It’s Meet the Author Monday! Each week we meet a new author and get to know a little about them, their writing process, publishing experience, and tips for other writers. Today we’re talking to Katherine Blessan, author of Home Truths with Lady Grey.
About Katherine Blessan:
Katherine lives in Sheffield and is married to Blessan, from Kerala, India. As well as writing stories that touch on social issues and explore the space where cultures cross, Katherine is a social entrepreneur and English tutor.
Previously, she lived and worked in Cambodia, a rich experience she draws on in her writing. Her novel set here, Lydia’s Song, was a category finalist in the Indie Book Awards, 2016.
Katherine has drafted her third novel and is a short story and screenwriter. She has also written two ghostwritten two novels for the London Ghostwriting Company.
‘Home Truths with Lady Grey’ is an evocative, moving story about the power of friendship to unlock new ways of seeing life and self.
‘My world is narrowing, constricting down to the thin end of a funnel.’ When normally capable, career-minded Jennifer crumbles under a debilitating disease, she struggles with no longer being in control of her life. In the meantime, Mona, a family-oriented mother of Iranian heritage, finds out that her husband is gambling and hiding the truth from her. Can she move beyond betrayal to action?
When Mona goes to work for Jennifer as a carer, Jennifer is initially defensive, but the two soon discover that despite their differences they have so much to learn from one another. Will Mona discover how to balance the conflicting loyalties of family and self? Will Jennifer learn to let others in? And most importantly, will they both survive?
Author Interview with Katherine Blessan:
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- What is the first book that made you cry?
The first book I remember crying over was By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Although I’m not a pet person, the scene where the Wilder dog, Jack, dies was so poignant and emotionally controlled that it couldn’t help but tug on my heart strings. I felt the emotion of missing his faithful presence as though he were my own companion.
- Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Yes, because I wrote a couple of ghostwritten novels and there was an option that one of the novels (it hasn’t been published yet!) would be published under my name as a co-writer. Because the content in my ghostwritten novels is very different from my own novels, I thought it would be good to distinguish between them and my own material. I thought long and hard over what I wanted my name to be and I came up with Laura Bennett. Laura – it’s the name of one of my favourite literary heroes – Laura Ingalls Wilder and I’ve always liked the name – and Bennett for my favourite protagonist – Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice.
- If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Writing well is a journey – don’t think that you’re great at it, just because you did a literature degree and read a lot as a child. There’s much more to it than that!
- How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
Publishing my first book made me realize that writing was what I was meant to do. I couldn’t just tag it on with other things, but it needed to become one of my main things. Shortly after this, I quit my school teaching job and decided to become a tutor instead so that I could invest more time and headspace into my writing career.
- What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
This is a great question. I’d like to big up a novel which has received very little attention yet – Janet Hancock’s historical novel Beyond the Samovar (The Conrad Press, 2018).
I loved this book. It was so full of lyrical language, telling details, rich characters and historical intrigue. You felt like you were immersed in living 100 years ago, yet so much of the novel reflected issues happening in our present day too.
Beyond the Samovar tells the tale of Livvy and her husband Peter as they escape from Baku in newly independent Azerbaijan across Russia and all the challenges they face. It’s a novel of two halves with the first half set in Russia / Azerbaijan and the second half set in Birmingham once Livvy and her son George arrive back in the UK, having lost Peter on route. At first I wondered what the story was going to be for the second half of the novel, but I soon found myself engrossed in the political and relational ins and outs of Peter’s family and both sweetly and (somewhat) uncomfortably surprised by the ending.
It is such an excellent novel that it deserves a much higher readership than it has so far and I sincerely hope that it will reach a wider audience.
- If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
I would do what I do anyway alongside my writing, which is teach English and creative writing (these days I do private tuition rather than school teaching) which complements my new role as a Writing for Wellbeing tutor and director of an arts for wellbeing social enterprise.
- If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?
Be taught properly! I have a particular bugbear about this issue. I was raised in an era where it wasn’t politically correct to teach structure and grammar in English, and we were just expected to splurge from our wellspring of creativity. Creativity is great, but you need to understand what makes a good story before you can write a truly good one in order to be able to manipulate language in the best way possible. I knew NOTHING about show-not-tell for example before I hit my mid-twenties. I genuinely believe I could have been a better writer earlier on if I’d had the teaching and writing opportunities that are available now.
- How long on average does it take you to write a book?
There is no average. My first book took me eight years, my second novel took me six years (both writing processes had plenty of gaps in between while other projects and work were done) and the first draft of my third novel was written in six months!
- What does success mean to you? What is the definition of success?
As a Christian, I believe that real success is not about how others see me or how many books I’ve sold, but it’s about being faithful in my gifting. It’s about pressing on and writing the next book or, in my case, the next screenplay, and continuing to do the best I can at marketing my books without getting bound up by fear of failure. Winston Churchill defined success as “going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm”, which is a wonderful recognition that failures are often the building blocks of success and a reminder of how important resilience is.
- Have any of your books been made into audiobooks? If so, what are the challenges in producing an audiobook?
Home Truths with Lady Grey is in the process of being made into an audiobook. We’re not quite there yet as I’m just waiting for my narrator to redo a couple of lines where a real person’s name was pronounced incorrectly and she’s been ill and croaky for a while!
Creating an audiobook has been a huge learning curve. I’ve been very blessed in finding a narrator who is willing to do the audio narration on a royalties only basis and has been happy to adapt to my mess-ups. So, the first narration of the book was not up to my expectations as all the accents were wrong. I thought I had given clear instructions but I hadn’t. Secondly, I had thought it was better for me to allow Rebecca to do the recording without my listening in. I soon learnt how short-sighted that decision was, and promptly went back to the text, highlighted all the dialogue where I wanted characters to speak with a northern accent, and agreed on two days where I would Zoom in and listen to Rebecca record the whole novel – again. That way I was able to intervene as and when needed to correct pronunciation, tone etc. This turned out to be a really worthwhile two days and I will not make that same mistake second time around.
It’s going to be published and distributed by Findaway Voices.