Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Interview with Katherine Webb

Katherine Webb's The Unseen was a delicious start to my summer, an exciting, dramatic thriller with contemporary and historical elements, and she's become one of my favorite authors for escapist summertime reads. I'm super psyched to share my Q&A with her, especially since Ms. Webb has the honor of being the first author to do a repeat interview with me! (Her first took place last summer following the publication of The Legacy.) I tried to shake things up with a few fresh questions for her, so read on to learn about The Unseen, her writing process, and what she does when she's not reading. Be sure to enter my giveaway for The Unseen, too!

Was The Unseen the original title of your book?

No, actually this one went through several incarnations before we found something all were happy with. It started out as ‘The Dryad’, then became ‘The Elemental’, then at the last minute changed again to ‘The Unseen’.

As you were writing The Unseen, was there a particular scene or character that surprised you?

I had a fairly good idea of who all my characters were before I started the book, but as I wrote I was pleased and surprised to find that some key characters, who I’d never thought would get along, in fact started to sympathise with one another, and understand each other better. Hester and Cat, in particular – I’d never imagined that they would reach the level of rapport that they do!

If you had to pick something that expressed The Unseen -- a song, a food, a painting, for example -- what would it be?

That’s a tough question! Perhaps the Kennet and Avon canal, which runs through the story, and through the county of Berkshire. That the canal was falling out of use in 1911, overtaken by road and rail, reflects how quickly the world was changing. But a slow-moving canal, with pretty reflections of light playing on its surface, is a good analogy for English society at the time – canal water is murky, and all sorts of unpleasant things can be happening out of sight beneath the surface … The canal was left to become completely derelict and impassable, and was almost forgotten about until it was fully restored late in the last century, as people came to appreciate the value of these historical things – another nice parallel with Cat’s story, and Leah’s later uncovering of it.

What do you do when you finish a book -- celebrate? Start another one?

Yes! I celebrate, in some low-key way. Usually by having a long breakfast the next morning – I’m talking about a breakfast that lasts for hours, with newspapers and at least three cups of tea – revelling in the feeling that I don’t have to rush to my desk and start work. I usually have a few weeks of just pottering around and catching up with people I haven’t seen in a while, but it’s never more than a couple of months before I start thinking about and researching the next book – I get into an irritable, impatient mood that can only be soothed by writing!

According to your bio, you've worked as a "waitress, au pair, personal assistant, potter, bookbinder, library assistant, and formal housekeeper at a manor house". Do you miss anything about those previous jobs or do you see anything in your life as a writer that mirrors your past work?

None of my past jobs mirror the joy and privilege of being able to write for a living – it’s my dream job, and what I always wanted to do. The jobs were a means to an end – a way to pay the bills while I wrote in the evenings. The only – and I mean only – thing I miss about going out to work is that extra bit of human contact and company. I generally love being by myself, and certainly love working by myself, but there comes a point when you need human interaction too, or you risk going a bit peculiar! My last cottage was so remote that I started trying to keep the postman on the step in the morning, just for the conversation… I moved last year to a busier village, and now have neighbours I can drop in on for tea, or go up to the pub with in the evening. I’ve started doing a few hours volunteer work in the week, and I help out at a stable yard – so I think I’m hitting the right balance now!

Read any good books recently?

I’m currently reading The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, and am really enjoying it – it’s so beautifully written. My sister has got me hooked on the A Game of Thrones series, so before The Snow Child I was immersed in the second book of that – so addictive! It’ll be Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader next – this month’s choice of our village book club; and I also recently finished The Wilding by Maria McCann – a gripping story set in seventeenth century England, which manages to completely immerse you in the era whilst wearing its research very lightly, in a way I shall be striving to emulate! I highly recommend the book.

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GIVEAWAY!

I'm thrilled to offer a copy of The Unseen to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/Canadian readers, ends 6/22.

15 comments:

  1. Coming up with the right title for a book would be so hard! The Unseen sounds like the best of the titles she mentioned.

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    1. I'm always in awe about the title-naming process -- a good title is such a hook!

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  2. I always love your interviews. Sounds like she celebrates in the best way when she finishes a book.

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    1. Thank you, Serena! I love how she celebrates -- that's v much my style! ;)

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  3. You always ask the most interesting questions. Nicely done. I loved the one about what would she pick to express The Unseen.

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    1. Thank you, Ti! I'm proud of this set -- I tried to be v creative so Ms. Webb wouldn't be bored!

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  4. As much as I love your standard interview questions, it was so much fun to read this one. Excellent job!

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    1. Aww, thanks Carrie! I'm rather pleased, I must confess -- I'm glad it was as fun to read as it was to make up these questions!

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  5. The idea of living in a "busy village" makes me feel whimsical and jealous, haha! Just love the idea of writing in a cottage, as Ms. Webb does. Great interview, and I really want to read The Unseen! Sounds like a winner.

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    1. Thank you -- that's the first thing I said to my wife when I read the interview before posting it -- and she pointed out we probably lived in a village before we moved -- but it wasn't an English village, I said! And so forth. :)

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  6. Yup I had to enter this one too. You do so much damage to my TBR pile.

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    1. Mwahahahahaha! I'm not even sorry about it, either! ;)

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  7. Great interview and it's made me doubly sure that I want, no need this book.

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    1. It's a need-worthy book! And you'll die while reading it as you'll need to get to the end -- gah, so good!

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  8. I love the question about her previous jobs! I understand that she doesn't miss those other jobs since she's now doing her dream job, but I must admit that I do sometimes miss being a waitress -- there's something about it that I just miss.

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