Today it’s the turn of author Kate Field to give us a glimpse into her varied days as a writer. Kate writes wonderful contemporary women’s fiction. Her latest book is A Dozen Second Chances and you can find out more about it below. But first over to Kate to tell you about her writing life.
Kate Field’s Writing Life in a Day
I love reading blogs about how other authors work, but admit that I’m often struck with a pang of envy over those brilliant writers who knock out several thousand words in one go – and that’s before breakfast. How on earth do they do it?
My writing days are very different. I don’t even have a typical day. I work part time in an office job, and rarely have the mental energy to write on those days. On my so-called ‘days off’, the hours whizz by in domestic activities, and, until recently, a 3 hour school run. Writing has to fit round real life in whatever spare hours I have. Sometimes I manage a few pages, sometimes a few lines. It all counts, and I don’t beat myself up if I have an unproductive day.
I don’t need much to be able to write: my only requirements are a pen (currently a Cross ballpoint pen given to me by a friend), an A4 notebook (I stockpile in the Paperchase sale) and peace and quiet. This last requirement has been hard to come by over the recent months of lockdown! My favourite place to write is the kitchen, as it’s bright and warm, and the hum of the fridge provides just the right pitch of background noise without being intrusive, but now the peace has been shattered by the sound of Zoom meetings echoing round the house and the constant boiling of the kettle. I haven’t had the house to myself since lockdown started, and I’ve found it hard to write at all.
I didn’t realise before I was published that there’s so much more to being a writer than putting words down on the page. On any particular day I might have to write a blog post, arrange a blog tour to promote a new book, design a graphic to use on social media, and keep my Twitter and Facebook profiles up to date. Multi-tasking is an essential skill. It’s quite normal to find that you’re writing one book, editing another and promoting a third, all at the same time. It can get very confusing!
The working day never ends for most writers; you can’t switch off the lights and close the door on your imagination. There are no weekends or holidays: I remember having to stop during a Swiss mountain hike a few years ago because I thought of the perfect words for Ethan’s declaration of love in The Man I Fell in Love With and had to write it down before I forgot. I love reading, but it’s hard to read a book without mentally dissecting the author’s skill in keeping the pages turning and playing with my emotions. I can’t watch television without being distracted by an interesting face that might inspire a character, a useful name in the credits, or by the thought, ‘what if X,Y and Z happened instead?’. Characters and conversations constantly run through my head, and they won’t go away!
In my most recent book, A Dozen Second Chances, I wrote the story of Eve, who takes the opportunity to change her life when her daughter leaves home. It’s a subject close to my heart, as I’ll have an empty nest soon too, and many more hours of my day to fill. Perhaps I can take the opportunity to change my writing life, and at last become one of those authors who write thousands of words before breakfast…
Anne: Thank you to Kate for this fascinating insight into the non-typical days of her writing life. You can read more about her and her latest book below.
A Dozen Second Chances
From the back cover:
What are the chances that twelve little tokens could change a life?
Seventeen years ago, Eve Roberts had the wonderful life she’d always dreamed of: a degree in archaeology, a gorgeous boyfriend, and exciting plans to travel the world with him, working on digs. But when her sister Faye died, the life Eve knew ended too. Faye’s daughter Caitlyn came to live with Eve, her boyfriend left, and she quickly gave up on her dreams.
Now approaching her fortieth birthday, Eve faces the prospect of an empty nest as Caitlyn is leaving home. Caitlyn gives Eve a set of twelve ‘Be Kind to Yourself’ vouchers, telling her that she has to start living for herself again, and that she should fill one in every time she does something to treat herself.
With her very first voucher, Eve’s life will change its course. But with eleven more vouchers to go, can Eve learn to put herself first and follow the dreams she’s kept secret for so long? Because life is for living – and as she well knows, it’s too short to waste even a moment…
Hello everyone and welcome to event number 24 in the Virtual book festival programme. Today we have an interview with author of contemporary romantic fiction, Kate Field.
And hello and welcome to you too, Kate. Let’s begin with why and how you became a writer?
The earliest memory I have of writing is from primary school, when I wrote a story about an octopus and his underwater friends. The teacher pinned it on the wall, even though it stretched for pages and pages. I was a shy girl, neither sporty nor musical, and for the first time it felt like there was something I might be good at.
I wrote terrible poetry in my teens and eventually started my first novel in my early twenties. I wrote on and off for almost twenty years as a hobby, and then had a ‘now or never’ moment when I turned forty. I plucked up the courage to start sending my writing out and entering competitions. I was a runner up in a competition organised by Woman magazine and Accent Press, and Accent published my first three books.
I didn’t ever dare call myself a writer during those early years. It wasn’t until I was shortlisted for the New Talent Award at the Festival of Romance and met other writers for the first time that I realised I was one of them. I had found my tribe!
Anne: Well done for going for it. Your courage in taking the leap certainly paid off.
What genre do you write in and why does that hold a particular appeal for you?
I write romantic fiction. It’s been my favourite genre ever since I read Pride and Prejudice as my GCSE set text and was swept up in the story in a way I’d never been before. It’s the genre where I can relate to the characters and situations and see parts of my own life reflected on the pages, and that adds extra appeal to the books. I also have more emotional connection to romantic fiction novels than any other, because I love a happy ending and I find it comforting to be able to pick up a book knowing that’s exactly what I’ll get.
I never actively thought about what sort of books to write. It was always going to be romance.
Anne: Yes, I like ‘the deal’ between romantic fiction authors and readers – as a reader you know you won’t be left hanging and that you’ll get a story you can relate to along the way.
How many books have you written? Tell us a bit about them.
Four books have been published so far, with the fifth due out in February 2020.
The Magic of Ramblings was the first to be published. It’s about a desperate woman who runs away from her life and takes a job as a companion to an old lady who lives at Ramblings, a country house in Lancashire. It’s a story of friendship, of community spirit, and of starting again when all seems lost.
I went back to Ramblings in another book, The Winter That Made Us, as I couldn’t resist revisiting some favourite characters! It’s a standalone story about an unlikely couple who connect through music and the restoration of the Ramblings walled garden.
The Truth About You, Me and Us is also set in Lancashire. It’s about a community of craft people and tells the story of Helen, who made a controversial decision a few years ago and who faces a challenge when her past catches up with her.
My most recent book is The Man I Fell in Love With, and there’s more about that one below.
Anne: And all of them are such good stories.
Tell us about a typical writing day?
I don’t have a typical writing day. I have a day job, so writing has to fit around that and family life. This means that I pick up my writing whenever I have chance, and write for as long as I can, without having a set plan for how many words I need to write. Some days even one paragraph is a good outcome!
Anne: Yes, I can see why you need to be flexible as regards your writing word count expectations. But every paragraph counts.
Do you plot your novels in some detail before you actually start writing?
I don’t plot in detail. My sensible side tells me that I should and that it would save a lot of time, especially on those days when I reach the end of a scene and have no idea what is going to happen next. But when I try to plot ahead, it doesn’t seem to work for me. I need to write into the story and to get to know the characters and what they might do as I go along.
Having said that, I do fill out character questionnaires before I start, and spend some time thinking about the opening scene and a few other scenes or wisps of conversation that could happen along the way.
Anne: So a bit of planning but an open mind too.
What comes first for you characters or plot?
You can probably guess from my answer to the last question that characters come first! I think that’s partly because I write romantic stories, and it’s essential that readers can relate to the characters and want to follow their journey over several hundred pages, even when they know that the book will finish with a happy ending. I also enjoy reading character-driven stories so it’s inevitable that I’m drawn to writing them too.
Anne: That makes perfect sense for the sort of stories you write. The characters are indeed memorable and it’s a pleasure to go with them through their story.
Where do you get your ideas?
The simple answer to this is that they come at any time and from anywhere! The Magic of Ramblings was inspired by my love of Georgette Heyer books, and in particular those stories where an unassuming companion wins the heart of a dashing hero! The Winter That Made Us was inspired by an advert I saw on television featuring floating Chinese lanterns. I thought of a scene where I could use floating lanterns and the whole book was built around it. It’s still one of my favourite parts of the book. Other stories have been inspired by magazine articles, items in the news or – in the case of The Man I Fell in Love With – a piece of gossip at work!
Anne: That’s the magic of writing ( and Ramblings), isn’t it? Ideas come from all sorts of places and situations.
Have you got a favourite character out of the all the ones you’ve created? Tell us about them if you have – or is it too hard to pick just one?
It’s very hard to pick one, as I have favourites for different reasons. The book that’s coming out in February, A Dozen Second Chances, features a character called Phyllis, who is the heroine’s grandmother, and I loved writing her scenes. She’s funny and wise and thinks she can get away with saying and doing anything she likes because of her grand old age!
It’s tough to choose between my male leads, as I love them all, but I have a soft spot for Noah Thornton from The Winter That Made Us. He starts off as a prickly bear of a man, who rarely smiles or speaks after facing a tragic event in his past, and I loved watching him thaw as the story develops.
Anne: Ah, Noah. I’m still in love with him …
Can you share some of the feedback/reviews you’ve had from your readers and/or any awards your books have received?
The Magic of Ramblings won the Romantic Novelists’ Association Joan Hessayon Award for new writers, which was a complete surprise and a huge honour!
I’m grateful to anyone who takes a time to leave a review. Here are a few:
‘This was the first time that I’ve been so engrossed in a book, that I’ve forgotten where I was. It is totally consuming and the writing is enchanting and natural. Exceptional depth to the characters and a beautiful story. Loved loved loved it. Not my usual type of book but it was my favourite read of the year by a mile.’ Amazon review, The Magic of Ramblings
‘I thought this story was utterly delightful and a perfect example of truly romantic women’s fiction.’ Linda’s Book Bag, The Truth About You, Me and Us
‘The whole book is beautifully written, with real warmth, a strong sense of place and of the people who live there. I found it quite captivating, heart-warming and so uplifting – one of those rare and lovely reads that you put down at the end with a smile, and just want to say out loud “I really enjoyed that”.’ Being Anne, The Winter That Made Us
‘Kate Field has made me believe in love again, not the teenage meet-cute kind of love, but the real, enduring, self-sacrificing love. The love that really, as adults, we all hope is truly real.’ The Glass House Girls Online Magazine, The Man I Fell in Love With
There is an extract from your novel The Man I Fell in Love With below. Tell us a bit more about this particular book and why you chose it for the extract.
This is my most recently published book, and for a long time this was my secret writing project. I loved the characters so much, especially Mary Black, that I was too scared to submit it as I knew that rejection would hurt! Mary has proved a more controversial figure than I expected. She supports her husband when he reveals that he is gay, and her reaction has divided opinion, with some readers seeing her as weak and others acknowledging her strength. I think she’s wonderful!
This is the blurb from Amazon:
Sometimes we find happiness where we least expect it…
After twenty years of contented marriage, no one is more surprised than Mary Black when her husband announces he’s leaving her… for another man.
For the sake of the children, Mary has no choice but to pick herself up and start again. She hosts family meals that include Leo and his new partner. She copes with the kids wanting to spend less time with her and more time with their ‘fun’ dads. But one thing she can’t quite ignore is Leo’s gorgeous brother, who has just come back to town…
After living a life of sliding doors and missed opportunities, can Mary finally put herself first and take a chance that could change everything?
A wonderfully uplifting novel full of wisdom, spirit and charm. This is a love story with a difference, perfect for fans of Jill Mansell and Heidi Swain
In this extract, Mary has invited Leo and his new partner to the family home for Christmas, and Leo’s brother Ethan challenges her over her behaviour:
After dinner, Ava pulled out the box of Trivial Pursuit for the traditional game of everyone trying to beat Leo. I ducked out this year, letting Clark take my place, and went to tidy the kitchen, finding simple pleasure in restoring order in the one area I could. Noise and laughter floated down the hall.
‘What are you doing?’
Ethan followed me into the kitchen and pushed the door shut.
‘I don’t mean in here.’I knew exactly what he meant, knew what he was going to say, and it was one of the reasons why I had spent the whole of Christmas Eve out shopping, so that there was no danger of this conversation taking place. I grabbed a pile of cutlery, and fed it into the dishwasher with as much rattling as I could manage.
Ethan touched my arm.
‘Mary.’ I ignored him. He grabbed the cutlery from me, threw it in the basket and slammed the dishwasher door closed. ‘What’s the matter with you?’
‘With me?’ That riled me. How was any of this my fault? ‘Nothing.’
‘That’s my point. Leo’s about to leave you, and you look about as bothered as if you’d run out of milk.’
‘Of course I’m bothered! I don’t want him to go. Would you prefer it if I stayed in bed and cried into my pillow? Or if I shouted abuse at him and cut up all his suits? Do you think that would help Jonas and Ava?’
‘It might help you. It might show Leo that you do actually care, and that he has something to stay for.’
‘Me being me isn’t enough to make him stay, is that what you’re saying? That I’ve driven him away? Thanks for that vote of confidence.’
‘That’s not what I meant . . .’
‘And what makes you qualified to give me advice on relationships, with your two failed marriages and string of ex-girlfriends?’
Perhaps I had gone a bit far with that one – his second wife had been unfaithful, according to Audrey – but what right did he have to stand in my kitchen, berating my indifference? I knew some people would find my reaction odd, but I thought Ethan knew me better.
‘I know exactly what you’re doing. You block out things that are difficult, pretend they’re not happening. It’s what you’ve always done.’
‘That’s not true!’
‘What is it then? Some grand sacrifice for Leo? You love him, but you’re letting him go? Listen to me, Mary. It’s not heroic or noble to do that. It’s the wrong choice. If you want something enough you should carry on fighting for it, even if you get knocked down a thousand times, and no matter the collateral damage. Don’t condemn yourself to a life of loneliness and regret.’
He gazed at me then, and it was as if he’d ripped open that confident jacket, and shown me someone entirely different underneath. I didn’t know what to say, and was spared having to say anything when Leo walked in. He looked from Ethan to me, and back to Ethan.
‘What are you saying to her?’ I had never heard Leo’s tone so sharp.
‘The truth.’ Leo’s head jerked back as if Ethan had struck him on the chin. ‘I told Mary that she needs to fight to keep you.’
‘Do you have a problem with Leo being gay?’ I asked. There had always been tension between these two, but this level of animosity was new.
‘Not in the slightest. I only have a problem with him deciding he’s gay now, years after marrying you.’
‘I haven’t made the decision. I met Clark, and I can’t ignore what I feel for him.’ Leo stared at Ethan. ‘You can’t help who you fall in love with. You should understand that.’
And Ethan, whom I had never before seen lost for words, simply shook his head at Leo and walked out.
If you want to read more you can buy the book at the link below:
This was such a good book. It was one of those books where you’re desperate to get to the end but at the same time you don’t want it to finish because you’re enjoying it so much.
I’d already read and enjoyed The Magic of Ramblings by the same author and it was good to be back in the same setting and to be able to have a bit of a catch up with some of the characters from that earlier book.
But I’d say this return to Ramblings was even better than my first visit. I loved the main characters Noah and Tess. The author drew them so beautifully and made them so likeable despite their flaws. Their back stories were fed in gradually, and their continuing stories – with the setbacks they had to face and the testing of their vulnerabilities they had to cope with – made for a truly beguiling novel.
This was one of my top three reads of 2018 so far. And I’d love it if the Kate Field were to write more of Tess and Noah’s story…
From the Back Cover:
When Tess finds herself unexpectedly alone and back in Ribblemill, the childhood village she thought she’d escaped, she’s sure she can survive a temporary stay. She’s spent a lifetime making the best of things, hasn’t she?
Determined to throw herself into village life, Tess starts a choir and gathers a team of volunteers to restore the walled garden at Ramblings, the local stately home. Everything could be perfect, if she weren’t sharing a cottage and a cat with a man whose manner is more prickly than the nettles she’s removing…
As winter approaches, Tess finds herself putting down her own roots as fast as she’s pulling them up in the garden. But the ghosts of the past hover close by, and Tess must face them if she’s to discover whether home is where her heart has been all along.
The Winter That Made Us is published by Accent Press and is available as an ebook and as paperback here.