Writing fiction for a living: radio stories

I’ve just sat in on the recording of my radio story, which will be broadcast in the week of 10 March. What can I tell you?

Well, I’m not unfamiliar with recording studios, having friends who are musos or music producers, but I’ve never sat in on a spoken word recording before. I learnt a huge amount about the difference between writing prose for yourself: which is essentially what we do as writers, when we pick a piece we’ve written and then perform it, and writing for a professional reader.

My reader was Susannah Harker, a charming and highly accomplished actress who’s appeared in Pride and Prejudice and House of Cards, but whom I remember best from Adam Bede, where she stole the show as Dinah. She was capable of so much more than I’d realised could be done with a monologue. Actually, that’s not true, I listen to radio drama all the time, but what I hadn’t realised was that I’d approached my commission as though I were going to be the reader, not somebody Susannah’s range and quick wits. As we worked through the story we made minor adjustments that gave her more scope and allowed me to add ‘colour’ to the narrative – that lesson is one that I won’t forget. My wonderful producer, Celia de Wolff, made the whole process fun and instructive and I am now so in love with spoken word radio that I might chain myself to their railings …

And in other very good news, the publication that owed me money paid up on receipt of my letter threatening them with a payment online action, which is the sweet machinery that’s replaced the small claims court for many businesses, and allows one to take action against a non-paying client via the internet.

Recording deck courtesy of Ctd 2005


  1. TitaniaWrites
    20th February 2008

    Susannah Harker, she is wonderful, I remember her very well from House of Cards. Great voice! How amazing that you got to be there while it was recorded and made adjustements. It is a wonderful thing, when an actor brings your character to life, I have found it very moving.

    And – great news about the payment!

    What about that prize you won? Don’t keep us in suspence!


  2. SallyQ
    21st February 2008

    That must have been really thrilling, Kay, as well as informative.

    Suzannah Harker is a very good actress, and very beautiful.

    And well done on getting paid. It really does put writers in a bad position if a publication decides not to pay up. They wouldn’t call a plumber out and not pay him/her, would they? So why should any writer have to beg for payment for providing a service?

  3. Anonymous
    21st February 2008

    Kay, is this on one of the BBC channels (which I listen to online). If so, which one, and what is the ‘show’ called?

    Mark Hubbard

  4. Kay Sexton
    22nd February 2008

    Tania, it was fantastic!

    Sally, yes, Susannah’s gorgeous – really lovely in looks and personality, it was a great day all round.

    Mark, it’s Radio 4, which you can get online, and it’s the afternoon story slot – I don’t know which day yet, but don’t worry, I shall post all the details as soon as I do.


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