Morning morning my lovelies. Today I’ve got 2 posts for you – yay!! First up, is a Meet the Author interview with the lovely Catherine Hokin. We’re discussing spying on Anne Boleyn & seeing who killed the princes, gushing over authors, how she describes herself (!) and her most recent historical fiction novel, What Only We Know published on 27th May…..
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I am from the North of England but now live very happily in Glasgow with my American husband. I have two children – one lives in London and one lives in Berlin, where my books are set. My career has been a meandering one and has jumped between marketing, teaching and politics (don’t try and join the dots) but writing was long the aim and it is an absolute delight to finally be here.
How long does it take you to write a book?
I am contracted to write two research-heavy books a year for Bookouture and it’s hard to say how long they take as there is a lot of overlapping! By that I mean that each one needs about three or four months intense research but – because I pitch two ideas at a time – while I research one, I have a second notebook open and usually a third because this is the bit where new story ideas also come). After the main research (bits are ongoing) there is an intensive, long days, writing period were I aim for 10,000 words a week. Once I have a draft in reasonable shape, it goes to my trusted BETA readers and I switch to the second book. Book one comes back, gets polished and goes to my agent, and I switch again; she sends it back and then it’s polished and draft one submitted (which is really draft 3 or 4) to my editor, and switch again! It’s full on, and might not suit everyone, but I do it full-time now and I love it.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
A ballerina was my first choice because I was in love with the Noel Streatfield stories. Then I wanted to be a fashion designer, although I have no idea why. I lived in a very small town so I think my main ambition was to do a Dick Whittington and go to London which always struck me as being very glamorous, combined with a very impractical yearning to be Lucy in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Looking back, it has writer written all over it.
If you could get in a time machine and had one chance to travel, where would you go and why? (Backwards or forwards!)
The English court, from the last years of the Wars of the Roses into Henry VIII’s reign. Then I could find out just how clever Anne Boleyn was at holding Henry off, and also lurk around the Tower of London and see who really did kill the little princes. I would clearly need to be invisible.
If you could give your younger writing self any advice what would it be?
The same advice I give to my older writing self: calm down, keep polishing your craft, work your butt off, find a trusted writing community and don’t give in to the negative voices. Comparing your success to others is pointless, celebrating every tiny success you have is essential. And a rising tide lifts all boats – I really believe that. It’s hard out there, be kind!
Name one book you think everyone should read and tell us why?
The Children’s Book by AS Byatt which is loosely based on the life of the children’s author E Nesbit. It follows a group of families from 1895 to WWI and is packed with secrets and real historical figures. Byatt said she wrote it because writing children’s books tends to be really bad for the children of the writer and you can feel that shadow all the way through it. I have read it loads of times and have a copy she signed after letting me gush very embarrassingly all over her.
Describe yourself using three words only…….
Small, Northern, gobby.
If you were a genie, what wish would you refuse to grant and why?
Can I refuse to allow people not to vote? We live in dangerous times, we all need to get our voices out there.
Do you feel it’s more important to have a) strong characters b) a mind-blowing plot or c) amazing settings?
I hope I can hit on any vague combination of all three! Seriously, it is hard to separate them. I start with a plot idea but the book only comes to life when I begin to people it and, more importantly, when I get to know the characters so they go off and do that weird writer thing where they surprise you. And setting is key – I write about Berlin because it is one of my favourite places: The Fortunate Ones was, in many ways, a love story between the characters and their city.
The two novels I have had published this year by Bookouture, and the two coming in 2021, are all set at least partly in Berlin and I am often asked, given that I don’t live there, why I am so fascinated with the place. My usual answer is, go there and you’ll get it! Berlin is a city which has lived through, and still lives with the impact of, turbulent times. Large areas of it were ponded to rubble during WWII. It was then split between four occupying powers, and then split again by the Wall and two governments with very different social and economic world views. Following reunification, as well as many other things, the city became a major focus for clubs – a strange echo in some ways of its hedonistic inter-war Weimar years. It is, in many ways, a city still trying to make sense of itself, and it is fascinating. And now my son lives there, so I have another excellent reason to keep going!
And finally, tell us about your most recent book and where we can find it?
My most recent novel, What Only We Know, was published on 27th May and is available in both e-book and paperback (and audible) versions through Amazon.
It has a dual timeline story, set between England and Berlin, with one strand in the 1930s and 1940s and the other from the 1970s to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Simply put, it is a story about secrets and how the shadows of war impact across generations.
final words from chelle…
Thanks so much for this insightful interview Catherine. I absolutely loved learning about the writing process, how long it takes, how much research you have to do and how many drafts go back and forth. If I could hop in the time machine with you, I’d also love to know about the princes – it fascinates me! I love history (heading off to uni in September to study it!) and would love to go to Berlin. It sounds like such a powerful place that has been through so much. Finally, as a fan of historical fiction, I have to say your new novel sounds fantastic and I’ll be adding it to my wish list!
If you have any questions for Catherine then either get in touch using the links about, or drop a comment below.
Thanks so much for reading lovelies.
Back in a mo…..