Monday, 3 March 2014

Layers, Romantic Suspense and Margaret Kaine.

I am delighted to introduce novelist Margaret Kaine as my guest  on Life Twice Tasted this month. The popularity of her novels shows that readers appreciate stories with substance and  have an historical appreciation of the  Edwardian period at the beginning of the Twentieth Century,

I first met Margaret some years ago at an RNA conference in Durham City. I have to say that I found myself identifying with her answers to my questions here, -especially the point about a 'character developing ;beneath my  fingers'.

Margaret's debut novel, Ring of Clay, won both the RNA’s New Writer’s Award in 2002 and the Society of Authors’ Sagittarius Prize in 2003 and was followed by another seven  ‘Potteries’ novels. Against a more cosmopolitan background, Dangerous Decisions, published by Choc Lit in December, 2013 is described as ‘Downton with a twist.’

Wendy: What is the primary joy of writing in your life?
Margaret: I find it fascinating to create different personas, to visually imagine a character developing ‘beneath my fingers’. The process of writing a novel may be hard work and require concentration to link the sequences together, but when it’s going well it gives me a buzz unlike any other. And then, depending on the era, there can be a warm glow of nostalgia, especially with my first seven novels which are set in the Potteries where I grew up.

Wendy:When did you first know you were a writer?
Margaret: Ah . . . that word, know. I do vividly remember the first time I gazed down at a blank sheet of paper, not having even written an essay for more years than I’d like to admit. Only to feel absolutely thrilled when I managed to write a whole paragraph of fiction. “I can do it, I can write,” was the phrase that exploded in my mind. I knew nothing at that time of the long learning curve needed to hone the craft of writing. 
            But I think it would be when my first novel, Ring of Clay was accepted for publication, with the publisher confident enough to offer me a 4-book contract. 
             As time has passed, I’ve come to consider that anyone who writes consistently, who feels the urge to write, is a writer. And this applies to all those who write their memoirs, not necessarily those who want to be published. But I do think the description ‘author’ or ‘novelist’, needs a professional recognition. 

WWhat would you say characterises the themes in your novels?
M. I deal with real issues, describing how people cope with the problems that face them in life. I covered rape in my first novel, adoption in my second, Rosemary, relationship and religious issues in my third, A Girl of Her Time, and in others snobbery, secrets, friendship and poverty. 
                      Yes, I am a romantic novelist so there is always that underlying theme, but my novels have several layers. I think fiction with vivid characters and page-turning plots not only provide escapism for readers, but can be thought-provoking.

W. Do you have a writing routine?
M,Not in an exact sense. I tend to write in short bursts as I need to be careful not to sit too long at the computer or I develop shoulder and neck problems. I don’t always manage that discipline though, because I become too involved with my characters – and then I regret it! I’m lucky enough to have a downstairs study and write only there. 
             My creativity flows best in the mornings, although I also write sometimes in the afternoons, but never in the evenings. I’m definitely a lark rather than an owl.

W. What role does editing play in your writing process?
M. A crucial part and I have a need to edit constantly rather than write the complete novel first.

W. What is the best advice that you have received about your writing and who advised you?
M.One was to read my work aloud when editing, advice I was given when I attended a writing workshop at a local college. The other was not to ‘gloss over’ a scene - instead to extract from it every ounce of drama. This comment was on the critique I received from the RNA New Writer’s scheme.

W. What advice would you give to writers in the first stage of writing their novels?
M. Definitely to join a writers’ workshop, where your work can receive valuable feedback and you can listen to criticisms of other writers’ work. It is essential though that there is also support and encouragement and it may be worth searching for the right one. Writing can be a lonely occupation and only other writers really understand how all-absorbing it can be. I have made some wonderful friends in this way.

W. How long does it normally take you to write a novel? Has this changed?
M. I admire enormously those novelists who can complete two novels a year or even a novel every 12 months. But my own manuscripts take me at least 18 months to write and edit. And ideally, I would prefer a comfortable two years. Not a scenario that publishers like, but essential in my case. I’m prone to frequent migraines, and so my allotted writing time often has to be postponed.
                 One would have thought that with experience, writing would become swifter, perhaps even easier, but that hasn’t been my experience. I do think though that I have become more critical of my own writing.

W. What are you working on now?
M. I am writing another novel set in the Edwardian era. But this time, the story begins with a young girl incarcerated in a workhouse from the age of six. It is hard in these easier times to envisage the hardship and degradation faced then by those in poverty, often through no fault of their own. There is another main heroine, a wealthy young woman who offers young Ella the means of escaping – even if it only to become a scullery maid. But there are mysteries in both of their past lives. And of course, a romantic element will be there throughout.

W. Tell us about your latest published novel.
M. Set against a cosmopolitan background and in the Edwardian era, Dangerous Decisions tells the story of Helena, a young and sheltered debutante who is courted by the wealthy and enigmatic Oliver Faraday. Despite a sense of unease and being haunted by the image of an attractive young doctor, she mistakes infatuation for love and accepts Oliver’s proposal. But he is deeply flawed. 
                    Describing the beautiful clothes of the Edwardian era, the pampered life of the aristocracy, the widespread poverty and drudgery of the working classes and the servant culture fascinated me. The novel has been described as a psychological suspense but is also deeply romantic.

W. What, for you are the best characteristics of a good editor?
M. To believe in your novel and want it to be the best it can. A keen eye for discrepancies especially the timeline, and to be friendly and approachable.

Other Books by Margaret:


  1. I love reading how other authors work. What a lovely and interesting interview!
    I'm lucky to have already read Dangerous Decisions and I loved it.
    Good luck with it Margaret.

    1. Thank you Berni. And my eternal gratitude for your gorgeous cover design, which is widely praised.

  2. I enjoyed this interview, Margaret. I'm not a fast writer so I took comfort from your thoughts about how long it takes you to complete a novel. x

    1. And I take comfort from the fact that you too are not a fast writer, Chris. Still, we get there in the end!

  3. I am enjoying the great response to Margaret's interview on my blog. I can see she is an inspiration. wv

  4. Another great interview Margaret. AND I learned something new, too. Have tweeted etc. Your books are great and I hope you discover some new fans via this blog post.

    1. Thank you so much Lizzie, you're always so generous with your support of other authors. x



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