Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Welcome Wednesday - It's Kathy Sharp!

Welcome Wednesday says a warm hello to Kathy Sharp whose novel - Isle of Larus - was launched recently by Crooked Cat Publishing. 

As a newly published author, Kathy has found friends and relatives have been asking her many things about the publishing world and about her first contract. Here's what she has to share with us... 

From the moment I was offered a publishing contract for Isle of Larus, friends and family have taken a great interest in the publishing process. 

‘What exactly does an editor do?’ I was asked. ‘And how do you go about choosing a cover design?’ 

Sensible questions, indeed, and I have answered them as best I can. But other people have asked trickier questions, about the writing process:

‘How on earth do you manage to write a whole book?’ Answer: I just kept going…

‘Do you just start at the beginning on page one?’ Answer: not necessarily…

‘How do you figure out the plot? How do you know what happens?’ Answer: I started with a basic idea and then filled in all the gaps…

‘Are the characters based on people you know?’ Answer: no. I just made them up…

Some dear souls, incapable of telling a fib, think the story must be autobiographical in some sense. I tell them it isn’t. How can it be? It’s a fantasy about an imaginary disappearing island. I don’t have any real experience of those. I might just carelessly admit that there are scraps of dialogue, fragments of scenes that were informed by real events. ‘There,’ they say, vindicated, ‘I told you it was autobiographical!’

I have now stopped carelessly admitting things.

The trickiest and most penetrating questions of all come, not surprisingly, from members of the writers’ groups I attend. Now these are people with practical experience of writing. Some of them have written, or are writing, novels. All of them, at times, have sat with pen or mouse in hand and suffered the frustration of a totally blank mind. So the question of choice for them, as, one by one, they read the book, is, ‘Where on earth do you get your ideas from?’

Well, Isle of Larus is an imaginative book. I can’t deny it. So many people have told me so, that I’ve come to believe it myself. And so I’ve tried to answer that crucial question honestly.

I’ve tried to simplify: the ideas just sort of popped into my head…

I’ve tried to elaborate: I included all the fun and exciting things I could think of, and juggled them around until they made some sort of sense…

I’ve tried to explain: I wrote the sort of story I enjoy reading…

I’ve tried being pompous: I was inspired by the wonderful Jurassic Coast…

I’ve resorted to dumb prevarication: dunno, really…

The real answer, of course, is that ideas come from many and varied sources: everything I see, hear, read, watch and generally observe. Any writer of fiction, I’m sure, cultivates the habit of people watching, and, let’s be honest, eavesdropping on conversations. Yes we do. Not to write them down word for word, necessarily, but to develop a critical ear for dialogue. Or that’s my excuse. And, dare I say it, we are influenced by other writers; those we admire, anyway. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all. Imitation, not plagiarism, of course. Beyond that, the history of any place is filled with rattling good stories that can be adapted, borrowed from and generally plundered. And so is your own memory. You can pluck items from it and use them fresh from the tree, so to speak, or pickle them and see what they turn into. Even dreams can produce useful stuff: one of my characters appeared in a dream, fully formed.

So my advice to other writers in search of ideas would be a) pick up a book, b) drink in the atmosphere and history of any place you visit, c) shut up and listen when other people are talking, d) trawl your memory, pay attention to your dreams. And then let your mind wander. It certainly worked for me.

Kathy Sharp’s debut novel, Isle of Larus, was published by Crooked Cat Publishing on 26 July 2013. 
About Isle of Larus:

The four guardians of the Isle of Larus have been enjoying quiet and comfortable lives, with nothing more than the occasional shipwreck to trouble them – but all that is about to change.

The Spirit of the Sea decides to send a series of alarming events to test and teach them, as well as providing himself with hours of entertainment at their expense.

For the first test, how will the guardians cope with the arrival of a fleet of completely impossible ships? Not too well at all, it would seem.

And that is just the beginning...

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About Kathy
Growing up by the sea in Kent, back in the 1960s, it was Kathy’s ambition to become a writer. Time passed. She married, moved to west London, and had a daughter. She continued to write, and had a small book or two on countryside and nature subjects published.  She worked for many years as a desktop publisher for Surrey County Council, and as a tutor in adult education.

And then, one day, she visited a friend who had just moved to the Isle of Portland, Dorset, and fell in love with the place. She has now lived in the Weymouth and Portland area for eight years, and still loves it. The wonderful Jurassic Coast, and Portland in particular, were the inspiration for her first novel, Isle of Larus.

Kathy also sings with, and writes lyrics for, the Island Voices Choir on Portland, and is a keen member of local writing groups, as well as enjoying studying the local flora.

Short extract from Isle of Larus, in which the Reverend Pontius consults Mother Culver, keeper of stories:

‘Pontius had never heard any of Mother Culver’s stories, and he was unprepared when she began to sing softly:

Come the ships on bright and summer’s day
White of wing and curious of sail
Plunge they to the rocks in deadly way
Strike they must, as if at winter’s gale…

“You just made that up, you cheeky old baggage!” exploded Pontius. But she had not heard him, and sang on.

Strike they must, but strike they never do
Gone they are within the blink of eye
Through they go, they sail the island through
See them, brother, to the east they fly…

She shook her head. Pontius thought she was laughing at him, and jumped to his feet, bristling with indignation. “You are nothing but a charlatan, Madam,” he said furiously. “I’ll have none of your rhymes!” And stamped off in a temper.
Mother Culver watched him go, wagging her head gently from side to side. “Mayhap you’ll be back, Reverend,” she said quietly.’
Thank you for visiting today, Kathy, and sharing the gamut of questions you've been asked. My best wishes for great success with Isle of Larus and with future writing projects.


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