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Profile picture of Robert Bullock.

Children's author, freelance writer and blogger

I really enjoyed the chance to meet other writers and poets, most were writing very different prose to me, and I really liked that.

Why I chose to study an MA in Creative Writing at Leeds Trinity

I was looking for a MA in Creative Writing for a while before I chose to study at Leeds Trinity. I had been writing for about seven years, and I wanted to improve. Being a writer, you spend a lot of time on your own and can develop bad habits. I chose the course at Leeds Trinity mainly because it was run by Martyn Bedford. He is a successful writer of Young Adult books and as I was writing in that genre and for middle grade readers it was too good an opportunity to miss.

Working with Martyn was career changing for me. He has incredibly high standards and draws the best out of his students and he is very supportive. If you need advice he is always there.

Robert Bullock main image.

What I enjoyed most about the course

I really enjoyed the chance to meet other writers and poets, most were writing very different prose to me, and I really liked that. The prose workshops were fruitful and well run, it was a safe atmosphere where you got honest but supportive feedback. I think, even now, every time I settle down to write prose, I still hear Martyn’s comments in my head about plausibility.

How the course influenced my choice to undertake a PhD

I really enjoyed being back in academia during my MA. I liked the productive environment and I felt I had more I could achieve. During my MA I had developed an interest in black British history in the north of England, the story I was working on for my MA dissertation was about the black Roman emperor Septimius Severus – who died in York in AD211 and this meant the subject of my PhD, The stories and legacies of the black residents of the Yorkshire Dales and Lancashire coast in the long eighteenth century, was a natural progression.

During my MA I was keen to explore history using experimental prose and by pushing myself – the story was time travelling fiction and fantasy but incorporated a mixed-race teenage girl, Octavia, as the main protagonist – quite a challenge when you are white and definitely looking at your teenage years in the rear-view mirror! I learned a lot about improving the interiority of my characters at Leeds Trinity and that helps my storytelling.

Moving on to my PhD project at Huddersfield University, I incorporated my love of history – I have become a member of the Royal Historical Society - with fantasy fiction and experimental writing. If you ever read Dark Tide (the novel that forms part of my PhD thesis) you might think the main character, Jack Moss, is different to Octavia but I think in many ways they are very similar. They are both adventurers, they both must deal with time travelling and dark magic.

Studying for a PhD

A PhD is very different to a taught MA. You work mainly alone, and you are focused on one outcome, a thesis. Being a professional writer who had undertaken research before I felt it was something I could do. But, although you do work autonomously, I found that I was collaborating with more people than in the MA. I reached out to historians and creative writers in Britain and the USA and they were all incredibly helpful and supportive.

My thesis was divided in to two parts, the novel Dark Tide, and a critical exegesis. I wrote Dark Tide in three drafts – not bad for an 85,000 word novel! But the exegesis, which was only 15000 words, took eighteen drafts! But, by the end of the process I felt I knew my subject inside out which was a good thing considering my viva lasted six hours – long by viva standards – but anyone who knows me will tell you I do warm to my subjects, so this might have been my fault for talking too much!

How it feels to be awarded and PhD and what is next

I’ve still not got used to people addressing me as Doctor Bullock, I don’t know if I ever will, but it is quite an achievement. A PhD is the culmination of such a massive amount of work but alongside the MA at Leeds Trinity, definitely one of the best of my life. I would recommend anyone to do a postgraduate degree, they are life changing.

Moving forward I’d love to teach Creative Writing. During the MA at Leeds Trinity, Martyn gave me the opportunity to participate in the ‘Writing as a Profession’ module, and I really enjoyed it. I would also like to do more research, funding permitting, but writing prose is my passion and I’m always working on a new story.

I’d love to see Dark Tide published. So far, I’ve had no luck in placing it, but you never know! I’ve nearly finished the sequel, Storms. Basically, I got to the end of Dark Tide and couldn’t bear to be parted from my main characters, Jack Moss and the Heartman! The Heartman is a character that is unique in literature. He’s a ten-foot tall Bajan demon who has no heart of his own and has to harvest the hearts of others. His patois was something that took a long time to perfect, but everyone seems to love him which I am sure he would hate as he’s perversely irreverent and thoroughly evil, but he took me on an adventure which I do not want to end. I hope readers will agree when they read the book that they need more Heartman.