The Ghastly Impermanence: An Interview with Katie Hims


The BBC and I do not agree on too much but we do agree on Katie Hims. Jeremy Mortimer, Executive Producer at BBC Radio Drama has said of her, “Every so often, a writer appears on the scene who just takes your breath away.” He is quite right.

Ms. Hims is, I think, certainly one of the finest dramatists ever to work in the medium of radio. Her work is always expertly constructed, with an ear for dialogue and meta-dialogue, if you will, that is second to none. She is also one of the most modest and charming, qualities that are easily perceptible in her plays.

Her very first play, Earthquake Girl, won the Richard Imison Award (named for the late Script Editor for BBC Radio Drama from 1963 to 1991) for Best Script by a New Writer in 1998. After that she became the BBC’s second Writer-in-Residence for radio drama, following her friend Sebastian Bączkiewicz. Since then she has written forty-three plays in a wide range of form and themes, all of them exceptional, and has gone on to win Best Audio Drama at the BBC Audio Drama Awards with her trilogy, Lost Property. Her strongest work often concentrates upon characters who often carry the guilt of the world on their shoulders, seeking redemption for things they may or may not even have done. Her stories are always powerful, never glib and certainly never facile.

I caught up with Ms. Hims last month.

Seattle Star: I wanted to get to you earlier, but something always gets in the way. You’ve been busy!

Katie Hims: Yes, quite busy. You talked to my friend Sebastian, didn’t you?

Seattle Star: I did. I caught up with him shortly before The Manhattan Bee Testimonials. You were both writers-in-residence at the BBC at about the same time, right?

Hims: He was the year before me. That’s when I first met him, when he was handing over the reins to me. He’s great, a very lovely man.

Seattle Star: Let me take you down memory lane, then, and start with  your time in theater. One of your recurring themes in your work is that you have children and adolescents who are cut off from the adult world. When you have adults who have children, they too lead lives that are completely separate. This theme pops up in Gunshot Wedding for example, Tuesday is Library Day of course–and the Lost Property Trilogy is completely built on that premise.

Hims: Yes, yes.

Seattle Star: It struck me that you did an awful lot of work with Contact Theatre’s Young Playwrights program. And that’s kind of their mission, to give voice to youth. How did you get going at Contact?

Hims: Well, I don’t think they do it anymore, it was a long time ago, but they ran an annual competition for writers under twenty-five I think it was. They selected a fourteen-minute play of mine called Bill, that was about two women discovering a dead man’s body in the bathroom, lying in the bath. They didn’t know what to do with him. They were worried that if they rang the police that they would get convicted of his murder. It was quite a silly play really. I think I was enjoying the language of it and the form of it more than that it was really about anything. It was set in the Second World War, so they spoke in that kind of Celia Johnson/Trevor Howard voice. I love all that formality in the English language, with everyone trying to be so polite, but always with several layers beneath that. That was the play that sort of got me noticed. I had a Radio Four producer come along and she saw it. That’s when she said to me, “Would you like to write for radio?” And that’s when I started trying to sell my first idea.

Before I started writing it for radio, though, I wrote another play that we produced with the Contact. It was me and a really good friend called Lizzie Minion who directed the play. We wanted to capitalize on our relationship with the theater so we asked if we could do a kind of co-production? They were very supportive. It was a play I’m really proud of, called The Breakfast Soldiers–really my most satisfying piece of work in some ways. Which is really sad, because it was seventeen years ago. But that meant that a few more people saw my work. Then I kind of took a slight detour and went to film school for a couple of years, and realized I wasn’t that interested in writing films. But I’d spent quite a lot of money learning this for no really good reason. So I spent a lot of time writing radio plays to support myself at film school. When I left film school, I went to write almost exclusively for radio. I did do a little bit of telly. And I am writing a stage play at the moment.

Seattle Star: I know you had a commission for Clean Break Theatre a couple years ago. Is that the same one?

Hims: Yes, that’s it. I’m still writing it! It’s going to be on in November at SoHo Theater in London, so it’s happening. But it’s not finished.

Seattle Star: Do you have a title for it yet?

Hims: We did, but I think we’re going to ditch that title because we’ve changed so many things about the play that that title’s no longer going to be relevant. So, no, I don’t even have a title, much less a play. (laughs) It’s quite imminent, really, it’s only five months away. I feel a bit sick about that, but it will come together.

Seattle Star: It always does. Five months in radio terms–that’s nothing. You have all kinds of time.

Hims: I’m used to writing things the week before! I’ve written things the night before, even. You know, you can write the final speech in the studio if it’s not working. That is the joy of it. It’s almost throwaway, but not in a negative way. You know there’ll always be another play, so you can put your heart and soul into it without getting sort of stressed out about it. If something doesn’t quite work, you can just do another one.

Seattle Star: Right.

Hims: I imagine it’s a bit more like the difference between writing journalism and a novel. There’s not the same gestation, so there’s not the same angst. The deadlines just keep coming, so you keep working. You don’t get stressed and you don’t get blocked and you don’t get depressed that you’re rubbish. You can’t, because there’s no time for that. That makes it a kind of happy writing life, compared to the two year gestation for a piece in the theater, or the years of research for a novel, or the five years–or fifteen years–of development and financing for a film.

Seattle Star: That’s a fascinating way to look at it. Radio does come fast and furious compared to the theater.

Hims: It doesn’t get the same rigorous scrutiny as the theater. Even though a lot fewer people will ever experience a play in the theater, because there are only so many seats. Whereas a million people might hear a radio play, you don’t sit with them and experience that feeling of being right there. And theater gets more press. It gets the national reviews and the media attention.

Seattle Star: Yes, it has the aura of prestige.

Hims: Yes, exactly! But I think the lack of status in radio is actually quite beneficial to writers and the writing process. You don’t feel exposed. You don’t feel the pressure of it. The only pressure you feel is not to let down the people that you’re working with. That is its own pressure, but it doesn’t make me sort of fall apart.

Seattle Star: You also don’t have the flip side of that, the horror of disappointing an audience. Once a radio play goes out, you have no idea who heard it, if anyone.

Hims: Exactly. The only problem with is that you wrote like a maniac, you did put your heart and soul in it, you were worried that it was going to be no good, then it’s really probably great if it’s gone well, it’s really a sound piece of work. And then it’s gone, and all you’ve got is the comfort that it wasn’t rubbish, and that’s it. It’s over. So you just have to do another. I think that’s the hardship–not really hardship, but the drawback of it.

katie-2Seattle Star: One of the goals of this series on radio drama is to evoke a sense that there are actually people on the other side of the receiver, you know, who put these things together. You’re so prolific and your writing is of such an extraordinary high quality.

Hims: Aww, thank you.

Seattle Star: No, seriously. I’m nothing if not genuine on that score. I talk a lot of smack about the Beeb, but whenever I see one of your works or Dan Rebellato’s or Sebastian’s, I wake up to listen to it at 6:15 in the morning.

Hims: Thank you. Really.

Seattle Star: How different was it for you working with that long gestation period with Contact Theatre on The Breakfast Soldiers and Bill, and then going into your first radio play, Earthquake Girl?

Hims: I think what distinguished those early theater projects was that there was really no gestation. I started work on The Breakfast Soldiers in January and we produced it in April. There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to have a piece ready so that everyone could start rehearsing at the end of March. I was working with friends of mine, and knew exactly who I was writing for, so it was easy. I think it was kind of beginner’s luck. I hadn’t been writing long enough to have writer’s block, you know?

Seattle Star: How did you fall into doing Earthquake Girl?

Hims: Kate Rowland. She was the BBC producer in Manchester at the time. We sold the idea for Earthquake Girl just after she saw The Breakfast Soldiers at Contact. She asked me to do a piece, so I kept coming up with all these ideas that she thought were terrible, then she finally said, “Okay, scratch all those and come up with a character. You’ve got twenty-four hours.” And I came up with this woman who worked in a library who’s scared that anything she does is going to set off a sort of chain of disasters. I kind of had a hangover from my Celia Johnson obsession so that the librarian was writing her own novel where the character spoke in that Celia Johnson kind of voice. It had a very distinct set of acoustics, that play. I had several distinct worlds, which had distinct acoustics of their own, and that is an enormous advantage in a radio play. You don’t have to keep saying to the listener, “A few days later,” or “Oh, we’re in a different location, now,” because the sound is doing it for you. Which is exactly what a radio play ought to do every time. I’ve taken a lot less care since, because I’m always stressing about the story, the story, the story, rather than the acoustics, but it’s always a more interesting play when you take care of the sound. That is what you have got available to you, to make it sound as beautiful as possible. But yes, The Breakfast Soldiers really was what led me into Earthquake Girl. After that I was, as it were, in the system and that play did well, they were very pleased with it.

Seattle Star: You hit at just the right time, too. There were a bunch of things happening in that ’95-’97 time that made it opportune. The Imison Awards were new, and you won the award. BBC was under a bit more pressure from independent radio production, so they stepped things up and there was a lot of encouragement, especially for writers under thirty. Then came the BBC Writer-in-Residence position that opened up the year after that, with Sebastian Bąckiewicz chosen the first year and then you the next. You had very good timing.

Hims: It was lucky. Kate went from being producer at Manchester to being the head of radio drama at BBC. That was pretty handy. She’s been very supportive over the years. And Jeremy Howe and I worked together. In fact we were in the middle of a play together when he got promoted to commissioning editor, so that was very useful as well and he’s also been amazingly supportive. I feel like I wouldn’t have a career without him consistently saying yes. Rather than working against you, he’s very collaborative so it’s a positive relationship and not just him worrying about buying up things. It’s so rare to have that. I haven’t found that at all in the television world. In television I often think we’re just bantha fodder.

Seattle Star: You’ve written a lot of radio plays in general, but you’ve also written in a lot of formats. Most of your plays are the standard forty-five minutes to an hour, but you’ve also a lot of short fifteen-minute work, some of it in serial form, and lately you’ve written longer plays, like The Cool Bag Baby and most recently King David. Do you approach your forty-five minute plays differently from your serials? How do you handle the time limitations creatively?

Hims: It’s funny. I used to think the short play was easier. Because it has only three beats: you get in and you get out. But actually, having finished a ninety minute play, King David, and another ninety-minute adaptation, it seems that to me it was somehow less work than doing six fifteen minute plays. There, you have to get to know six different sets of characters. You’ve got to have six stories. It’s a bit like getting into the swimming pool to do ten lengths, getting it, getting out, getting dressed and then going to do the whole thing in reverse. I think my love of the fifteen-minute play is partly because I fear that there won’t be enough ideas, that there won’t be enough story to generate that momentum, and I’ll just run short. Actually once you’re in for a ninety-minute piece of work, bits of it just write themselves. If you just kind of chip away on a ninety-minute play, you can dig quite deep and it’s really satisfying.

I’m trying to sell another ninety-minute piece at the moment. I could sit and write that this week easily. I’m feeling a bit converted to the ninety-minuter. But that’s just because it’s what I’ve been doing as well. I think you get very practiced at whatever you’re doing, and you fall out of practice with anything else. I’ve just done two ninety-minute plays, and now I’m about to do a lot of forty-five so that’s a different gear shift again. I imagine it’s like athletes. It’s technique, isn’t it? And in your head as well.

Seattle Star: One thing that struck me about your video comments on short plays on BBC Radio 3 is that you said you view a short play as an opportunity to get sit down and get something done in one sitting. It’s like Greg Ginn said about the punk rock thing: you go as long as the inspiration lasts and then you stop. The difficulty must be when you have to restart after each time.

Hims: Yes, exactly.

Seattle Star: Your first adaptation was Black Beauty, was it?

Hims: I think it was this children’s book, called Life with Lisa first. It was a book I really loved as a kid, and nobody knew about it. It’s not one of those books, where you talk to other people and they say, “Yeah, I loved that book as a child.” I haven’t actually found anyone else who had read it. But that’s actually very useful because you’re not in competition with their vision. So that was quite easy.

Seattle Star: Did that give you more freedom than you had with Black Beauty, which is an extraordinarily well-known book?

Hims: The thing about adapting books for radio is that books are not really that removed from radio as a form–not as much as a film or a play. If it can work as closely to the form in which it already exists, you basically don’t want to tamper with it if you don’t need to. And I think on radio you don’t need to tamper much. It’s really just an editing and dialogue job. A film or television or a stage is a much more giant step and you have to think more radically. As a writer, I feel like the freedom is in having a rest from my world and being in someone else’s. All I have to do is include really the best bits of the book and leave out the parts that were a tiny bit boring. And I get to write more dialogue between the characters, which is fun.

Seattle Star: Life With Lisa adapts fairly easily. Black Beauty, I think, also adapts easily. Given the time constraints, how did you approach The Story of the Stone? I love wuxia novels–but that’s a huge book of three volumes.

Hims: Ohmigod, it was such a nightmare job. Absolute nightmare. Why would you try to get a book like that down to an hour? A book like that should have been seven hours. You could have gone on forever, really, and had three years’ worth of drama out of it. It was impossible, impossible. And it was impossible to know if you were doing a decent job. It may be my least favorite job I’ve ever had. If I had had ten hours of transmission time…it probably would have been an absolute joy. It is an utterly extraordinary piece of work. I would have approached the whole thing differently.

I read the whole thing and then I drew up this giant document. Five times the size of the actual drama. Then I slowly, slowly, cut it down. I should have started out with an hour’s worth of material right from the beginning. I almost felt like I may as well have written the whole thing. But sometimes you do just get lost in a project, don’t you? You can’t really see your way through it till you get to the end. Because you get lost, you travel a lot further than you needed to to get to the end, but there’s no point in reflecting on that afterward because it’s too late, you know? I will never take on a project of that size ever again. There’s just no way it can be done.

Seattle Star: That was for World Service, though, and not Radio Four. So you had another set of strictures to work against.

Hims: That’s true, yeah.

Seattle Star: It’s a heroic adaptation, under the circumstances. I think it works fine. And I certainly felt your pain in having to take on such a monumental task. Regardless of your experience with that piece, you’ve come back to mythological themes more than once, though not Chinese myth. You’ve a piece in the New Metamorphoses and you’ve gone back to the medieval mystery plays, also.

Hims: Yes, I like myths a lot. They’re a nice jumping-off point, really. They’re amazing because they launch you into a world, and, for a writer adapting them, the world is already a lot more filled than if you were doing it on your own. They give you a head start into highly idiosyncratic material, which is a great advantage.

Seattle Star: Definitely. Thematically in your work, you’ve several things that recur. You almost always have men or women struggling with guilt or faith and the area between the two. There’s a sense that these characters believe they cause horrible things just by simply existing or being who they are, even if it’s completely impossible that they have anything to do with things at all. That’s the premise behind Earthquake Girl, which is your earliest work, but it’s also what King David, your latest play is about.

Hims: Yes, I think it’s my strongest recurring theme by a mile. It’s the one I’m kind of conscious of, in a way I’m not aware of others. I’m always worried about overdoing it and I’m glad when I come up with something different! I didn’t think of King David thematically that way, but of course you’re right.

I’m really worried sometimes early on that I’ve only really got one story, something that’s always going to be constantly reflecting this scenario in my own life. I’m kind of relieved to find that even if it’s a running theme that there are a lot of stories to be mapped in that territory, that it’s quite rich territory and quite dense, and it’s not always going to be boring as saying the same damn thing over and over again.

Seattle Star: The variations that you’ve worked on it, from Gunshot Wedding, where it’s a subtle undercurrent until the end, to Man with a Travel Hairdryer, which is completely driven by it, are strong enough that I don’t think any listener hearing those two pieces would ever think they sounded the same. They stand quite distinctly on their own. I’m interested in questions of faith and religion in general, especially in the theater, and I know that it’s quite difficult to treat the subject or anything like it without sounding maudlin.

Hims: I think the maudlin thing worries me, too. I’ve worried that Lost Property was maudlin.

Seattle Star: Really?

Hims: Yeah, I was worried about it. I think it’s okay, I think we got away with it, but it was such a bizarre studio recording. There was so much crying involved, from people that I don’t normally expect, like a couple of male editors or managers. I thought, “Oh man, it must be bad if Pete’s crying,” you know. I was just worried that it was toooo much. It’s a fine line, isn’t it?

Seattle Star: I would never call Lost Property maudlin, not in a million years. It’s powerful, and emotional, but the three sections of it are suffused with this genuine warmth and wit that keep it from being maudlin. The Wrong Label, for instance, is sad–brutal, really–but it’s also like a salve for the English collective unconscious. Those wounds have been open for seventy years and I think your treatment of it is very healing. I don’t mean to sound all New Age about it, but I do think that’s the strength of it.

Hims: Oh, thank you.

Seattle Star: The Year My Mother Went Missing section, too, is so completely real and down-to-earth, and told from exactly the right point of view, with the children trading their conflicting versions and just going on in spite of everything. Your dialogue is so brilliant and the way you create their childish world is perfect.

Hims: I like that one the best, I have to say. I love the kids in it. I thought the actors were just great. Just gorgeous. And unusually good, especially the girl. She’s doing interesting work elsewhere now. People know she’s brilliant, so she shouldn’t disappear. Unless she stops herself.

Seattle Star: There is always that. I really enjoyed that play. It’s one of my favorite plays of the last ten years, easily, and I’m always happy to promote that to people. I appreciate the way that you treat that theme of loss and “lostness” and “getting lost” in all three parts. It’s like a three-part musical structure, how you put them together, with this very somber first section leading into the second, more light-hearted on the surface, and then this triumphant third piece at the resolution in Telegram from the Queen, which is completely different in tone from the other two but still obviously develops from them.

Hims: I don’t know if that piece worked that well, to be honest. But in a way I’m not sure how much it matters. It’s like Return of the Jedi isn’t as good as the other two, but you’re glad it’s there, you know? We’re watching a lot of Star Wars at the moment, as you can tell, so it’s really in my brain. I compare everything to it now. It’s terrible (laughs).

Seattle Star: I can forgive that. I can geek out with the best of them.

Hims: It is hard to make things that work like that. That’s one thing that’s great about the radio. I mean, it’s much easier to make things work on the radio than on the telly, and film is that much harder still. There are so many more factors involved. There’s not that much between you and the radio for a radio play, but in film there’s an extraordinary amount of time and money and people and technology between, say, George Lucas and his film. By comparison, the radio world is so tiny.

Seattle Star: I think radio profits from that, though. It profits by being less specific. Radio by definition forces the listener to work, because hearing is a passive sense that you have to activate in order to make it mean something. Vision is an active sense, so anytime your eyes are open they are automatically flitting around in saccades and “meaning” such as it is comes to you that way a lot more obviously, or at least seems to. When one listens, there is a sort of tacit contract with the radio, “Okay, I am giving you my attention completely at first. If you bore me, I will either turn you off or distract myself with the dishes or something.” So once you’ve caught their passive sense in the first few minutes, as a playwright, you can do anything you want–change voices, change times, change distance, jump around–and the audience will buy it. With film or visual media you’re really stuck with the specific quality of individual illusions, rather than an overall effect.

Hims: Yes, yes.

Seattle Star: That’s one of my reasons for being so fond of radio. It really gives the writer a chance, and writers who can really convey the way human beings talk and what their world really sounds like–Ed Hime is brilliant at this–those writers just naturally excel and can carry off a story. And your work is very much based upon brilliant dialogue. You deal with these relationships that are exceptionally layered. They’re broken, then they’re not broken. They’re understood, then they’re not understood or they’re understood in the wrong way. You have a very brilliant way of pitching exactly where someone’s level is, and what they actually understand, and where they are psychologically that really shines through your dialogue.

Hims: I like dialogue. I love listening to people’s conversations, especially when they’re unaware I’m listening and they’re not self-conscious. I’d write down a lot more of it if I could without being too obvious. I’d actually like to go around with a tape recorder sometimes. Some days I hear something and think, “Ohmigod, I wish I had a tape recorder right now.” But that might look a bit dodgy, going around recording people’s conversations (laughs).

Seattle Star: Let’s talk about Degrees of Separation. When adapting a novel for serialization, as you’ve done with Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, you have a kind of ready-made structure. How did you go about it with Degrees, where the tales are pulled from a lot of different sources?

Hims: I think we just looked at where those relationships could come from. There was a lady with a cat, for instance, so it seemed that we could have a lady in another story find the cat. There were lots of criss-crosses. I just looked at the stories and looked how we could link them. It wasn’t that difficult actually. It was probably similar process they did the Short Cuts movie out of Raymond Carver stories. Getting those five stories winnowed down from–oh, it must have been hundreds of other stories–and deciding what to write about was harder. I always wonder what it was like to be one of the people who had written in and recognized a detail from their own life, whether it was satisfying or weird or whatever. Or nothing, perhaps. I felt a little of that responsibility. I found that one of the issues with the Clean Break play, too. It’s a very specific remit. We’ve been into several different kinds of prisons and you have this responsibility beyond just writing something for yourself.

Seattle Star: Right.

Hims: You have to kind of get past that, or over it, otherwise it just gets in the way. I had a bit of a wobble about that as well, about “How do I do this right?” But linking the stories–that was easy. Narrowing down the stories was the big part of that job.

katie-hims-softSeattle Star: Do you find it be the case when you adapt real life stories that it’s more of a selection issue rather than structure?

Hims: I don’t know. I rarely write anything based on my real life.

Seattle Star: Right. But you have three pieces in the From Fact to Fiction series, for instance.

Hims: But there, in the From Fact to Fiction series, they’re sort of jumping-off points again. And they’re imagined people rather than real people. The first story I did was about someone witnessing an act of violence in the street and then walking away, wondering “Did I do the right thing?” So you’re really imagining yourself in these scenarios. If I had talked to someone who had been through that, that would have been a much different experience in the writing. I would have felt some responsibility to that person. As it was, we were kind of taking generic scenarios so I didn’t feel the same way I felt towards the people that had written into Woman’s Hour (Degrees of Separation).

Seattle Star: Okay.

Hims: I felt there that I wanted to write about everybody, because I didn’t want to be choosing one person over another. But there were things I could naturally write about easily and there were other things that I would maybe have struggled with. I felt at the time maybe they should do that kind of project and get five writers in rather than just one. Then would you get five writers to read over four hundred letters each? I don’t know. (laughs)

Seattle Star: Was the experience with The View From Here similar to From Fact to Fiction?

Hims: That was quite odd. I was brought in quite late, because there was another project–I can’t remember what happened exactly, but they needed someone to write a play really quickly, to fit in with the time scale. It was about working women artists and we had to respond to the artists’ work, so I was given this Australian artist’s work. She had done a couple of videos, so I could look at them and really just write something from that. I wrote about an English Israeli girl who’d had Israeli parents but I hadn’t traveled very much myself. I had to use my total lack of experience about Israel somehow or I’d have felt like a complete fool and I probably wouldn’t have had anything to say. But I could respond to this video as somebody who didn’t know very much, who was quite cut off from that world. I talked to my husband’s Jewish relatives–that was the best I could do, really. I think it worked. You can only write within the limits of your own experience. You can imagine all sorts of things but you need it to connect personally with what you’re saying. It’s a kind of balancing act.

Seattle Star: It’s interesting how you use the English seashore as a metaphor in that piece. As a Yankee myself, I wonder whether, if I hadn’t spent so much time in England, so much of that would have come across. It reminds me of Tony Ray-Jones’ photographs of people going to the beach–very specific and embedded in that same culture.

Hims: It’s a very specific remit. It’s very different from coming up with your own material, sort of, right from scratch. You’re not trying to find a connection, you are the connection.

Seattle Star: I think you picked up on Shuli’s water metaphors in the video quite readily and made them work in audio. It works for me, certainly.

Hims: Thank you. You’re very generous.

Seattle Star: What are you up to next? You’ve got King David out of the way now, and you’ve a play opening in November that you’re going to finish tomorrow night, right?

Hims: Right! (laughs)

Seattle Star: What do you have coming up on radio?

Hims: I’m doing a series of five afternoon plays that will be called Listening to the Dead. It’s kind of about a hundred twenty years of trying to communicate with dead people through séances and mediumship, and all the technology that people like Alexander Bell and Marconi believed that they could sort of use to listen to dead people’s voices. It’s my usual family saga about five or six generations. Some of them are blessed with this kind of gift to hear voices and others aren’t blessed with the gift–or cursed with it–but they pretend they do, while others who have the gift pretend that they don’t. One example: a mother can see into the future during the First World War and so she doesn’t want her sons to sign up because they thinks they’re going to die. She gets arrested because she says the war’s not going to be over by Christmas and is considered to be unpatriotic, but actually she can see what’s going to happen. And of course that’s exactly what does happen. She’s got four sons and one of them comes home and survives. That’s the story around that era. Sounds really kind of miserable, doesn’t it? She finds a way to turn it all off, and then her grandson goes on to become a fraudulent medium in the 50s and 60s, but passes the gift on to his daughter and it goes on and on.

Seattle Star: Sounds fabulous.

Hims: God, I hope so. I haven’t even written the first one yet. Then I’m also writing another play for an actor called David Bower, who is deaf. I’ve written a couple pieces for him before.

Seattle Star: Excellent! What was the last one, A Small Piece of Silence?

Hims: The last one was called Dragonfly. A Small Piece of Silence was the first one. I think this one’s going to be titled Bad Elvis. I really like that title, but we haven’t got a play yet. (laughs)

Seattle Star: That hasn’t stopped you before, has it? (laughs)

Hims: No, no, it hasn’t. Hopefully it’ll be fine. I really like that title. And that’s all I’ve got really. I’m just trying to sell work for the next year. Basically you hand your ideas over and then you find out in ten weeks if they’ve been bought. It’s slightly nerve-wracking, really. I do have all my eggs in one basket, as you know. I basically earn my living completely from radio, which is probably not very sensible. It’s just the way it worked out. And because–I think Sebastian finds this, as well–that you spend so much time writing for radio we don’t have that much time developing material for other mediums, especially mediums that don’t really want us. (laughs) That’s about it.

Seattle Star: Well, I’m hoping to live a long and rewarding life of listening to Katie Hims radio plays, so please don’t give it up.

Hims: Oh no, I don’t think there’s any danger of that.

Seattle Star: Thank you so much for the lovely conversation. We’ll have to do this again.

Hims: Thank you, really. And thank you so much for listening to so much of my work. I’m amazed you’ve heard so much of it. And all the way from Seattle, too. Brilliant.

Seattle Star: It’s completely my pleasure.

If you are inclined, the BBC have some of Ms. Hims’ scripts available for download as well. Man With Travel Hairdryer is particularly outstanding, but also interesting are Dragonfly, written for deaf actor David Bower, and her tender take on the parable of The Good Samaritan.

Categories Radio

Omar Willey was born at St. Frances Cabrini Hospital in Seattle and grew up near Lucky Market on Beacon Avenue. He believes Seattle is the greatest city on Earth and came to this conclusion by travelling much of the Earth. He is a junior member of Lesser Seattle and, as an oboist, does not blow his own trumpet. Contact him at omar [at] seattlestar [dot] net

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