Welcome to my stop on Kathryn Hitchins’ #TGD blog tour 🙂
I have the pleasure of sharing a very interesting interview with the author herself…..
For those who don’t know already, could you tell us about yourself and your book(s) please?
My author name is K A Hitchins and have been writing seriously since 2012. I’ve written four books and am currently writing my fifth, all of which might be described as contemporary, commercial fiction. My debut novel, The Girl at the End of the Road, was published by Instant Apostle in March 2016, followed by The Key of All Unknown in October 2016. Both books were short-listed for the Woman Alive magazine’s Readers’ Choice Award 2017, with The Key of All Unknown reaching the final three. My third novel, The Gardener’s Daughter, was released this month (March 2018). I live in St Albans, Hertfordshire with my husband and two children, together with our Rhodesian Ridgeback, four guinea pigs and two hamsters.
Where did/do you get your ideas from?
I am a member of a writer’s group, and the idea for The Gardener’s Daughter came from an exercise where we each picked a couple of photos from a selection of magazines and spent about fifteen minutes in class writing a story based on the photos. I picked a picture of the Eden Project in Cornwall and a photo of caravans in a holiday camp. From the juxtaposition of these two places, the idea for the novel was born.
The idea for ‘The Key of All Unknown’ arose from a flash fiction exercise, again generated by my writing group. I began writing five hundred words from the point of view of a woman in a coma, and it expanded into a 75,000 word novel! I’ve often speculated what it would be like if I was suddenly faced with a potentially life threatening condition. I’d seen my own father die from cancer, and had sat by his side as he slowly slipped away. I’d wondered if he’d been able to hear me from inside the coma, and whether he was afraid or peaceful as he faced the end. This book gave me the opportunity to explore the idea further.
My debut novel, The Girl at the End of the Road, was my first response to the loss of my father and various other stresses going on in my life at that time. I started to jot down my feelings as a way of helping me cope with my grief. To give myself some emotional distance, I projected those feelings onto a male character, Vincent Stevens, who is upset and depressed after losing his job, girlfriend and swanky apartment in the credit crunch. The whole process was enormously cathartic.
Are any of your characters based (however loosely) on anyone you know?
Some of my characters, such as Vincent Stevens mentioned above, share some of my emotions or experiences. It’s almost impossible not to reflect myself in my writing in some way, however objective I attempt to be. I try and avoid basing my characters on people I know, though sometimes I pinch snatches of conversation and jokes from my friends and family.
How do you pick your characters names?
Picking names is quite difficult. I dodge names of people who are close to me if I can so that they don’t think the character is based on them. I chose the surname ‘Hewitt’ for a female character in ‘The Gardener’s Daughter’ and a male friend has already asked if I chose it because of him. It didn’t even occur to me at the time. I often google baby name sites and flick through the telephone directory. Some names just don’t suit certain characters, so I can end up changing names half way through writing a book which can be very confusing!
Can you share your writing process with us, in a nutshell?
I walk our dog for about an hour every morning when I plan out in my mind what I’m going to write that day. I don’t have much time, as I’m a Trustee of a small children’s charity working in West Africa, and I also work part-time for my publisher supporting other authors with their social media. I carry a notebook with me everywhere, and often jot down ideas while I’m sitting in the car waiting to collect the children from school. When I do have time on my laptop, I usually have my notes and the scenes I have already planned out in my head so I am able to type them up pretty quickly.
Who are your top 5 favourite authors?
Ben Elton because he’s always readable, clever, witty, and a scathing commentator on the evils and stupidities of contemporary life.
Margaret Atwood, particularly for The Blind Assassin. which is a brilliant example of an unreliable narrator and the use of flashbacks.
Jane Austen for her acute observations of human behaviour, her wit and for giving us Mr Darcy.
Jodie Picoult for tackling challenging issues in a very readable way.
John Grisham, for continuing to produce gripping page turners, even if they are all variations of the same basic plot.
If you could meet any author, who would it be and what would you ask them?
I’d like to meet Ben Elton and ask him to run for Parliament. It would certainly make parliamentary debates more entertaining.
Were you a big reader as a child?
Yes. I was also a big day dreamer and would completely lose myself in books. Reading was a way to escape the greyness of everyday life in the 1970’s. During the summer holidays I would be able to read four to five children’s novels a day. There was much less daytime television in those days and of course no computers or DVD’s, for which I’m very grateful.
When did you start to write?
I’d dreamed of being a writer throughout my childhood and teens. As soon as I realised stories were created by people and weren’t magically ‘just there’ to be plucked from the library shelves, I knew I wanted to create these worlds for myself and for other people.
I left school at sixteen, went to secretarial college and began working in London from the age of 17. I kept writing in the evenings and enrolled for writing classes and residential weeks. Finally I listened to the advice I was receiving that I ought to study the works of English literature and I signed myself up to do an English A level in evening classes, eventually managing to secure a place at Lancaster University to read English, Philosophy and Religious Studies when I was 21.
However, at the age of 28 I gave up writing after a particularly brutal heartbreak. The rejection silenced my voice. I no longer believed I had anything to say that was worth listening to. I stopped believing in the magic of fiction and in the happy ever after. It was time to knuckle down, put my dreams aside and concentrate on the real world, which meant earning enough to pay the bills.
It wasn’t until I had another heartbreak, the loss of my father, that I suddenly started writing again. It was as if a switch had been flicked off in 1991 and then flicked back on again in 2012. I had twenty years of pent up emotion and the words came pouring out: I finished The Girl at the End of the Road in two months.
If you could re-write the ending to any book what would it be and what would you change?
A story I find endlessly fascinating is The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. At first sight, it seems like a straightforward clash between good and evil, but it’s more complex than that. Dr Jekyll has invented a potion that allows him to present a respectable face to Victorian London, whilst transforming at night into Mr Hyde to indulge his wicked desires without fear of being caught. It’s not that Jekyll is all good and Hyde is all evil. Jekyll is a mixture of both. He enjoys turning into Hyde and living a secret, immoral life. It’s only when Hyde commits murder that Jekyll realises things have gone too far. By then it’s too late; Hyde has grown stronger and can now appear without the need of the potion. At the end of the book, Jekyll chooses to kill himself before Hyde takes over his body completely. Although Jekyll is a complete hypocrite, pretending to be one thing whilst being another, I feel a lot of sympathy for his dilemma at the end and I wish there had been a way for him to defeat his evil alter ego without having to die.
Is there a book you wish you had written?
I love Elisabeth is Missing by Emma Healey. It’s a beautifully crafted murder mystery seen through the eyes of Maud who suffers from dementia. She struggles to understand the present but also worries about things that have happened in the past. There are two missing women – Elizabeth and Sukey. Their stories are separated by seventy years but become intertwined in Maud’s fragmented memories. In the great tradition of the detective novel, the plot both conceals and reveals, challenging the reader to make sense of the jigsaw puzzle of recollections to find out what happened and whodunit. A gripping read with a satisfying ending. Of course, I wish I’d written it!
If you wrote an autobiography, what would your title be?
Girl with a small voice begins to speak up.
If you could invite any fictional character for coffee who would it be and where would you take them?
I’d like to meet Anne of Green Gables, that feisty, funny and above all unabashedly passionate girl created by L M Montgomery. She’s a red-haired, freckle-faced orphan who faces the world with absolutely nothing but the sheer force of her personality. I’d take her for a cup of coffee at the hair dressers where she could choose to have a complete restyle and colour change, followed by a trip to shops for a new wardrobe of clothes.
What are you working on right now?
I’m writing a novel about two families who live next door to each other with a shared adjoining wall. Each has a daughter who is forbidden from speaking to the neighbours, and each family has a dark secret which the girls begin to unravel when they agree to work together.
Tell us about your last release?
My last book was published in October 2016. The Key of All Unknown is the story of brilliant scientific researcher, Tilda Moss, who wakes up in hospital unable to speak or move and with no recollection of what happened to her. Determined to find answers and prove to her family and doctors that she’s not in a persistent vegetative state, she searches for clues in the conversations she overhears in her hospital room and in the fractured memories that haunt her. On the edge of death, and questioning the value of her life, Tilda’s only hope is to find the key of all unknown.
I was delighted when it reached the final three in the Woman Alive magazine’s Readers’ Choice Award 2017 and I had the very great pleasure of attending the gala dinner in September 2017.
Do you have a new release due?
My current book, The Gardener’s Daughter, is due out this month (March 2018). It’s a YA adventure which can be enjoyed by adult readers too. It’s about a girl’s search for her biological father. Here’s the blurb:
Motherless nineteen-year-old Ava has always believed brilliant botanist, Theo Gage to be her father. But when a chance discovery reveals she is not his daughter, her world falls apart. Determined to discover her true identity, Ava impetuously runs away and enlists the help of inexperienced private detective, Zavier Marshall. Pursued by shadowy figures, she takes on a new name and follows in her dead mother’s footsteps to work at the mysterious Fun World Holiday Camp. Penniless and cut-off from everything she’s ever known, and trapped in a deadly game of cat and mouse with a ruthless criminal gang, will Ava survive in a world where she’s more valuable dead than alive? Will she discover the shocking truth behind her mother s death? And will she find her real father before it’s too late?
What do you generally do to celebrate on publication day?
That’s an interesting question. My first book, The Girl at the End of the Road, was released on 24 March 2016. I expected to spend the day on social media posting and tweeting about the book and basking in the congratulations of my friends and family. I certainly didn’t think I’d be rushed into hospital.
When I woke on launch day, there was a rash of red spots on my throat and arms which didn’t blanch when pressed. I was queuing at the receptionist’s desk at my local surgery at nine o’clock sharp and was shown straight in. As soon as the doctor saw me, he telephoned the hospital to say I was on my way. Once in Accident and Emergency, I was fast-tracked through the system. Three hours later a registrar from the Haematology Department explained that I had idiopathic thrombocytopenia: normal blood platelet readings are between 150 – 400 per microliter of blood. A life threatening reading is anything below 20. My platelet levels were 3. My immune system was destroying my platelets and my blood could no longer clot.
The irony of my situation didn’t escape me. I was half way through the first draft of my second novel, The Key of All Unknown, a book about a woman in a critical condition in hospital. As she lies in bed, she desperately tries to remember what happened to her and questions the beliefs she’s built her life upon. Now I was lying in a hospital bed thinking about the meaning and purpose of my own life.
The next day I was sent home with high dosage steroids. Although physically exhausted, my mind was wide-awake because of the medication. I decided to continue writing my manuscript, tapping away on my laptop during the night while everyone else was asleep. Having just experienced my own life-threatening moment and spell in hospital, ideas poured out of me. Within a week I’d completed 30,000 words and finished the first draft.
Because I submitted the manuscript early, the publication date was brought forward from January 2017 to October 2016. I held a small launch party for family and friends, but can’t remember what I did on the actual publication day. I’d finally been weaned off the steroids by then and was suffering some miserable withdrawal symptoms and because the publication date had been brought forward I sadly hadn’t had time to plan a proper promotional strategy or blog tour.
I’m hoping that the release of The Gardener’s Daughter will go more smoothly!
How can readers keep in touch with you?
Website Link http://www.kahitchins.co.uk
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Kathryn 🙂
Motherless nineteen-year-old Ava has always believed brilliant botanist Theo Gage to be her father. But when a chance discovery reveals she is not his daughter, her world falls apart. Determined to discover her true identity, Ava impetuously runs away and enlists the help of inexperienced private detective, Zavier Marshall. Pursued by shadowy figures, she takes on a new name and follows in her dead mother’s footsteps to work at the mysterious Fun World Holiday Camp. Penniless and cut off from everything she’s ever known, and trapped in a deadly game of cat and mouse with a ruthless criminal gang, will Ava survive in a world where she’s more valuable dead than alive? Will she discover the shocking truth behind her mother’s death? And will she find her real father before it s too late?
Check out the rest of the blog tour for reviews, and more, with these awesome book bloggers…..