Today I’m delighted to welcome Kate Evans to the blog. Kate is a writer of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Her non-fiction articles have been published in (among other publications) The Guardian, The Independent, Counselling Today, Poetry News, The Journal for Applied Arts in Health and The Journal of Poetry Therapy.
Her book Pathways Through Writing Blocks in the Academic Environment was published by Sense Publishers in April 2013.
She has created two word-based installations for the arts festival Coastival, one inspired by the works and life of Edith Sitwell.
She has an MA in Creative Writing from Sussex University and teaches on the Degree in Creative Writing at the University of Hull, Scarborough campus. She is trained as a psychotherapeutic counsellor.
In October 2016 she will be appearing at the Beverley Literature Festival.
The Art of Breathing will be launched in WH Smiths in Scarborough on the 29th October 2016.
The Art of Breathing is your third crime novel set in Scarborough, following The Art of the Imperfect and The Art of Survival. Please tell us a bit about the series and this new book.
The series is set in Scarborough, the North Yorkshire coastal town where I live. The landscape and the sea are almost characters in themselves, integral in creating the atmosphere of the stories and a way of exploring the internal emotional landscapes of the characters.
The stories are told from the point of view of three characters: Hannah Poole; DS Theo Akande; and Aurora Harris. Hannah is training to be a counsellor, but her own rickety sense of self is sent into turmoil when her father dies and she begins to get back in touch with the memories of the childhood abuse she suffered. Theo is black and gay and a new-comer to Scarborough, trying to find his place on the town’s force. Clever and kind, he undoubtedly has the most psychological equilibrium of the three story-tellers. Aurora Harris is neighbour and friend to Hannah; solicitor and new mum she struggles to balance these roles.
Each book has a different crime which the three characters are drawn into, plus the emotional stories of Hannah, Theo and Aurora twist, interweave and develop.
In The Art of Breathing, Theo has to investigate the disappearance of a professor from the local university, plus threatening letters to a retired DCI. As he does so, he discovers the jealous underbelly of academic life as well as past wrongs which are playing out in the present. Hannah begins her journey towards her own healing.
The Art of Breathing is in part a homage to the Harriet Vane novels of Dorothy L Sayers.
How does your training as a psychotherapeutic counsellor inform your writing?
My training plus my own experience of depression and of therapy, have, I believe, given me the opportunity to explore human behaviour and processes.
I am fascinated by what goes on in each of us below our immediate consciousness and how past experiences can colour our feelings and behaviours in the present.
I hope that I bring some of that understanding and curiosity to my characters. I use quite a bit of internal thought to show the dissonance there often is between how we present ourselves and what is really going on deep within us.
The Art of the Imperfect starts with a murder of a psychotherapist in a therapy training establishment. Some of my experiences as a trainee counsellor have fed into this plot line – though, of course, there were no actual murders during my training.
What does your creative process look like?
Generally, I like to use ‘free writing’ to get started.
This is a way, I believe, of tapping into what I really want to write instead of what I think I ought to write.
It’s just a question of letting words drop onto the page (I’m normally handwriting) perhaps with the stimulus of a bit of music, a picture, the landscape I am sitting in or a word/phrase. It’s very messy and does not always make a lot of sense. But out of this will come ideas and directions which I will become more focused on and craft.
In a way, the Scarborough Mysteries series have taken almost thirty years to write, as I have been writing about the characters and themes since I wrote my first novel when I was 19. So when I made the decision to craft and then indie publish the series, giving myself the permission and space to be able to do it, I had lots of material to draw on.
Generally, I will just start writing without much of an idea of where I might end up, letting the characters dictate the story.
Crime writer, Minette Walters, said she always started off writing a novel not knowing who had ‘dunnit’. That was true for my first novel.
However, for The Art of Breathing, I did take more notice, at an earlier stage, of how a traditional crime novel is normally structured and I did do a lot more planning. I don’t know if readers will notice a difference in the result.
Which other authors have most inspired you?
I’ve always enjoyed reading crime novels by women, for example Ruth Rendell, Sara Paretsky, Minette Walters and, more recently, Anne Cleaves.
I also like novels which are saying something about the society we are living in, for example, The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guinn, novels by Toni Morrison, Alice Walker and Margaret Atwood.
When I began my MA in creative writing ten years ago, I hadn’t studied poetry since school. I was excited to discover poets who I felt spoke to me, such as Anne Sexton and Kapka Kassabova. I think exploring poetry has nourished my prose writing and made it more lyrical, maybe more daring, which I like.
Since becoming an indie, I’ve also make a point of reading work by fellow indies, one of the best so far is I Came to Find a Girl by Jaq Hazell.
Do you have any advice for other writers or those thinking about self publishing?
Write because you want to write, because it brings you joy, because, in some way, it is healing for you. If you want to be a writer, write, write, read and write some more. If you want to share your writing, find ways of getting decent feedback on what you are writing and study the craft of other writers.
I chose to self or ‘indie’ publish because I’d spent thirty years trying to go down the traditional route and I didn’t want to die without sharing my work with a bigger audience. Personally, I am very proud of the three novels I have written and indie published, however, I’ve found it hard work to keep motivated with the publishing process and the marketing. Plus, in my experience, it’s not a way to make money.
I have written extensively on my blog about how I indie published. There are lots of choices out there, lots of ways of going about it, mine is only one way. I am glad I have paid to make sure my books are properly copy edited and proofread and I will be re-launching them with professionally designed covers.
What has been a great support is being part of a writing community – both here in Scarborough and on-line with writers met through social media.
Having said all that, I am in the process of looking for a literary agent for my next novel.
What will you be working on next?
Novel number four in the series is fermenting away and I will be working on that in the coming months. I’ve also been working on a short story which I have entered for a competition. And I write weekly on my blog on all matters to do with writing and publishing.
Thank you, Kate, that was great!
You can find Kate on-line:
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