Thursday, 9 October 2014

Author Spotlight: Kathleen McGurl

I'm delighted to welcome author Kathleen McGurl to the Reading and Writing blog today. Her alter ego owns the famous Womagwriter blog which has been a great help and source of information to short story writers for many years. Now Kathleen has joined the ranks of novelists with a two book deal from Carina and her latest book, The Emerald Comb, is now available. First a little about the novel.

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?

The Emerald Comb is available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

This story sounds fascinating, Kath, and it’s on my TBR list. Welcome to my blog and thanks for answering the questions!

You were a short story writer first – how did you make the transition to novels?

I began writing about 11 years ago and actually, the first thing I started was a novel! I tried and failed at a couple of novels before I got into writing short stories. But I always wanted to write something longer, just to prove I could if nothing else. My aim with the first one I wrote was simply to get to the end and edit it, for the experience. It wasn't wasted though – part of that practice novel became my novella, Mr Cavell’s Diamond.

Your plan obviously worked!

Do you find a big difference in the way you write now? Do you have a preference between the two forms of story?

I love the way with novels you can get totally immersed in the story, and really know and understand your characters. I love the depth you can add, and the space and freedom there is to properly develop plot, characters and theme. So these days, I definitely prefer novel-writing. Having said that, there’s a real joy to be had in crafting the perfect short story where not a word is wasted.

Did you have to do a lot of research for this novel and how did you go about it?

I already knew a lot about how to research your family tree, as I've done it myself. I read a lot of historical books – novels, non-fiction and Victorian authors – and I think you absorb a lot of general knowledge through wide reading. I did have to do bits of specific research, e.g did Brighton have a prom in 1840, when was the railway line to Winchester opened, etc. Google is brilliant for this sort of thing!

It certainly is a boon to writers!

What is the most difficult part about starting a new book?

I don’t think starting is particularly hard – it's finishing it that's the problem! However I do like to work to a plan, and that can take time to put together, which is difficult when you are itching to start writing chapter one.

I admire writers who can work to a plan and I imagine it must help with the plot process.

How do you feel about print versus e-books?

I think there's a place for both. I have a kindle and love it, and use it on holidays and long journeys. I love the way the ebook revolution has opened the doors to shorter novels and novellas which wouldn't be cost-effective as print books. But for certain books – e.g those written by friends, those I know I’ll want to keep forever or lend to others – I prefer having the print version.

Roughly the way I think about them too!

How do you promote your book and does it work?

I've been promoting The Emerald Comb like mad over the last few weeks! I contacted a number of book bloggers who kindly reviewed it and posted about it. I've tweeted several times a day, and my fellow Carina authors amongst others have been kind enough to re-tweet. I have a short blog tour coming up at the end of October. And then there are other blogging friends, like yourself, who've hosted me for guest posts or interviews. Does it work? Well, I'm getting some lovely reviews, which will certainly help sell the book!

Do you have a favourite writing place?

I sit on the sofa in what we still call the playroom, with my laptop on my lap and notebooks and papers strewn across the seat beside me, and a cat on the arm of the sofa. If I really need to concentrate away from all noise, I go up to the spare bedroom and curl up on the sofa in there, with a pink knitted blanket over my knees.

Do you find time for hobbies?

Until I got my two book deal from Carina I would have said writing was my main hobby. Now it has moved beyond being a hobby and I sometimes refer to it as my second job. One I love, I hasten to add. I try to keep fit, through running, swimming, zumba. And I have just (one hour ago as I type this) bought a new bike, so better add cycling to the list. Finding time to do everything you want to is always hard, but it’s a matter of priorities. What do you really want to achieve each day – what’s most important? Prioritise that, and make everything else fit around it!

Wise words and I'm awed at your fitness regime and the fact you work full time!

What are your current writing plans?

I am editing my second novel for Carina. It’s another timeslip, this one with a ghostly element. It should be published some time in 2015. I also have an idea for a non-fiction book which I’ll self-publish, part of the ‘womagwriter’ brand if you like, and am desperate to get started on it.

I love a ghostly element!

Any tips for new writers?

When you start, try lots of different genres until you find the one you're best at and most comfortable with. Write what you would like to read. Seek feedback from other writers. And write, write, write!

Thanks so much for taking time to join me here, Kath, and we wish you much success with your novels. And thank you for all the information you've provided on your womagwriter blog.

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 she 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 about Kathleen at her website, Facebook, or follow her on Twitter @KathMcGurl


Kath McGurl said...

Thank you so much for hosting me here today, Ros!

Joanna said...

Thank you, Rosemary and Kath, for this lovely interview.

It's such a good idea to plan a novel first, but I sympathise with that itch to get started. I also find that, if I do plan, I keep being tempted to stray and often wonder how far off the track I should allow myself to wander.

Congratulations again, Kath. What a gorgeous-looking book - I know I shall enjoy it. xx

anne stenhouse said...

Hi Kath, I suppose the sea will be warmer in Bournemouth, but Brr!
Your book looks really intriguing. Good luck with sales. Anne Stenhouse

Wendy's Writing said...

I think that most of us can say we started writing with Kath's fabulous blog close at hand! Great to hear more interesting snippets and I think that the suggestion that you try different genres is a good one. Thanks both of you.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

It's a pleasure, Kath!

I sometimes wish I could plan before I jump in, Joanna!

Thanks for commenting, Anne!

I definitely agree with trying different genres, Wendy!

Kath McGurl said...

Thanks all!

Joanna - I do allow myself to go off-plan frequently, and then just amend the plan to match the novel. It's definitely not set in stone. But it means I don't get that horrible feeling of staring at a blank page when I start a new chapter - I know what needs to go in it and can quickly get on with it.

Anne - I have a wetsuit which is a necessity outside of the summer months!

Wendy - yes I'm a big believer in reading and writing every genre till you find what fits.

Carolb said...

Thank you both for this interesting interview, Rosemary and Kath.

Genealogy throws up so many avenues to research- and potential ideas too. :-)

I'm sure the next book will be as good too.

Patsy said...

I enjoyed My Cavell's diamond, so I expect I'll enjoy this new one too.

Kath McGurl said...

Thank you!

Patsy - I hope so.(I think it's better. Ssh.)

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Genealogy sounds like excellent inspiration, Carol!

Thanks for commenting, Patsy!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Thanks for being my guest, Kathleen!

Vikki said...

Love the cover of this book and it sounds intriguing. Great advice to write what you want to read.