MEET THE AUTHOR
~ KATIE MARSH ~
In the latest in a series of Meet the Author Interviews I am delighted to welcome the wonderful Katie Marsh who’s second book A Life Without You has just recently hit the bookshops also her highly acclaimed debut novel My Everything both published through Hodder & Stoughton. Here we talk about Katie’s books and life as an author.
Congratulations on your second novel A Life Without You for those that are about to discover your book for the first time can you give us a brief synopsis.
The book tells the story of Zoe, who is about to get married when she gets a call telling her that her estranged mum Gina needs her help. She leaves the wedding, putting her relationship in jeopardy and the book follows them as they reconnect, only for Zoe to discover that Gina is showing signs of early-onset dementia. It’s about the two of them becoming close again against the ticking clock of Gina’s illness, and about coming to terms with the past before it’s too late and making the most of every moment you have.
Your second novel is a poignant story of the relationship of a mother and daughter. Where did the inspiration for A Life Without You come from?
My granny had Alzheimer’s, and for years I watched my mum trying to look after her and making such difficult decisions in order to try to keep her safe. Her bravery was a major source of inspiration to me in writing this book. Equally, I thought of the idea when I had just become a mum for the first time. Every chapter ends with a letter from Gina to Zoe, written on every birthday, from first to the present day. Through them the reader learns about how close they once were, and about the family secret that rips them apart. They are my favourite part of the book and were inspired by letters I write to my own daughter on her birthdays. I found motherhood seismic, to say the least and so the book is very influenced by that – the fact that when you become a mum you try to do the best for your child but never really know whether what you’re doing is right.
When you decided to write second novel you must have had to face a lot of research, what challenges did you come across during the writing process and how long did it take to write?
I think the challenge with this book was how very personal it was – keeping the story and structure tight while trying to convey the depth of emotion I wanted was incredibly difficult. Also, it was my first book written under contract and as such it took only a year (my first published novel, ‘My Everything’ took five). There were some long nights at the keyboard, and my structural edit notes were about ten pages long, but I have a brilliant editor who really helped me to unwind the good from the bad and keep the book pacey, humorous and – hopefully – moving.
As an author how do you decide on the characters that you want to play in you books?
I am not a planner and I find that the characters do just tend to walk straight into my head. In this book Gina came first – fully formed, while Zoe took longer to fix on the page. Then came the rest of their family and Zoe’s fiancé, Jamie, and there was my main cast of characters!
You previously worked in healthcare has this played a major role in writing your books?
Definitely. I saw so many emotions while working in hospitals and clinics around the country – and so much bravery all around me no matter where I was based. My writing tends to walk the line between laughter and tears, and my years in the NHS were definitely key to me deciding what kind of books I wanted to write. I found it incredibly inspiring seeing people cope with so many challenges with so much humour, bravery and determination.
I talk to a lot of authors about their writing routines, some are more creative in the early hours and some are happy in a bustling environment. Can you tell us about your typical writing day?
I have to start early, or my day slides into oblivion. I am usually up and writing by 7 and I write all morning. In the afternoons I do my research, catch up on emails and – of course – pretend I’m not spending too much time on Twitter.
How has the process of writing your second book A Life Without You differed from your first book My Everything?
It was a LOT quicker. It did feel pretty pressurised, as I wasn’t used to the book in a year cycle, and I did come pretty close to the wire on my deadlines. However, as I now have an expert agent and editor to read early drafts, I found it a much more satisfying process, as the book took shape more quickly with their help.
How has the journey to become an author been, how long did it take to have your first book published?
It took me ten years to progress from writing my first word of fiction to seeing my first novel in print. I wrote two novels that didn’t quite make it along the way, and was just about to give up when I thought of the idea for ‘My Everything’ and it wouldn’t let me go. Once I’d finished it five years later, I quickly got an agent and got a two-book deal with Hodder a few months later after yet another edit.
Do you have any advice for any writers out there seeking to start their journey to become an author?
I found Twitter incredibly helpful and supportive – and I actually first met my agent, Hannah Ferguson, via a friend I made on the site. So I’d recommend getting on there, and also just reading a lot and writing a lot. Everyone always says that, but it’s TRUE.
Some writers I talk to never read any reviews about their books and some hang on every word written about them. Are you a reader of reviews people have written?
I certainly am. So far I’ve been pretty lucky, and I’m learning not to take the bad ones personally – as one of the joys of books and reading is that everyone has such differing tastes. I also store away the lovely reviews and read them when I feel stuck on my current book – I find they help me to keep the faith when I’m really struggling to get a story into shape.
Are there any writers that have inspired you to become a writer?
Many. Jojo Moyes. Rowan Coleman and Rosamund Lupton would all feature here, but also childhood writers like Cynthia Voigt or Dodie Smith. They made me love stories and writing, so are probably exceedingly responsible for my choice of profession!
Now that you have two books under your belt and now an established author, what motivates to want to write more books?
There are so many stories in my head – I very much doubt I will ever write them all down. I can’t imagine I would ever stop voluntarily and I am training my daughter to be a story addict too – I love making up stories for her starring her toys and friends.
Do you have a favourite book of all time?
Argh. The nightmare. If I did have to answer, it would be an equal tie between ‘I capture the castle’ by Dodie Smith and ‘Wonder’ by RJ Palacio.
Are you planning a summer holiday? What will you be reading?
I’ve actually already been on holiday (Cornwall – amazing). But over the next few weeks I’m reading several Tamar Cohen’s (I have just discovered her), Cathy Rentzenbrink’s ‘The Last Act of Love’ and the new Emily Giffin. I can’t wait.
What’s next for Katie Marsh author?
I am about to hand in the first draft of my third book which I am utterly overexcited about. I have been wanting to write it for years and while I can’t give anything away I can say that I can’t WAIT to share it with you all.
My thanks to Katie Marsh for taking the time to answer some questions on Meet the Author. For more on Katie Marsh visit her website Katie-Marsh.com
You can follow Katie on Twitter via: @marshisms
If you have not yet discovered both books by Katie the links below will take you to both. And they are truly worth reading.
My Review of: My Everything
My Review of: A Life Without You