Kate Long Interview
Posted on 07 August 2006. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
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.
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