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.
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.