Kate had written for a living, first as a ‘journo’ and then as a press officer. However, she felt that novel writing was “something I thought others did, until I tried entering a writing competition which was the spur I needed. I like a deadline!” It was the Faber & Stylist Magazine that provided her first big break, but she had also entered the Times/Chicken House competition the year before and, amazingly, was shortlisted which encouraged her to keep trying.
Being a journalist helped Kate as a novelist. “Writing is like a muscle,” she told us. “If you do it - in some way every day, it gets stronger. The worst thing is procrastination. Never put it off - if you feel you have something to write, do it!” She writes in the basement of her house (during the twitter chat there was “a tempting smell of curry wafting from the kitchen”), although she confesses “oddly, now I've started writing in a particular place it's very hard to work anywhere else. I’ve become a creature of habit.”
- On the perfect crime novel: “For me a great crime novel has two elements, one, characters you care about and, two, careful, meticulous plotting.”
- On dealing the less savoury aspects of Victoriana - eg. Opium: “Research is key! Dickens is fabulous on this #EdwinDrood.”
- On savoury elements when writing for children: “My Victorian books are for adults. When I write for children, I am more careful, but kids are quite 'hard core'. Obviously there are some places you NEVER go when writing for kids, but they can smell a 'message' and being patronised a mile off! As a child, I hated the thought someone didn't think I was sophisticated enough to think for myself.”
- On tricks to create atmosphere and setting: “I try to visit the places I write about if they still exist (i.e. Wiltons Music hall, Whitechapel). I've changed elements of my books after visiting places like Limehouse. Walking is always good. I always try to go where I take my characters. I also think you have to use your imagination: 'my' Victorian world is probably unique to me.”
- On editing: “To be honest, it's always a mad dash to deadline. I try to edit as I go along. If I have time at the end I tweak. I can only get motivated when I'm scared. It's a legacy of writing against the clock. I need a deadline.”
- On planning and characters: “I'm a total 'pantser' (good word!). As I write the story tells itself to me. My characters sort of walk into my head fully formed. I really love writing the minor ones.”
- On Procrastination: “Procrastination can be as much a part of the process - like the 'over the yard arm' G&T which is part of my writing process (but it's not essential). Procrastination can also be very creative, until you realise you've procrastinated your writing time away.”
We’d like to thank Kate Griffin for giving up her time to share her thoughts with us for the #AskSwanwick Twitter chat. Please do follower her @KateAGriffin on Twitter and follow us @Swanwickwriters. Thank you to Benjamin Scott for moderating the chat.
About Kate Griffin
After studying English at university Kate's first job was as an assistant to an antiques dealer, but she quickly realised that although she liked being surrounded by beautiful objects, she liked being surrounded by people who talked to her much more. Kate never quite shook off her love of old things, however, and historical settings play an important role in her stories. Her first book, Kitty Peck and the Music Hall Murders (winner of the 2012 Faber and Faber / Stylist Magazine crime fiction writing competition) was published in July 2013. The sequel, Kitty Peck and the Child of Ill Fortune, was published on July 3rd this year. She is currently working on two more books in the series. Under the name Cate Cain, she has also published two books for children, The Jade Boy and The Moon Child (both published by Templar).
Kitty Peck and the Music Hall Murders was shortlisted for the CWA Endeavour Historical Dagger in 2014. The Jade Boy was shortlisted for The Booktrust’s ‘Book of the Year’ award for readers aged 9-13. She can be found on Twitter @KateAGriffin.