Year of Indie Debuts: Skyjacked by Shirley Golden

A big welcome to author, Shirley Golden, who’s debut science fiction novel, Skyjacked, is published today. Congratulations and happy publication day, Shirley! As well as being a debut novelist, Shirley has been a winner in the Retreat West short story and flash fiction competitions more than once and she is a very impressive and versatile writer. I really enjoyed Skyjacked and I never usually read this kind of science fiction, which is actually rather strange as I watch films like it often, and I think Shirley may have converted me to read more of this genre.

Shirley, your cast of characters are all very distinct and very real, how difficult was it for you to create so many different voices at once?

It wasn’t something I was conscious of doing in the first draft. I was very much led by my main character, Corvus, whose voice was strong in my head. Once the interactions began with the other characters, I went whichever way the dialogue took me. I like to allow the first draft to come out in whatever way it will. Originally, I had three perspectives. But then I spent a great deal of time in later edits, swapping viewpoints and trying first or third person, until I decided to alternate between Corvus and Janelle in close third person viewpoint, as they underwent the most change, and I felt their internal monologues were distinct from each other. I honed the other characters’ ‘voices’ as I developed their backstories, and adjusted the dialogue, highlighting individual nuances. It wasn’t easy, and took many months of editing once the initial draft was written, but it’s the part of writing I enjoy the most.

Your main character Corvus is given a great opportunity to change his selfish ways – do you think he’ll make the most of it?

Mm, well, I think he’ll try. He’s nothing if not a trier! But it’ll perhaps be all too easy to slip into old habits. I think intentions to change are often hard to maintain long-term or when placed under pressure. I have written a first draft of a sequel so have a rough plan as to how far he will transform. But that could change quite dramatically over subsequent edits, so even I’m not sure at the moment.

You explore the concept of AI robots having real human emotions and relationships – do you think this is something that could become a reality?

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of consciousness and how it comes into being. I believe that given the right amount of connections and experience, consciousness has the potential to develop in any living creature. It’s therefore not such a leap to imagine it would be possible for entities that mimic organisms capable of consciousness to develop in similar ways. I’m not so certain it would work if parameters are fixed within the systems, but think it’d be feasible if the systems are able to adapt.

For me, a really strong theme emerged of love and understanding being able to cross divides – is this something you set out to explore or did it just emerge in the writing?

I never set out to explore anything at the start of writing fiction! It always begins with ‘voice’ and a character that won’t go away. Once I’ve written the story, I’ll then go back and sometimes strengthen the themes. Although initially they have to emerge from the interactions, rather than consciously forcing things as I try not to become heavy-handed about it. At an individual level, I like to think that Corvus learns to take more responsibility for his actions and, that after everything, Isidore learns to trust in others a little more. However, Janelle has to let go of her ideals and travels an altogether darker path, and this is something she’s going to have to deal with in the future.

What are you working on now?

I’ve been working on a sequel to ‘Skyjacked’, but unfortunately recent ill health has slowed the editing right down. I’m hoping to get back to it very soon.

Thanks, Amanda, for having me across. Your questions really gave me something to think about.


Thanks for coming, Shirley, and giving us an insight into your writing process. I hope you are on mend.

You can get a copy of Skyjacked from the Urbane website or on Amazon; and you can connect with Shirley on Twitter and keep up to date with her writing news on her website.

Comp results: March 16 Themed Flash

Once again, the stories submitted for the themed flash comp were of excellent quality and it never ceases to amaze me how our brains work so differently and how such a wide range of stories can come from the same prompt. Congratulations to this month’s winners, who have both appeared in previous anthologies of winners, and to the writers who made the shortlist.


Winner: White Noise by Shirley Golden

This apocalyptic tale grabbed me from the very first line and the language really conveyed the desperate world that these characters were living in without us having to be told. I like how the theme of belief is embedded throughout the story and that all of the characters are believing something different about themselves and what their chances are. Really atmospheric, so much characterisation achieved for a flash, and feels like it could be a much bigger story without it feeling incomplete.
Read It


Runner-up: Identity Crisis by Tracy Fells

What struck me about this is the way the main character’s belief changes throughout the story. The seemingly small actions and random thought processes that reveal so much about her state of mind. Really impressed with how Tracy has shown not told so much of the story and the open ending left me wanting to know more. It felt like it could be a new beginning.
Read It


The Shortlist

  • Identity Crisis by Tracy Fells
  • Life After Love by Marty Mayhew
  • Lost by Ani Popova
  • Shame by Deannie Day
  • The End is Nigh by Sally Lane
  • White Noise by Shirley Golden


Thanks to everyone that entered the competition. The next theme is DANGER and the deadline is 30th April 2016. Get writing and enter your stories here!

Other competitions open now with cash prizes, publication with innovative indie press, Urbane Publications, and  the chance to get your work in front of a top literary agent are:

White Noise by Shirley Golden

We hiked to the ocean because Hanna didn’t want to die in the city. She hungered to hear the sigh of the sea and taste the salt-stained breeze. The buildings were tombs of rotting flesh. We scavenged supplies from dead supermarkets where refrigerators hummed with out-of-date meat. Hanna said we risked infection if we stayed. Kim followed Hanna without question, and I was too tired to argue. Owen said he couldn’t leave, as if an umbilical cord tied him. But when we loaded our rucksacks and headed west, he trailed after us.

I took the radio, substituting food supplies for batteries. But I kept that to myself. The static airwaves grated on them.

‘Give it a rest, can’t you, Ben?’ Mostly, it was Owen who made me stop. Hanna said everyone was dead; the virus had taken everything.

‘There might be others like us,’ I said. We’d witnessed the death of a city. Why did they assume that included the world, as if an egotistical need required them to be the last?

At the coastline, the brackish odour was better than the stench of rancid streets. Kim fell into the sea as if it was the first day of a holiday; even Owen kicked off his shoes.

‘The cove looks a good place for shelter,’ Hanna said, untying her laces but never removing her boots.

I learnt to light a fire by spinning a stick, using dried weed as tinder and driftwood as fuel. Mostly the wood smoked and spat, but at least I created sparks. No one minded that it gave little heat. We tried to condense saltwater, but the drops we extracted were never enough.

When they slept, I combed the airwaves, straining to hear beyond the static hiss.

In the early hours, Kim would wake and pace around the camp. She talked of shapes in the distance.

If Owen heard her, he’d say, ‘Go back to sleep. Save your energy for netting fish.’ He knew her from before, said she was a dreamer, said habits like that were hard to break.

Late one night, Kim crawled across the sand and leaned against me. ‘Did you hear it?’

Owen had warned us: she’s been drinking seawater.

‘A voice,’ she said. ‘You heard it, didn’t you? You know they’re watching, don’t you?’

‘I’ve sensed something,’ I said. But I was losing the frequency.

‘Keep searching,’ she said. Her eyes were glazed. ‘They’re watching; they’re waiting. But our seclusion is no fluke; they fear we’re carriers.’ Her phobias shivered through my body, towards my heart. ‘They’ll help, once they see… Owen’s wrong, people aren’t that callous.’

So, I twisted the dial and kept turning, even after the moonlight faded to a grey muddy puddle, and Kim slipped into sleep as morning stained the horizon with hollow pockets of light. Shadows like deformed arms opened across the bay; giant’s arms that could smother black holes in a dense embrace where nothing, not even light, escapes.