Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Getting to know … Kathy Sharp

What genre would you say your novels fall into, or do they defy classification?
Novel, singular, at present – although another one is on the way. I tend to refer to it as fantasy since the characters inhabit a sort of parallel universe, but I don’t think it’s a typical fantasy novel at all. It’s certainly not of the dragons-and-wizards variety, though I will admit to a battered castle and some rather odd goings-on. It was recently referred to as a ‘fantastical tale’, which I think describes it rather better.

What made you choose that genre?
I think it chose me. The story just appeared in my head, and wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

How long does it take you to write a book?
It varies. Isle of Larus was completed in the space of seven months, but the current book is proving a rather more drawn-out process.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I try not to force it. Sitting down in front of the computer and telling myself I will now write my 500 or 1,000 words for the day tends to result in laboured writing, or, at least, it does for me. But when an idea strikes, and the words start to flow, I’ll work solidly until all of it is safely written down. Revision and editing is a rather more orderly process, I’m glad to say.

Where do you get your ideas for your books?
I don’t think any writer could fail to be inspired by the Jurassic Coast of Dorset, where I live, and I’m certainly no exception. Dramatic sea stories – real ones – happen around me day by day, and the landscape’s air of dangerous beauty is a constant source of ideas. Isle of Larus was born directly out of my experience of this wonderful place.

When did you write your first book and how old were you?
Six. As soon as I realised a book could be created by folding a couple of sheets of paper, I was away. Soon I was producing little volumes of poetry, stories about birds, little magazines. All hand-written, of course, until the day I got my hands on a battered old typewriter and saw that proper print was within my grasp. No doubt a six-year-old these days could use a computer to produce a publication that would have been beyond my wildest dreams back then.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I love plants, both wild and cultivated, and I enjoy photographing them. There’s a vague plan in my head to collect photos of every type of plant on the planet, though I think that might be a tad ambitious. I also enjoy singing with a local choir, Island Voices, on Portland.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
As far as Isle of Larus is concerned, I simply had no idea I was capable of so much imagination. In fact I was convinced I couldn’t write fiction at all. But the wonderful people I met through my local writing groups, and the Dorset Writers’ Network, helped me to flex my imaginative muscles. Of course you can write fiction, they said. And now I find myself the creator of a whole collection of imaginary people and an imaginary place for them to live in. You can’t really get anything more surprising than that.

How many books have you written?
Quite a few, all non-fiction and many years out of date now.

Which is your favourite and why?
I suppose most writers have a soft spot for their first ‘proper’ book. Mine was a sprawling memoir of my teenage years, written when I was in my thirties. It wasn’t very exciting and was never published, but I learned a great deal in the process of writing it. I look through it occasionally and realise that I would have forgotten so much of the detail of my own past if I hadn’t written it, so it’s a firm and precious favourite.

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I never wanted to be anything but a writer, really. I made the mistake, as a teenager, of thinking I had nothing to write about that anyone else could possibly want to read. It took me a long while to realise that everyone’s experience is unique, valid and interesting, and thus worth writing about.

What are you working on now?
The further adventures, and misadventures, of the inhabitants of the Isle of Larus. They never cease to surprise me.

Growing up by the sea in Kent, back in the 1960s, it was Kathy’s ambition to become a writer. Time passed. She married, moved to west London, and had a daughter. She continued to write, and had a small book or two on countryside and nature subjects published.  She worked for many years as a desktop publisher for Surrey County Council, and as a tutor in adult education.

And then, one day, she visited a friend who had just moved to the Isle of Portland, Dorset, and fell in love with the place. She has now lived in the Weymouth and Portland area for eight years, and still loves it.

Isle of Larus will be published by Crooked Cat Publishing on 26 July 2013

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1 comment:

Thalia said...

This is fantastic!