Why did you write Message in a Bottle?
My first novella was set in the past and I wanted to write something contemporary. I’m always interested and heartened by the way people can come through impossibly difficult situations so I decided to put my character in one. She’s widowed very young. I’m not giving much away by saying that – it happens within the first few pages. Then I thought I’d like to give her yet another problem. I never said I was a nice person! It’s something she had no clue about and which knocked her sideways yet again. I’m rather proud of the way she dealt with it!
What kind of reader would enjoy Message in a Bottle?
Because Liz is a woman, I tend to feel that it’s the kind of fiction which would appeal mainly to women but I’ve had a number of men read it and say they enjoyed it. This includes my husband, whose eyebrows shot upward when he read the tagline – How well do you know the person you married? As soon as I said it wasn’t about him, he settled in and enjoyed it.
How did you develop your characters?
I began with Liz, of course. I wanted her to be a woman who was self-possessed, who had a career in which she worked for herself. She’s someone not easily fazed. Then, out of the blue, I gave her something I’ve never had to deal with. Then I thought, ‘How can I make it even harder for her?’ This brought in the other characters and I wanted to make it obvious that she wasn’t the only person struggling with grief. I was interested in how she managed to see things from someone else’s point of view. There’s probably a fair bit of me in her.
The brother and sister, Rob and Jude, had their own parts to play and I know that people can help one another from a distance, as Jude did in her emails to Liz. I added a bit of tension at that point, to make Liz uncomfortable again! The characters grew out of the situations I put them in, I think. I have to say that, unlike in my first novella, I actually like all these people. I missed them when I finished the story.
What has been the biggest influence on your career as a writer?
Most definitely other indie authors. I didn’t begin writing my own books until the end of October 2013. I review books, and a number of people had suggested I try writing my own. I wrote a couple of short stories then began to be fascinated by the drabble – a short story of exactly 100 words. I wrote a number of these which were published in a book by Jonathan Hill, a master of the craft, and it was my friendship with Jonathan which led to my own books appearing. He formats and publishes and creates my covers. He’s a massive help and a great friend. Several other author friends have been kind enough to criticise (in the nicest possible way!) my work, notably Andrew Barrett and Cornelius Harker. Without other authors cheering me from the side-lines I doubt if I’d even have tried. Indie authors are really the most supportive of people.
Are you working on any new writing at the moment?
I’ve really been bitten by the bug! I have about five or six completed (but unedited) books or novellas on my hard drive. The one currently being prepared for publication is novel length and is due out at the end of November, with a following wind. If I had to give it a genre, I’d call it humour but it has some dark passages. I have written a couple of supernatural novellas amongst others, and I’m now working on another humorous novel, less dark than the first.
I keep thinking I’ve had my last idea but… not yet. I know I’m very lucky to have so much time to write, as I’m retired. I’ve come late to the realisation that telling a story is the best fun you can have – apart from reading one.
Thanks so much Kath for answering my questions. I really appreciate you taking time out of your busy writing schedule to share your thoughts. I've been pondering your question -How well do you know the person you married? - ever since I read Message in a Bottle; might have to write a book about that myself one day. Really looking forward to reading your novel and hope the wind blows in the right direction until November.