A change of pace today as I get to chat to my good friend Kirsty Ferry after the release of her latest book: Watch for me by Candlelight via Choc Lit.
I first met Kirsty Ferry when we were both studying English Lit (with Creative Writing) through Open University and we bonded very quickly over our shared love of Tom Hardy in Wuthering Heights and of course that shirt/lake scene in Pride & Prejudice. Five years on and while I am still working on my creative writing Kirsty has progressed to self publishing before signing with publishers Choc Lit. We had a good chat about her current work, her writing style and another favourite topic: cake 🙂
(Details of how to purchase her books are at the end of the blog)
Watch for me by Candlelight & Choc Lit
Can you tell us a little bit about the new book?
It’s the second in the Hartsford Mysteries Series, which is a series located in a fictional village in Suffolk called Hartsford. The books can also be read as stand-alones, and are ghostly time slips where the historical timeline and the contemporary timeline often blur for the characters! Watch for me by Candlelight is centred on Kate, who runs the Hartsford Folk Museum, and the premise is that second chances can come along, even if you have to wait several lifetimes to meet your soul mate again…
We all need a hero! Tell us about your protagonist(s)? Was there a real-life inspiration behind him or her?
No, Theo was completely out of my imagination. I wanted someone who was in some ways completely opposite to Kate – a bit of a risk taker, someone who was adventurous and outdoorsy, and had a few things hidden in his past he didn’t want to reveal until he knew what he was going to do. Kate was more open and up front with people, although she did have a habit of truly clinging onto the past, even if it meant initially she was clinging onto a relationship that had run its course. I think Theo and Kate made the perfect ‘whole’ to be honest. They filled in each other’s gaps. Theo also had to be the modern day equivalent of Will the Blacksmith, my historical hero, and so I made him a farrier. I adored Will and Theo, and I’ve had some lovely comments about them from readers, saying how lovely they are and how they want a real-life version for themselves.
Who is the character you most identify with in your books/this book? And why?
I think you have to identify with all your characters really – it’s the only way you get to know them inside out. That’s not to say I’m like my characters – they can often say and do things I’d shy away from in real life! I did particularly love Daisy in The Girl in the Painting. It’s not every day you get to walk in the button boots of a Victorian laudanum addict with her head in the clouds and a complete obsession with an artists’ model! She was a lot of fun to write.
What differences have there been between self publishing of your earlier books and working with Choc Lit?
A massive one has been the benefit of working with a company who know exactly what the readers want and how to shape your work to fit that market. You also get the benefit of the marketing expertise and the exposure to the existing fans. Choc Lit are a really lovely publishers to work with and I can’t see myself jumping ship any time soon! There’s no pressure to produce manuscripts, they work with you 100% and the team is great. Self -publishing was (and is) great though, as the things I have self-published, like my Gothic book, have been so niche that a traditional publisher just wouldn’t take them on. I realised that after I had a lot of close-calls with Memory of Snow – all the feedback was extremely positive but there was no commercial, mass-market appeal for it. It still sells very well though, and also sells at Vindolanda Museum. It does its own thing and keeps having little resurgences whereby I’ll be invited to do a talk or an event about it. But it was hard work in the beginning trying to get the interest and marketing done for it.
Can you tell us a little about your future project(s)/ what’s coming up next?
There’s another Hartsford novel ready to be published. This time it’s Cassie’s story – Cassie is Kate’s friend, and the sister of Alex, my hero in Watch for me by Moonlight. The new book, Watch for me at Twilight, is unusual in the fact that it runs concurrently with Watch for me by Candlelight, as it’s how Cassie manages to pull of the Country House Party Weekend – so we see events from her side and experience her love story. The historical aspect is based in WW2, and has a poet-turned-RAF pilot as the hero. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever written, to be honest. It was originally a contemporary novella, and it trebled in size in edits to incorporate Rob and Stella’s story through the late 1930s to the mid 1940s. I never intended to go in-depth with that era so it was a challenge! I have also submitted two Christmas novellas – one in the Hartsford series and one in the Schubert the Cat series (Every Witch Way is the first one in that series), have another Schubert book with the Choc Lit Tasting Panel, and will soon start edits on the first of a new series of novellas, which is a contemporary trilogy about three sisters. But ghosts may yet appear! I’ve got very basic ideas for two other Schubert books and have started another full length time slip which will probably not survive in its current format as it just isn’t working!
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? If so, would you try a different genre?
I have done! I self-published a very niche Gothic-fantasy style book called Upon the Solstice under the name of Cathryn Ramsay. I don’t advertise it that much; as it’s a completely different style to my usual novels, but it was something I wanted to do so I did it. It’s a marmite book – people either seem to love it or loathe it. There’s no middle ground. I knew a traditional publisher wouldn’t touch it, but I wanted it out there so did it myself.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I’m friends with all the Choc Lit authors – we are an endless support to one another as we all feel the pain of a 1-star review and can commiserate with one another. We shore each other up in moments of doubt, and are there for one another on a personal level as well. I’ve also met other authors through my fabulous ‘book club’ on Facebook (check it out – “Historical and Time slip Novels”) and I am lucky enough to count them as friends too. I have other, ‘real-life’ friends who are authors too – we feature, say, in the same anthology, or know each other on a personal level and all of my author friends, without exception, would be there at the end of an email or message to help you out and give you some perspective on writing or anything to do with it.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I read them all – I feel elated and thankful for the good ones, and feel like I want to stop writing all together with the bad ones! It’s surprising how hurtful someone’s comments can be, and there are a couple I still haven’t read properly as a skim through was enough to send me hightailing it to the chocolate stash. The one thing that you really need to develop if you’re going to put your work out there is a rhinoceros skin. You have to try not to take the criticism personally – which is difficult as some do end up as personal attacks. Luckily, most people agree this is more a reflection on the reviewer than the author. One that sticks in my mind is one that deemed me an ‘insult to the genre’. Me – personally. Not my book! But there is nothing nicer to lift your mood than to hear someone say they’ve loved the book. And thankfully most of my reviews fall into that category. One very lovely lady said the worst thing about my book was finishing it and knowing she had to wait until the next one came out. People like that are absolutely what makes writing worthwhile.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Not the first story (but there was one about a kitten in a basket of wool I illustrated and ‘bound’ for the younger classes at school when I was about 9 – my teacher gave the original back to me when I was about 17. I thought it was so sweet she’d kept it for so long), but I can remember the first poem I wrote. I was 5. It was called The Circus Elephant. It went something like ‘The Circus Elephant is big and fat, he wears a funny little hat…’ I can’t remember the rest of it, but again I illustrated it!
When you develop characters do you already know who they are before you begin writing or do you let them develop as you go?
I have an idea – a concept, I suppose. But they are always full of surprises and do things I don’t expect. It’s when they start keeping me awake at night and the story suddenly goes in the direction they dictate, that I know I’ve finally ‘got’ them.
Tell us about your writing process and the way you brainstorm story ideas.
I don’t plan anything, which makes many writers cringe in horror. Instead, I start with a concept a bit like I do with my characters. Sometimes I’ll do a mind map in my notebook and try to work out bits and bobs, but the story tends to evolve as I write. I know a beginning and an end, but the journey is the bit that writes itself as I go. More often than not it works for me, but I’ve just spent a few weeks struggling on with something I now have 12,000 words for and my finger is hovering over ‘delete’. It’s just not working! I have it down to a fine art though. I do a first draft, my second one picks up the plot holes and I make changes and edits and the third one is the glossy polish. Then I get rid of it! You can meddle far too much in my opinion.
Where is your favourite place to write?
Again, a tough one. My most productive place is my little corner of the dining room, when I’m on my own and everyone else is at work or school. I also quite like my local Costa at St Mary’s Place in Newcastle – I did most of my MA there! In the summer, I like to work in my garden – I get a tan at the same time. Win win!
Just for Fun
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
When I was younger I read loads of the classic children’s’ books – the Anne of Green Gables series, What Katy Did, Little Women, Enid Blyton, the Pippi Longstocking books, the Elizabeth Enright Melendy children series, Stig of the Dump…I could go on. But the one that had the greatest impact was Green Smoke by Rosemary Manning. I borrowed it from the school library and wouldn’t return it. So I guess that was the moment my book-hoarding habit began!
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Just not to stress about it. When my son was little, I couldn’t do any writing as I worked full time and naturally all my free time revolved around him. He’s now 17 and I’ve realised how fast those years went and I am so pleased I spent that time with him. I’d tell my younger self that writing will always be there – just enjoy the moment “now” and you can always pick writing up later.
What’s your favourite novel from another author?
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. I love it. There are so many layers to it, and so many amazing speeches by Heathcliff and Cathy…it’s the book, probably more than any other, that made me want to be a ‘proper’ writer.
Who are your favourite authors?
Ohhhh – tough one. Current favourites include Susanna Kearsley, Mary Balogh and Mary Stewart. I also like Barbara Erskine, Kate Morton and (my guilty pleasure) JR Ward.
What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, here on Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?
Not Goodreads – I tend not to go in there too much as the bad reviews often seem more horrific on that site! I am very happy for people to contact me through my website, Facebook, Twitter or blog – and even through the publishers if need be.
And finally the most important question…
We both love cake. How important is it in the writing process?
Massively important – you KNOW what I’m like for my cake! It’s something to nibble on as you ponder a plot point, distract you when it’s not going the way it should be, and a celebration of a completed section. I didn’t realise how much cake ended up in my work until one of my MA teachers said in my feedback, ‘why do you feel the need to identify all your heroines with cake?’ My response would have been: ‘why not?’