Monday, 6 October 2014

Writing Dual-Timelines - Guest Post Kath McGurl


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.

How hard did you find it moving on to a full length novel?

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.

Your new novel, The Emerald Comb is a time-slip novel. Can you explain the term for anyone who doesn't know?

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.

How long did it take you to find a publisher for the novel?

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!).

The setting of your new novel is Kingsley House. Is this based on a real stately home?

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.

In your novel, Katie researches her family tree. I know that you've researched yours too - find any skeletons?

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.

If you could give one of your characters a piece of advice, what would it be?

To Georgia: Walk away. Marry for love. Don’t be fooled by Bartholomew. He only wants your money.

Have you any desire to write in a different genre - crime perhaps?

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…

Now that you've written your first full length novel, can you imagine writing short stories again?

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!

What's been the hardest part of your journey to publication.

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

Kathleen McGurl lives near the sea in Bournemouth, with her husband, sons and cats. She began her writing career creating short stories, and sold dozens to women’s magazines in the UK and Australia. Then she got side-tracked onto family history research – which led eventually to writing novels with genealogy themes. She has always been fascinated by the past, and the ways in which the past can influence the present, and enjoys exploring these links in her novels.

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.

You can find out more at her website, http://kathleenmcgurl.com/, or follow her on Twitter @KathMcGurl .

26 comments:

  1. Thank you Wendy for hosting me here today!

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    1. You are very welcome, Kath. Thank you for being such a lovely guest.

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  2. Thank you, Wendy and Kath - I really enjoyed this interview. Family tree research is certainly fascinating. My husband discovered his father was actually his uncle and his uncle was really his father. And those were just the first bones of the skeletons that came tumbling out of the cupboard.

    I'm so looking forward to reading The Emerald Comb - congratulations on all your great achievements, Kath, and enjoy your well-deserved success. x

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    1. Oh my goodness, Joanna - what a shock for him! I found out my grandfather's brother (who everyone thought had been killed in the war) had taken his brother's name and moved to Australia, where he had a second family!

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    2. Thanks Joanna, and what a find for your husband! There's a novel in that one, definitely.

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  3. That's an encouraging set of responses for people who are just starting out with their writing. The idea of a novel as a 'practice run' can seem impossible and disheartening, but often I think it's the breakthrough many authors need. Thanks, Kath and Wendy.

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    1. I'll try and remember that, Kate, as I continue with my 'practice run' novel!

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  4. Lovely interview - and I'm glad you asked Kath a few different questions from I've asked her for later in the week, Wendy!

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    1. I didn't know you were hosting too, Rosemary. Look forward to popping over to your blog to find out more about Kath in a few days (she'll have no secrets left to tell!)

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    2. I'm getting around the web this month, aren't I? Thanks both of you!

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  5. Great interview - thank you Kath and Wendy. The Emerald Comb is a fantastic read, Kath. Just couldn't put it down. xx

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the interview, Sue.

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    2. Thanks Sue! So glad you enjoyed the book!

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  6. Lovely interview Wendy and Kath, thank you. Interesting to think of a novel as a practice run - although I'm kinda hoping mine isn't! ;)

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    1. Will keep my fingers crossed that yours isn't too, Sam.

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  7. Interesting interview - thanks.

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  8. Lovely interview. Glad I didn't miss it (thanks to your lovely granddaughter, Wendy) x

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  9. I bought Kath's novel, mainly because I've been a reader of her blog for ages - and I loved it! I sat up until nearly 1 am finishing it and closed the final page with a great sense of having arrived at a satisfying ending.

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  10. Lovely interview, Wendy and Kathleen. It's interesting to see how Kath's writing career has developed. The idea of the 'practice novel' is fascinating - never heard of anything like that before. Congratulations on your success, Kath.

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    1. It's probably best that we don't think of it as a practice novel when we're writing it, Susan - or where would we be!

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  11. Fab interview, both, and Kath, you have a full time job!! then nobody has any excuses as to not having enough time. Well done, and look forward to reading. I have your ghost story book on kindle, and found it really helpful when writing a ghost story lately.

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    1. We shouldn't have the excuses but boy do we find them, Susan!

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