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Kate Harrison Interview

Posted by Michelle on March 7, 2008

These are the first questions and answers from when Kate was a Featured Author on the forum..

Q. I have to ask the obvious.. were you a Brownie yourself?

A. No, Michelle, actually I wasn’t a Brownie, which is probably why I felt the need to write the book…we lived abroad for a while when I was little – my dad was involved in the early development of computers, back in the days when they worked on multi-coloured ‘punch cards’ – and in our area of Holland, there were no Brownie Packs. I was quite homesick and used to read all the comics and books from home (Tammy and Jinty, anyone? Plus lots of my mum’s Jean Plaidy) and I used to love the idea of being a Brownie: all the badges and the games.

We came back to the UK when I was 11 so it was too late to be a Brownie. I joined the Guides and used to help out in a Brownie Pack but to be honest, the Guides were a bit more serious than Brownies…and I also discovered that I HATED camping.

Then a couple of years ago I was talking to some friends about how hard it is to get a sense of progress when you’re an adult – and how nice it’d be if you got a Badge when you managed a week of detox, or did dull stuff like sorting out your overdraft. So the idea came partly from that and partly from that sense that remembering what you loved doing aged 8 could hold the key to happiness as a grown-up. I adored reading and writing, for example, and so being able to write books has made me so much happier than my previous job…

Q. How did you feel when you made that move away from your previous job, and into full time writing?

A. Well, it’s almost exactly a year now since I took that big step, and it was something I’d been longing to do for ages. I think in a way, the fact that I hadn’t been able to afford to give up the day job before that was a good thing, in that I was used to the highs (and lows) of being a published author before that.

It’s mainly a lovely, lovely thing to do: a real privilege to be paid to make up stories. I think my writing’s improved, too, because I have more time to plan and can really go hell for leather on a story rather than having to be interrupted by little things like going into the office! I also re-edit much more now than I did with my first book, and so I have the time to do it – rather than being told off by my boyfriend for working at weekends/past midnight all the time.

It can be quite an isolated existence, of course, and so I have to see escaping from my laptop for coffee with a friend, or a trip to a museum, as part of the job: a replacement for gossipy work lunches! And of course, when a book’s not going quite so well, it can be tough because there’s nothing else to distract me (in the past, I could always think, ‘oh well, at least I’m being paid my salary every month.’). After all, no-one’s going to write the book for me!

But overall I am so lucky and wouldn’t swap it for the world!

Q. Which authors give you inspiration (if any) and who do you like to read for pleasure when you get time?

A. I’m inspired by good writing in all genres: I love comic fiction, especially novels by David Lodge, David Nobbs, Mavis Cheek and Laurie Graham (though with most of those authors I prefer their earlier books…if that doesn’t sound too much like those people who talk about music and say they only like the albums before they were discovered!). I like some of the classics, too, including Wilkie Collins and Emily Bronte.

I do enjoy other ‘chick lit’ authors – though I’ve never been fond of the label – my favourites are Lisa Jewell, Jojo Moyes and Elizabeth Buchan. I’m sure I am forgetting lots of others though! One of the exciting bits about being published has been meeting lots of my literary idols…

When I’m in search of comfort reading, I love returning to children’s books I used to devour as a kid: the Dark is Rising Trilogy by Susan Cooper, the Bagthorpe Saga books by Helen Cresswell, pretty much anything by Noel Streatfeild (but especially Ballet Shoes and The Painted Garden), Lorna Hill’s Ballet books (I was rubbish at ballet, but a girl could dream) and the wonderful I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (which I actually didn’t discover until I was an adult). One day I’d love to write children’s books, too.

When I’m midway through writing a book, though, I tend to gravitate towards non-fiction as I’m worried about ‘catching’ someone else’s writing style: so I’m currently loving Andrew Marr’s Modern History of Britain. On my bedside table there are also two guidebooks to China (am hopefully going there next month), Can Any Mother Help Me? (a non-fiction book about a kind of magazine made up of letters between different women during the war and afterwards), and a gorgeous photographic book about window dressing (because I am currently writing a novel about Secret Shopping).

I also love poring over the Mr and Mrs Smith books and dreaming of the day when one of the hotels will offer me a writer-in-residence position…

To read the rest, visit the thread.

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