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Today we travel to Edinburgh to chat with Kate Blackadder. Kate and I discuss how twins, sorting books in a charity shop, numbered index cards, red plaits, and a Viking expedition come together as part of Kate’s past and present life.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Kate Blackadder. I was born in Inverness shire in the Scottish Highlands but now live in Edinburgh with a view of the Castle from my front window. I’ve always work with books in some capacity – firstly in the production department of a large London publisher, and then in various roles for publishers in Edinburgh and as a freelance editor.
In which genre do you write?
I write mostly short stories (around 60 published) and magazine serials, one novel to date. Broadly speaking, these are in the women’s fiction genre but lately I have some success with short stories for a Scottish newspaper called The Weekly News which have to appeal to men as well as women. It was an interesting challenge.
How many published books do you have?
My novel Stella’s Christmas Wish was published by Black & White in 2016. I have had three serials published in The People’s Friend (weekly readership of 400,000) and have released these myself on Amazon Kindle. They are also available in large print from libraries. I’ve produced on Kindle three collections of previously published/prize winning short stories.
Three other writers based in Edinburgh and I have formed a group called Capital Writers. We give readings around the city and have produced two e-anthologies of short stories (one from each of us) with another two in the pipeline.
So – nine so far!
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?
I was always a reader so that was my inspiration. I first tried to write when I was about ten – books for girls, very (very) derivative of my favourite titles. Over the years I wrote poetry off and on but took up writing fiction (for grown-up girls) again sixteen years ago after joining a brilliant local creative writing class.
What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?
There are no twins/multiple births in my family but for some reason they crop up rather often in my stories. It took a writing friend to point that out to me; now I have to exercise family planning more carefully …
What does your ideal writing space look like?
Luckily, exactly like the space I have! My son’s former bedroom, now my study, painted leaf green, lots of shelves. In the evening I like to shut the shutters so that the room is dark, and write under the pool of light from the angle poise lamp.
What are you currently reading?
I usually have at least one novel and a non-fiction book on the go. Currently, it’s Clock Dance by Anne Tyler, one of my very favourite authors; and A Tunnel Through Time: A New Route for an Old London Journey by Gillian Tindall, an original way of looking at the history of London.
What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?
I work two days a week in a museum’s publishing department; volunteer a few hours a week sorting books in a charity shop (Shelter); read; bake; go to the cinema.
What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?
The mere thought of speaking up in a crowd used to make me nervous but gradually, through having to read aloud at writing classes etc, I got more confident and now even standing up and speaking/reading to a large audience doesn’t faze me at all (as long as I know in advance and have time to practise, see below!). So I suppose I’ve learned the only thing to fear is fear itself (now I must try and apply that to driving on the motorway … ).
What’s the strangest thing you’ve done or experienced to help create a scene or plot?
Not particularly strange but – we have a car but I got the bus from Edinburgh down the coast to North Berwick in East Lothian (about 30 miles away) as that’s how one of my characters travelled. I wanted to see the journey through her eyes.
You are about to speak publicly to a group and read from your latest book. What do you do to prepare yourself?
I type what I want to say in full and print it out then I pick out the salient points and put them on numbered index cards. I practise over and over giving the talk with only the cards as prompts. It means I can keep my head up and engage with the audience most of the time rather than looking down. I also read my chosen passage aloud several times at home so that I know where the pauses should come and which words to emphasise.
What do you miss about being a kid?
My red plaits. And having been brought up in a rural location with no school friends nearby, I had weekends when I read from morning to night; I’d love to be able to do that again.
If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?
We didn’t have television until I was fifteen and were a hundred miles from the nearest cinema. Don’t regret any of that for a minute!
If you could turn into one of your characters for a day, which one would it be and why, what would you do?
I’d be Cathryn Fenton in The Family at Farrshore ( myBook.to/Farrshore ) because she’s an archaeologist involved in a Viking excavation in the north of Scotland. Uncovering a long-ago settlement would be fascinating – plus there’s a handsome Canadian film director around the place …
What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?
The documentary Marianne and Leonard: Words of Love – because I’m a long-time Leonard Cohen fan. I was lucky enough to see him in concert many years ago in Edinburgh.
If you could ask your pet three questions, what would they be?
I don’t have a pet now but I used to have a cat I adored called McTavish. I would ask him:
Why do you sit on the cold wall rather than beside the warm fire?
Where did you go last night?
What are you thinking about when you stare, unblinking, at me with your big golden eyes?
What’s your favorite place to visit in your country and why?
I love the grandeur of the scenery of north-west Scotland. A few years ago I would have said I loved the loneliness of it too but it’s a wee bit crowded up there now thanks to the success of the North Coast 500 route.
Describe the perfect solo date you’d take yourself on … where, time of day, weather, place, etc.
I had a holiday in New Zealand last year and absolutely loved it. So, on a dry, 70F, day with no wind, I would explore Dunedin – mostly on foot but taking the bus up the steepest streets, visit the museums and the bookshops and stop for (excellent) coffee and a warm date scone at The Good Oil café in George Street.
Tell us about your most recent book.
Stella’s Christmas Wish is a contemporary romance/family secrets story, published by Black & White Publishing.
Six days before Christmas a family crisis brings Stella back from London to the Scottish Borders – and to Ross, the man she left fifteen months earlier.
One reviewer said: ‘I fell in love with the characters and actually wished they were real.’
It was wonderful to learn more about you, Kate. Your writing group sounds brilliant! I visited Edinburgh in the year 2001 and found it to be incredibly breathtaking. Adored the bookshops! All the best to you! – Camilla