hannah’s Bookshelf, Saturday 9 September, 2-4pm

Tune in to North Manchester FM on Saturday at 2pm for Hannah’s Bookshelf. This week, my guest will be the fab Irene Soldatos.

Irene is the author of Bad Bishop and Innocent in the Afterlife, and she is currently based in the UK and Greece. She was born in Greece, but grew up in England. Then she went to Greece. Then England again. Then Germany. Now she’s back in England – but can frequently also be found in Greece. She gets about. She has a B.A. in English and a Master’s and Ph.D. in Musicology.

You can see more about Irene’s work, including sample chapters of Bad Bishop and Innocent in the Afterlife, on her website.

I’ll be talking to Irene about her work, and about historical research, musicology and the Middle Ages. And, of course, she’ll be sharing her selections for this week’s Apocalypse Books.

Catch us on Saturday at 2pm on 106.6FM (if you’re in the North Manchester area) or listen online (if you’re further afield).

Missed the show? You can catch it again here:

August 29, 2017

North Manchester FM: Hannah’s Bookshelf, Saturday 2 September, 2-4pm

Join me on Saturday at 2pm for Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester FM. This week, my guest will be the wonderful Dara Downey.

Dara currently lectures in the School of English, Trinity College Dublin. She is editor of The Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies, and Vice-Chair of The Irish Association for American Studies. She is author of American Women’s Ghost Stories in the Gilded Age (Palgrave, 2014) and is currently working on a monograph on slaves and servants in American gothic fiction.

I’ll be talking to Dara about ghost stories, women’s writing and the Gothic (amongst other things). And, of course, she’ll be sharing her selections for this week’s Apocalypse Books.

Catch us on Saturday at 2pm on 106.6FM (if you’re in the North Manchester area) or listen online (if you’re further afield).

Missed the show? You can listen again here:

August 22, 2017

North Manchester FM: Hannah’s Bookshelf, Saturday 26 August, 2-4pm

Join me on Saturday at 2pm for Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester FM. This week, my guest will be the fantastic Lucy Hounsom.

Lucy is the author of the Worldmaker Trilogy, the first book of which, Starborn, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Morningstar Award for best debut in 2016. She’s also a Waterstones bookseller and co-hosts the geek feminist podcast Breaking the Glass Slipper, which discusses women in science fiction, fantasy and horror. She lives half the time in Devon and the other half in Skyrim.

I’ll be chatting to Lucy about the Worldmaker books, her podcasts, and all things sci fi and fantasy. And, of course, she’ll be sharing her selections for this week’s Apocalypse Books.

Tune in on Saturday at 2pm on 106.6FM (if you’re in the North Manchester area) or listen online (if you’re further afield).

Missed the show? You can catch it again here:

August 13, 2017

North Manchester FM: Hannah’s Bookshelf, Saturday 19 August, 2-4pm

Coming up on this week’s Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester FM, I’ll be chatting to the brill RJ Barker. We’ll be on air on Saturday, 2-4pm.

RJ lives in Leeds with his wife, son and a collection of questionable taxidermy, odd art, scary music and more books than they have room for. He grew up reading whatever he could get his hands on, and has always been ‘that one with the book in his pocket’. Having played in a rock band before deciding he was a rubbish musician RJ returned to his first love, fiction, to find he is rather better at that. As well as his debut epic fantasy novel, Age of Assassins, RJ has written short stories and historical scripts which have been performed across the country. He has the sort of flowing locks any cavalier would be proud of.

RJ’s novel Age of Assassins, from Orbit Books, is now available in all major book stores, online and on Amazon.

I’ll be talking to RJ about Age of Assassins and all things epic fantasy. And, of course, he’ll be sharing his selections for this week’s Apocalypse Books.

Tune in on Saturday at 2pm on 106.6FM (if you’re in the North Manchester area) or listen online (if you’re further afield).

Missed the show? You can catch it again here:

August 13, 2017

Game on! Some of my Favourite Fictional Sports

This week’s Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester FM was inspired by the North Manchester Games (which took place in Boggart Hole Clough on Saturday afternoon). Given all the real sports that were taking place in the Clough during the afternoon, I thought it would be pretty cool to look at some of my favourite fictional sports of the show. You can catch the show again on the player below, but as promised here’s a list of the books I featured.

National Velvet by Enid Bagnold (1935)

As there’s been a lot of promotion of the Sport England This Girl Can initiative, I thought it would be a good idea to start with a ‘This Girl Can’ classic for today’s show. National Velvet is the story of Velvet Brown, a teenage girl who becomes taken with the idea of riding a horse to victory in the Grand National. Along with her friend Mi, her mother Araminty (who once found fame swimming the Channel) and, of course, The Piebald, Velvet hatches a plan to disguise herself and enter the race.

Bagnold’s novel was adapted into a film in 1944, starring a very young Elizabeth Taylor, Mickey Rooney and Angela Lansbury. The film is a fairly faithful adaptation of the horse-racing plot, but the novel offers so much more in its presentation of Velvet’s chaotic and quirky family. It’s a charming book, and definitely worth a read.

The Mighty Walzer by Howard Jacobson (1999)

Something a bit closer to home now… Jacobson’s semi-autobiographical comic novel is set in the 1950s and tells the story of Oliver Walzer, a shy young Jewish lad from Manchester who discovers a talent for table tennis. We follow Oliver through his awkward teenage years – and Jacobson really doesn’t hold back on just how awkward some of his experiences are – to his acceptance to Cambridge University. And through it all, Oliver is determined to prove that he really is the ‘mighty’ Walzer, at least when he wields his paddle.

Jacobson’s novel combines self-deprecating humour, larger-than-life characters, slapstick, (almost) gross-out comedy, and biting satire. It’s a coming-of-age novel, but told from the knowing perspective of an older narrator looking back on the follies of youth. There’s a great sense of humour here, but also a wonderful sense of place evoked in both the descriptions and the language used. This is definitely an appropriate choice for a show inspired by the North Manchester Games.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1865)

Okay, so I really chose this book for one chapter in particular. I don’t think Carroll’s classic needs much of an introduction, not least because it’s already been saved for post-apocalyptic posterity in the Library at the End of Days. For this week’s show, I was most interested in the third chapter: ‘A Caucus-Race and a Long Tale’. The Caucus-Race is suggested by the Dodo, after Alice and her animal companions emerge soaking wet from the pool of tears. It’s a nonsense-race, obviously, which has no real start or finish. But at the end everyone gets a prize, so that’s nice.

I know it’s a bit of a cheat choosing a book for just one passage, but Carroll’s book is such a classic it’s totally worth it. Also, sometimes it’s good to remember that you don’t need rules or structure, you can just run around for a bit and then stop.

First it marked out a race-course, in a sort of circle, (‘the exact shape doesn’t matter,’ it said,) and then all the party were placed along the course, here and there. There was no ‘One, two, three, and away,’ but they began running when they liked, and left off when they liked, so that it was not easy to know when the race was over. However, when they had been running half an hour or so, and were quite dry again, the Dodo suddenly called out ‘The race is over!’ and they all crowded round it, panting, and asking, ‘But who has won?’

The Turke and Sir Gawain (c.1500)

Something a bit different now, though it’s still comic in its own way. The Turke and Sir Gawain is a late-fifteenth-century romance that survives in the Percy Folio. Although the poem has been mangled a bit (part of the manuscipt was torn up for firelighters, meaning that around half of the text is missing), it’s a cracking story that’s sadly underrated. The court of King Arthur is interrupted in its festivities by a sinister ‘Turke’, who demands the knights enter into a challenging game. Only Gawain agrees (obviously, he is Arthur’s greatest knight after all), and Turke insists that Gawain accompany him on a quest for one year to fulfil his half of the agreement. They travel to the Isle of Man, which is people by a race of Muslim giants – lead by a scathing, but rather cordial, Sultan – and Gawain and the Turke need to team up to defeat the giants and rescue their prisoners.

I chose this medieval narrative for my sport-themed show because of a bizarre tennis game that takes place in the second half of the poem. The Manx giants are determined to prove that Gawain is weaker than them, so they challenge to various feats of strength including a game of tennis with a brass ball. And then they decide there’s something even better they could use as a ball…

Okay, this might have marked the point when the sports on the show got a bit darker…

The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell (1924)

As a vegetarian and someone who is anti-blood sports, it would have been utterly inappropriate for me to feature a book about hunting animals for sport on the show. So I didn’t feature a book about hunting animals for sport…

The trope of humans hunting humans for entertainment has proved quite a popular one, featuring in novels, films, television programmes and cartoons. I decided to feature one of the earliest examples I could find. Connell’s 1924 short story is about Sanger Rainsford, a big game hunter who finds himself on the other side of the equation when he is stranded on an island with a man called General Zaroff. Zaroff has a game he likes to play with visitors to the island, but at least he always gives them a head start! Instead of heading off to Rio to hunt jaguars, Rainsford finds himself being hunted by a man who believes ‘Life is for the strong’.

If you’re a fan of the ‘hunting humans for sport’ subgenre, I’d also recommend Robert Sheckley’s short story ‘Seventh Victim’ (1953), which offers an interesting take on the subject, and of course Richard Bachman’s 1982 novel The Running Man.

And then, in a not dissimilar vein, there’s always…

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (2008)

Hey! It’s about sport! There’s an arena, and competitors, and training…

Collins’s best-selling dystopian YA novel is probably well-enough known not to need much introduction. It’s the story of Katniss Everdeen, a young woman who has to compete in the brutal annual Hunger Games, a competition in which 24 young people are confined to an arena and forced to fight to the death for the entertainment of the masses. While the book has lots of common themes of YA fiction – a rebellious heroine, a potential love triangle, unexpected alliances and friendships – it’s the dystopian element that really fascinates me. Panem, the ‘world’ of the Hunger Games is fully of post-apocalyptic tyranny and strangely familiar inequalities. What I really enjoyed, though, was the way in which the Hunger Games – for all their apparent purpose as a ‘tribute’ to ensure social stability – were really just a reality TV show to keep the masses compliant. President Snow (the despotic ruler who presides over the annual bloodbath and its associated spectacle) really does understand how to use panem et circenses to control his people.

The Hunger Games was followed by two sequels: Catching Fire (2009) and Mockingjay (2010). And if you fancy reading more about young people forced to battle to death for a watching audience, I’d also recommend Koushan Takami’s Battle Royale (1999) and Bachman’s The Long Walk (1979).

To find out more about all of these books, and my reasons for choosing them, you can listen to the show here:

July 25, 2017

North Manchester FM: Hannah’s Bookshelf, Saturday 29 July, 2-4pm

Tune in this Saturday at 2pm for Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester FM. This week, my guest will be the fab Karen Woods.

Karen is a novelist and playwright, and was born and raised in North Manchester. She is the author of seventeen novels, including her newest title Torn (which comes out on 1st August). She has also written six stage productions, including adaptations of some of her own novels. Karen is currently working on rehearsals for a production of Black Tears, which is on at the Middleton Arena on Saturday 2nd September.

Karen left school without any formal qualifications and didn’t start writing until she was 39 years old. She got her inspiration from attending an adult literacy course which was offered by her former employers. Karen writes from the heart and always keeps it true to life, and she writes about subjects many people can all relate too. Having lived a colourful life, she uses her own experiences as background for her books. As well as writing, Karen is also an inspirational speaker for Forever Manchester, and has been interviewed in various newspapers and magazines. Torn – her latest release – is the third book in a trilogy that began with Broken Youth (Karen’s first novel) and Black Tears.

I’ll be chatting to Karen about Torn and the new stage adaptation of Black Tears, as well as about her inspiration and life as a writer. And, of course, she’ll be sharing her selections for this week’s Apocalypse Books.

Catch us on Saturday at 2pm on 106.6FM (if you’re in the North Manchester area) or listen online (if you’re further afield).

Missed the show? You can catch it again here:

July 25, 2017

Parklife! A Selection of my Favourite Parks in Literature

Last week was #LoveParks week, an initiative by Keep Britain Tidy to show a bit of love for parks and green spaces across the country. As I’d been out and about taking #LoveParks pictures for the Friends of Crumpsall Park all week, I thought I’d turn my attention to my favourite literary green spaces on this week’s Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester FM. You can listen again to show on the player below, but as promised here are details of the books I discussed. Let me know if I missed any!

The Keys to the Street by Ruth Rendell (1996)

Quite a lot of my lists include a title by one of the Queens of Crime, and this one’s no different. Rendell’s book tells the seemingly unconnected stories of Mary Jago, Hob and Bean – three people whose lives revolve around Regent’s Park and its environs. Mary is a young woman who has left her abusive partner and is housesitting for an elderly couple at the edge of the park; Hob is a drug addict who beats people up to get his next fix; Bean is an old ‘upper servant’ type, who walks dogs for rich people in and around the park. When the body of a homeless man is found impaled on the park gates, a murder investigation is launched – but more will be revealed than just the murderer. The lives of the various characters we encounter may well be more deeply connected than we (or they) realize.

Not only is this a classic Rendell mystery – with detailed and compelling characters, and an incredibly evocative sense of place – but it’s also a great place to start a tour of literary parks. Here, the park is a place where disparate lives overlap, and where disconnected stories find a place of connection – even if only for a moment.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (1814)

Although the show mainly focused on municipal and urban parks, I thought it was only right to have one title that features a different kind of green space – the country park estate. And as the new ten pound note featuring Jane Austen has just been unveiled, it seemed fitting that I included Austen’s novel on my list.

Mansfield Park is the story of Fanny Price, who moves to the eponymous estate when she is ten years old. Fanny’s mother is struggling to cope with her large brood of children, and so sends her daughter to live with her sister and brother-in-law at Mansfield. Fanny is forced to negotiate new relationships with her cousins – Edmund, Julia, Maria and Tom – but is treated as a poor relation by their aunt Mrs Norris, and experiences a coolly distant relationship with her uncle Sir Thomas Bertram. When Fanny is seventeen, society at Mansfield is turned upside-down by the arrival of head-turning siblings Henry and Mary Crawford, and Georgian shenanigans ensue.

Mansfield Park is not always considered Austen’s best book – and it’s certainly not the most popular of her novels. Part of the issue lies with the heroine: Fanny Price is a very different type of character to Lizzie Bennett or Elinor Dashwood. The heroine’s rather priggish morality is a central focus, and the novel’s ending leaves some readers cold. Nevertheless, there is plenty of biting satire throughout the book, and it does have a bit more of an edge than Austen’s other novels.

The Wombles by Elisabeth Beresford (1968)

I guess for people my age, this one is a bit of a given! Beresford’s classic children’s novel introduces us to the little rodent/bear-like creatures that live on Wimbledon Common, collecting up the rubbish left by humans and putting it to good use. As well as The Wombles, Beresford also wrote The Wandering Wombles (1970), The Wombles at Work (1973), The Invisible Womble and Other Stories (1973), The Wombles to the Rescue (1974) and The Wombles Go Round the World (1976). The books introduced us to Great Uncle Bulgaria, Tobermory, Orinoco, Bungo, Tomsk, Wellington and Madame Cholet (familiar to viewers of the TV show), but also Miss Adelaide (who wasn’t included on the show) and Alderney (who wasn’t in the original series, but appeared in the 90s reboot when people wrongly assumed she was a new character).

It probably goes without saying that The Wombles was adapted into a BBC stop motion animated series in 1973-75, narrated by Bernard Cribbens. There was a ‘new’ version made in 1998-99, but the less said about that the better.

Small Holdings by Nicola Barker (1995)

I’ve mentioned a couple of Barker’s novels on the show before, so it was great to be able to include one of her books on today’s list. Small Holdings is the perfect choice for a show devoted to municipal parks, as the plot revolves around the intricacies and eccentricities of urban park management.

The novel takes place in a council-owned park whose maintenance has been privatized. An odd little group of people – Doug, Phil, Ray and Nancy – has formed a partnership to bid for the maintenance contract. When the novel begins, this contract is up for renewal, and we follow the tensions the characters face as their group unravels under the pressure of the upcoming meeting. And by ‘odd’, I do mean ‘odd’. And by ‘unravels’, I really do mean ‘unravels’. Barker’s book has been described as a ‘comedy of errors’, but it’s much more unhinged and absurd than that. The characters are bizarre and unsettling; the situations they face are discomforting and often violent. You’re never really rooting for anyone as such – not even Phil, the introverted and unfortunate narrator – but the story is utterly compelling. Like a lot of Barker’s work, Small Holdings takes the mundane minutiae of an unlikely fictional setting, and turns it into a drama of human absurdity that is difficult to put down.

Entangled by Cat Clarke (2011)

I’ve included Clarke’s debut YA novel on my list, despite the fact that only a small portion of the novel’s action takes place in a park. The scenes that take place in the park are so significant to the set-up of the book’s plot that I thought it warranted a place of the list. Additionally, Clarke’s book offers an unflinching and realistic depiction of how teenagers view and use parks, so I thought it made for an interesting contrast to some of the other books I featured.

Entangled is the story of Grace Carlyle, a troubled seventeen-year-old who has decided to commit suicide. She goes to the local park, but is interrupted in her plans by the arrival of a young man called Ethan. As she waits for Ethan to leave, Grace drinks heavily and eventually passes out. When she comes to, she’s locked in a white room… and Ethan is her jailor. With only a stack of paper and pens to distract her, Grace begins to write an account of her life and the events that led to her decision to kill herself in the park. This seems to be something Ethan wants her to do… but who is he? and why is he holding her prisoner? Clarke’s novel pulls no punches in its depiction of teen life – there’s underage drinking, sex and self-harm – but it’s also one of the most painfully realistic portrayals of teenage mental health (in my experience) out there. Entangled is a dazzling book, and a definite recommendation – and not just for the park scenes!

The Park Bench/Un peu de bois et d’acier by Chabouté (2017/2012)

I thought I’d end with a very recent publication, but one that brings us full circle in a way. Chabouté’s acclaimed graphic novel was first published in French in 2012, under the title Un peu de bois et d’acier [A Little Bit of Wood and Steel]. An English-language edition was published by Faber and Faber this month, entitled The Park Bench.

And that’s what the book is about. A simple park bench. In a series of black-and-white panels, Chabouté charts the various anonymous people who use, interact with, claim and even deface this little bit of wood and steel over the course of days, weeks and seasons. There’s a skateboarder doing stunts across it, a baby toddling its first steps, pensioners sharing a cake together, and a man trying to read as a stranger strums blissfully on his guitar. No background or explanation is offered for these vignettes, but Chabouté’s images give us just enough detail to imagine the ‘characters’ and the circumstances that might have brought them to this particular bench at this particular time. I started the show by talking about the way Rendell’s novel uses Regent’s Park as the locus around which disparate characters’ stories revolve, and so it seems fitting to end with a book that’s a real celebration of the ways in which a park (and its bench) can be the stage for the ‘choreography of life’. It’s an absolutely charming book, and the perfect way to end my #LoveParks literary list. If you’re interested, Un peu de bois et d’acier was also adapted into a short film by Sandgate Productions in 2014.

To find out more about all of these books, and about my reasons for choosing them, you can listen to the show here: