The Writing Life of: Kate Mallinder
This week I am thrilled to be interviewing author Kate Mallinder. Kate will be sharing with us details of her writing life, telling us all about her latest book ‘Asking for a Friend‘, which was released on 4th June 2020 and answering a few fun questions too. This post contains affiliate links.
Kate Mallinder lives with her husband, four children and two crazy cats near Ashby-de-la-Zouch in Leicestershire. She grew up in Solihull and went to college in Leeds. Since lockdown she’s taken up growing vegetables and has never felt more grown-up. If left to her own devices, she’d live on a window seat with a good book and a never-ending cup of tea.
1) As a child did you have a dream job in mind?
I wanted to be a doctor (but I’m squeamish), a farmer (but I don’t like spiders or early mornings) and a long distance lorry driver (anyone remember Pigeon Street? A huge influence it seems!) Fortunately I also wanted to be a writer and although I forgot that in my teens and twenties, I’m delighted that’s what’s won out.
2) Who was your favourite childhood author (s)?
I was a huge Enid Blyton fan, so if it’s based on the number of books read then it would be her, but Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian showed me what a book could make you feel and reading that changed my whole reading experience from then on.
3) Was there a particular point in your life that you realised you wanted to be a writer?
I know the exact date! It was 15 February 2013 and it was the half term holidays. One of my children asked me what I had wanted to be when I grew up and I thought back. When I told him, he said, ‘so why aren’t you trying?’ and that was it. I started to write and I haven’t stopped.
4) What is your average writing day like? Do you have any special routines, word count, etc?
My writing life is split neatly into Before lockdown and After lockdown. Before I would work at this desk while my four children were at school. I would have from 9.15am until 3.15pm to write, promote and work towards my MA. Life was busy but possible. Since schooling has been home based, that has gone Out Of The Window. I’m using the unexpected minutes between meals and schooling to promote, but writing tends to be in the evening once my husband has stopped work and is available to take over. Oh and I’m now writing here, in our bedroom. But I am still writing, and I’m counting that as a win.
I don’t tend to have a daily word count target unless I’m drafting and I try to be kind to myself. It’s a fine balance between holding myself accountable and working too hard and that’s got much harder without time to myself.
5) How many books have you written? Any unpublished work?
Two are published (Summer of No Regrets and Asking for a Friend) but there are another half a dozen more: some young fiction, another teen and one adult. I’ve also written lots of flash fiction and several scripts which have been made into short films.
6) Are you a plotter or a pantser?
With each book I’m getting plottier! I used to be a pure pantser but I’m trying to be more streamlined in my writing – there are a lot of wrong turns when I don’t know where I’m going. I still don’t know every detail, but I have landmarks and I’ve usually got the ending sorted before I write.
Concerning your latest book:
Publisher – Firefly Press
Pages – 244
Release Date – 4th June 2020
ISBN 13 – 978-1913102296
Format – ebook, paperback
Three teenagers plan a week at the beach.
Agnes needs to find her sister.
Hattie wants to escape the friends who ghosted her.
Jake is afraid he may be ill.
It starts off as an excuse to get away.
And turns into the week of their lives…
7) How did you go about researching the content for your book?
I read a lot, both fiction and non-fiction and I found people who knew about the topics I was researching (in this case, Asperger’s, social bullying and cancer) and I asked questions. With both of these routes, I consciously paid attention. Firefly also arranged a sensitivity read and I changed a couple of things based on that.
8) How long did it take to go from ideas stage to writing the last word?
The idea took a while to get right, but once decided it was quick to write. Edits were surprisingly minimal, which worried me a lot at the time. Both my editor and agent were telling me it was in good shape, but I struggled to believe them. From start to finish it took roughly a year, though actual writing time was probably two months of that and editing a couple of months more. There’s a lot of waiting I’ve found but that gives me time to reflect on what I’ve written. Time not writing isn’t always wasted time!
9) How did you come up with the title of your book?
I was very stuck! Everyone was wracking their brains and coming up with suggestions. A couple of months went by and I started to panic that I was going to have to settle for a title. I mentioned it in one of my writers’ groups, giving a quick outline of the story. Gilly McAllister came straight back with Asking for a Friend. It was a Saturday morning, I was sitting up in bed and I can still remember the tingle of knowing that it was the perfect title!
10) Can you give us an insight into your characters?
My three characters are Agnes, Hattie and Jake. Agnes is adjusting to life without her sister and finding it really hard. I love the way she sees life, and while she was the most challenging to write, I have a real soft spot for her. Hattie is dealing with ‘friends’. I think everyone has toxic friendships at some point in their lives, and I wanted to explore that with her. Her story towards the end was the one that made me cry writing it.
And Jake is worried about his health and at first ignores it and then struggles to talk about it. I specifically wanted to show the scenes at the doctors for readers who might be experiencing something similar. I started off with these three mismatched characters, wondering how on earth they were going to get along but, as often is the case with life, you never know who might become your friend.
11) What process did you go through to get your book published?
Firefly Press published my debut last year and were keen to keep working with me, so it was a case of finding a story idea that we both loved. I wrote various synopses and sample chapters and then Firefly picked one. It was a lot less stressful in some ways than going out on wider submission, but there were new pressures I hadn’t appreciated before, like the importance of writing for your established readership and meeting tight deadlines.
12) What’s next for you writing wise?
I’ve got lots of projects at various stages plus a manuscript to write for my MA, so the next few months are writing plus playing around with some ideas that have been bugging me for a while.
1) If you could have any super power for the day which would you choose?
I want the power to snap my fingers and the housework is done. Boring but hugely practical. Think how much more I could achieve without that? The superpower of time!
2) Do you have any pets?
We have two cats. Alan (the black one) and Dot (the black and white one). We got them as kittens 18 months ago and there isn’t a day goes by when I’m not envious of their lives. The naps and zero stress. Alan particularly likes to ‘help’ me write.
3) If you decided to write an autobiography of your life, what would you call it?
No Regrets! And by way of explanation, that’s how I’ve tackled my writing journey – write without regret. If something works, brilliant, if it doesn’t, I will have learnt something.
4) Your book has been made into a feature film and you’ve been offered a cameo role, which part would you choose, or what would you be doing?
I’d love to be the school bus driver in Asking for a Friend. Quite a bit of the story happens on the bus, and while we don’t meet the driver, it would be good to be there for those scenes. It would also nearly fulfil my ambition to be a lorry driver!
5) Where is your favourite holiday destination?
Mid-lockdown I’m thinking ANYWHERE! Honestly! But if I have to pick I’d say Devon, maybe the Scilly Isles, somewhere warmer and secluded. Somewhere with the sea and a good book. Perfect.
I would like to say a big thank you to Kate Mallinder for sharing with us details of her writing life and for a wonderful interview.