Hi there Kirsty.
Thank you so much for coming today. Now then, seeing as I’ve prepared tea and cakes, shall we begin..??
First, would you like to tell us a little about yourself?
I’m married with a fifteen year old son and live in the north east of England. We are 20 minutes away from beautiful countryside, 20 minutes away from the coast and 40 minutes away from Hadrian’s Wall. I love it up here! As well as writing, I have a day job and am studying for a Masters in Creative Writing – so I often wish I had a clone. I’ve had both fiction and non-fiction published and must admit that I do err on the spooky side for my novels. The Girl in the Painting is my second Choc Lit novel and it’s kind of a linked sequel to Some Veil Did Fall. Both were great fun to write!
What compels you to write and when (your favourite time to write)?
The best time for me to write is in an afternoon – after lunch and before my son comes in from school. I do try to write in other spare moments though, for example if I’m hanging around places waiting. It bugs me when people gather around behind the laptop though. I feel as though they are trying to have a sneaky peek at what I’m doing! I’m terrible – I won’t let anyone read my work until it’s done. What compels me to write is an interesting one. I won’t say deadlines as I’m usually pretty good at being organised for them and they don’t phase me. I’d maybe say if I’m in the middle of a piece and I know the characters to the point where they’ve taken on a life of their own – to the point, in fact, where they are guiding the story, not me, and I want to crack on with it. I also love being creative and telling stories – so maybe that compels me too.
Tell us a little about what are you writing at the moment? Or, what book are you about to release or have just released?
At the minute I’m working on my Masters’ projects, but one of those pieces has been informed by my work on The Girl in the Painting. I did a lot of research on Lizzie Siddal, the Pre-Raphaelite artist’s model for The Girl in the Painting and some of the extra research has spilled out into other projects – for example, I did a 300 word piece of flash fiction on her which won the TubeFlash competition for Highgate Station in London, where she is buried. I loved writing The Girl in the Painting – it was a way for me to explore all sorts of things like art and London and people starting new lives, and also to revisit the characters from Some Veil Did Fall two years later. The Girl in the Painting is another timeslip novel, wherein my new heroine, Cori, moves down to London from Northumbria and meets Simon, an artist and tour guide at the Tate Britain. Both of them have a passion for all things Pre-Raphaelite and Cori gains possession of a diary, written by a Victorian girl named Daisy, which seems as if it could blow one of the most famous Pre-Raphaelite legends out of the water. The novel traces both Cori and Simon’s romance and Daisy’s life in Victorian London until it all leads to a rather shocking conclusion…
If you had to do an elevator pitch, how would you describe it?
This is a tough one – can ‘buy my book, it’s great!’ not suffice? No? Ok – how about: The Girl in the Painting is a ghostly timeslip, tracing the parallel lives of modern-day Cori and Victorian Daisy. Is everything in the Pre-Raphaelite art world they both love everything it seems to be – or not?
Are you a panster or a plotter? Or do you do a little of each?
Pantster. Definitely. I do not plot – I just don’t. I have an idea of the start and an idea of the end, but I usually just start with a concept. I write what I think the start should be and work from there. Inevitably, the story changes as I work on it. The characters usually start directing things and suddenly it’ll click. I’ll have that lightbulb moment and go ‘Aha!’ Then the start will change and the end will change – and often the bit in the middle will get reworked a little to drop in hints for the ending. I love working that way. Every book and every story is a surprise!
Tell us about your Choc Lit journey? How did you come to be a Choc Lit author?
I wrote a short story on a university writing course which had sort of the same premise as Some Veil Did Fall. The heroine was called Becky, she visited a stately home on holiday and seemed to recognise the place. Then she saw a painting of a member of the family who looked identical to her. There was that element of reincarnation and is she/isn’t she going on, but it was only 1500 words long, if that. I continued with my degree and got a bit more experience in creative writing, won the English Heritage/Belsay Hall National Writing Competition, then decided to write a novel – The Memory of Snow, which is a timeslip situated on Hadrian’s Wall. Refuge, a vampire novel set on Holy Island followed that, along with some short stories for magazines such as Peoples Friend and Weekly News – and I ended up placing all the stories I’d done for that course in anthologies or magazines. I eventually returned to the Becky one and reread it, and decided I could do something more with it – and more importantly, do it much, much better. I extended it into a novel and saw Choc Lit mentioned in Writing Magazine as several of the authors had articles in there. I did some digging and found out they were a romance publisher and accepted paranormals and timeslips. I added more romance to my existing manuscript of Veil and sent it off. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I got a lovely email from Lyn Vernham whilst on holiday in the October half-term – I remember reading it in bed in a Travelodge of all places! – and it said the panel loved it and would I like to meet up? So I said yes, and the rest is history. My book got reworked again, edited and made to shine, then it got published and it was incredibly exciting. A book signing followed at Goth Weekend in Whitby where I met the lovely Jane Lovering and we dressed up suitably Gothic-like, and all the time I was writing Portrait in the background, working, looking after a family and doing my undergraduate degree. Looking back, I was quite possibly mad! But here we are with my second Choc Lit book and hopefully the panel will like more of my stuff in the future as well. I have already submitted book three in the series to Choc Lit, which picks up the story three years in the future, and also another two novels in a different series. I’ll just have to see what happens and keep everything crossed! Nothing is guaranteed in the writing world and I fully understand that.
If your hero was a type of chocolate, what would he be?
What else could he be but chocolate caramel??? My absolute favourites.
How do you choose hero and heroine names?
Randomly, Very very randomly. I have a few girls’ first names squirrelled away that I really like and want to use. I’m going through those at the minute. Cori’s full name is Corisande – it was a name I encountered on a visit to a stately home years ago, when I was a teenager. It was on the family tree of the owners in the nineteenth century, and it was so unusual it stuck with me and I used it for Painting. I do like unusual names for heroines. Apart from Becky – I just liked the name and it suited her! Men’s names are more difficult. I can’t use names I associate with people I know – and as I have a son with lots of friends and worked briefly in a primary school, it’s hard to use names that don’t bring a vision of a child to me! I will always Google the full names of both hero and heroine, though, to make sure it’s not a real person if possible!
What are your dreams for the future?
Gosh – for me and my loved ones to be happy and healthy I would say. World peace would be nice – and an end to all the horrible stuff we see in the news. Writing-wise, more of the same please! To pass my Masters, to have more books published and to continue to sell short stories and articles.
What are you favourites:
Day of the week: Saturday! Long, hot bubble bath incorporating a book and wine night.
Book: Hmmm – would either be Wuthering Heights or Thornyhold.
Author: based on the above – Emily Bronte or Mary Stewart. A more modern author would be Susanna Kearsley.
Holiday Destination: Brockdish in Norfolk.
Childhood memory: bizarrely, being in the back of the car with my Grandma. I used to lie down and rest my head in her lap to have a sleep. If I close my eyes and think about it, I can still smell the special smell of her clothes and feel how comfy it was with her hand stroking my hair. I tend not to do it though as I’d end up a blubbering wreck, even though she’s been gone almost thirty years. I think she’d be proud of me and in a way I still sense her around me. So yes – my Grandma!
Writing Moment: Winning the Belsay competition, being treated like a VIP for the day and seeing myself on the front page of The Journal! That morning, walking to work, my old boss pulled up his car and shouted ‘Well done!’ across one of the busiest streets in Newcastle. I felt like I had finally proved something and thought ‘I can do this!’. Also getting my first five-star review on my first novel. That was a good ‘un too!
Well…. I’d like to say a very big thank you Kirsty, for your 5 star interview.
Thank you for reading xx