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Kate Long Interview

Posted on 07 August 2006. © Copyright 2004-2018 WriteWords
A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
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WriteWords talks to novelist and now, ww site expert, Kate Long

Tell us something about your background.

Since 2004 Iíve had three novels published: The Bad Motherís Handbook, Swallowing Grandma and Queen Mum. My short stories and articles have appeared in the Telegraph, Womanís Own, Woman & Home, The Sunday Express magazine and The Sunday Night Book Club anthology. Iíve also had earlier pieces in the Real Writers and the Bridport anthologies. At the moment Iím working on my fifth novel.



How did you start writing?

In the early 90s I was sent on a course for teachers of English where we had to read out our own creative writing for feedback. Iíd never done anything like that Ė I was an avid reader, but I hadnít written creatively since I was a schoolgirl. I came back home all enthused and began work straight away on a novella.



Who are your favourite writers and why?

I think Iím influenced to some degree by every piece of fiction I read, and I read widely Ė if I turn and look at my bookshelf I can see that Startled by his Furry Shorts sits on top of Beloved, and Jonathan Safran Foer nestles against Erica James. So while I admire writers who use plain, muscular prose like Nick Hornby and Tony Parsons, I also love authors who use language more experimentally Ė Jeanette Winterson, Kate Atkinson, Liz Jensen, for example. All-time favourite contemporary author is probably Alan Garner, for the tightness of his writing and his sense of place.

How did you get your first agent/ commission/publication?

In 1996 I submitted a short story to a literary magazine called Madam X and the editor, David Rees, said the piece had provoked some interest from a mainstream publisher. He advised me to write a full length novel for adults and said heíd help me place it. It was wonderful to meet someone so early on who believed in my writing. David couldnít get that first novel accepted, but he got an offer for my second, The Bad Motherís Handbook. His friend, agent Peter Straus, was invited in to help us get the best deal Ė I think David and I were both taken aback by the sudden interest from publishers - and so for that book I had two agents!



What's the worst thing about writing?

Iíve found the business of self-promotion hard. I was always taught as a child not to push myself forward, and really you have to if youíre going to publicise a book.

And the best?

The mum half of me would say itís being at home for the children (I have two little boys) and having space and time for the family as well as for myself. But the writer side says itís the emails you get from fans that totally make your week and remind you what youíre working towards.

Tell us what kind of responses you get from audiences\ readers.

Because TBMH contained heroines from three different generations Iíve had comments from a whole range of readers. Teenagers get in touch, as well as middle-aged mums and grandmothers, all picking out different sections of the novel they identify with. Thatís obviously a real boost for me as a writer. Iím also moved when someone says, ĎI called my mum up after reading your bookí, or ĎThis book got me through a bad time in hospital,í sort of thing. When you get responses like that it tells you youíre on the right track.

What was your breakthrough moment?

Thereíve been Ďmomentsí all along the way Ė the first short story competition I won in 1994; meeting David Rees; the initial offer from Hodder; signing with Peter Strausís agency Rogers, Coleridge & White; speaking to Ursula Doyle at Picador and knowing this was an editor Iíd like to work with.



A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
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Comments by other Members



Nik Perring at 12:19 on 07 August 2006  Report this post
Great interview, Kate. Thanks for sharing.

All the best,

Nik.

Elbowsnitch at 13:08 on 07 August 2006  Report this post
It's brilliant that Kate has joined WriteWords. She knows loads about adverbs!

:)

Frances

Account Closed at 13:30 on 07 August 2006  Report this post
Thanks for sharing that, Kate, really interesting.
I'd be even more interested to know how you churn novels out at such a rate - 3 published since 2004?!

Best,

Casey

Okkervil at 16:29 on 07 August 2006  Report this post
& Alan Garner totally deserves that nod! I think I re-read Elidor or the Owl Service each time I notice they're still sitting on my shelves.

Lammi at 17:41 on 07 August 2006  Report this post
Thanks for reading!

Casey, I think it's down to basic insecurity.

EmmaD at 19:02 on 07 August 2006  Report this post
Write for joy, primarily, then whether or not you get published youíll have spent hours doing something you love. If youíre strapped for time, just aim to do a little each day because it soon builds up. Try to form early on a sense of critical self-reliance, then youíre better equipped to sort out effective feedback from the misleading or the plain wrong: the surest way of doing this is to read as much good fiction as you can lay your hands on.


I think that's the best summary of good advice to aspiring writers I've come across in a long time. Kate, I hope you don't mind if I borrow it (with acknowledgment, of course ;)) for all the times when I get asked the same thing!

Emma

MarkT at 20:39 on 07 August 2006  Report this post
thanks Kate, enjoyed the interview.

Mark

Joanna at 22:15 on 07 August 2006  Report this post
A most inspiring interview (especially also being a teacher, and having three, now, under four!). Just shows it can be done...

Luisa at 22:25 on 07 August 2006  Report this post
Great interview. I really enjoyed reading it. Thank you!

Luisa

Dee at 06:26 on 08 August 2006  Report this post
Yes, good one, especially that para Emma highlighted. Very sound advice.

Dee

Lammi at 09:07 on 08 August 2006  Report this post
Cheers.

I'm really enjoying the forum, too.

Joanna at 10:14 on 08 August 2006  Report this post
I love Alan Garner too. He was on a programme the other night about Alderley Edge, and absolutely no mention was made of his writing (apart from introducing him as "Alan Garner, Author") or the way he uses Alderley Edge as settings in Weirdstone and Moon of Gomrath. I was really disappointed, especially since that was the whole reason I watched the programme!

Lammi at 10:27 on 08 August 2006  Report this post
Apparently he did a talk at Chester library a few months ago - I'm really kicking myself that I missed it because I'd love to meet him.

'Red Shift' is my favourite - must have read the book thirty or forty times - but I also love 'The Owl Service.' 'Thursbitch' is excellent, too, though I need to go back and re-read it because it's so densely-writtn I suspect I missed a lot. They're not easy books, but they're incredibly powerful.

Anyone been to Mow Cop? Amazing place.

Andi-icecream at 19:16 on 08 August 2006  Report this post
I read The Bad Mothers Handbook when I was in hospital after giving birth to my first (and so far only) baby - it was a great read and really helped me get through those lonely hours with a newborn constantly attached to my boob (sorry to gross anyone out there..)

So, in a way, you were part of the single most important and amazing thing I have ever done - thank you! :)

Andie

Joanna at 22:42 on 08 August 2006  Report this post
Not sure about Mow Cop. I've been up to the Edge and seen the "svart holes" and everything. A long time ago now, but it was amazing just being there, and I'd love to go back.

Joanna

rogernmorris at 06:38 on 09 August 2006  Report this post
Great interview. Really enjoyed it. I read Thursbitch recently and thought it was amazing. Fantastic writing. AG was my favourite writer as a kid, so it was interesting to discover he'd written adult books. I'll have to check out Red Shift.

Lammi at 09:29 on 09 August 2006  Report this post
Aw, Andie!

There are some places which have a sort of power about them and Garner always manages to encapsulate that kind of throbbing, humming landscape. I love, too, the way he uses dialect.

Prospero at 10:27 on 14 August 2006  Report this post
Great stuff Kate, I have always wanted to find somone who knew about adverbs. Perhaps you can do a Master Class for the great unwashed.

Best

Prospero

Lammi at 12:11 on 21 August 2006  Report this post
Ha ha! I'm always happy to have a bash at explaining grammar, Prospero. Professor David Crystal is my pin-up.

Steerpike`s sister at 18:09 on 21 August 2006  Report this post
Alan Garner is wonderful. Not a high-profile author, but a hell of a lot better than some who get more publicity. The Owl Service - amazing. Thanks for the interview, Kate! :)

old friend at 07:13 on 22 August 2006  Report this post
Kate,

All success! I hope your association with WW is long and fruitful for I am sure that your contributions will be among the most useful and helpful to all Members.

Len

sazenfrog at 13:03 on 01 December 2007  Report this post
Kate, I've just realised who you are, and there am I sitting not three feet from TBMH where it's lying upside-down having been read within recent history for the second time. Your name is, of course, splashed all over it and I hadn't made the connection. I'm so dense sometimes....!

This second time I was most affected by the aging parent/daughter relationship. My parents are aging and my father has dementia. The mortality of our parents is always a tricky one to face and even more so when they disintegrate before our eyes. Your book brought home how we can come to terms with our changing parents through the realisation that we love them as they are while remembering them as they were.

Anyway, great interview. The advice about why to write hits the nail right bang on my head because that is exactly why I write. It's an absolute joy! I go into total 'Flow' mode (as per Csikszentmihalyi's optimal experience).


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