Hannah Kate

poet, short story writer and editor based in Manchester

January 18, 2017

North Manchester FM: Hannah’s Bookshelf, Saturday 21 January, 2-4pm

Tune in to North Manchester FM on Saturday for Hannah’s Bookshelf. This week, my guest in the studio will be Benjamin Cassidy.

Benjamin is a student of Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University. In 2016, he was one of the runners-up in the Hannah’s Bookshelf 3 Minute Scares competition.

Benjamin grew up in Blackpool, and moved to Manchester, aged 22, and then Liverpool, before moving back to Manchester and working as a street fundraiser. He studied English, Media and Creative Writing at college, and then started university in September 2015. Ben does some performance poetry, and he writes for Humanity Hallows, the MMU student magazine.

I’ll be talking to Benjamin about his writing, and about studying creative writing at university. And, of course, he’ll be sharing his 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:

January 7, 2017

North Manchester FM: Hannah’s Bookshelf, Saturday 14 January, 2-4pm

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

Joel is an author, journalist, and inadvertent political comedian. He is the author of The Sea-Stone Sword, The Spire of Frozen Fire, The Silent Helm, and The Sky Slayer. He is an editor for The Sci-Fi Fantasy Network, head of the Doctor Who department, and member of the Tolkien Society. He is a frequent blogger for the Pack of Aces, focussing on issues of Asexuality in media.

He also runs the popular political comedy Twitter account TheMiliverse, which has over 6,500 followers.

I’m going to be chatting to Joel about his writing, sci fi and accidental political comedy. And, of course, he’ll be sharing his selections for in 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:

January 2, 2017

North Manchester FM: Hannah’s Bookshelf, Saturday 7 January, 2-4pm

Happy New Year! Nearly time for my first show of 2017! Join me on Saturday at 2pm on North Manchester FM for Hannah’s Bookshelf. My first guest of the year will be the wonderful Ian Peek.

Ian is a writer, born in Blackpool, living in Blackburn, and making a living teaching Maths. For now. He was the winner of the inaugural Hannah’s Bookshelf 3 Minute Scares competition, and has also won competitions on the Hour of Writes website, been runner up on Lessthan100words.com and been a shortlisted entry on ‘MASH Stories’. One of his short stories, ‘Rats’ has been animated (by fellow MMU MA student James Condon) and shown at film festivals and at HOME in Manchester. Ian studied Philosophy in Manchester, and recently returned to the city to pursue an MA in Creative Writing. ‘Rats’ was part of the portfolio of work that secured his position on this course, later leading to his meeting with James Condon and becoming involved in this project.

Ian enjoys writing flash fiction, and is currently working on a debut novel inspired by the word game Scrabble™, his own love of words and an irresistible draw towards paranomasia.

I’ll be chatting to Ian about flash fiction, spooky stories and creative writing in general. And, of course, he’ll be sharing his selections for the first Apocalypse Books of the year.

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:

December 27, 2016

Some Festive Book Recommendations

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My Hannah’s Bookshelf Christmas Special aired on Christmas Eve (on North Manchester FM, of course). If you missed the show, you can listen to it on the player below. But, as promised, here’s a list of the books I featured on my festive show.

The Sittaford Mystery by Agatha Christie (1931)

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Obviously, any list by me is probably going to include some Golden Age detective fiction. And that quite often means a bit of Agatha. For this list, my recommendation is The Sittaford Mystery (published in the US as The Murder at Hazelmoor). Although it’s not set on Christmas Day itself, it takes place in the run-up to the big day. It’s not the festivities themselves that form the backdrop to the mystery, but rather a dramatic case of seasonal weather. The story begins at Sittaford House, an old-fashioned country house on Dartmoor. The house is owned by Captain Trevelyan, but he’s leased it Mrs Willett and her daughter for the winter (bit weird – why would you go to spooky old Dartmoor for the winter?). As a snowstorm begins to engulf Sittaford, Mrs Willett throws a tea party. One of the guests suggests a spot of table-turning for entertainment, and a message comes through from the beyond: ‘Captain Trevelyan… dead… murder…’ Sure enough, 6 miles away, Captain Trevelyan lies dead in the snowbound village of Exhampton!

This is a standalone novel, and so it doesn’t include any of Christie’s series detectives. The investigation officially falls to Inspector Narracott; however, the real sleuthing is done by Emily Trefusis, the fiancée of the prime suspect (Trevelyan’s nephew). Emily is determined to see her boyfriend cleared of his uncle’s murder, so she teams up with tabloid reporter Charles Enderby to get to the bottom of things. While this might not be the best-known of Christie’s mysteries, it’s an atmospheric wintery little tale, with all the clues and red herrings you’d expect from the Queen of Crime.

The Christmas Ghost Stories of Lawrence Gordon Clark by Tony Earnshaw (ed.) (2014)

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I’m really pleased to be able to include a book by someone who’s appeared as a guest on the show this year, and it’s a proper seasonal treat too. For a lot of people, there’s nothing more Christmassy than a classic ghost story – and what better than one of M.R. James’s Ghost Stories of an Antiquary? Like a lot of people, I think my favourite is ‘Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad’, which takes some beating as a truly scary ghost story.

Between 1971 and 1978, the BBC broadcast a series of dramas entitled A Ghost Story for Christmas. Most of these stories were adapted from M.R. James’s tales, and all were directed by Lawrence Gordon Clark. In The Christmas Ghost Stories of Lawrence Gordon Clark, Tony Earnshaw gathers the original stories together, but prefaces each with a brand new introduction from Clark, as well as between-the-scenes photographs and a foreword by the rapidly-becoming-legendary Mark Gatiss. It’s a great insight into a bit of seasonal TV nostalgia, as well as a chance to revisit some iconic Christmas spookiness. Check out the link about to Tony’s website for more info on the book.

And if you want even more M.R. James goodness, another previous guest on the show – John Reppion – also has a new book of James’s stories out. Ghost Stories of an Antiquary Volume 1 is a graphic collection of short stories, adapted by Leah Moore and John Reppion, and it’s available to buy now.

A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen (1879)

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Perhaps not the first book that jumps to mind when you’re thinking about Christmas fiction, but another big recommendation from me. Ibsen’s controversial play opened in Copenhagen on 21st December 1879 and, though it’s not the thing most people remember about it, the play takes place over the Christmas period. Indeed, our first introduction to the play’s protagonist – Nora Helmer – is when she returns home after doing some Christmas shopping. On that grounds, I think it’s fine to include it in my list of festive reads.

Ibsen’s play focuses on Nora and her dissatisfaction with life. She’s married to Torvald and, while the marriage isn’t marked by conflict, the couple are somewhat distant from one another. Nora is unable to talk to Torvald about issues of money and employment (or the fact that she has borrowed money and is having to work secretly in order to pay it back). To her husband (as it was with her father), Nora is a ‘doll’ to be played with, not a real person. The situation reaches a head over the festive period, and Nora is forced to make a decision – does she do her ‘duty’ as a daughter, wife and mother? or does she try to break free of their restrictions and find a life outside the ‘doll’s house’? Ibsen’s three-act play focuses on issues of marriage and female identity in a way that seems a bit ahead of its time. It’s a fascinating study, and so is a definite recommendation.

Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher (2000)

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Although romance isn’t usually my genre of choice, I thought it’d be good to include a book on this list that’s full of Christmas cosiness. And Rosamunde Pilcher is always a good bet if you like your fiction warm and cosy. Winter Solstice was published in 2000, and it begins by introducing us to Elfrida Phipps – a 60-odd year old single woman, who befriends the Blundell family. When Gloria and Francesca Blundell are killed in a car accident, Elfrida takes the grieving Oscar under her wing. The two of them travel to Scotland to visit the home of Oscar’s grandmother. The bereaved man intends to avoid all seasonal festivities, but a snowstorm sees him trapped with Elfrida at Corrydale. When they’re joined by Carrie (a young relative of Elfrida’s) and her niece – who are both escaping from troubled relationships (though of very different kinds) – it seems that there might be a party at Christmastime after all. All that’s needed is a handsome stranger – who appears, in the shape of Sam Howard – and the group are forced to huddle together against the unfriendly weather. Will the festive season begin to mend the broken hearts? Well… obviously… but Pilcher’s book manages to stay on the right side of heartwarming and avoid becoming too cloying or over-sentimental. The atmospheric descriptions of weather and place really help with this, and it’s very easy to slip into the world of Winter Solstice for a few hours of cosy Christmas reading.

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E.T.A. Hoffman (1816)

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The next book on the list is kind of the ultimate in Christmas nostalgia (even if it is nostalgia for a world most of us have never actually experienced). The story of the Nutcracker is just one of those tales that are guaranteed to make you feel festive. Most people are probably more familiar with the story as told in Tchaikovsky’s ballet (which was based on Alexandre Dumas père‘s adaptation), but I thought I’d include Hoffman’s original version of the story on this year’s festive reading list. The story begins on Christmas Eve, with Marie and Fritz Stahlbaum eagerly awaiting a present from their godfather Drosselmeyer. Drosselmeyer is a clockmaker and inventor, and he brings the children a wonderful clockwork castle – but little Marie (who becomes Clara in the ballet) is more taken with the wooden nutcracker, which she treasures like a toy. As the grandfather clock chimes, Marie begins to see strange things appearing before her eyes, and that night she witnesses a magical (and kind of epic) battle between an army of animated toys and the mice that have sprung up from the floorboards.

Hoffman’s story is enchanting, fantastical and, at times, even a little dark. And whether you appreciate it through the adaptations (like a performance of the ballet) or the original story, it’s undeniably part of the overall feel of Christmas now. Who doesn’t love a bit of clockpunk magic with their stollen and Baileys?

The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern (1945)

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So I ended the show with a Christmas story that’s very close to my heart… so much so that I actually welled up just talking about it. My Christmas Eve wouldn’t be complete without It’s a Wonderful Life – I watch it every year, and I cry every single time. So I decided to end this year’s Christmas reading list with ‘The Greatest Gift’, the short story by Philip Van Doren Stern on which Frank Capra’s film was based.

Van Doren Stern’s story introduces us to George Pratt, a man who is utterly dissatisfied with his life. In fact, George feels so bad that he contemplates ending it all. Fortunately, he is prevented from doing this by the intervention of a rather odd stranger. This man offers to grant George’s fervent wish, and show him would the world would look like had he never been born. Because of the different form, there are some differences between ‘The Greatest Gift’ and It’s a Wonderful Life (e.g. there are more supporting characters in the film, as there’s more room for fleshing out their relationships with George). I also have to admit that the lesson George (Bailey) learns in It’s a Wonderful Life tugs on the old heartstrings a bit more than the slightly simpler lesson in ‘The Greatest Gift’ (and now I’ve got a lump in my throat again). But ‘The Greatest Gift’ is still a charming little Christmas story, and well worth a read. For that reason, I thought it deserved to headline my list of festive books this year.

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

December 20, 2016

Hannah’s Bookshelf: Round-Up of 2016

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Despite all the horrors of the outside world, 2016 has been a great year for Hannah’s Bookshelf! I’ve been lucky enough to have some wonderful guests on the show – including novelists, poets, publishers, editors (and even the odd musician) – and I’m grateful to North Manchester FM for continuing to let me haunt the airwaves and to my lovely husband Rob (aka Digital Front) for being my unofficial producer on the show. Here’s a little reminder of all the awesome people I got to talk to this year…

January

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As my first show of the year was just after New Year, I began 2016 with a repeat of my Boxing Day show, which featured a selection of some of my favourite festive-themed books. You can see the list of featured books in this blog post. My first new show of the year was on Saturday 9th January. I had intended to do a retrospective of ‘2015 in Literature’, but I got a bit distracted and decided to a show about the best books of 1915 instead. You can see the titles I talked about here.

2016 started in earnest with some absolutely fantastic guests. I talked to the legendary Ramsey Campbell, then had a lovely transatlantic conversation with Kate Laity. Finally, I wrapped the month up with an interview with Adele Wearing of Fox Spirit Books. It was a pretty good start to the year.

February

February was all about the interviews on Hannah’s Bookshelf, and I had four brilliant guests to talk to. First, there was Erik Hofstatter. Then Jane Bradley and Emma Jane Unsworth joined me on the airwaves. And on Saturday 27th February, I welcomed Dean Kirby to the studio, for a fascinating conversation about Angel Meadow and the Victorian history of Manchester.

March

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By contrast, March saw more specials. On Tuesday 8th March, North Manchester FM broadcast a show for International Women’s Day, hosted by a number of the station’s female presenters (including me!). Inspired by this, my regular show that week was an International Women’s Day Special, featuring a selection of the books by women that have been saved on Apocalypse Books so far. After this, it was my Easter Saturday Spring Special, in which I talked about a selection of books that all have flowers in their titles. You can see a list of the books I discussed in this blog post.

Of course, it wasn’t all specials in March. I also got to interview the wonderful Matthew Frost from Manchester University Press, which was very enjoyable.

April

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I had lots of really great guests on the show in April – and such a diverse group of writers! I began the month with another transatlantic interview, this time with author Scott Thompson. Then Xavier Aldana-Reyes from MMU joined me in the studio to talk about all things Gothic. I also got to talk about science fiction with Gwyneth Jones, comic books with John Reppion, and early modern medicine with Sara Read of Loughborough University. It was pretty cool month, all told.

May

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I don’t know if you remember, but there was some pretty extreme weather in April and May, and it felt like the year just couldn’t settle into normal seasons. To mark this, I kicked off May with a Weird Weather Special, discussing some of my favourite examples of freaky weather in fiction. You can see a list of the books I talked about here.

Once things had settled down a bit, I chatted to Kate Ash-Irisarri about medieval literature, and followed this with another special – this time on my favourite Gothic Heroines (inspired by a conference I attended at the University of Kent). There’s some info about the books I discussed in this blog post.

June

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June was kind of dominated by a few… ahem… big issues, and so obviously I decided to give a couple of these my slightly weird treatment. As the World Cup was in full swing, I thought it was only right to do a show inspired by this. But in my usual tangential way, this ended up being a 1966 Special, where I discussed some of my favourite books published in the year for English football fans. You can see the list of books I included here. Another big story in June was astronaut Tim Peake’s return to Earth after six months on the International Space Station. I celebrated this with a Hannah’s Bookshelf Outer Space Special – and you can see the books that were featured on the show here.

In addition to these special editions, I also did another transatlantic interview – this time with author Dori Ann Dupré. And I welcomed the lovely David Hartley to the studio as well.

July

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July was quite a full-on month for the show. June ended with the announcement of Prime Minister David Cameron’s resignation. I marked this in the only way I know how – by doing a show devoted to my favourite Fictional Prime Ministers. You can see which PMs made the cut in this blog post.

It was also great to welcome back my first ever returning guest this month – the fabulous Gwyneth Jones popped back into the studio for another interview (which was great, as we’d run out of time to talk about everything we wanted to in April). Other shows in July featured conversations about zombie horror with Amanda Steel and Victorian London with Lee Jackson.

On the 23rd July, North Manchester FM held a live music day, in collaboration with ALL FM (our sister station). As part of this, I hosted a Live Poetry Special, with performances from William Michael Neary, Andy N, Seamus Kelly, Joy France, George Melling and Sharon Lowe. Other presenters also had slots during the event, featuring performances from local bands and singers.

August

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I enjoyed the performances by all the poets on my Live Music Special so much, I invited them all to come back onto the regular show as guests. And in August, William Michael Neary (joined by musician Tom Metcalfe), George Melling and Sharon Lowe took me up on my offer. I also enjoyed chatting about Peterloo, local history and folk music with Martin Gittins and Bob Ashworth (who performed a few songs live for us as well).

My birthday is on 13th August, and this year it fell on a Saturday. So I had to do a birthday-themed show, didn’t I? To celebrate – and to accidentally give away my age, of course – my Birthday Edition was a run-down of some of the top books published in 1978. You can see which ones I talked about here.

September

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It was an absolute please to welcome back more of the poets from my Live Poetry Special in September. Seamus Kelly and Joy France both joined me in the studio this month. As well as this, I presented a Museums Special (inspired by the Golden Age detective novel Murder in the Museum, which I got as a birthday present from my parents-in-law). You can see the list of books I included in this post.

Because a good friend of mine got married in September, I had to miss one of my regular shows. So, instead, there was a ‘clips show’ featuring some of the amazing selections my guests have made on Apocalypse Books.

October

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October is perhaps one of my favourite months of the year – because it’s the month that Halloween’s in! I kicked off the month in style with an interview with Catherine Spooner from Lancaster University, in which we talked about Gothic literature, the Lancashire witches and a whole host of other spooky stuff. I also welcomed back another returning guest (this time for a chat about vampires, fairy tales and crime fiction), Nancy Schumann. Tony Earnshaw also joined me in the studio to talk film (including Night of the Demon – just to keep the Halloween theme going). On a somewhat less spooky note, the sixth poet from my Live Poetry Special – Andy N – made a welcome return to the show, and performed a few more pieces of his work for us.

In the run-up to Halloween, Hannah’s Bookshelf ran a Greater Manchester-wide creative writing competition called 3 Minute Scares. Writers were asked to submit a recording of a scary story told in under three minutes. On the Halloween Edition of the show, I was joined in the studio by Sorcha Ní Fhlaínn from MMU (one of the competition judges), and we ran down the Top 5 stories before announcing Greater Manchester’s Spookiest Wordsmith. Of course, as is only fitting, I presented the Halloween show in fancy dress.

halloween-2016-mask

November

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November saw two more transatlantic interviews: Stephen Morris joined me (over the ether) from New York, and Kim Bannerman talked to me all the way from Vancouver Island, Canada. (Both of these interviews contain a healthy dose of werewolf folklore, naturally.) I also had some more poetry from the fabulous Pete Slater, and talked publishing and performance with Christopher and Keri-Ann Moriarty of Bunbury Magazine.

December

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And so we moved into the final weeks of 2016. I began December by welcoming the fab Pete Kalu to the studio. Next, I talked to Nigel Barlow about Manchester’s history and geography. Then my final interview of 2016 was with the mysterious Jonah Locksley of The Thinker’s Garden, in which we discussed magic, alchemy, philosophy and the occult.

And then it was Christmas. As you know. It still is, if we’re honest. My Christmas Special this year fell on Christmas Eve and, as is now tradition (well, I’ve done it for two years in a row), I talked about a selection of my festive literary treats. You can see details of the books I discussed this year in this blog post. If you got a book token or an e-reader from Santa this year, there’s still time to indulge in a bit of seasonal reading…

Now we’re beginning to get ready to say goodbye to 2016. As I said, it’s been a really great year for the show, and I’ve been absolutely blown away by all the awesome guests who’ve agreed to share their work and chat about books with me. I’ve just got one show left this year, and I hope you’ll tune in…

Coming up at 2pm on New Year’s Eve, I’m doing my end-of-year show. Tune in for some of my personal highlights, including a selection of the books saved in The Library at the End of Days. As always, you can listen on 106.6FM (if you’re in the North Manchester area) or listen online (if you’re further afield).

Happy New Year!

December 6, 2016

Hannah’s Bookshelf – Festive Editions

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Coming up over the festive period… two seasonal Hannah’s Bookshelf specials on North Manchester FM.

Christmas Eve

On Saturday 24th December at 2pm, I’ll be on the airwaves for my Christmas Special. Like last year, I’ll be discussing a selection of my favourite Yuletide books. And who knows? There may even be a bit of Christmas music as well.

Missed this show? You can listen again here:

New Year’s Eve

And then at 2pm on Saturday 31st December, I’ll be doing my final show of 2016. I’ll be running through some of my highlights of the past year, including some of the brilliant Apocalypse Books that have been selected over the past year.

Tune in to my festive shows on 106.6FM (if you’re in the North Manchester area) or listen online (if you’re further afield).

Missed the NYE show? You can listen again here:

December 6, 2016

North Manchester FM: Hannah’s Bookshelf, Saturday 17 December, 2-4pm

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Join me on Saturday at 2pm on North Manchester FM for Hannah’s Bookshelf. This week, my guest will be the somewhat mysterious Jonah Locksley.

Jonah is a cultural historian and writer. Some of his essays have appeared in Abraxas Journal, Atlas Obscura, Disinformation, Folklore Thursday, and Ultraculture. He curates The Thinker’s Garden, an educational venture which seeks to encourage speculative thought by exploring the sublime and outré aspects of art and history. He is also the editor of Godfrey’s Almanack, an archaistic digest of recipes, anecdotes, and travel guides which pays tribute to Charles Godfrey Leland’s legacy of passionate enquiry into the world’s mysteries.

I’ll be talking to Jonah about The Thinker’s Garden and Godfrey’s Almanack, but we’ll also be taking a wander into the worlds of magic, alchemy, the occult and esoteric practice. And, of course, Jonah will be sharing his selections for Apocalypse Books in the second hour of the show.

Tune in at 2pm on Saturday 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:

December 4, 2016

North Manchester FM: Hannah’s Bookshelf, Saturday 10 December, 2-4pm

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

Nigel is the editor of About Manchester, a news and feature online magazine for Greater Manchester. He is also the author of Around Manchester: An Historical, Cultural and Social Journey Around Manchester and Salford.

Nigel has lived in East Manchester for fourteen years, deciding on a change of career in his forties from accountancy to writing and journalism. Around Manchester is his first book and he is currently working on a second. The book begins just a five minute walk from his house.

I’ll be chatting to Nigel about Around Manchester, and about some of his fascinating research into Manchester’s history. And, of course, he’ll be sharing his selections for 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: