Kath, what can you tell us about Top Banana?
It’s a story about an underdog making good. Steve’s mum thinks he’s totally useless and he begins to believe her. Then a couple of unexpected things happen in his life and he rises to the challenge. Gradually, he finds he’s a superhero in his own way. You thought being a greengrocer was boring, didn’t you?
This will be my third publication but I’ve written a fair number more and, of all of them, Steve is my favourite character. He seems to have hit the spot with readers, too. I’ve only had the book out for a week at the time of writing, but it’s gathered some lovely reviews. Humour is very personal but this seems to have struck a chord with readers so far.
I can see why it's struck a chord. Steve is a very likeable character and the reader cannot help willing him on. So, you’ve now written a medieval noir, a novella covering grief and hope and now a comedy novel. Do you see yourself ever settling into a genre?
I start off with the phrase 'what if' and there are so many things I wonder about that I probably won’t ever settle down to one single genre. However, at the moment I’m finding a lot of fun for myself in writing comedy. If everyone thought it was horribly unamusing I might have to reconsider publishing it but I’ll still write it! I’ve got fantasy and supernatural stories on my hard disk too but I’m becoming addicted to making myself laugh. The feedback is good so far, too.
If you could choose someone to narrate one of your books professionally, which book would you choose and who would narrate it?
I’m sure we all have a soft spot for our first book and since Ravenfold is a story told by an old man to his grandchildren, I’d love to hear the grandfatherly tones of Derek Jacobi narrating that one. Assuming I could afford him. I have to pay him, right? Or maybe my royalties will be enough by then to pay his fee. And while we’re in dreamland, shall I arrange for Maureen Lipman to read your own Maureen stories?
Derek Jacobi is a fine choice! Maureen reading Maureen is a great idea too. Now, returning from the Land of Dreams... I can’t start writing without a cup of coffee by my laptop. Are there any routines that you stick to when writing?
No. I’m a creature of impulse! I always write in the same place, though. I have a long worktop which I use for sewing and for writing, in the spare room. I sit there and I can look out of the window at my chickens free-ranging (that’s another word for trashing) their part of the garden.
I see. And you can hatch your stories well with chickens on the horizon? Just as long as you don't feel all cooped up in your writing room... ahem. Without wanting to sound too mathematical, what’s your writing to reading ratio nowadays?
I write my own stories for about an hour and a half, maybe two hours a day, and read for five or six hours. That’s not all the writing I do, though. When you add the emails I exchange with friends, the forum posts, the reviews, I must spend around 4 hours or more writing. I tend to write in the mornings, do any other jobs in the afternoon and read all evening. Even the gorgeous Professor Brian Cox only gets my attention over the top of my Nexus!
Unfair question! That’s like saying would you rather have your left hand or your right hand cut off! I’d have to say reading as I’ve been doing it since I was three and read every day. Giving it up would be like trying to stop breathing.
And how much do you think your reading influences your own books?
That’s hard to say. It must to the extent that I write in genres I like to read but I don’t think anyone would ever say my writing reminds them of someone else’s. At least, nobody has yet. I would feel very uncomfortable consciously copying someone else’s style. It would be like trying to walk in someone else’s shoes. You have to write your own way or it doesn’t work and comes out all stiff and… constipated!
*swiftly bypasses toilet humour* You are widely known for helping other indie authors to polish their books. Do you feel extra pressure, because of this, in getting your own books right?
I would always feel pressure – from myself – to get my own books as good as possible. I think everyone feels like this. You want to acquit yourself well. But yes, I hope I don’t get caught putting my foot in it too often!
Are there any subjects off-limits in your books? If so, why would you never touch upon those topics?
I can’t see myself ever writing romance or overt erotica. It’s not something I read, either. I’m not sure I have the skill to steer a course between soppy, schmaltzy writing and the biologically explicit stuff with all the bodily fluids. It’s often done, but often not done well. It’s not for nothing that there’s a Bad Sex Award.
I wouldn’t want to write anything about physical cruelty or child abuse either. It’s a serious topic and I’d feel I was trivialising it in using it to get a story. I also wouldn’t want to think that people who were that way inclined found my treatment of the subject arousing. That would be to add to the problem. If I did it well, I’d find it upsetting to write, too, and I write for my own amusement.
I also don’t see myself writing about handsome, hunky werewolves or zombies – sparkly or not, but that’s merely because I can’t suspend my disbelief quite that far.
Interesting. I've never viewed using material in a book as a means of trivialising that subject, but I suppose it has to be done well to steer away from that. I have to say that I am drawn to controversial subject matter and enjoy the challenge of writing about it and getting it right. If you could, with a click of your fingers, eradicate one error in books you encounter while reading, what would that be?
That’s nearly as difficult as the reading or writing question. Harder, as there are more choices!
One which makes me shout at the television or radio when it happens, is the use of ‘I was sat’ rather than ‘I was sitting’. It’s non-standard usage and shouldn’t appear in formal writing. People might say it but I don’t want to read (or hear) it in a formal setting. The same applies to ‘they were stood’ and ‘he was knelt’. If I see any of these in a book, I know it’s unedited indie writing because a decent editor would whip it out like an aching molar!
You want an irascible old lady – you’ve got it! Right. I’m stepping away from the keyboard. And thanks for interviewing me.
Pleasure! Thanks for answering the questions patiently while you were sat there.
Top Banana is available now on Kindle and in paperback HERE.
Kath's author website is HERE.
She books her face or faces her book HERE.
She twitters and witters HERE.