Kate MacRitchie: Fairy Words


Zealous Stories: Short Story winner, Kate MacRitchie, grew up in a small town in the heart of Scotland – a place of Fingalian legend and high, windy fields. Her writing is driven by the shadow selves we keep secret, collective memory and the meeting of landscape and language.

Kate MacRitchie, Fairy Words

Congratulations on winning Zealous Stories: Short Story! Fairy Words, is a story about an obsessive collector of words. Could you tell us more about this work and what inspired it?

I grew up speaking Scots and English, so have always been intrigued by different words and their meanings. I’m also a Gaelic learner and so ‘collect’ Gaelic words as a step towards fluency! The thing that draws to me Gaelic as an outdoors lover is how intertwined the Gaelic language is with landscape. There are over fifty different words for ‘hill’ for example. One day I started daydreaming about words the fairies might leave behind, and how discovering these words might lead to the discovery of fantastical fairy lands, and from there Fairy Words started taking shape.

Fairy Words

Your writing embodies elements of folklore, language and the Gaelic landscape that surrounds you. Do you view the main character, Janet, as a separate entity, or as an extension of yourself?

Janet is more intrepid than I am, but her love of words and desire to find the hidden worlds hovering nearby our own draws on my own interests. The landscape around me also inspired some of Fairy Words.

How would you describe your writing process? Do you tend to structure your day in a particular way?

I usually write in the morning until lunchtime. I always work to an outline, whether it’s a short story or a novel. If I have a day where I get stuck, I try to take a break and not be too hard on myself, though that’s sometimes difficult to do!

Fairy Words

You have created a ‘Novel Magic Kit‘ helping writers go from ‘rough first draft to plot-hole free manuscript’. Could you tell us about this kit and touch on what encouraged you to share your technique with others?

The kit teaches writers how to brainstorm their way out of any plot hole. There’s questions sheets and a novel outline guide, as well as writing affirmations and a ‘rewrite with me’ video. I designed the kit because editing my novel was such a headache. I found lots of advice online about how to write a novel, but not how to edit one – and more importantly, how to motivate yourself to keep going and make the story better!

Are there any writers who have had great impact on your work?

One of my favourite books is Elspeth Barker’s ‘O, Caledonia’. I love how she writes with romanticism and wit. George Mackay Brown is also a huge influence on my work recently. His writing is spare and poetic, and taught me that simplicity is memorable and beautiful.

Fairy Words

When you are not writing, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

My main hobbies are learning Gaelic, hillwalking, reading, drawing and spending as much time as I can with friends and family.

What one piece of advice would you offer to writers who want to turn their writing hobby into a career? 

Remember that your writing is worth the time and effort you spend on it, even if you think you’re not good enough. Believe in yourself and keep writing! Keeping a diary or an online blog is a great way to hold yourself accountable and chart your progress over time. I also found a lovely community of writers on Instagram who inspire and motivate me.

What are your current writing plans? Are you working on anything exciting that you can tell us about?  

I’m currently querying agents with my first novel (about fairies) and writing a second (about witches).

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Ellie Isaacs

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