My passion for writing sprouted early: I wrote my first ‘book’ on handwriting paper when I was seven. (Unsurprisingly, it remains unpublished!) This passion is rooted in my love of reading: I want to pass on to others the pleasure that so many authors have given to me.
Growing up in Minnesota, summers in the north woods nurtured my love of trees. I married and moved to England where a growing family kept me busy. The dream of writing was put aside until a friend challenged me to ‘just do it.” My current novel began as workshop exercises, and in 2021 I completed my MA in Writing (University of Warwick), with this novel as my focus.
My Christian faith nurtures my writing. A common theme in my work is the challenges to
belief that arise from grief and suffering. I can be contacted at: KathyBooklover@gmail.com.
What inspired you to write Tòsha?
I have always loved trees and forest wilderness (book recommendation: Meetings with Remarkable Trees, by Thomas Pakenham), so it is not surprising that Tòsha was planted in a woodland setting. I used to make up stories for my children about the trees in our neighbourhood. They all had names and characters. We loved The Faraway Tree and would try to guess which of the tallest trees might be it.
So when I attended a writing workshop in Oxford, taking my breaks in the University Parks, I was quick to appreciate the beautiful and sometimes ancient trees that grew there. As I was studying one of them (a chestnut I think), something sparked the idea that the branches and hollows looked ideal for dwellings, if only the tree were big enough. (And by the way, if anyone is tempted to think that Tòsha and his pod are the size of the Borrowers, may I quickly disabuse them of that idea. My people are normal-sized human beings. It is Home Tree that is immense.)
I tried the idea in several workshop exercises, but it took a few years before I was convinced that I could actually finish the story.
Could you give us an insight into your writing process?
Since doing my MA, writing has become main ‘job.’ I have a wonderfully supportive husband who is encouraging me to keep working on my books.
I used to consider myself a teashop writer – a quirky corner in a character pub or teashop can be an excellent environment to write in. Since Covid, I have not given myself that pleasure and have had to learn. to write at home in the midst of lots of distractions. (The housework does cry out so!)
I usually do my first draft in longhand, with a good notebook. A comfortable pen is essential! Then I type the draft into my laptop, doing some editing in the process. Composing directly onto the laptop is a new experiment for me – not always successful, but worth a try.
Mornings are my best time for work, then afternoons. Evenings are usually hopeless. But music is imperative – instrumental not vocal, and atmospheric. I have a Tòsha soundtrack that I play while I work. Some of my favourite ‘Tòsha’ composers are Einaudi, Daniel Pemberton, and Hisaishi. I am not at all averse to borrowing film soundtracks when the mood is appropriate.
What do you consider to be the most enjoyable or important aspect of science fiction or fantasy, and why?
I am strongly empathetic when I read, and I have always loved the intensely immersive experience. Becoming another person in another place and time through story is absolutely amazing, whether through fiction or non-fiction.
But what stands out for me in fantasy and sci-fi is the combination of letting me exist (for a time) in a setting totally outside my experience and yet often strangely familiar. Speculative fiction forces me to leave more of my preconceived ideas behind me, giving me a chance to ‘try on’ different ways of thinking and feeling without some of the baggage that a ‘real world’ setting might impose.
And to be totally honest, from the moment I set foot in Narnia, I have always wanted to live there!