In my last post, I reviewed the novel Lydia’s Song by Katherine Blessan to kick off her blog tour. Today I have the great pleasure of finding a little bit more about the author herself.
Katherine, perhaps you could tell me why you write
I write because I have something to write about or a particular story I’m burning to tell. I wanted to write for years but it was only when I got the idea for Lydia’s Song that I really sat down to write in earnest.
How long have you been writing?
Since I was a child at school, when I was always getting told my stories were good, though I don’t personally believe they were at that time, especially as I had no idea how to write a good story. But seriously since 2006 when I first got the idea for Lydia’s Song and regularly since 2015, when I left my secondary school teaching job and focussed more on my writing.
What is one thing you wish you knew when you started out?
That even when you have written something that you think is good, not everyone will think so and it can take a long time for someone else to believe enough in your particular piece(s) of writing to take a chance on it. Also, I wish I’d known more about the craft of writing when I first started. I thought I knew as I’d done a MA in English Literature and read voraciously but there is so much more to learn about the how of crafting something readable and engaging.
How would you describe the genre you are writing in?
Gritty Christian fiction, if there is such a thing! I am passionate about social justice and inevitably that passion has seeped into the stories I write about. As well as child-sex trafficking I’ve touched on the topics of FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) and refugees.
How did you come up with the character of Lydia Phillips?
Lydia is loosely based on aspects of me, so when reviewers say that they don’t like Lydia, I always feel wryly amused. No, she’s very different to me in some essentials i.e. she’s not a Christian but I am. Yet some of the experiences that she has are similar to ones that I have gone through myself (e.g. rejection from men and dealings with tuk-tuk drivers), although thankfully not the child abduction!
How often do you write and what is your process?
I wish this had an easy answer but it doesn’t! Lydia’s Song took me eight years to write due to the process of research that I felt I needed to undertake, as well as the fact that I was working as a school teacher, getting married cross-culturally and having babies in between. In fact, the majority of the novel was written in the four years after my first child was born, during school holidays and random days here and there. Once Lydia’s Song was published, I started to sense that I needed to invest more time into the writing process and since September 2015 when I began working as a private tutor, I’ve tried to spend at least one day a week on writing. Sadly, these days sometimes get squeezed out due to other commitments such as the exam marking I’ve just emerged from, but I’ll make up those stolen times through retreat days/weeks, which I’ve begun to realise are essential, especially as life is so busy and full of multiple distractions/needs/other passions.
Do you write with an outline?
Yes. I do know where my stories are going from the outset, although they will inevitably get fleshed out with details as I go along.
How do you market yourself and your book?
I am active on social media via Facebook and Twitter, although probably not as active as I should be. I also have contacted churches and schools to create opportunities for speaking engagements and workshops. Through leading writing workshops, I can use my teaching gifting to encourage others with their own writing, and the offshoot of that is making more people aware of my novel. I am also a member of a writer’s collective called Sheffield Authors and try to network with various writer’s circles. In addition, I have tried to use the anti-trafficking issue within the book as a way in to approaching organisations. Most of the times this goes nowhere, but last summer I had the opportunity to speak at a Christian festival and after speaking I got approached by a man wanting to invite me to an anti-trafficking gig in Preston run by a Hope for Justice group. (Hope for Justice are the anti-trafficking organisation that I am supporting through sales of my book.) As a result of this connection I have managed to sell around 25 or so books. Sometimes it’s the opportunities that come our way, rather than the ones we actively pursue that prove to be the most fruitful!
What writing advice can you give?
Think outside the box. Don’t expect your writing journey to be like anyone else’s. You’ve got to follow the path that is laid out for you not someone else, however much you admire that person. Read as much as you possibly can, go on writing courses and read magazines like Writing Magazine to gain as much insight into the writing process as possible. And improve your grammar if that is an issue for you, as poor grammar will be a huge impediment to getting your writing accepted by anyone else.
Can you create a short writing prompt?
Write a story or poem which has to mention two of the following words: summer, stale, scent, driven, dark, rain, shiver or arrow. Make sure it includes at least one item in it eg. a woollen glove, a mobile phone, a baby’s shoe etc.
Katherine tweets @kathblessan
Check out her website at: http://www.katherineblessan.com/
Other stories by Katherine Blessan include:
- ‘A Heart on Fire’ – a love story inspired by Chariots of Fire. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Heart-Fire-Katherine-Blessan-ebook/dp/B06XD2D2FV
- ‘Travels by Wheelchair’ was shortlisted in a Patrician Press competition in 2016 and published in an anthology. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Refugees-Peacekeepers-Patrician-Press-Anthology-ebook/dp/B01MUG2YIV/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1499980922&sr=1-1&keywords=refugees+and+peacekeepers
- ‘Beyond her Scream’ – a story of a mother-daughter relationship strained by the effects of FGM. Short Story Beyond Her Scream from cutalongstory.com