When did you first start writing?
I hated the books I was given to read at school, I always preferred the stories in my head. I finally learnt to read when my mother refused to read "The Gift From Winklesea" to me anymore. I started to write the stories I told my nephews and nieces down in the nineties but, like most aspiring writers, thought they weren't good enough to send to a publisher and put them in a draw instead. With the explosion of the indie publishing scene in the last 7 years I was exposed to a lot of fiction that I liked and that made me believe that there might be a market for mine if I put the effort into being a good story teller. So I started writing.
I wrote a short story for a competition that I was quite proud of so my husband challenged me to write one of the stories in my head down. Three hundred and forty seven thousand words later I had finished the first draft. It wasn't brilliant, but I could see the progression in my writing as I went through it. That one is still in the draw. I immediately sat down and started another. This time only one hundred and ten thousand words, and started to send it to agents and publishers, whilst still writing short stories and submitting them as well. I started another novel as soon as I had finished that one and have kept doing that for the last four years. I have missed four days in that time.
I received an offer from a publisher last year on my second book and "standard contractual terms" made our lawyer blanch. So after considering what the upsides were to being an un-promoted mid list author were I decided to go with a small indie publisher instead and see where it went from there.
What has been the greatest joy of writing for you?
Simply being able to share all the stories that have been in my head since I was a little girl. I've spent years terrifying younger relatives for fun, to the point of sending a signed photo from one of the creepier characters to a nephew. This was in the days before photoshop so it was hard work but worth it. The phone call from my sister complaining about her terrified child was a small price to pay to be able to remind him of it in front of his girlfriends as a young man.
On a more serious note, I want people to share the same passion for the past that I have had since my mother read the Odyssey to me at bed time. It has informed my choice of career in the real world. Amongst the dull bureaucracy that seems to dominate the teaching profession it is fun to inspire passion for a subject by means of a good yarn.
The idea that someone will read and enjoy my writing helps me to enjoy making it.
Describe your desk?
My desk, such as it is, is a large, oak, draw leaf table that butts up to the central island in my kitchen. I share it with my husbands gaming/work PC. As a 6 core I7 processor and 24gb of ram are overkill for word I'm presuming it's emphasis is on gaming. Nobody ever swears that much working on a power point <grin>.
I am ably assisted by cats sleeping on my arms as I type, on my computer, on my lap or attacking my feet. For examples see the "Barriers to writing" page.
There are a few books tucked into crannies, easily too hand and bits of paper that I've scribbled notes or lists on. From my seat I have the pleasure of watching husband cook or the living room if he's left sky news on for four hours straight, again.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
The Iliad, I read it for my A levels and at Uni. I love the characters, themes and descriptions.
The Mists of Avalon, it totally revamped the Arthurian Chronicles and gave life to what were previously two dimensional characters. It is beautifully written and evocative of a time when people were more in tune to the earth and nature.
Lord of the rings, I've read it three times, each time quicker than the last. The universe, the concepts, the storytelling, the charm of the characters all add up to something deserving of the term "epic".
The lions of Al-Rassan or anything by Guy Gavriel Kay really. His re imagining of history and adding a soupcon of fantasy whilst creating likable and real characters which transports you somewhere else and yet remains with you long after you have read it. Katherine. Romantic history, it's an epic love story and historically rather accurate. It manages to engage and interest you in a subject that you wouold not have previously been interested in. One of the hidden classics that I feel people are perhaps reluctant to admit to liking. Not me.
There's so many other books, just five is unfair. Our house is insulated with book shelves. I've a long list of authors and books that I could evangelise about for hours.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Working and playing with stories in my head. Though inspiring children to think and get a love of history takes a fair bit of my energy. I am also sometimes nice to my husband. <grin>. Thanks in part to the enthusiasm of my husband I enjoy Motorcycle racing and find the competition fascinating. As much as I like the engineering I am not yet acquiescing to my husband's request to mount a Motorbike on the living room wall.
Learning new things every day and maintaining my curiousity in a sometimes bleak world.
What's the story behind your latest book?
The Kin is actually the first of my Custodian series. I'm writing the eighth at the moment.
The Kin came from a short story I wrote whilst my husband was watching the entire "West Wing" during our summer holidays. I had an image in my head of two soldiers riding towards the deserted city of Persopolis and just knew that something unpleasant was waiting for them.
I finished it and realised it was a bit long at 25000 words for a short story and by that time I really wanted to know where those characters were going next. So I got my husband to fire up the kettle and I continued their journey.
Memories of a takeaway pizza in Rome may have also intruded. One of the best cites in the world to eat in and we spent one of the most charming nights of my life on a balcony eating pizza out of a box.
I'm enjoying mixing the present and the past with the same characters. Just how different are they after all that time? it asks so many questions that I get a kick out of writing the answers.
What do your fans mean to you?
People enjoying something I've written is very special. The feedback from people who've read my work and cared enough to have an opinion is really great. Comparing their imagining of my characters to mine has helped me have a fresh perspective on who I'm writing about. Despite doing my best to be as accurate and well researched as possible I have made mistakes and taken pleasure in having them corrected. I like learning and that's a part of it.
I remember the first time someone wrote to me to tell me how much they enjoyed my book. To take the time to have sought me out and to be inspired to look deeper into the subjects meant a lot to me. I dedicated a book to that young lady and have the letter somewhere on my desk still.
Above all I try to remember what it feels like to find a good book for the first time, the lost day you spend devouring it as housework and family get neglected. If I can give that pleasure to someone else then I'll have done my job.