I recently had the privilege to sit down and talk with the writer Kitty Neale, she is definitely the Queen of the saga. Here’s what you had to say about my many many questions and about her new novel; a sister’s sorrow
I didn’t start writing until I was in my late fifties. Most of my books are set in Battersea, but I have done a few sets in other areas.I’m afraid it’s hard to quantify where I get my ideas from. For my latest book, it was hearing about people who were mudlark’s, scouring the shores of the River Thames for anything of value. It piqued my interest so I added a character who I could see searching the muddy shores, and the story was born. With two books a year to write, it isn’t always easy to take time off, so yes I write every day... No, I haven’t worked as I write. When I did start I think my poor hubby got a bit neglected until I learned to balance my time. I think that having gone through a lot of trauma in my life, my stories do tend to focus on women or children having hard times. I tend to set them in a difficult situation, and then hope to portray them overcoming their problems, resulting in a happy ending. My handwriting is so appalling that I have to use a computer. Before I start my novels, I write a synopsis for my publisher and try to follow it, but many times the story goes off on its own with a character taking on a larger role... I am extremely proud of my daughter, and though it’s nice that she is following in my footsteps, I would be happy with whatever career choice she makes. If she’s happy, I’m happy and that is all that matters
I’m afraid that at 76 years old now, I have very little memory of school or compositions. I do know that English was my favourite subject, but I have slight dyslexia and dyscalculia so becoming a writer was something I never even thought of. I do know that I had a vivid imagination as a child and would make up stories, but I had no idea I could write a book. A small piece of advice had become invaluable. When starting a new book, list all your characters characteristics. Hair and eye colour, height, weight, and their birthdays, along with little habits that make them who they are. It’s amazing how often you will refer to these notes.
Like so many writers that it’s impossible to name them all, except to say that I like a good psychological thriller. Nobody influences me with my writing style. It’s better to find your own style, and voice, one that’s totally yours. I try to start work at 10 am and with a break for lunch I go on until about 4 pm, though if I’m having one of those lovely days where everything is just flowing I sometimes forget to stop to eat. When I wrote my first book, I sent the first three chapters and a synopsis off to five literary agents. I got rejections slips from 4, but one, Judith Murdoch, asked to see the rest of the manuscript. She then went on to secure my first publishing contract. I’ve never had my writing ability questioned, but some editors may suggest changes to your manuscript. If I like their ideas I will use them, if not I nicely reject them.
The first tip, don’t copy anyone else. Find your own style. Second tip. Make your characters real. Give them personality traits, habits, and hint at body shape, such as a rotund tummy, or a large nose, maybe a squinty eye, anything that will make your readers see them without too much description. Nobody is perfect, so give your characters imperfections. A bit of a temper, or someone who is too soft, or giggly. There are so many to choose from. Third tip. Keep a running list of time passing and the seasons so your story moves along. Fourth tip. Don’t over-describe a scene or place. Fifth tip and very important. Dialogue. Use plenty of dialogue as a book that is all narrative can be unexciting. I live in Spain, I have a kindle as it can be hard to find paperbacks here. However, I must admit I prefer a book.
The real me. Oh dear, this is a hard one. I think I am sensitive – I cry at the drop of a hat, even the film Bambi had me in tears. I am a mother, grandmother, and a great grandmother, so yes, I think I’m motherly. I think I’m modest too, however, I have no idea how my fans see me. I like to see a variety of books on the shelves, something for everyone. I can’t imagine going into a bookshop or library and seeing only maybe horror or thrillers. I love it that children are reading again too and it’s nice to see so many children’s books. Oh dear, I’m afraid I find being a writer easy. When I first started to write, I didn’t find it hard and still don’t. I think everyone has a natural talent for something. Take artists. I can’t even draw a matchstick man, so have great admiration for people who can paint. Then their singers. I can’t sing in tune, but love to listen to music and admire those who have beautiful voices. I think these are all-natural talents and I wish I had found mine before I was in my late fifties. Even so, I don’t consider myself a literary writer, I didn’t have the education to achieve that. I call myself a storyteller and it’s lovely to hear that people enjoy my stories.
I can’t think of five facts that nobody knows about me. I’m a bit of an open book, with how I got into writing for all to see on my website along with pictures of me too. I suppose there are my fears. I hate spiders and big beetles. I can’t drive, so when it comes to being a passenger in a car, I hate speed. I’m a bit of a lazy bones and love curling up in front of the telly. My favourites programmes are, Call the Midwife, Strictly Come Dancing, EastEnders, and Luther. I love cats, dogs and other animals, but I’m sorry, I can’t think of anything else.