Welcome to my stop on Kat Armstrong’s A Pair Of Sharp Eyes blog tour with Love Books Tours!
Many thanks to Kelly @ Love Books Tours for arranging the following interview with Kat Armstrong…..
For those who don’t know already, could you tell us about yourself and your book(s) please?
I’ve done a variety of jobs over the years, but writing has been a common thread since the beginning. In my forties I took an MA in Creative Writing and my persistence finally paid off this year when I secured a contract for my first novel, a historical murder mystery called A Pair of Sharp Eyes. The story is set in Bristol where I grew up.
I’m fascinated by the eighteenth century, especially the lives of ordinary people then. The slave trade is the backdrop to my story; the wealth it generated for Bristol’s merchants ultimately explains why my heroine travels to the city to find work. There her adventures begin.
Where did/do you get your ideas from?
The best are unexpected. A character arrives like an interesting stranger, and I have to stop and pay them attention.
Are any of your characters based (however loosely) on anyone you know?
Sometimes a character might echo something said in real life, but that’s the extent of it.
How do you pick your characters’ names?
I used to find it difficult to come up with my characters’ names. Now I love the chance to add colour to the narrative with vivid names. I make sure all were current in the early 1700s, and many in A Pair of Sharp Eyes are specific to the West Country. I collect likely names from gravestones, subscription lists, trade directories and contemporary texts.
My heroine Coronation Amesbury was named for a different reason. Researching his family tree my father discovered a Georgian ancestor who christened his son ‘King.’ The spirit of mockery amused my father – King George was destined to become a Cumbrian hill farmer – and inspired me to give Coronation a staunchly Protestant father who marked his devotion to William of Orange by naming his daughter in memory of William’s ascension to the English throne. The name certainly suits Coronation, who considers herself the equal of most people she meets.
Can you share your writing process with us, in a nutshell?
Read a lot. Read a lot more. Write a first draft. Throw it away. Write a second. Edit, edit, edit. Tear it up. Write it again. Realise most of those scenes aren’t needed. Write new ones. Edit, edit again. It took me three years to write A Pair of Sharp Eyes. For me that was quick.
Who are your top 5 favourite authors?
Shakespeare. Defoe. Austen. Dickens. Hardy. Modern novelists: J.M. Coetzee, W.G. Sebald, Hilary Mantel, Anne Tyler, Sarah Waters.
If you could meet any author, who would it be and what would you ask them?
I’d invite Henry Fielding to watch the Albert Finney/Susannah Yorke film version of Tom Jones with me because I’m sure he’d love it. Fielding would be a wonderful person to spend time with: he was funny, humane, learned and worldly-wise.
Were you a big reader as a child?
I learned to read aged three, much to my mother’s pride, and my first reading memories are the Ladybird books, a chunky compendium of fairy tales I was given for Christmas when I was about five, and unlimited quantities of Enid Blyton. From there I read virtually all the childhood greats from The Water Babies to the Narnia books (I was equally keen on North American classics like Anne of Green Gables and The Girl of the Limberlost as I was on The Little Princess and The Would-Be Goods). I was lucky that my mother read vast amounts of children’s literature and YA – she was an English teacher and a voracious reader of practically everything – so I had access to lots of teen fiction too. I enjoyed it so much, historical fiction and time-slip stories in particular, that I found it hard to graduate to adult fiction until I came across Agatha Christie on holiday one summer. Her detective novels bridged the gap, and my extensive reading of them in my adolescence came in handy years later when I started writing murder mysteries of my own.
When did you start to write?
When I was 7 or 8 I used to write in a den I made in the back garden from planks, pieces of corrugated plastic, and offcuts of carpet. It was no designer shepherd’s hut, and my parents were remarkably tolerant to let me leave it there for years, in full view of the house. The neighbours must have been furious.
If you could re-write the ending to any book what would it be and what would you change?
Is there a book you wish you had written?
There are lots of books I wish I’d written, and it would be presumptive to re-write another author’s ending. Perhaps I can dream of imbibing the genius of Jane Austen and complete the ending of her unfinished Sanditon, giving the heroine the kind of happy ending that doesn’t involve a wedding. Come to think of it, what Phoebe Waller-Bridge did with the last episode of Fleabag. I definitely wish I’d written that.
If you wrote an autobiography, what would your title be?
I would never write an autobiography. At gunpoint, how about ‘How to Become a Novelist in a Hundred Tortuous Steps’?
If you could invite any fictional character for coffee who would it be and where would you take them?
I’d like to know what Virginia Woolf’s Orlando would make of where we are today re gender and identity. And if it was Orlando it would need to be somewhere flamboyant. The Café Royal?
What are you working on right now?
A sequel to A Pair of Sharp Eyes, called The Darkest Voyage.
Tell us about your last release?
Do you have a new release due?
A Pair of Sharp Eyes is published by Hookline Books on September 10 2019.
What do you generally do to celebrate on publication day?
This will be my first launch event, but the best way to celebrate would be to write non-stop all day and add a few thousand words to my work-in-progress. Like many writers I’m not much of a party animal I’m afraid.
How can readers keep in touch with you?
Via my website, katarmstrongwriter.com, or my publisher: firstname.lastname@example.org
Is there anything else you would like us to know?
If you want to publish, find other writers and swap work. It will save you a lot of time.
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Kat 🙂
Coronation hears of the murders before she even reaches the slave port of Bristol – six boys found with their throats slit. Horrified, she questions the locals’ readiness to blame the killings on Red John, a travelling-man few have actually seen. Coronation yearns to know more about the mystery. But first she has to outsmart the bawds, thieves and rakes who prey on young girls like her: fresh from the countryside and desperate for work. When the murderer strikes shockingly close to Coronation, she schemes, eavesdrops and spies on all around her until the shameful truth is out.
happy reading 🙂