As some of you may know I write stuff from time to time. One of my inspirations has been this lady, Kate Lord Brown. When I was trying to get published, Kate helped me out. She gave me tips, she read my stuff and gave helpful criticism. And she was the first person I wanted to kick off my virtual blog based book tour. Now I delighted to say am returning the favour.
Kate's first novel gets released today. It's called the Beauty Chorus and you can get it here. That's what I'm going to do as soon as I've pressed publish on this post. The plot concerns the female pilots of World War 2, the ATA. I interviewed Kate just as her book was going to press.
Gillian: What inspired you to write about the women WW2 pilots?
Kate: I was flicking through a flying magazine at home (my husband's a pilot), and came across a small obituary for a woman who had flown Spitfires. I immediately thought 'why doesn't everyone know about these amazing women?' and then 'wow, this would make a great story ...'
Gillian: Did you do copious research first and then write the book or were the two parallel?
Kate:Yes, I did loads of research first - with the Air Transport Auxiliary archive, museums all over the country, and was lucky enough to get the advice of a veteran pilot whose amazing life makes the fiction look boring! The great thing about writing historical fiction of this era is there is masses of film and written material. The story came pretty quickly after that - but I had to go back and research isolated details (particulary about planes, I dreaded getting any tech bits wrong being married to a pilot!)
Gillian:How do you immerse yourself in the 1940s?
Kate:It's been really good fun - I love the music from the era, so I've had Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, all the big band tunes on a loop while I'm working. I've read as many first hand accounts of the era as possible (including things like housewive's diaries to get the domestic details right). Also I don't need much excuse to watch a black and white film, or go along to an airshow where chaps dress up in the uniforms ...
Gillian: What advice would you give to anyone writing a book set in a time they haven’t experienced first hand?
Kate:I've always believed 'write what you want to know' rather than the usual 'write what you know' dictum. Pick an era that really interests you, sparks your ideas, your enthusiasm. Then, I'd read a really general history of the time to get a good 'groundmap' before you start focussing on your particular story. After that, visit as many museums as you can, listen to music from the era, even cook food they would have eaten (if that's appetising ...!)
Gillian:Have you ever met/spoken to any of the surviving WW2 female pilots?
Kate:Yes, I was really lucky to get advice from an amazing woman who flew with the ATA, then went on to have a second wartime career in espionage. There are also several brilliant memoirs written by the women that helped enormously. I was blown away by the bravery and modesty of these incredible women - and hope the surviving veterans approve of the book!
Gillian:What advice would you give someone sending out their manuscript for the first time?
Kate:Make sure it is absolutely the best work you are capable of. After you finish the first draft, put it in a drawer for a couple of months and come back to it with fresh eyes. Someone said 'write like a mistress, edit like an ex-wife' - or something like that. It's good advice! Once you are 100% happy with your m/s, arm yourself with a copy of Writers' & Artists' Yearbook - look at publishers and agents who deal with work similar to yours. Send them exactly what they ask for - if it's a query letter and 3 chapters only send them that. It goes without saying that m/s need to be sent as clean, businesslike copies (no gimmicks, green biro or ribbons :)
Gillian: Where can we buy your book?
Kate:'The Beauty Chorus' is published today, April 1st, and is available online from Amazon, Waterstones, Tesco, Asda etc - and should be in all good bookstores as they say!
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