The past revealed

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It’s been one of those summers, hasn’t it? The prolonged drought in the UK meant barely a week went past without there being news of some new historical or archeological remains being discovered. Ancient earthworks revealed when the grass or crops died, or reservoirs drying out to reveal long lost drowned villages.

Of course this all fascinated me, not least because my new book (out this week!) is called The Drowned Village and focuses on a dried-out reservoir revealing an old village, and the secrets buried within.

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Here are some links to news stories about what was uncovered by the drought. All amazing stories, and I know for certain if I hadn’t already written The Drowned Village I’d be inspired to write such a story now!

Haweswater and Mardale (the valley my novel was inspired by)

A ‘lost valley’ in Cornwall

And not just in Britain – here’s a reservoir in Wicklow, Ireland that dried out

Here are some older, archeological discoveries made due to the drought

And more from Scotland

I’ve always felt the past is still there, just beneath our consciousness somehow. We only need scratch the surface and we are reconnected with it. If I pass through an ancient doorway, I’m always drawn to wondering about all the people who’ve passed through it before me…  I guess that’s why I love writing dual timeline novels!

Speaking of which – here’s the link to The Drowned Village, out on 20th September, available from online retailers or your local Waterstone’s.  I can’t wait to find out what people think of this one!

 

 

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On rugby

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Those with keen eyes who’ve read all my books might have noticed they usually contain a little throwaway reference to Munster rugby club. You might have wondered why. I’m pretty sure my editor just rolls her eyes when she comes across them, but lets them go anyway.

The reason why is quite simple. I need my husband to read the book, usually in its first draft so he can provide some early honest feedback. He’s a huge fan of Munster, so the reference to the club is just a little carrot to dangle before him and get him into reading it.

Munster, for those who aren’t sure, is one of the four provinces of Ireland (the others are Leinster, Ulster and Connaught). It’s the south-west corner, and contains my favourite county, Cork (along with Kerry, Clare, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford). Munster rugby club are one of the best in Europe, and way back in 1978 managed to beat the mighty All-Blacks.  They were a team of amateurs then, but somehow their passion and pride allowed them to achieve the unthinkable. It’s said that although the stadium at the time held only 12,000 people, somewhere around 250,000 claim to have been at the match.

 

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With husband and son at Thomond Park before the match

It was easy including a Munster reference in The Girl from Ballymor – the Munster fans often sing ‘The Fields of Athenry’ at matches. It’s actually a song about the famine, so an odd choice of song for a sporting club, but there you go. We visited Limerick, where Munster’s home ground of Thomond Park is, while I was writing The Girl from Ballymor. And we were back again for another match just over a week ago at the end of our most recent trip to Ireland.

With just 10 days to go now until The Drowned Village is published, I wonder if you’ll spot the Munster reference in that book! Post a reply here when you do.

 

Not the only writer in the family…

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I’m not sure I’ve ever met my father’s cousin Ann, although maybe she’ll say she was at my christening, or remembers me having a tantrum aged about 2, or something. But my brother visits her now and again, at her home in Glasgow. He was there recently, and chatted to her about my books, and she told him I was not the only writer in the family…

She then sent me these newspaper cuttings. The paper is very fragile – they are probably well over 100 years old. My great-grandfather, it seems, was a poet.EPSON MFP image

His name was John Coward, and I remember my grandmother talking about him. I knew him as an artist – I have two watercolours by him, and I know of several more of his paintings dotted around the family.

The poetry is perhaps a little flowery and Victorian for current tastes, but it is wonderful to read them and have this little glimpse into my ancestor’s heart.

Though stern old Fate our paths doth sever,

Still thou art dearer now than ever;

And thy bright glance,

In all its sweet angelic glory,

I see, as now I pen my story

With young Romance;

And Cupid’s bow, the golden token,

I fold within, for thought unspoken.

— John Coward

Of course, I’m wondering if there’s a novel idea in there somewhere. Woman is sent clippings of poems written by an ancestor, and discovers something encoded within the verse, that sets her off on a journey to discover the truth about some long-lost family secret…  What do you reckon? Shall I write it?

Life imitating art… again

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I love it when real life decides to imitate the plots of my books. It happened a few years ago with The Emerald Comb (see this post) and is happening again now with my new book, The Drowned Village.

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My book was inspired by a visit to Haweswater Reservoir in the Lake District. A  village, Mardale Green, was evacuated and demolished to make way for this reservoir. What if, I thought, a secret was buried in the village, then lost when the village was flooded? What if, in a period of drought, the reservoir recedes and the village and its secrets exposed?

Well look what’s happened, in our current heatwave! More fabulous pictures in this article. Whether or not there’s a real life secret to be uncovered remains to be seen, though.

But there’s definitely a mystery to be resolved in my book – which you can pre-order here.

 

 

 

It’s all go, here!

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I’ve just returned from a lovely relaxing two week holiday in the Loire valley in France, in our motorhome. The days were spent cycling beautiful lanes between fields of wheat and vines, swimming in lakes or rivers, sitting drinking wine in the campsites.

Oh, and I also managed to get a lot of writing done! Somehow, possibly due to the laptop not being connected to the internet, I managed to get an average 1000 words a day written, which is more than I do at home.

And a complete idea for a new novel, set in France and featuring a chateau, arrived. Hurray!

I’m back at the day job tomorrow. And back to the Irish independence novel from today – it needs editing and returning to my editor in about a month so I need to crack on.

In other news, The Girl from Ballymor is on an Amazon Kindle promotion in the UK, and selling at just 99p. Hurry while stocks last, as they say! I’ve just received a lovely message from a reader about this book. It does seem to strike a chord with many people of Irish descent throughout the world. Hope the independence novel does as well!

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Hard back, large print

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LP books Very excited to open this morning’s post to find these beauties in a jiffy bag! This is my first book in large print, and isn’t it lovely? I’m hoping many libraries will buy it so it can reach lots more people.

I love this cover. Seeing it on the finished book was the first time I’d seen this cover. That model is so definitely Kitty, though I suppose really she should be a little more gaunt around the face to be historically accurate. But let’s see her as she was before the famine, healthy and happy.

 

In other news, I’m now working on two books at once. Editing a second Irish novel, and starting to write another one, set in Dorset. The aim is to publish both next year, though neither has a definite title yet! You’ll hear it here first. Or ‘like’ my Facebook author page https://www.facebook.com/KathleenMcGurl  which I sometimes update earlier than my blog with news.

Who of you uses a library? I must admit I don’t, these days. I’m a compulsive book-buyer, and have so many in my To-Be-Read pile I don’t need to add to it with library books. Yet I think libraries are a brilliant service, and in the past I’ve used them a lot – especially when my kids were young.

 

How I write my novels

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I’m at that delicious between-novels stage. I’ve sent the first draft of my latest to a few beta-readers and to my editor, and am hoping they’ll take a good couple of weeks or more to get back to me with feedback. I have an idea for the next one, but I need to pull together various notes and try to make a complete story out of them, which will take a while. There’s also some research needed.

While first-drafting I tend to ignore everything else, including this blog. But now I’ve a bit of time to raise my head above the parapet and see what’s going on. Over a month since I posted here – shocking!

Anyway, I thought I’d do a brief post on how I go about writing my dual timeline novels.

Firstly, I start with the idea: a number of notes jotted over time on my phone, in notebooks, on backs of envelopes or whatever is to hand. Then I have to do some thinking to try to pull the notes into order, and see if I’ve got enough story. When I think I have, I’ll then have a go at writing a synopsis – about 300-500 words, outlining the novel.

After that I write character sheets for the main characters in both timelines, interviewing them. They tell me their deepest fears, what makes them happy, what they dreamed of last night, as well as boring stuff such as hair colour, date of birth, name etc.

Then I write a plan – a spreadsheet with a couple of sentences on what’s going to happen in each chapter. I aim for 90,000 words in each novel, and around 3,000 per chapter, but I need to begin and end with the contemporary story, which means there has to be an odd number of chapters. I go for 29 or 31. Sometimes there’s a prologue from the historical timeline, acting as a hook – depends if I feel the novel needs it or not.

Next it’s time to start writing. I’ve got two stories to write and interweave. I don’t write the chapters in the order they end up in the book, though. I will always write the first one or two from both timelines to get into it (and to send to my editor for approval if she asks for it), and then I usually steam ahead on the historical story right to the end, before going back to the contemporary story to slot around it.

One novel I wrote in sequence, alternating the chapters as they appear in the book, but this felt too choppy and I found it harder to get really immersed in each timeline and set of characters due to constantly changing.

This latest novel: stupidly I decided to write the whole contemporary story first. Mainly because I hadn’t yet done enough research on the historical period. Then when I got to the parts where my contemporary character needed to find out the truth about what happened in the past, I couldn’t write it, because I didn’t know myself what had happened, because I hadn’t written it! D’oh. Had to break off, do the research, write the historical and then finish off the contemporary.

So from now on, after the first few chapters, I am going to write the whole historical tale first. This definitely works best.

I write each chapter in a separate Word document. On my planning spreadsheet, I keep a word count per chapter and a rolling word count, so I can see whether the dramatic highs and lows are coming at the right point in the novel. Once all chapters are written I open a new document and copy all the chapters in, in the right order. That’s the ‘initial construction’ draft. I will then edit that, move scenes around if needed, fill in blanks, deal with my notes-to-self that I make in capital letters while first-drafting. Once that’s all done – that’s my proper first draft, and the first one I let anyone read.

There’s loads more work needed of course, as any novelist will tell you. My editor and beta readers will have opinions on what works and what doesn’t, and hopefully will provide ideas on how to improve it. I’d expect another couple of drafts before it goes to the copy-editor and then the proof-reader. But getting that first draft done and sent always feels like a great achievement. The novel may be far from finished but at least I’ve got something to work with now.

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

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shamrock To all those of Irish descent, and everyone else, have a wonderful St Patrick’s Day! If Ireland beat England in the Six Nations rugby this afternoon, thereby winning the Grand Slam, it’ll certainly be a joyous occasion in this house. My husband is a committed fan of Irish rugby. (If you read my books carefully you might spot references to Munster Rugby club in them – it’s the only way I can persuade him to read them.)

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My Irish book, The Girl from Ballymor, is currently just 99p for the ebook – what better way to celebrate St Patrick’s Day, especially given the awful weather forecast for the weekend, than curling up with a good read?

And if you’ve already read it, thank you! I’d appreciate a brief Amazon review, as those really do help sell books.

Whatever you’re doing today, have a good one, and Slainté!

Are you ready for a bit of summer?

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Here in the UK we have had a long, cold winter. Just as March began and we all thought spring was here, we were hit by snow and storms across the country. We even had snow here in Bournemouth, where it NEVER snows! Those up north are still suffering.

So it feels like a good time to officially reveal the cover of my next book, The Drowned Village, which has a gorgeous summery feel to it. The contemporary strand of the story takes place during a long, hot summer. We can but dream that that is what we’ll get this year!

You can preorder the book in either ebook or paperback. It’s due for release in September 2018.

Amazon UK link.    Amazon US link.

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A new cover!

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It’s hard to believe but it is almost four years since I published my first novel -Mr Cavell’s Diamond. This one was self-published, and my lovely son made me a cover for it.

Time’s moved on, and I felt the cover didn’t really fit the contents of the novel and also didn’t look right alongside my other novels, published by HQ. So, I commissioned a cover designer (Berni Stevens) to make me a new cover, and I’m delighted to be able to share that with you today! Here is is. The Regency house, the girl, the sea in the background – all just spot on for the story, and I love the vibrant colours.

The novel may have been out a while, but it’s still one I’m very proud of. Unlike my other novels it’s not dual timeline but it is historical, and there’s a genealogical twist (revealed when you get to the author’s note at the end).

You can buy the ebook from Amazon UK, Amazon US, or any other Amazon.

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