Today in the Library we have Kate Braithwaite who has dropped in to say hello and to share some insights into her life as an author.
You are very welcome, Kate, please introduce yourself:
I grew up in Edinburgh but now live with my family in Pennsylvania. I write book reviews and features for Bookbrowse and the Historical Novel Society. My first novel, Charlatan, a tale of intrigue and poison in 17th century France, was published on September 15th 2016.
Did you read much as a child? Are you an avid reader now? Do you prefer books in your own genre or are you happy to explore others?
I read all the time growing up and I read all the time now. I first fell in love with historical novels reading Georgette Heyer as a teenager but I’ve always read a lot of literary fiction, crime novels and thrillers too. Right now I’m enjoying The Lake House by Kate Morton.
Are you self-published or traditionally published?
I’m being published by Fireship Press, a small press specializing in historical fiction.
Which genre do you write in and why?
I came across the real life story of the Affair of the Poisons at the time when I was ready to commit to writing. It was the kind of thing I’d love to read a novel all about and, as there wasn’t one, I just jumped right in. I’ve had one contemporary short story published and I’ve a middle grade novel sitting on the shelf that I might return to, but apart from that, it’s all historical. I love the research.
Who has been the biggest influence on your writing?
Years ago I read a newspaper interview with Fay Weldon where she said that most writers began as readers who “end up writing the novel they want to read, if only because nobody else has got around to writing it.” I paper-clipped that into a notebook and carried it around with me for the longest time. Another big influence is Sarah Waters. There is a brilliant twist at the end of the first part of Fingersmith. It’s so wonderfully clever. Her novel really inspired me to stop thinking about writing and actually get on and try.
Has your country of origin/culture influenced your writing?
I am Scottish and grew up in Edinburgh. Until I was six I lived in a council house directly opposite Holyrood Palace. I went to pre-school on the Royal Mile and I’m sure growing up in a city soaked in history has had its influence. Although I haven’t lived there since I was eighteen I love to go back to visit. It’s where I’m from and very important to who I am. So far, I haven’t written anything set in Scotland but there are some Scottish witch stories I’ve got my eye on!
What part of the writing process do you find most difficult? How do you overcome it?
I am not a natural editor. I can write and write but when I come big editing decisions I struggle. I’m not the kind of writer that can sit down and just go where the characters take me… and I’ve learned that the hard way! Now I know I need to outline and get my plot structure fixed first. Then I can really enjoy the writing part.
Do you have a favourite time of day to write?
I like the early morning best but when I first started trying to write on a near-to-daily basis, the only time I had was between one and three pm when my youngest took her nap. Sometimes writing in constrained circumstances helps focus the mind. Now the day looks long when the kids head out to school, but it’s amazing how the hours disappear.
What is the best thing about being an author? And the flipside – what is the worst?
It makes me immensely happy to have written a story that other people have read and enjoyed. Writing is a huge pleasure and creating a novel that a reader can believe in feels like a great personal achievement. On the flipside, it is a lonely process. It takes a lot of persistence and craft and there have definitely been times along the way when I have thought there would be a lot easier things to do in this life. Some rejections – for example when I once made massive changes to a novel for one specific agent who still rejected it – are very hard to take. My poor husband has put up with a lot!
Is social media an essential chore or something you enjoy? Which forum do you prefer?
I quite like it, although I worry about where the time goes. I enjoy facebook groups and seeing what other people are reading and writing about. There are a lot of friendly people out there! I like seeing what is trending on twitter and following lots of history related blogs and photo-based websites. There’s a lot to be inspired by.
If you weren’t an author, what would you be up to?
I used to teach people with special needs but quit work after child number three came along. I’m lucky I can spend my time writing. If not, I would probably return to something like that.
It’s the last day and the earth is facing oblivion – what book would you read?
I’m pretty sure reading, much as I love it, would be the last thing on my mind. But if I had to pick a book to read in extremis, I think I’d re-read Full Moon by PG Wodehouse. Pure escapism.
Please tell us about your latest published work.
Charlatan is based on the real events of the Affair of the Poisons that rocked Paris and the court of Louis XIV. It’s the story of Athénaïs, Madame de Montespan, the King’s glamorous mistress, who is nearly forty and has had seven children with the King. But now Louis’ eyes are firmly set on a beautiful eighteen year old, newly arrived at Versailles. Her sister Gabrielle is certain Athénaïs can win him back, but she is not so sure. At the same time, in Paris, police chief La Reynie and his young assistant Bezons have uncovered a network of fortune-tellers and poisoners operating in the city. Athénaïs does not know it, but she is about to be named as a favoured client of the infamous La Voisin.
If you would like to know more about Kate and her work please click on the links below: