I’d like to welcome Katherine Webb to the blog today! Katherine is the author of three novels, including the historical mystery,The Unseen, which recently came out in the states. She was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the book, her writing, and even her love for the show “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives”!
Also, HarperCollins was kind enough to offer 2 copies of The Unseen for giveaway to 2 lucky winners, so be sure to check out the details at the end of the post!
Katherine, it says in your bio that you’ve always had a fascination with ruined castles and secrets of the past. Did this fascination lead you to want to be a writer? Have you always wanted to write?
I suppose it’s all linked, yes – when I was little and we went to look around ancient buildings my imagination would always get fired up, thinking of all the lives and events and stories that the place had witnessed… I didn’t know I wanted to be a novelist until I sat down one day after graduation and started to write my first book, but nobody in my family was very surprised. My mum tells me I stared writing stories pretty much as soon as I was able to write, and I remember later on in school being super happy whenever we were set a creative writing exercise…I don’t know why it took me so long to put two and two together!
Your novel, The Unseen, just became available in the states, and has been described as “an atmospheric page turner.” Can you tell us a bit about it?
The Unseen is set primarily in 1911, during a long, hot English summer, and tells a story of ambition, love, deception and desire… A naïve vicar and his wife, living quietly in a country parish, have their lives turned upside down by two new arrivals. First is the new maid, who’s been sent down from London after getting into trouble with the law for her political activism; then comes an enigmatic young spiritualist, who’s determined to cement his name in history by proving the existence of fairies in the meadows near the rectory… These disparate people are thrown together at the rectory, and the tension builds and builds until it ultimately bubbles over into violence…
What kinds of books keep you turning the pages? Any particular favorites (authors or books?)
I read all sorts of books – and for me the current the king of the page-turner has to be George R R Martin – I’m totally hooked on the A Song of Ice and Fire books! I love literary and historical books, mysteries, and any book which really lets you get under the skin of the characters. Some favourites include Rose Tremain, Kate Atkinson, Jim Crace, Sir Terry Pratchett, and Helen Dunmore. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres made me weep buckets, and I didn’t want The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney to ever end. I’ve recently read and loved Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child, and Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette.
What makes you put a book aside in frustration?
Almost nothing – I very rarely give up on a book, even if it takes me twice as long to read as a book normally would, because I can’t quite get on with it. Who can say what it is that makes a book work or not work for you, as a reader? It’s largely an intangible thing, I think, and no book can work for everybody. I’ve read terrible reviews on Amazon of books I’ve thought were completely fantastic. One author I just can’t get on with is Henry James. No idea why not – I enjoy classic literature, but I’ve picked up and abandoned The Wings of the Dove about three times!
Do you have any writing quirks?
Not many – I’m very methodical; I sit down at nine in the morning and try not to get up until I’ve written two thousand words. I type straight into my laptop, but I do have to have my notebook full of scribbled thoughts and ideas open next to me, even if I don’t even glance at it. I feel cut adrift without it!
What are a few things that inspire you the most?
I love the great outdoors, and the changing of the season. I love history – I suppose that’s the thing that inspires me the most. All those secrets and stories, just waiting to be discovered. Also people, and all the many, complicated and mysterious ways in which we interact!
Quick, what’s one thing that makes you laugh out loud?
Things are pretty serious around here at the moment (I’m in the thick of writing my new book), but I can usually count on my cats to give me a laugh – they wrestle and cavort on the lawn outside my window, and one of them usually ends up taking a pratfall off the wall or the garden bench. I love the way they then saunter off, noses in the air, as if salvaging wounded dignity…
I read that you like to cook. What is one of your favorite dishes?
I love cake in all its many forms, so I’m often baking. I make a truly fabulous fruit cake – it was my grandmother’s recipe and it’s called ‘Never Fail Fruit Cake’, for good reason. I also learnt how to make a great risotto while I was living in Venice; I cook a mean curry; and my ultimate comfort food recipe is a thick chicken soup with dumplings…I’m getting hungry now, typing this…
How else do you like to spend your free time?
I go horse riding, and I do volunteer work visiting elderly people in my area. I garden, I do DIY, I try to keep fit (necessary after all the cooking), and I read an awful lot.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects (or anything at all!)?
My next book to come out in the USA will be A Half Forgotten Song, released next year, which is a story about obsessive love, art and betrayal; set in England in the 1930s and the present day. Right now I’m working on a new book set in Bath in the 1820s. It tells the story of a mismatched group of people coming together to solve the mysterious disappearance of a young girl, twelve years earlier. It’s a love story, as well as a historical mystery. It doesn’t have a title yet – I’m waiting for a stroke of genius!
Here’s a random fact – I love ‘Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives’! I’d love to go on a road trip through the USA, eating at all the places Guy goes to on that show, especially the ones serving Mexican food and BBQ. The only trouble is, I’d be the size of a barn by the end of that holiday…
Keep up with Katherine: Facebook
Purchase The Unseen: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound
About The Unseen:
A vicar with a passion for nature, the Reverend Albert Canning leads a happy existence with his naive wife, Hester, in their sleepy Berkshire village in the year 1911. But as the English summer dawns, the Cannings’ lives are forever changed by two new arrivals: Cat, their new maid, a disaffected, free-spirited young woman sent down from London after entanglements with the law; and Robin Durrant, a leading expert in the occult, enticed by tales of elemental beings in the water meadows nearby.
Quickly finding a place for herself in the underbelly of local society, Cat secretly plots her escape. Meanwhile, Robin, a young man of considerable magnetic charm and beauty, soon becomes an object of fascination and desire. Sweltering in the oppressive summer heat, the peaceful rectory turns into a hotbed of dangerous ambition, forbidden love, and jealousy—a potent mixture of emotions that ultimately leads to murder.
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