Friday, 11 January 2008


A photo of visitor kittens - Loki & Jellybean - getting their claws into my Christmas.

A new year, a new start - so on with the new book.

After the indulgences of the festive season, it's hard to strap on the hairshirt of self-discipline once more, but it's astonishing how a deadline does focus the mind. My English publisher, LittleBrown/Sphere, asked me to write a piece for their monthly Newsletter and it set me thinking about New Year Resolutions.

To resolve or not to resolve?

Are they a waste of time? Who sticks to them?

Yet New Year Resolutions are part of the extraordinary optimism that is hard-wired into the human psyche, the triumph of hope over experience. And I love that. We can – and we will – improve ourselves, even if we need the January 1st deadline to make it happen. It’s the deadline factor that makes all the difference. A bit like writing really.

Writers will wait until a deadline is about to loom on the horizon and then start to panic. Don’t get me wrong. Having a deadline is a wonderful thing. It means that a publisher is ready and eager to read your latest work. The problem comes from the fact that, to start with anyway, deadlines are a long way off, then one day you wake to find you still have 20,000 words to write and only a morning to write them in.

So this coming year I have resolved to stick to my writing target each week , so that I’ll complete my manuscript early. Time to sit and enjoy the garden. To visit friends and family. To relax. Only that’s not going to happen, is it? Like everybody else, I 'll fall off that moral high ground. As nights grow shorter and days grow warmer, other activities will tempt me away from my desk. For even writers are human.

Over the years I’ve made lots of resolutions – to give up my sudoku addiction or to trim my cat’s claws more often (you should see my sofa!). At the time they all seem achievable. But now I think we should try making resolutions at a different time of year. After all, it’s very easy to think about giving up cakes or chocolate or alcohol when you’ve spent the last ten days doing nothing but eat and drink and be merry.

So that’s my resolution for 2008 – I’m not going to make any until the end of June. But by then of course, when the lazy days of summer arrive, I will decide to leave it all until next Christmas - like everybody else!


Maryam said...

Hello, I am in the middle of reading your book (The Russian Concubine), which I happened to pick out by chance at the airport. I just wanted to let you know that I did not expect the book to be as great as it has been so far, I cannot put it down. The images that you create makes the story come alive more so than any other novel that I have read recently and I wanted to say thank you. You've also created different perspectives from different cultures that's just so wonderful to read. I cannot wait to finish this novel, but at the same time, I don't want it to end.

Gaius Octavius said...

I fell in love with your novel and I am holding my breath to hear news of another book.

I just wanted to ask if you had given any thought to continuing the story of Lydia and Chang An Lo?

I would love to read about each of their seperate stories and find out if their stories converge once more or if they changed too much in the process of waiting to be together again.

You created such heartfelt characters that I was sad to see them go. Thank you so much for your story, it was absolutely beautiful.

Kate Furnivall said...

Hi Maryam, it's great to hear you're loving the book. Crossing the culture barriers between national boundaries and national stereotypes was something I was eager to explore. I want people to know more about China - an amazing country.

Kate Furnivall said...

Hi Gaius Octavius - what an august name, by the way! Don't worry, Lydia and Chang will return. Not this year - I have an unrelated historical novel coming out in 2008 - another great epic called The Red Scarf in the US (pub: in June 2008) and Under a Blood Red Sky in UK (pub: Nov 2008). But the sequel to The Russian Concubine will be in the shops in 2009, I promise.

Gaius Octavius said...

Thank you so much! I am looking forward to grabbing both off the shelf.

Denis Ivanich said...

Dear Ms. Furnivall, I have just begun reading "The Russian Concubine" which I purchased in the USA recently as a "Target" (department store) selection. Your book looked interesting because I have a friend who had a grand-aunt with a life story similar to your mother's. I am only on Chapter Six; I am enjoying it, but a question came up for me at the beginning of the fourth chapter when young Lydia says to her Russian landlord "Please, you know I don't speak Russian." Now why would that be? Didn't she live in Russia until she was at least five years old - by which age she would have acquired her first language? And her mother is Russian so wouldn't she have been speaking to Lydia in Russian since she was born and to the present day even though they are now in China? How is it that she came to be a fluent even native English speaker after living only in Russia and China? I ask these questions as an American who has been living in Vladivostok, Russia for 14 of the past 15 years, and who is married to Russian woman. We have a nine year old daughter, and it has been quite a challenge getting her to speak English even though we visit the USA regularly. She and her mother love their native Russian language, and I'm sure, would never easily give it up. And it seems Lydia would have acquired some Chinese language ability after presumably being there for 10 years; then you wouldn't have to have the Chinese pawn broker able to speak English. I am curious, with other literary techniques available, why did you choose to have everyone able to speak English - especially in foreign countries? D. Patrick Boyle

Clarice said...

A member of my book club selected your book at Target while searching for a new and interesting book for our club to read. We were all ready to start reading your book when she told us she found the first 100 pages so interesting she couldn't put the book down. We are looking forward to having a "page turner" that will not only be fascinating to read but provide us with some excellent discussion topics while eduating us about a intersting time in history. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ms.Furnivall
I just wanted to say that I loved your book (The Russian Concubine)which i picked up on one of my many trips to my local barnes and noble off the notable paperbacks table.The cover instantly caught my eye and now it has become one of my new favorite books! Thank you so much for creating such a wonderful story. I hear from these other comments that you are writing a second book about Chang and Lydia! i will be the first in line to get that book! (praying that they end up together finally!!)
I also have heard that you have a new book coming out in June (the red scarf) and i have not been able to find a discription of it anywhere. So i was wondering what is it about???
Thank you for your stories!!

Kate Furnivall said...

Dennis, thanks for your point about the language.

Concerning Russian: you have to remember that Lydia was living in an International Settlement from 5-15 years old, where English was the main language. She went to an English school and lived with a mother who refused to speak Russian.

Concerning Chinese: in that period of history, learning more than a smattering of the native language was not something colonials did, especially the women.

Also it would be difficult to write scenes with Lydia speaking broken Chinese - it would be both stilted and irritating for the reader. Artistic licence, I think!

Kate Furnivall said...

Thanks, Clarice. Enjoy the book - and the group discussions. Let me know what they say.

Kate Furnivall said...

Hi socerchick614,
Thanks for the kind comments about the book. As for the new one - The Red Scarf (USA)/Under a Blood Red Sky (UK) - watch this space. I shall be posting a prelim piece about it here very soon. To be published in USA and worldwide in June, and in UK in November.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the answers. I read the discription about it on your website just now and it sounds great! i cant wait to get it.