Katharine Orton – Q&A

Katharine Orton

Katharine Orton

After gaining an English degree and an MA in creative writing, Katharine Orton worked for Barefoot Books in Bath before leaving to focus on her writing and her young family. She signed with her agent after taking part in the brilliant WoMentoring Scheme. Nevertell was Katharine’s first novel. She currently lives in Bristol.

Katharine can be found at:
Twitter: @KatharineOrton
Instagram: @katharineortonwrites
Website: www.katharineorton.com

Tell me what inspired you to write your most recent novel?

Mountainfell grew out of a big old mix of things. My grandparents were mountaineers, so mountains themselves have always fascinated me. On top of that I’m a massive nature lover, and I’m so interested in the relationship between us humans and the world around us – how we can mistreat it, even fear it, and how we (weirdly, I think!) see it as something separate from ourselves. I also wanted to write about feeling a bit different, or a bit out of place, and that journey of self-discovery that so many of us (if not all) end up going on at some point in our lives. All these different threads wove together to form Mountainfell.

What came first the characters or the world?

With some book ideas the characters come first, and in others it’s the world, but with Mountainfell, it was the mountain! Everything else – both the world and the characters – evolved around it and, in a way, grew out of it. The more I learned about the mountain, the more it influenced how Erskin – the main character – developed, and vice versa. So they were always kind of linked from the start.

How hard was it to get your first (debut) book published?

Nevertell was my first published book, and it was also the one that got me my agent too. Writing it and getting it into shape took me a really long time (a solid couple of years, if not more). I’d also written other things before Nevertell that sadly just didn’t get anywhere. These now sit forever in the hypothetical cupboard drawer (i.e. files on my laptop). That said, I was actually very lucky with my debut book, because it picked up attention from several publishers very quickly after being sent out!

Do you have a writing playlist? If so do you want to share it?

Sadly I can’t listen to music when I write, because it’s just too distracting. If I were to pick a song to partner up with Mountainfell, however, I’d probably choose Mountain of Bone by Clutch, as the lyrics line up nicely.

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

Oh, definitely. I’d absolutely love to give writing sci fi a go… !

What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?

I’ve had lots of jobs, from being a copywriter where I did strange things like naming cheese, to working with traditional stained and fused glass (something which helped inspire another of my books: Glassheart).

Which author(s) inspire you?

I’m a huge fan of (and therefore massively inspired by) Max Porter, Madeleine Miller and Alan Moore.

Which genres do you read yourself?

I love to read anything and everything! From children’s books to sci fi and fantasy to what sometimes gets called ‘literary’ fiction, and everything in between. Basically, if it’s book shaped, I’ll give it a go.

What is your biggest motivator?

The promise of cake.

What will always distract you?

The promise of cake.

What were your favourite childhood books?

I was very much into the Narnia books as a child, which I would listen to repeatedly on audio. (And when I say audio, what I actually mean is my tape player, which I know makes me sound really old). My favourite childhood book of all time is one that my Nan gave me, called The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll. It has everything: epic adventure, humour, thrills, tragedy, and a talking beaver. I still love it to this day.

Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?

Storysmith in Bristol. It’s my local, and it rules!

How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?

Enough that, if I were to stack them into an actual pile, I would fear being crushed beneath it.

What is your current or latest read?

At the moment I’m reading The Legend of Podkin One-Ear by Kieran Larwood, I’m getting stuck into The Expanse books after loving the TV series, and I’ve just finished (and LOVED) the audiobook of Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. I’ve just started the audiobook of The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd on the tail of that, and NEXT I’m looking forward to beginning Do You Dream of Terra-Two by Temi Oh and Our Share of Night by Mariana Enriquez. (Once upon a time I was really good at reading just one book at a time. That seems to have fallen apart slightly).

Any books that you’re looking forward to in the next 12 months?

I can’t wait for Max Porter’s new book, Shy. Lanny and Grief Is The Thing With Feathers are two of my absolute all-time favourites.

and finally, what inspired you to write the genre you do?

I love writing children’s books, particularly middle grade, because I think 12 is about the age where my interest in reading books actually started to take off. Before then I hadn’t been that bothered, and would probably have been classed as a ‘reluctant reader’. I just didn’t see the point in reading, because I had an imagination full of my own stuff all going on that I didn’t want interrupted. Then I learned that reading isn’t the process of a book imposing something on you from above. It’s more collaborative than that, and you, the reader, are a vital part in creating (imagining) the world of the book. And after that, there was no stopping me.


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Peter Bennett – Q&A

Peter Bennett

Peter Bennett

Writer. Novel — Liberties, available now: https://rymour.co.uk/liberties.html & the usual places. Extracts in New Writing Scotland 40 & other publications.

Peter can be found at:
Twitter: @peter_bennett
Linktree: https://linktr.ee/peter_bennett

Tell me what inspired you to write your (debut) novel?

I wanted to tell a story set in the East-End of Glasgow, where I grew up, with working class voices – the type of which are seldom seen in literature (with a few notable exceptions, of course).

What came first the characters or the world?

I want to say the characters, although given I’d decided it would be set in the Shettleston district of Glasgow – both, I suppose. In terms of the overall narrative arc though, it was very much character driven initially. I had to understand who the characters were and what their situation was before I could explore further their journey. It was very much an organic process, in that respect.

How hard was it to get your first (debut) book published?

It wasn’t as difficult as I’d feared it would be. I’d been lucky enough to have some extracts published in a few places so I think that may have helped slightly, if not from the publisher’s point of view, then mine. It gave me the belief to send it out into the world.

How long did it take to write?

A couple of the early chapters had existed, at least in an earlier form, for quite a bit. I’m sure I was twenty-nine or thirty when I wrote them. They’d languished on a flash drive for the intervening ten years. There was more but I wasn’t happy with it and had written the story into something of a cul-de-sac. With the arrival of the Covid pandemic and associated lockdowns, I dusted it off, keeping the aforementioned two chapters, introduced some more characters and wrote what is now, Liberties in around a year.

Do you have a writing playlist? If so, do you want to share it?

I tend not to listen to music when I’m writing. I get too invested in it (the music, that is).

How many publishers turned you down?

Again, I consider myself quite lucky in that respect. I think two, maybe three publishers rejected it, with it still being on submission with another three before Rymour took it on and I withdrew the submissions. I only sent it to independent publishers. Given I don’t have an agent and it’s predominately written in contemporary Glaswegian Scots, I didn’t see the point trying with the big publishing houses. It’s a closed shop.

What kind of reactions have you had to your book?

The reactions I’ve had so far have been encouraging, with some writer friends saying nice things. Still, it’s early days (ha ha).

What’s the favourite reaction you’ve had to your book?

I couldn’t single any one reaction out. As I said, they’ve all been very encouraging.

What can you tell us about your next book?

I’m currently writing short stories with a view to putting a collection together. I’m not averse to writing a novella either and I think I may have an idea that would work well in that shorter form.

Do you take notice of online reviews?

I think everyone likes validation of their work and a review, I’d suggest, is that. Be it good or bad, it tells you that people are engaging with it, at least.

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

My preference as both a reader and writer, is literary fiction and I’d prefer to continue in that vein, but you never know.

What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?

I’m a Health and Safety Advisor.

Which author(s) inspire you?

Fairly Alba-centric in that regard. I’ve been a massive Iain Banks fan since I read The Wasp Factory in the nineties. Also, James Kelman and Irvine Welsh for being champions and propagators of writing in Scottish working-class demotic.

I like a lot of the American greats too, guys like Steinbeck, Fitzgerald and Hemingway.

Which genres do you read yourself?

I tend to gravitate towards literary fiction for no other reason than relatability to real life: what drives us, what elicits emotion – the human condition.

What is your biggest motivator?

To hopefully contribute in my own small way to the answer to the previous question.

What will always distract you?

Music.

How much (if any) say do you have in your book covers?

Ian Spring of Rymour Books, my publisher, designed the cover and after some very brief discussions came up with it, which I’m happy with.

Were you a big reader as a child?

I wouldn’t say prolifically so, but I read my fair share.

What were your favourite childhood books?

Roald Dahl was the governor as far as I was concerned.

Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?

The Gallery Bookshop in Glasgow kindly hosted the launch for the book, so they’re top of the tree currently.

What books can you not resist buying?

I prefer my books to be character driven as opposed to rollercoaster plots.

Do you have any rituals when writing?

None really, other than leaving my mobile phone in another location, out of reach.

How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?

The amount correlates directly to how many bookshops I’ve been in recently. Put it this way, it’s never depleted to under half a dozen.

What is your current or latest read?

I’m reading Janice Galloway’s The Trick is to Keep Breathing at the moment.

Any books that you’re looking forward to in the next 12 months?

My finger isn’t on the pulse as much as it probably should be in that respect, I’m afraid. My Twitter buddy, Drew Gummerson’s, Kuper’s Tube (Bearded Badger Publishing) is due out in November and I’ll be buying that.

Any plans or projects in the near future you can tell us about?

None, other than to continue writing and see what manifests itself next.

Any events in the near future?

Nothing in the diary right now but, ‘have novel, will travel’.

and finally, what inspired you to write the genre you do?

To give a voice to the kind of characters that are grossly marginalised in literature.

Liberties is published by Rymour Books https://www.rymour.co.uk/liberties.html

Kate on the Case: The Headline Hoax

Hannah Peck. Templar Publishing. (192p) ISBN: 9781800781658

Kate on the Case: The Headline Hoax

Kate on the Case: The Headline Hoax

This is the third instalment of a wonderful chapter book series from Hannah Peck featuring our two favourite intrepid reporters, Kate and Rupert.

This time sees them investigating the mysterious goings on at The Lookout Post, where her ONE TRUE IDOL, Catherine Rodriguez grabs all her scoops.

The newspaper is being sabotaged and the owner ask Kate to come in and find out what is happening and who is doing it.

As usual we follow Kate and Rupert (ably ignored by Dad once more who is learning about welding somewhere in the bowels of the building) through lots of twists and turns whilst following some red herrings and bananas.

Fun and full of wonderful illustrations Hannah brings us another beautifully written and drawn story where she examines friendship, jealousy, and understanding, great for everyone to read but firmly aimed at younger readers.

I received this from NetGalley for an honest review.


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Steve Chambers – Q&A

Steve Chambers

Steve Chambers

Steve Chambers is the co-writer of the Radio 4 comedy drama HighLites with Phil Nodding. He’s the author of GLADIO: We can Neither Confirm nor Deny. and his feature film, Hold Back the Night, starring Sheila Hancock (Parallax Pictures, dir. Phil Davis), opened Critics Week and won the Prix du Public de la Ville de Cannes. He was the former programme leader in Creative Writing MA at Northumbria University.

Tell me what inspired you to write your (debut) novel?

The middle section began life as a TV idea about a real event. I’d been working with a journalist and he’d covered the story of a murderous rampage in and around the Yorkshire town of Malton in 1982. He unearthed a number of disturning facts before being warned off by the Special Branch. Apart from anything else, the warning confirmed that story had ‘legs’ and fiction appeared a good way of investigating further. I came up with an outline which was commissioned by Yorkshire/Tyne Tees just before they were taken over by Granada TV who weren’t interested in the idea. A few years later, I was offered some money to work on a novel and I returned to the original story.

What came first the characters or the world?

The world came first because that was the starting point.

How hard was it to get your first (debut) book published?

Well, I worked on it for nine years. First draft for 18 months forllowed by a rejection then after three years another draft and further rejections and then another gap before two mates read it and gave helpful feedback at which point I was going to self-publish using Amazon but then Martin Ellis had a look at it (he attended aradio drama course I gave at the Lit&Phil in Newcastle and asked to have a read). He had lots of suggestions but they were all (most anyway) good ones,

Do you have a writing playlist? If so do you want to share it?

Not sure what you mean but a main character, an external problem and an internal theme/problem. When I’m writing, I tend to rewrite in the morning and write new stuff in the afternoon (a habit I formed as a dramatist. You’re usually on a deadline so it’s helpful to work out where you’d like to be week by week.)

How many publishers turned you down?

Too many. These days, people don’t bother getting back to you.

What kind of reactions have you had to your book?

From readers (i.e. punters), the vast majority are very positive.

What’s the favourite reaction you’ve had to your book?

There’s a couple of reviews on the kindle site which are very positive, detailed, thoughtful and I’ve no idea who the reviewers are.

Gladio

Gladio

What can you tell us about your next book?

It’s about an ordinary person, a woman in her fifties who lives in rural Northumberland and comes across a dishevilled stranger in the church where she changes the flowers twice a week. When people come looking for the stranger and he begs the woman not to give him away, She lies for him and finds herself plunged into a conspiracy about a privatised UK poisons laboratory. The provisional title is ‘The Dark Months’.

Do you take notice of online reviews?

Of course. You can’t ignore feedback.

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

Yes, I’ve written a comic short story about a disgruntled writer and I think that character might be fun to explore.

What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer? Which author(s) inspire you?

It’s a long time since since I did anything else. I wrote scripts for stage, TV and radio and then I taught scriptwriting at a university for 10 years. The authors that inspire me are usually ones that I enjoy. That’s usually conspiracy thrillers so John Le Carre, Helen Dunmore, Mick Heron, Alan Furst, Abir Mukherjee – I loved Raymond Chandler and Phillip Kerr and James Ellroy’s early stuff.

Which genres do you read yourself?

I read the kind of stuff I write – I’m fascinated by the art of storytelling. Occasionally, I’ll read something else – Hilary Mantel for historical fiction or Joanne Harris or Kate Atkinson. I also like reading actual history books – I’ve just finished ‘A History of the Anglo-Saxons’ by Marc Morris. I’m an avid consumer of modern conspiracy exposes – Luke Harding’s book about the murder of Litvinenko – ‘A Very Expensive Poison’ – is detailed and useful.

What is your biggest motivator?

There are lots of drivers – when I was writing dramas, money was a motivator but I think it’s the idea of trying to do something as well as you can and getting to an end point.

What will always distract you?

Just about anything if it’s not going well and nothing if things are on a roll. A writer should be imprisoned in a black box with no distractions at all.

How much (if any) say do you have in your book covers?

Some but not enough.

Were you a big reader as a child?

Yes, I read voraciously as a kid. The usual stuff – Enid Blighton, Richmal Crompton, W.E. Johns and then when I was a teenager, I read all of George Orwell’s stuff.

Do you have a favourite bookshop?

Not really. I like any bookshops – second-hand and new.

What books can you not resist buying?

Ones that appeal to me.

Do you have any rituals when writing?

I like the room I’me working in to be clean and tidy. A writer friend of mine said she needed ‘external calm for the inner turmoil’. That’s it exactly.

How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?

Between 5 and 10.

What is your current or latest read?

‘A Necessary Evil’ by Abir Mukherjee

Any books that you’re looking forward to in the next 12 months?

The ones in my TBR pile that I haven’t read yet.

Any plans or projects in the near future you can tell us about?

I’ve been researching a detective story set in Nottingham in 1950. I grew up in Nottingham and I’d like to investigate the world of my parents and grandparents. 1950 was the start of the future.

What inspired you to write the genre you do?

Not sure – I’ve always been drawn to stories that uncover the truth no matter what the consequences. My Dad died when I was very young and it disfigured my mother’s life and mine and my sister’s when we were growing up. Stories on TV always seemed to have happy endings but ours didn’t and I wonder if that’s where the need to bear witness to awkward truths began.


If you want to help and support this blog you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

You can always email me on contact@bigbeardedbookseller.com with any suggestions.