In The Chair 76: Kate Frost

Welcome, Kate Frost.

KateFrostHeadShotHow would you describe your writing style in only three words?

Kate: Moving, heartfelt, honest.

If you could have a relationship with one of your fictional characters who would it be and why?

Kate: Ooh, now there’s a question! I think it would have to be with Ashton from Beneath the Apple Blossom. As for why, not only is he good looking (imagine dark hair, defined cheek bones and a rugby player physique), but he’s also family orientated and wants to settle down, get married and start a family. However, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t go for me over Sienna, his feisty, confident and striking (both in looks and personality) girlfriend.

11102784_844407928976852_7866671121152746412_nIf you had to exist for a week in one of your books … which one would it be? Would you be a central character or simply watch the story unfold from the sidelines?

Kate: It would be in my time-travel adventure series for children, the first of which, Into the Past, will be published in October. In real life I’m someone who would always watch from the sidelines – I’m quite happy not being centre of attention, but I think if I got a week to exist in my book I’d be twelve year-old Maisie, the protagonist of the story who is up for adventure, fearless and welcomes new and exciting experiences with open arms as she time-shifts between 1471, 1666 and 1940 along with class bully, Lizzie, and her best friend, Danny.

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Dead or alive literary dinner party: who would you invite, and what would you serve?

Kate: I’d invite George RR Martin, get him drunk on wine (or whatever his favourite tipple is) and see if I could get out of him how he plans to end Game of Thrones. I think Stephen King would be an interesting character to add to the mix and I would like the chance to pick his brains (so to speak) about writing. Geraldine Brooks and Leif Enger (who wrote two of my favourite books, Year of Wonders and Peace Like a River respectively) would complete the guest list. With such an eclectic mix of authors I think it would be appropriate to have a buffet where guests could choose what they fancied eating, although the focus would be on lots of Middle Eastern flavours (my favourite) – tagines, pita with homemade dips, salads, grilled meats and halloumi. 

If you had to write in a different genre which would it be and why?

Kate: It would be a dystopian novel. I love reading books and watching films about the end of the world and I like the idea of dropping a group of characters into a destroyed and dangerous environment and seeing how they would cope (or not).

What do you dislike the most about being an author?

Kate: Self promotion. I’m no good at talking about myself or my books but I know it goes hand in hand with being an author. I’m forcing myself to contact local radio for an interview and speaking in public fills me with fear. I think this is the hardest part of being a self-published author – having to make myself do these things, rather than have a publisher putting me forward for such opportunities.

13592599_1127236474014115_888177963847925978_nFavourite word?

Kate: Kapoozi. It’s actually the Greek word for watermelon (my husband is Greek and I’ve been struggling to learn Greek ever since we got together nearly sixteen years ago). I love the sound of it, and it reminds me of sunshine and happy times visiting family in Greece.

Kate Frost was in the chair, author of: The Butterfly Storm & Beneath the Apple Blossom.

Web: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kate-Frost/e/B00D8YJ1EG/ref=la_B00D8YJ1EG_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1468053881&sr=1-1

In The Chair 74: Isobel Costello

Welcome, Isabel Costello.

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How would you describe your writing style in only three words?

Isabel: Taut. Sensual. Evocative.

If you could have a relationship with one of your fictional characters who would it be and why?

Isabel: Without hesitation, Alexandra, first person narrator of my debut novel Paris Mon Amour. As an intelligent 40-year-old woman she is acting totally out of character when she embarks on an affair with the much younger son of her husband’s best friend. Whilst it’s human fallibility and vulnerability that interest me and drive me to write, in many ways Alexandra becomes stronger as she pursues her desires, both physical and emotional. So many women don’t, and I found myself empathising with her to a surprising degree. She’s not a cuddly character but she has a sense of humour; this and her honesty make me think she’d be great at the kind of frank conversation I like. I could be my own complicated self around her.

11102784_844407928976852_7866671121152746412_nIf you had to exist for a week in one of your books … which one would it be? Would you be a central character or simply watch the story unfold from the sidelines?

Isabel: Since my book centres on a clandestine relationship, watching from the sidelines isn’t really an option! In any case, it would be a revelation to spend a week (but no longer) as Alexandra’s 23-year-old lover, Jean-Luc. I’m happy being a woman but masculinity and the male perspective fascinate me – since we’re talking hypothetically I would love to experience sex as a man, for example (however weird that sounds). The main reason is the way Jean-Luc thinks about the ‘big questions’ and acts on his instincts rather than conforming to social expectations – I admire that. His passionate and unpredictable nature would guarantee an eventful week but it’s also quite a scary prospect!

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Dead or alive literary dinner party: who would you invite, and what would you serve?

Isabel: Firstly, although I’m a keen cook and enjoy entertaining, I find if you have the right combination of guests, nobody actually notices the food. Conversation would be unlikely to dry up with Flaubert, Baudelaire and Simone de Beauvoir at the table, contemporary wit and brilliance courtesy of A M Homes, Jeffrey Eugenides, Lisa McInerney and Grégoire Delacourt. Late night gatecrashers: Byron and Kevin Barry.

If you had to write in a different genre which would it be and why?

Isabel: Not currently on my career plan, but being comfortable with sex scenes I might stand a chance at erotica.

What do you dislike the most about being an author?

Isabel: The fact that so much is beyond your control.  It bothers me – and not just for myself – that the fate of books is so dependent on money, timing and dumb luck.

Favourite word?  Isabel: Yes

Isabel Costello was in the chair, author of: Paris Mon Amour

Web: Paris Mon Amour  Summer Reads 2016

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In The Chair 38: Jane Davis

Welcome, Jane Davis.

How would you describe your writing style in only three words? 

Jane: Authentic, honest, character-driven.

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If you could have a relationship with one of your fictional characters who would it be and why?

Jane: I feel that I have a relationship with each and every one of my characters. Each of my books has been between one and four years in the writing, so I’ve spent far more time with my fictional characters than I have with family, friends or colleagues. I once spent an evening at an Elbow gig at the Roundhouse in Camden trailing a man who I was absolutely convinced was Tommy Fellows, one of the central characters from Half-truths and White Lies. I didn’t have a model in mind when I wrote Tommy, but he is one of the few characters I describe in some detail, and there he was! Fortunately I have a very understanding partner who was in total agreement with me. The man had the shoulder-length hair, the jawline – he even had the leather jacket with the picture of the eagle on the back.

If you had to exist for a week in one of your books … which one would it be? Would you be a central character or simply watch the story unfold from the sidelines?

Jane: Again, I write largely fact-based fiction and, since I don’t have money for research trips, the backdrops are places I know well (although I may take the liberty of moving the location of a particular house). A Funeral for an Owl is set in the streets and parks that I walk daily. In the early 1990s, I lived on the High Path Estate in South Wimbledon. The flat that Jim lived in was my flat. I transported the entire estate to Carshalton for the sake of the story. Many of the anecdotal stories I tell are my own, or are based on fears that I had. The boxer who ended up in the wheelchair was my neighbour. JD Bench 034He used to bang on the wall when he fell out of his chair and I would arranged for some of the local lads to ‘break into’ the flat so that we could rescue him and, without fail, he would say something abusive. I regularly hauled the five-year-old boy who used to lie beside the speedbumps out of the way of oncoming cars. The fear that you would be jumped in the stairwell – that was real. My own house is Jim’s granddad’s house. It has a central chimney that acts as a loudspeaker and every day a pigeon sits on the roof and wakes us up at 4.30am – and every day we threaten to light a fire under it. Aimee’s house is the house I grew up in. I am always in character when I write, and often act out lines. My approach is to make it personal. In An Unknown Woman I used my own house again, except that I burn it to the ground in the first chapter. For authors who imagine themselves as the director of action, it might be possible to watch from the sidelines, but I am in the middle of the action as I write.

Dead or alive literary dinner party: who would you invite, and what would you serve?

Jane: Edith Sitwell, because she looked the way that all poets should look. Hilary Mantel, for exactly the same reason, because her own story is equally extraordinary as her fiction and I’m sure she could be relied upon to say something quote-worthy. (It goes without saying that I’d want to blog about the dinner party.) Khaled Hosseini, because he is one of the most humble, charming and wise men I have ever met. Ken Kesey to shake things up a bit. Churchill for his opinion of current world events. And Jill Marsh, simply because we always say that we will get together and drink tequila, but have never managed to find the opportunity. Since I will have started drinking early to calm my nerves, I will keep the food simple and fall back on staples. Focaccia, Buffalo mozzarella and tomatoes with lots of fresh basil and good olive oil; Fish pie with peas and leeks (because Nigel Slater says that it’s what everyone really wants to eat at a dinner party, and I agree) followed by Nigella’s chocolate cloud cake.

If you had to write in a different genre which would it be and why?

Jane: I write in two different genres: contemporary and historical, sometimes combining the two for a time-lapse effect. True-life is more extraordinary than anything I could invent (read The Queen of Whale Cay by Kate Summerscale if you don’t believe me), and I adore big biographies, so I think that I would abandon fiction for a while and write a biography. The bigger the better. I might gather some good material for it at my dinner party!

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What do you dislike the most about being an author?

Jane: All of the parts that aren’t the writing. At the moment it’s formatting files to various requirements for different eBook publishing platforms – and all the dreaded version control that goes with it. We used to be encouraged to keep various versions of manuscripts during their development, in case there was a dispute about who wrote the book. No more! I am in the middle of producing bookshop editions (paperbacks) of all of my novels and, at the same time, have made a number of updates. Change one or two words, and the publishing platform rejects the entire document. I have had to go through the process of clearing all of the formatting and starting again from scratch. It’s horribly time-consuming. And very dull!

Favourite word?

Jane: Discombobulate. I’ve never managed to put it in a sentence.

Jane Davis was in the chair: Author of I stopped Time, These Fragile Things, A Funeral for an Owl, An Unchoreographed Life, Second Chapter, An Unknown Woman.

Web: To sign up for pre-launch specials and notifications about future projects, or for suggested questions for book clubs visit www.jane-davis.co.uk.