Friday, March 2, 2012

Interview with Margaret Kaine

Today I’m delighted to welcome Margaret Kaine to the blog. Margaret’s moment to remember, as she calls it, came when her debut novel RING OF CLAY, won the New Writer’s Award. It went on to win the Society of Authors’ Sagittarius Prize, which gave her career a wonderful kickstart. Would you say you always wanted to be a writer, Margaret, or did it happen by chance.

Even as a child I fantasised about being a writer, but thought it an impossible dream for someone from my background. It was only much later in life that my horizons began to widen. I think I wanted to reach out to people. At the time I was teaching adults on an inner-city estate, and saw at first-hand how books brought much-need solace. A page-turning story can be a life-saver in difficult times, whether of illness or stress.

Can you work anywhere, or do you have a favourite place to hideaway and write?

I can only work in one place and that is my study. It is downstairs which is fortunate, as I tend to write in bits and pieces. I can't sit for long periods at my desk or I develop shoulder and neck problems. I'm a bit like a Jack-in-the box, popping back when a sudden phrase or 'inspiration' will hit me, and so although mornings are my best time, I also write at odd moments over the day. But never in the evenings, as my creativity has gone to sleep then!

How do you feel about producing a synopsis and does it come easy to you?

The short answer to this is - I can't do it - at least not until I've completed the novel. I often begin a book with one sentence in my mind or the first paragraph and only a misty idea of the rest of it. Luckily, by the time that RING OF CLAY was published, its sequel ROSEMARY was finished, after which my publishers seemed to trust me. I am asked to submit a synopsis for the Art Department though, and even though the manuscript is then completed, I always find them terribly hard to do. . 

Do you enjoy revision, and what tip would you give to anyone who doesn't?

Strangely, yes I do rather enjoy it. I think it's because as I edit a chapter I can see the shape of it improving. I always read the edited work aloud afterwards which I feel is essential to reveal repetitions or occasional flatness. Also, perhaps to revise in short bursts rather than wait until the end of the book when it can seem an overwhelming task? I began my writing career with short stories for women's magazines, and their success not only gave me confidence but taught me valuable editing skills.

My latest novel, SONG FOR A BUTTERFLY has just been published as an e-book and LP and Audio editions will be released by Magna later this year.

I know you like to use the setting of the Potteries for your novels, but I believe your next book is different. Do tell us about it.

It is very different from my previous books, having no connection with the Potteries, and is set in the Edwardian era. I've had to do lots of research which I've not only enjoyed but found fascinating. I discovered for instance that in the early part of the twentieth century there was widespread belief that too much thinking caused a woman’s womb to wither. Incredible! There is a darkness at the centre of this novel but as with all of my books, the heroine does find the happiness she seeks. I'm afraid I am a true romantic and do believe in a happy ending .But I have finished it and it's now with my agents so this is quite an exciting time.

Do you feel that life is a song or a lament?
Mostly a song, I'm a half-cup full sort of person.

Writing is not a particularly healthy life-style, how do you keep fit? 
Mea culpa here. I've never been inside a gym, and don’t walk enough since we lost our last dog. Am seriously considering getting another.

Apart from writing, of which accomplishment are you most proud? 
No hesitation here, it has to be my children and grandchildren.

Would you share with us your favourite recipe? 

Readers often ask me about Staffordshire oatcakes which I mention in all of my books. Served in almost every home in Stoke-on-Trent on Sunday morning, warm and folded by the side of bacon and eggs or at tea-time spread with cheese and popped under the grill, they are absolutely delicious. One of my earliest memories is of the wonderful aroma of a family-run oatcake shop.

Staffordshire Oatcakes (makes approx 12 and they freeze well)
100g wholemeal flour
100g plain flour
225g fine oatmeal
1 tsp quick-action yeast
pinch salt
825ml water
approx 1tbsp baking powder
12 tsp vegetable oil

Mix together the oatmeal, flour, yeast and salt in a bowl.
Make a well in the centre of mixture then very gradually add enough water using a wooden spoon to make a batter about the consistency of thick double cream.
Cover with a damp clean tea towel and set aside for 3-4 hours.
Once ready to cook, whisk in the baking powder until well combined.
Heat one tsp of oil in a heavy-based frying pan (if possible non-stick) over a medium heat then add enough batter as you would when frying a pancake and cook in the same way until golden brown on each side.
If re-heating to serve with a cooked breakfast, just pop them under the grill - but keep an eye on them, they should be warm and soft rather than hard and crisp.

Thank you so much for finding the time to talk to us today, Margaret, and I shall certainly try those oatcakes. We wish you every success for the future.

Song for a Butterfly Now available on Kindle, Apple, Sony, Nook 

To find out more about Margaret and her books, call in at her website.

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:


Anonymous said...

Lovely interview Margaret ... as another ex Stoke on Trent lady, I share your love of oatcakes. I usually buy a load, if ever I go back and then freeze them. I do make them when desperation sets in. I love your books too Margaret. Always so thoughtful and beautifully written and many set in Stoke, where several of my
books are also set. Something special about the area and the people who live there. Congratulations on your new one. Chrissie Loveday (condemned to be anonymous!)

Anonymous said...

Chrissie, how could you ever be anonymous! Of course you know the Potteries so well, as your father had his own china factory. And I'm so pleased that your own e-books are so popular. Its always a special pleasure to meet up with you at the Conferences, and it was lovely that you were able to pop in to join the Leicester Chapter at one of our recent lunches.

Sue Moorcroft said...

Great interview, Margaret and Freda. And I hope that 'Song for a Butterfly' is a great success.

Personally, I prefer chocolate cookies to oatcakes.

Margaret said...

Thank you, Sue. I wonder if that's because you're a Choc-Lit author?

Room for both, I think. Looking forward to seeing you on Monday, at the Rona Awards . . .

Anonymous said...

A super interview Margaret, I particularly liked the Staffordshire Oatcake recipe and will be trying to make some of my own over the weekend. Your latest novel, Song for a Butterfly was a delightful read which I had no hesitation in recommending to family and friends. I am very much looking forward to the next book.

Margaret said...

Thank you, I'm so pleased you enjoyed it. I returned to the setting of Ring of Clay for this one and it was a very much a nostalgic return to my younger years. People say now that the fifties were a time of hardship, but I remember more the strength of family and community.

SherryGLoag said...

Loved the interview, and thanks, too for the recipe. I love oatcakes.

Margaret said...

It's amazing just how much people brought up in the Potteries miss them when they move away. You can buy them online now if you don't mind the expense. Thank you for your kind comment,Sherry.

Lyn McCulloch said...

Hi Margaret - lovely inspiring interview, but mostly delighted to have a genuine oatcake recipe. We had some hotel guests some years ago who came from Staffordshire and were meeting friends from elsewhere for a reunion. They brought oatcakes and asked us to add them to the breakfast menu. I LOVED them so will try my hand at making them. Thank you! xx

Beth Elliott said...

I enjoyed your chat with freda, Margaret - and do agree that a book is an escape from a hard world. Very good luck with your new story, it sounds as if it's going to do well. Thank you for the oatcake recipe, I'm sending that on to a Turkish cousin who is now diabetic and this will be a new way for her to have a little treat.

Margaret said...

Lyn, what a lovely story about your guests. Good to imagine that you might be including them on your menu at the hotel!

And Beth, I hope your cousin enjoys them. It's nice to add variety to a restricted diet.

Thank you both for the comments.

Beth Elliott said...

Apologies, Freda, I didn't check thoroughly - my computer is stroppy about capitals.

Susan Bergen said...

I really enjoyed this interview, Margaret, not least because my lovely mum (also Margaret!) came from the Potteries too. I have a long-term ambition to set a novel there myself, one day. I already tinker with it (in my mind) whilst other projects are on the go. Dedicated, of course, to her. Nice to meet a NWS success story.

Angela Britnell said...

Lovely to read your interesting story Margaret. Oatcakes sound delicious - not sure if they beat the Cornish cream tea I'm planning to enjoy next week though! Hope to see you an another conference soon although not this year unfortunately.

Lizzie Lamb said...

Another great blog post. I really enjoyed learning about your path to publication, Margaret and how you've drawn upon your background for inspiration. I find it very reassuring that an experienced writer like you also finds the dreadful synopsis writing a trial. Just finished doing mine for the NWS and it's like pulling teeth. Now have got to learn to leave it alone. Good luck with Song for a Butterfly and your new novel which you are editing. I'm sure they'll both be a great success.

Margaret said...

Susan, I wonder which part of the Potteries your mum came from. We are a closely-knit community, I wonder if I knew her . . . I dedicated my first novel, Ring of Clay to my own mum, who as a lasting sadness to me, was never able to read it. Rose, one of the main characters was based on her.

Angela, it seems ages since I saw you. One of these days, at one of the Conferences, we will meet in the early hours of the morning and share a cup of tea again!

Lizzie, bless you! I find your enthusiasm and humour so uplifting. Let's hope this is your year for success. See you on Monday for the Rona Awards. x

Jan Brigden said...

Fab interview, Margaret. Very inspiring. I wish you every success with 'Song for a Butterfly' Oh, and I've taken note of that delicious sounding oatcakes recipe. They sound yummy. Thank you x

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Lovely, inspiring interview, Margaret. It's always great to hear how successful novelists get started on that path - and yay! to the NWS again!

Margaret said...

Thank you Jan for your good wishes.
Hope you enjoy the oatcakes, and thank you too Rosemary. We're so lucky in the RNA to have the New Writer's Scheme. I felt as though I was walking on air when I went up to receive my Award. At that time it was sponsored by Reader's Digest, and I actually had to climb on to a dais and have a gold crown placed on my head. I felt like Miss World, only about 40 years too late!

Christina Courtenay said...

Great post, Margaret, and I love the cover for your new book! Also love oatcakes (and chocolate although not at the same time :) so will definitely have to try your recipe!

Margaret said...

Thank you, Christina. You must feel wonderful this morning as an award-winning author for Highland Storms. Enjoy and Mega congratulations!

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Anonymous said...

why hasn't this book being published in ptint form ??? I don't have a kindle or E book.

Margaret Kaine said...

So far it is only available as an ebook, but it will be published by Magna in Large Print and Audio in November. Hope that helps!