I am delighted to be joined today by historical fiction author, Catherine Hokin, as she chats about funny Northerners, a coffee addiction, and her novel Blood and Roses, available in paperback and eBook from Amazon UK and Amazon US.
The Fun Stuff:
What part of the world do you come from?
Keswick in the Lake District although my family were all scousers from Liverpool – I was always cursing them for leaving as I am a total urbanite! I now live in Glasgow and love it.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
A fashion designer, a ballerina and lots of things I was way too short and uncoordinated for.
List three words to describe yourself.
Gobby. Northern. Funny (and I’ll get gobby and Northern if you don’t agree to the last one). We totally agree, Catherine 🙂
Who would play you in a film about your life?
Helena Bonham-Carter on the grounds that I’ve been dressing like her for years, on an ebay budget. I’m hoping she’d get Vivienne Westwood as the costume designer then give me the clothes.
What’s your favourite snack food when writing?
Coffee, followed by coffee and more coffee. There are only snacks in the house when the kids are home and then I have to wrestle for them.
If you had a super power, what would it be?
Time travelling – it would make research way quicker.
Where is one place you’d like to visit that you haven’t been before?
New York – I’m married to a Chicago boy so have done some great trips to the States but not managed to get to New York yet. And everywhere in Game of Thrones.
The Sensible Side:
Tell us a little about yourself. (How did you get started writing? What do you do when you’re not writing?)
I love history – I studied it at university – and I love stories, I’ve devoured books since I was a child. Having dabbled at writing on and off in between work and kids, I started researching my first novel about 4 years ago and also writing short stories and my blog. They all have the same theme which is strong, challenging women. When I’m not writing I listen to a lot of music (indie), watch a lot of films and travel – our youngest is currently living in Berlin so that’s a bit of a favourite destination!
Where did the inspiration to write Blood and Roses come from?
I’ve always been interested in women whose voices have been silenced/misheard – Margaret of Anjou, the protagonist in the novel, is a great example of what happens when history is written by the victors. Most people know her from Shakespeare’s demonised version, there was so much more to her than that.
What do you like the most about writing historical fiction?
Finding the ‘golden nuggets’ – the questions that lurk under the facts that you can then weave into a story. We often know what someone did, we frequently don’t know why – that’s when I get to play detective.
Can you give us a brief excerpt? This is the opening…
Chateau du Dampierre, France: 1481
The fog when it comes falls across the land like a shroud: thick and grey and cold. It settles on the skin like the fading breath of a dying dragon, a tainted folk-memory. It seeps through the chinks of the chateau walls, through her bones and taunts her with the promise of death coming too close until she paces and shakes with…with what? With fury? With fear? With an old woman’s fancies?
Is that why I write? If I wield the pen like a sword, can I make the past hold the future at bay?
It’s a question she asks herself often enough, too often aloud nowadays. The few servants she has left think she has become quite mad in her obsession; they think she has too much concern for herself, too much conceit. She knows that some of them, the few who can turn her scratchings into words, have picked up the scattered pages and mocked their self-importance. So now she locks her papers away each night to be found only after her death when others’ amusement will be no concern of hers.
She suffocates under it. Every day the fog falls around the castle and wipes away the world. What if all her words are silenced? What if her story dies with her? What if the name Margaret of Anjou has no more substance to it than the grey mist that veils the windows? There are days when only her pride saves her: she is not ready for silence, she is not ready to disappear. There are days when she refuses to believe the evidence of her own eyes.
Which is more important to you – plot or characters, and why?
I can’t separate them out. I write about real people so, in a sense, a lot of the plot is already in place – their actions and the timeline. What is fascinating is why they acted in the way they did. To me characters and characteristics shape the plot.
What’s your favourite genre to read?
I love historical fiction although I avoid anything medieval when I’m writing as I don’t want to hear anyone else’s voice so I tend to read books set in the Victorian period or early twentieth century. I also love magical realism and am a huge Angela Carter fan.
What is the best thing about being a writer?
People reading what I write! I just had a wonderful session with a book group who had read Blood and Roses and had loads of questions. And people liking what I write helps a lot.
How much research did you need to do before writing Blood and Roses?
Eighteen months of reading every primary and secondary source I could lay my hands on and then ongoing research as I wrote. It’s a massive part of historical fiction and you have to get the facts and the balance with the story-telling right. I get really side-tracked though…
What can we expect from you in the future?
I have just completed my second manuscript as part of the Scottish Book Trust Author Mentoring Programme and it is about to go off to a couple of interested agents. It is also medieval historical fiction and tells the story of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, partly through the eyes of Swynford’s brother-in-law Chaucer.
How can we contact you or find out more about your books?
Blood and Roses is available from Amazon in paperback and Kindle plus a number of other outlets, full details at my website: https://www.catherinehokin.com/
You can find my blog Heroine Chic at http://catherinehokin.blogspot.co.uk/