Thank you so much for joining us here at Bookish Jottings, Kate! It’s lovely to have you here! Could you please start by telling us something about yourself and the books you write?
Thank you, Julie – it’s a pleasure!
I live in Dublin, Ireland, but spend a lot of time on the west coast where we have a mobile home on the very edge of the Atlantic. I studied French and English at Trinity College Dublin and was a professional actress for many years before I turned to writing. Another Heartbeat in the House is my fifteenth novel, but my second under the name Kate Beaufoy. I am a scuba diver, mother and wild swimmer, and proud slave to a beautiful Burmese cat.
Your latest book, Another Heartbeat in the House, has just been published. What originally sparked off the idea for this book?
The novel was inspired by a house that I came across by chance in a remote beauty spot. It’s derelict, but had been built in 1840 as a hunting lodge. As I wandered through the rooms and along the corridors, there was complete silence, apart from the beating of my own heart. And that’s when it struck me that the house needed another heartbeat to make it live again.
You can see images of the house by going to www.pinterest.com/heartbeathouse/
What is Another Heartbeat in the House about?
It is the story of two independent young women – Edie Chadwick and Eliza Drury. Edie works in a publishing house in London, Eliza is a nineteenth century adventuress.Their lives intertwine when Edie happens upon Eliza’s memoir, and embarks on a literary detective story.
What kind of research did you do for Another Heartbeat in the House?
I sought the help of a local historian who furnished me with archival records and anecdotes relating to the house, and I visited it numerous times to get a sense of its character. I haunted libraries and helped myself to scores of books; anyone can search the internet, but the best historical nuggets are to be found in books – often through happenstance. It was from DJ Taylor’s s fascinating biography of Thackeray, for instance, that I learned the details of his tragic wife’s illness: Isabella Thackeray suffered from postpartum psychosis, and on one occasion attempted suicide by throwing herself overboard the steamship that was conveying her and her family to Ireland. I also read countless eye witness reports of the devastation wrought by the Irish famine; a harrowing, grotesque and heinous event in our history.
What are the challenges of writing books set in the past?
Honestly, I would now find writing a novel set in the present day more difficult! Life moves so fast and so much can change during the course of a year that between typing Chapter One on the first page and The End on the last, a novel can already be out of date.
Prior to writing as Kate Beaufoy, you’d written a long list of highly successful contemporary women’s fiction titles as Kate Thompson. What prompted this change in writing style?
I had just delivered the final novel in the Lissamore series (That Gallagher Girl) when I got a cancer diagnosis. There followed eighteen months of treatment and recuperation, and during that time I made the decision to reinvent myself. Beaufoy was my grandmother’s name, and since Liberty Silk – my first historical novel – was based on letters written by her in the aftermath of the Great War, it seemed a fortuitous nom de plume.
What is your all-time favourite book?
It has to be Vanity Fair. I have reread it countless times, and each time I am bowled over by its wit, high spirits and the satire that is as pertinent today as when Thackeray wrote it. I modelled my 19th century protagonist, Eliza, on Thackeray’s Becky Sharp: the wickedest,most engaging and most enduring of literary heroines.
Any advice for aspiring writers?
Lots – but too much to list here! One important nugget is: Shhhh! No matter how much you are tempted to, don’t announce to the world that you are writing a novel. Let maybe two or three close friends know, and trust just one or two to read your manuscript. Choose someone you know will be honest but encouraging; nothing is so dispiriting to a writer as brutal candour, and no question quite so unwelcome – once the word is out – as ‘How’s the book going?’
What’s next for Kate Beaufoy?
I’ve embarked on a novel featuring a 19th century literary heroine, but that’s all I’m saying! Right now I am on holiday on our western peninsula indulging in some of my favourite pursuits: swimming, hill-walking, exploring abandoned buildings and reading other people’s books!
Kate Beaufoy’s Another Heartbeat in the House has been shortlisted for the Irish Independent Popular Fiction Book of the Year. Vote for Kate and her fabulous book at the following link: http://www.irishbookawards.ie/award/irish-independent-popular-fiction-book-of-the-year/