I am very pleased to have as my guest this week the very lovely Kath McGurl. If you are a short story writer, you will probably know Kath as Womagwriter, whose blog has inspired and helped so many writers (myself included) on their journeys to becoming published magazine writers. Recently, Kath secured her first publishing deal with Carina and I decided to ask her about her writing life.
You have had a wide variety of writing published: non-fiction, short stories, novellas and now a novel. Which do you prefer writing?
Novels and novellas, definitely! I like being immersed in the story and characters for months, and being able to unfold the story bit by bit, building and building towards the climax.
I’d attempted novels when I first started writing but didn’t manage to complete one then. Then in 2010 I began a novel based on my own family tree research, and used that as my practice novel – the aim was to get to 80,000 words and then edit it, just to prove I could do it. I did, and then went on to write The Emerald Comb. In the end, part of that practice novel got re-written as my novella Mr Cavell’s Diamond, so it wasn’t wasted work.
Strictly speaking, it’s dual-timeline rather than timeslip, but my publisher refers to it as timeslip! It has chapters which alternate between an 1840s story and a current day one. The two stories are linked, and each informs the other. In ‘proper’ timeslip novels, there’s an element of time-travel or slipping from one time period to the other.
In the summer of 2013 the novel was completed, and I tried to find an agent first. I had some interest – two agents wanted to see the whole MS, but in the end both turned it down. Then in summer 2014 I sent it to Carina UK who snapped it up and offered me a two book deal (to my immense delight!).
It’s loosely based on a house in the Avon valley outside Christchurch which I have cycled past many times, also on a house in Edenhall, Cumbria which belongs to a friend’s parents. It’s more a large Georgian manor house than a stately home though.
Nothing like Katie found! But I did uncover an interesting great-great-great-grandfather who was a bit of a black sheep – he was born into aristocracy, separated from his wife, took up with a servant girl with whom he had 13 children, and was disinherited by his family.
To Georgia: Walk away. Marry for love. Don’t be fooled by Bartholomew. He only wants your money.
My favourite books are dual-timeline, and I have several ideas for more books in this genre. I also love writing historical. Having said that, there is an idea for a thriller kicking around in my head, and maybe I’ll write that some day soon… I’m also planning another non-fiction book, self help for writers…
I’ll write occasional shorts – for my writing class end of term competitions at least! But I don’t think I’d go back to just writing short stories again. Though you can never rule anything out!
Finding the time to write everything I want to write! I have a full time job and other demands on my time, and far too many ideas. I know I work best when I can keep at it and write quickly, but sometimes life gets in the way and that isn’t possible, which can be very frustrating.
Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog, Wendy!
You are very welcome, Kath - lovely to have you join us today.
The Emerald Comb
One afternoon, Katie takes a drive to visit Kingsley House, the family home of her ancestors, the St Clairs. She falls in love the minute she sees it. It may be old and in desperate need of modernisation, but it is her link to the past and, having researched her family tree extensively, she feels a sense of belonging to the crumbling old estate.
When it suddenly comes up for sale, she cannot resist persuading her family to sell up and buy it, never telling them the truth of their connection with it. But soon the past collides with the present, as the house begins to reveal the secrets it has hidden for generations. Does Katie really want to discover what she has come from?
You can buy The Emerald Comb here
When not writing or working at her full-time job in IT, she likes to go out running or sea-swimming, both of which she does rather slowly. She is definitely quicker at writing.