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Alison Littlewood

Career Path: Author
Location: Yorkshire, UK

I've always loved books and I think I always harboured a secret dream of having my name on the cover one day. I joined a local writing course and wrote for the love of it, gradually moving into dark fantasy and horror and getting short stories published in various magazines and anthologies. After a time they started to be selected for several 'Year's Best' anthologies, and I started working on writing a novel.

What are you doing now?Alison Littlewood

My most recent novel has represented quite a change in direction, as I've moved into historical fiction. The Hidden People is set in Victorian rural society, and is about the murder of a young girl suspected of being a fairy changeling - it's loosely based on the case of Bridget Cleary, who was burned to death by her husband in 1895. I feel as if I've come full circle, as my degree was in history as well as English, so I'm certainly making full use of what I learned at Northumbria. My other novel, The Hidden People, has just been shortlisted for a British Fantasy Award and this month, I'm also having a novella published, Cottingley, set around the incident of the Cottingley fairies where young girls claimed to capture fairies in photographs.

What was it about Northumbria that made you decide to study here?

I came to visit and fell in love with the city - it's vibrant, exciting and going places! I initially studied graphic design and the course there had a great reputation, but I missed the words too much and switched after a year to degree in English & History. I loved the way the course blended the disciplines, looking at novels in the context of the times in which they were written.

What was it like studying at Northumbria?

Northumbria offered various modules to choose from so that students could pursue their own interests, which gave the course vibrancy. There were seminars and lectures but I also remember a field trip to stately homes with one tutor, which he used to illustrate various aspects of life throughout the years, which was fascinating.

How connected was your course with industry?

There weren't work placements. My family and friends at the time saw English and HIstory as something to be used as a general qualification, rather than being directly applicable to the workplace. How wrong they were and English of course is vital in developing communication skills, which are applicable to any field.

What was the best thing about your course?

Studying the 'History of Ideas' - the way human thought has developed over the centuries and how they shaped the world. As a novelist I'm still fascinated by that.

How did studying at Northumbria help you achieve your career goals/ give your career an edge?

It turned out to be the perfect subject. The historical study skills have proved vital to support my writing.

Which skills/ knowledge did you learn on your course that you use most now throughout your career?

Discipline in historical study and the ability to stand back and analyse a work of fiction.

What did you enjoy most about your time at Northumbria University?

It was fabulous! A great course and a wonderful city - it was great for meeting people and making friends as well as studying.

What advice would you give somebody who is thinking of studying at Northumbria?

Don't hesitate - it's a great place to be.

How would you describe your time at Northumbria in 3 words?

Transformative, exciting and fun.

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