Gillian Grant chats with our new author Kate Vann about life, family and her first novel TWENTY-ONE AGAIN!
Gillian: How much of 'Kate' is Kate Vann?
Kate: Writers tend to write what they know, so there is a quite lot of Kate that is me. Kate has had all her confidence knocked out of her by her over-bearing husband who clearly thinks he's better than she. I definitely had that experience with my first husband. He was the kind of guy who would refuse to play trivial pursuits with me because he said 'I wasn't intelligent enough and he would be bored'. So it was easy to write about Kate's loss of confidence and self-worth. I also understood Kate losing her way in life. You do reach an age when you become invisible to people. Your voice doesn't count. Your body is changing and not for the better! You just become part of the furniture. Life is rushing by and you feel you haven't achieved anything and all of a sudden no one wants you anymore. I know that feeling so I could pour all of that into Kate.
On the other hand, Kate is gentle, sweet-natured and incredibly long-suffering. I am none of those things! In my head she also looks like Diana Lane and I definitely don't!
Gillian: Why did you choose London for your setting?
Kate: I lived in London in my 20s and I have always loved it. I live in rural Wales now, but I'm a city girl at heart. I love the noise, the smells -- everything. I sleep like a baby when I can hear taxis and buses going past. A few years ago, I took my youngest son down to London for a couple of days and we did the open-top, double-decker bus tour.
Our guide was passionate about his subject and clearly loved talking about London. That inspired the setting for the story as Kate is a tour guide. I'll always have a connection with London and my middle son now lives there.
Gillian: You have appealing male characters, is it difficult to write from a male's point of view?
Kate: No. I love it. I'm not sure I do it that well, but I do enjoy writing from a male point of view. In fact, I think I prefer it. My husband, Ron, tells me I have a 'man's brain' whatever that means! Anyway, I'm taking it as a compliment. I once wrote a short story for The Weekly News in which my main character was based on Gil Chesterton the food critic in the TV series Frasier? He was a pompous, posh Englishman who was terribly camp. I really enjoyed being him and the editor paid me the nicest compliment saying it was one of the best stories she'd read in a long time. It kind of shocked me that I could write so well as a middle-aged, posh gay man!
Gillian: Are you a slave to fashion like some of your characters?
Kate: Hahaha. No, not anymore. When I was younger, I was really into fashion, but I've lived in the countryside for too long now. My life is jeans and tops. Given the chance I'd live in my PJs! Oh, I sound such a slob. However, Jon will tell you I do love shoes. I've been known to buy shoes and never wear them, just look at them - - adoringly.
If I were a young girl I'd be into Japanese fashion. I love Japanese street fashion. Kawaii, Sweet Lolita, etc. Obviously, that's out of the question at my age so I have transferred my love of it to one of my characters, Shobna.
Gillian: Are we going to see Kate in a future book?
Kate: I gave Kate the happiest ending. I gave her everything she wanted. Her story has been told, but yes, I would love her back. I would also like her friends back, too. I think now, together, they could have a very different adventure.
Gillian: Do you have something else up your sleeve?
Kate: Yes, I do. Lurking in the dusty recesses of my computer is another novel. A very different story. It's quite dark but it's a story I want to tell.
Gillian: As a working mother, when do you have time to write?
Kate: I don't. Every day I make a list and on the bottom it says 'write'. Usually, by the time I've reached the end of that list, I'm too exhausted to do it.
My boys are all grown up now, but I still have one at home. Most people my age are retired and living a leisurely life, I'm still working at about 3 different jobs. I mostly write in my head. I write almost constantly in my head. Sometimes I leave the house to walk to town and can't recollect one second of the journey because I've been busily writing in my head the whole way. I can't even remember crossing the road. Then when I get a moment I get it in the computer.
Gillian: What do you do when you first wake up in the morning?
Kate: The first thing I do is thank God for the fact I've woken up to a new day. Then I take the dog in the garden and get to the coffee pot as fast as possible. I'm not human until I've had that cup of coffee!!! After that I check my phone.
Gillian: Computer, laptop, back of napkins?
Kate: Computer and back of napkins, receipts, bills, anything...
I love my computer. It doesn't always love me and lets me down, but I wouldn't be able to write if I had to do it long hand or on an old typewriter. I know some writers prefer that, but I'm constantly changing things when I write so the computer is best for me. But as I go about my day I'm often scribbling down notes on anything that comes to hand.
Gillian: What authors do you read?
Kate: My heroes are: Jon Breakfield, Elmore Leonard and Wilkie Collins.
Gillian: What is your favourite genre?
Kate: I don't really have one..,I enjoy reading all different things. But I do quite like detective and suspense novels. I like Wilkie Collins because his novels are full of suspense but at the same time are concerned with the plight of women and social & domestic issues of his day.
Gillian: Do you find the writing process painful? If so, what tricks do you use to get it going?
Kate: To write it down physically, yes, I do find that painful because I'm never, ever happy with how it's coming out and time is always an issue. To write in my head comes easy. I would love to just dictate it to a secretary! I'm sure it would be easier. However, when sitting at my computer I find a large G&T often helps! My son also makes me endless playlists so I listen to music a lot. My story about Kate has a definite sound track.
When I was writing, I imagined the soundtrack to the movie of the book. (A girl can dream!)
Usually, I just get into writing when it's time to cook dinner or my husband has lost his keys or the dog needs walking or something else I have to leave the computer for! It's very frustrating!
Gillian: What got you writing in the first place?
Kate: I started writing at about 10 years of age. It was a way of escaping. I didn't have a particularly happy childhood and so I escaped by writing stories in my head. I invented characters and on the long walk home from school there would be another episode of their story playing in my head. Later, I started writing it down. Over the years it became apparent to me that writing was very cathartic. Whatever I came up against in life, if I wrote it all down I felt able to deal with it. A few years ago, I picked up a writing magazine in the newsagent and there was a competition for a short story. I entered it without telling anyone and much to my surprise, I won. I thought maybe there was a chance I might be able to do this. So I sent off short stories to different magazines and a few got accepted. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and persuaded a local newspaper to let me do restaurant reviews. So I did a few of those. I was hugely interested in script writing and that's when I stumbled across Jon and his course. I cashed in my premium bonds to help pay for it. But I wouldn't tell him I cleaned for a living because I felt ashamed about it and because when people hear you 'clean' they assume you do it because you have the IQ of a dented kettle. When I finally told him he said he'd cleaned for a living once and why would he think any less of me? I have an online store now, but I still clean.
Gillian: What's next in my life?
Kate: I want to just keep writing. I've been so privileged to be coached by Jon Breakfield and I've had so much support from him and Gabrielle, I want to make them proud of me, I guess. So to carry on writing and come out with another book would be great.
Gillian: If you could have one wish, what would it be?
Kate: This is a hard one. Obviously, I should say world peace! But really what I would wish for is for my family to be happy and healthy.