Friday, March 16, 2012

Interview with Catherine King

I’m delighted to welcome to the RNA Blog today, talented author Catherine King. Her current life as a novelist is far removed from her work as a lecturer and academic, teaching the postgraduate certificate in teaching skills to university lecturers. Having trained as a scientist, she taught for many years but did find time to publish a handful of short romances. In 2005 she became a full-time author, and thanks to the excellent networking parties of the RNA, quickly acquired an agent. She gained a two-book contract within a year and has published one novel a year with the same publisher ever since. 

That all sounds wonderful, Catherine, so tell us about your first book and the excitement of getting that call?

My agent phoned me on my mobile with news of their interest in my book while I was out shopping for soft furnishings. Thank goodness I was in the beds department! I collapsed onto the nearest bed and can remember very little of her conversation. I do recall phoning a novelist friend immediately afterwards and whooping with her at my good fortune. I didn’t buy any of the very stylish bed-coverings that I had crumpled and creased. My first 100,000 word novel, was WOMEN OF IRON, published by Sphere, the commercial imprint of Little, Brown, in 2006. I was already writing my second book, SILK AND STEEL, which when published, was shortlisted for The Romantic Novel of the Year in 2008. SILK AND STEEL is still my favourite book.

What is it that you enjoy most about writing sagas? Would you call yourself a specialist or do you have another identity?

I write gritty historical sagas set mainly in a fictional South Riding, a region now known as South Yorkshire. My heroines find themselves in difficult situations and have to draw on all their strength and resilience to overcome their adversities. The books are not especially romantic although there is always a romance or two in the story and a hopeful, sometimes happy, ending. My first six titles are set in the mid-nineteenth century.

I know you do a great deal of research for your books, do you enjoy that part of the craft, and how do you set about it?

I adore doing the research. I have a doctorate which means I am a trained researcher but I have to restrict myself to the research necessary for the book I am writing. This is sometimes difficult! I begin by general reading around the time and place to find ideas and stimulate my imagination. I may write a few scenes as a result of what I find, to help me develop my characters. I do not consciously plot. Instead, I allow my characters to direct the story. It is their story after all, but it means that I have to do more specific research to verify (or otherwise!) the scenes that emerge. It is a high risk strategy because I never know what is going to happen. As I have a deadline to meet, it is also scary!

Where is your favourite place to work?

I work at home and have an office to organise research and admin but I do not write in it. I write on a portable computer in front of a view. The view varies and different seasons find me working at different windows or in my writing lodge in the garden. My lodge is my creative thinking space and I use it all year round as it has a fire grate in the middle where I can burn logs or barbecue my dinner. If I get stuck, my way of releasing the block is to move to another place and I have one or two other ‘bolt holes’ that serve this purpose. I don’t know how or why, but it works for me.

Tell us about your latest book, and what you are writing now. 

THE LOST AND FOUND GIRL is the story of a mother and her daughter and how they overcome the difficulties that their different lives present. It begins in the Yorkshire Dales and moves to Redfern Abbey in the South Riding. Redfern Abbey is a fictional stately home based on Wentworth Woodhouse, near Rotherham in South Yorkshire. I must stress that I had named and started writing about this house long before Downton Abbey appeared on our televisions, but the book does involve ‘upstairs’ as well as ‘downstairs’ characters. I enjoyed writing about the English aristocracy and their servants so much that my next book, which I am writing now, continues this theme in the Edwardian era. For my next two books I am writing about the early twentieth century, with some settings that move further afield from Yorkshire.

Do you cry over your own emotional scenes?

I find that writing my sagas can be exhausting because they explore the emotions of characters in tough situations and I have to feel these emotions myself to be convincing on the page. When I am well into a book, the main characters have become my friends and I worry about what is happening to them. The villains, too, stir my anger so I have to be sure I give them a fitting end. If I am crying at my keyboard, whether from sadness or joy, I regard this as a good sign and hope that no-one drops in to see me!

Are you very disciplined, or do you get side tracked by displacement therapy, such as the ironing?

I am very good at ignoring the ironing, or indeed anything than can be described as a domestic chore. I am also very good at not feeling guilty about this. In fact, since becoming a full-time writer, I have improved at these useful skills! After a morning’s writing steeped in another century it is a real effort to return to the present day. Then, I actually enjoy the exercise of my housework or gardening, although I have to say I am not very good at either. My family tell me I need more practice.

Lastly, who is your favourite hero?

What I really need is one of my heroes. They are such strong, handsome and resourceful men! My favourite is Patrick from A MOTHER’S SACRIFICE because he is mentally resilient as well as physically tough. He suffered hardship in his early life but endured it with determination. As an adult he is very much his own man, knows what he wants and is steadfast in his affections. A MOTHER’S SACRIFICE has a country setting and deals with rural poverty in the industrial revolution. In all my books I try to address situations that resonate with present day issues. Several of my characters, both male and female, are damaged by their life experiences; some struggle to overcome them and move on, others are not so lucky.


That was fascinating, Catherine, and I wish you continuing success. 
If you want to hear more about Catherine King and her books you can find her here:
TWITTER: @cathkingauthor 

1 March 2012, in time for Mother’s Day. 

Beth thought she had been rescued from a life of servitude by an offer of marriage from gentleman farmer Edgar Collins, but her future would be bleaker than she could ever imagine and the married life was far from bliss . . . When the legitimacy of her twin babies with Edgar is called into question, the tiny infants are taken from Beth and sent far away. James is adopted by Edgar's uncle, the very wealthy Lord Redfern, master of Redfern Abbey.

But little Daisy is sent to a cold-hearted childless couple who raise her to be a maid rather than a daughter. When Daisy, at sixteen, finally escapes her hard life with her adoptive brother Boyd, they arrive at the Abbey to seek work and refuge. Little does Daisy know that her flesh and blood is the next in line to be Lord of the Abbey. There is a strange connection between Daisy and James, something they can neither explain nor ignore. But will the truth be discovered in time?

10 March 2012 Waterstones Fareham Shopping Centre 12 noon-3.30pm 
Free leather bookmark with every Catherine King book purchased. 
13 March 2012 Victoria Hall, Settle, Yorkshire, Readings at 10am, 12noon & 2pm followed by free coffee and biscuits PLUS Free leather bookmark with every Catherine King book. 

Interviews on the RNA Blog are for RNA members, although we do occasionally take guests. If you are interested in an interview, please contact me: 


Annie Burrows said...

Love the look of your writing lodge Catherine. And I'm looking forward to your next book coming out.

Lizzie Lamb said...

As a NWS member of the RNA I love reading about published author's route to publication and wonder - will that be me one day !! I shared a table with Catherine two years ago at an RNA lunch and she gave a five minutes master class over coffee on how my heroine should move the book forward/ make people change. And if I get stuck how I should give the heroine another problem to solve. Great advice Catherine and I'm still following it today.Thanks Catherine.

Deborah Carr (Debs) said...

I only have a basic shed as my writing place, but your writing lodge looks and sounds incredible.

LindyLouMac said...

What a writing lodge!

Beth Elliott said...

We all like that writing lodge but it's the work you do in there that is even more impressive, Catherine. A book a year is really something!! No wonder there's no time for ironing, etc.

Susan Bergen said...

I remember reading 'Women of Iron' a few years back and enjoyed it immensely. High time I tried another!