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Monday, 22 February 2010
Kate Long Blog Tour
Novelist Kate Long has very kindly agreed to come and answer some questions on my blog today. I asked a few to get the ball rolling, but if you'd like to ask Kate a question, please read on to find out more.
What was your first inspiration to write?
Several things came together: a teachers’ residential writing course; picking up a magazine and finding in it a story by a girl I knew from university; galloping insomnia. The course was my very first taste of positive feedback, the story made me jealous, and being unable to sleep gave me plenty of time to get my ideas down.
How would you sum up your latest novel, ‘A Mother’s Guide To Cheating’?
It’s the story of a divorce, and the fall-out that can happen right across the generations when parents split acrimoniously. Not only are children affected, but grandparents too. The heroine of AMGTC is a young grandmother who finds herself in the impossible position of having to fight her daughter for access to her grandson. Her loyalties are pulled in two. The novel also considers whether it’s better to deal with a partner’s infidelity by tackling it or ignoring it – though I don’t offer any definitive answer: there is none.
Family relationships are a really strong theme in your writing. Why does this subject matter appeal to you?
There are several issues at work. Most obviously is my being adopted, which is an aspect of my identity that’s made me think a lot over the years about what constitutes being a parent, not to mention a whole raft of “what ifs” about my circumstances and history.
Then the couple who adopted me were very traditional in their attitudes, very aware of their social and cultural heritage, and liked to talk about their Lancashire childhoods and the generations who’d been around when they were small. So this in turn made me intensely interested in my adopted family tree. I still love to hear anecdotes about my grandparents and great-grandparents. The walls of my hallway are lined with old family photographs.
And the final thread probably comes from my own struggle to have children, and what it’s therefore meant for me to finally become a mother. There’s not a day goes past that I don’t feel consciously grateful for the gift of my two sons.
What response do you want the novel to invoke in your readers?
I hope the reader takes away a sense that we should all stand up for what we feel to be morally right, and not allow ourselves to become the victims of emotional blackmail. Not always easy within the politics of the family! I hope too that the reader who’s experiencing a troubled relationship with her children or spouse might take comfort from the heroine’s facing up to her problems and largely resolving them.
What do you see yourself writing in the future?
I just don’t know! I write what’s “sent”, what arrives through the ether. I’d like to imagine that I’ll carry on creating optimistic worlds where decent characters are tested but eventually come good. That positive outlook’s important to me : I want the essentially virtuous to be rewarded.
What gives you most pleasure out of all the things you’ve achieved so far in your writing career?
Though it’s always terrific to receive fan mail, and it was a thrill going to the British Book Awards, and signing the initial contract with Picador had me giddy with excitement, there’s nothing to compete with the very first competition I ever won. I remember getting in from a tough day’s teaching, gloomily opening the post, then running, shrieking gibberish, to a neighbour’s house because I had to tell someone I was going to be in print.
What’s the best advice you could give to someone who is writing a novel and hoping to get it published?
In a nutshell: keep going. If you really want to be a published novelist, I’d say you have to approach the task with some consistency, and that means putting aside regular time to write. You genuinely might not have much time and you might therefore not accomplish much at each sitting, but any progress is better than none. Even fifty words a day builds up. And don’t panic if you get half-way through and suddenly decide it’s rubbish. I don’t know any author who doesn’t experience a mid-point confidence crisis. Keep your nerve and write through it. You can always go back and edit later if a particular section really isn’t up to scratch.
Thanks very much to Kate for those very interesting responses.
Do you have a question for Kate? If so, please leave it in the comments of this post. Kate will be popping by to answer your questions, and there is an opportunity to win a copy of 'A Mother's Guide To Cheating' for the person who asks the most original question.
The winner will be chosen by an 'independent expert' and announced on Friday after 5pm.
I hope everyone has had a chance to read the previous competition entries (the challenge was to describe a photograph) on Sally Quilford's blog, but if you haven't you can read more about it here.
Don't miss further legs of Kate's blog tour.
1st-5th March - Womagwriter's blog
5th-12th March - The Literary Project blog
22nd-26th March - Nik Perring's blog
So get those questions coming - and don't forget to make them original. Good Luck!