Friday, 18 March 2011

Interview with Kate Long

I'm delighted that the wonderfully talented Kate Long has agreed to be interviewed for my little old blog.  I'd like to say a massive thank you to Kate for supporting me.  I'm so enjoying reading Mothers and Daughters and am being very anti social reading at every possibly chance I get, trying to find out what happens in the end.  My review will be online very very soon!

Kate is the author of the Number One bestseller The Bad Mother's Handbook, Swallowing Grandma, Queen Mum and the Daughter's Game.  Kate was born and raised in Lancashire and lives with her husband and two sons in Whitchurch in Shropshire.  You can visit Kate's website

At what age did you decide you wanted to be an author and who inspired you most to do it?
I always liked the idea of being a writer but never imagined someone from my very ordinary background could get a novel published. However, my mum instilled in me a love of books and literature from when I was an infant, and all writers begin, I think, as voracious readers.

How did you feel when your first book was published?An equal mix of tremendous pride, fear and elation. Much as I felt the first time I became a mother, in fact.        

How on earth did you feel when you knew your book was going to be made into a TV series? Did you ever imagine it happening?

I tried hard not to get too excited about the tv project because it was drummed into me by everyone I met how rare it is for scripts actually to make it to screen. During the film-making process there is a long series of hurdles to overcome, none of them within the writer’s control. So you just have to keep optimistic and delivering the drafts and re-drafts you’re asked to. Being able to go on set and watch the actors reading lines that I’d written was pretty thrilling, though. It was a particular buzz to meet Anne Reid, Catherine Tate and Steve Pemberton. I still kick myself for not getting Rob Pattinson’s autograph!

What advice would you give to someone such as Jaz in Mothers & Daughters, whose husband had "strayed" but they had a young child?

It’s a situation I’ve never encountered in my own life, even among my friends, so I wouldn’t presume to offer any advice on how to move forward with a marriage/divorce in such circumstances. There are so many variables: every case is different and so much depends on context. The advice I would offer Jaz, though, is to appreciate her mum more and stop behaving generally like a spoilt brat! Jaz’s mum is the best friend she has, yet she can’t see that. She’s too absorbed in her own pain and drama to acknowledge anyone else’s.
Are your characters based upon real characters or are they completely fictional?
I take single incidents and occasionally individual character traits from real life, eg some of Nan’s anecdotes in The Bad Mother’s Handbook are based on stories my own grandma told me. The man in Queen Mum who wears “tusks” of tissue up his nostrils was someone I spotted at a B&B years ago, and in the novel I’ve just finished, the middle-aged mother figure is obsessed with water voles in the same way I am. But she isn’t me.

Mothers and Daughters is a slightly special case in that disabled baby Callum is meant as a kind of tribute to my friend’s beautiful daughter Willow, who was born with CHARGE syndrome.

Your characters are so real and we get to feel their emotions as if they were our own.   How do you manage to create your characters so well?
Consuming vast quantities of fiction helps, because novels enable you to live so many other people’s lives alongside your own (necessarily) limited experience. I also read a lot of true-life women’s magazines. When it comes to fleshing out my own characters, I have a set of fifty “interview questions” I answer on their behalf before I begin writing the novel, and I sometimes cut out magazine pictures to help me focus on their physical characteristics. Probably the majority of the background information I generate this way never gets used, but that doesn’t matter; it makes me feel more confident about how each person will speak and act, which is the important thing,

How do you carry out your research?
I approach people by email, or interview them face to face. Sometimes I draw a blank – not everyone has the time to get involved, and it’s possible too that some of the recipients of my email inquiries think I’m a wind-up merchant, or mad. There’s also a lot of information out there on the net just for the taking: in that sense, life for authors has never been easier.

Where do you write most and what is it about that place that inspires you to write?
I write in our front room, amid all sorts of chaos. For a while last year my husband was very ill and had his bed and wheelchair in here. Now the room houses his rowing machine. Previously it was a spill-over area for the children’s toys. There’s nothing inspirational about my desk, it’s just a workspace I have to fight the rest of the family for.

Who do you look up to?
Writer-wise? Too many almost to count. I’m continually humbled by what other writers achieve – this one’s control of narrative pace, that one’s use of description, the inventiveness of language or subtlety of tone. A brilliant piece of writing is like a blast of cold air. It can inject vigour into my own work, even if that work is a completely different style.

What book are you reading right now?
I’m reading Someone Else’s Son by Sam Hayes (my breakfast book), Skippy Dies by Paul Murray (my bedtime book), and listening in the car to the unabridged audio of Val McDermid’s Trick of the Dark. After my husband’s terrible motorbike accident last year I found I couldn’t read at all, I couldn’t engage my brain to the task. But he recovered, thank God, and Emma Donoghue’s Room got my reading self back on track.

Who are your favourite authors?
We’ll be here all day and night as well if I list the lot, so I’ll just give you seven off the top of my head: Emily Bronte, Charlotte Bronte, Kate Atkinson, Sophie Hannah, Liz Jensen, Nick Hornby, Alan Garner.

What’s next for you?
I’ve just finished my sixth novel, which will be out next year, and tells the story of a twentysomething who’s grown up with two mothers. And I’m currently about ten thousand words into a sequel to The Bad Mother’s Handbook, written in direct response to a raft of email requests from readers. So many people were asking what Charlotte, Nan and Karen got up to afterwards and I thought, Well, I know the answer – why don’t I write it down?



Smart Talkers said...

Thats fantastic Kim, I loved reading this and its made me want to read one of her books

Helen said...

Me too.
Now which one to choose ...

Anonymous said...

Great interview; I can imagine how amazing it would be to have your book made into a film/television production. The icing on the cake I shouldn't doubt. I just wondered, did Kate get a say in who would play the parts of her characters, or is this done by the production company?

CJ xx

Kim said...

Not sure Crystal, it's another question I'll have to ask her when I get the chance. I know that if you look at her website, it's really interesting to see the pictures of the set. x

Kate said...

I got to see the casting tapes and give an opinion, but it was the director who had final say, CJ. Luckily I liked everyone who was picked, though I did have a soft spot for the actress who just missed out on playing Charlotte. She was given a part as one of Charlotte's friends, and I've seen her since in other tv dramas.

Kim The Book Worm said...

Thanks Kate x