Friday, 15 January 2010


Because I was up to my eyeballs in rewriting chunks of my present book at the time, I omitted to mention what a fab Winter Party the RNA threw in London at the end of last year. Loads of interesting authors, all with agony stories to tell. I was delighted to find out that quite a number of them had tales of being 'advised' by agent/publisher to ditch the opening of their book when it starts with the heroine/hero as a child.

Why? I hear you ask.

Well, I have experienced this 'advice' myself. It came as an unpleasant shock but I understand the wisdom of it from a reader's point of view. They want the story to be in the here and now, not a load of back-story. But clearly it is part of the process by which a writer gets to know her/his own characters, to understand what rocks their boat and how they will react in the events that are about to unfold.

It's always hard to chuck out episodes that you sweated blood over but that's what agents and publishers are for - to make you ruthless with yourself. So having got your motivations and childhood traumas all worked out in the opening chapter, my 'advice' to budding authors is 'Bin it!', and get on with the story.

Back to the party. It was good fun and wonderfully incestuous with all the book crowd full of encouragement for each other, while wondering fiercely whose sales were topping whose. The proceedings were further enlivened when a charming agent I was talking to fainted on me in mid-sentence. I know authors yack on about writing till boredom glazes the braincells, but really!!


Karen said...

One author I normally enjoy has written a book that flicks too much between 3 different people , I find it so hard to get into it as there are only 3 or 4 pages before the person in the story changes , it seems to go on all through the book, LOL needless to say I haven't read the book yet only had it a couple of years.
As for a story starting at childhood and flicking back and forth I have no problem as long as I know this is happening , I get confused easily I think ;o)
sounds like you had a good time at the party, I would love to write a book but I am not committed enough to actually carry it through, I could just imagine wads of paper flying out the window when things didn't go right

Kate Furnivall said...

Hi Karen,
It's not just paper that almost flies out the window - the PC is sometimes hard on its heels! Someone once described to me the process of writing a novel in terms of building a galleon out of matchsticks. Each day's writing is one more precious matchstick. It demands that kind of patience. I agree with you about being irritated by too many brief changes of character viewpoint. A reader likes to get engrossed and swept away by a story, not confused!

オテモヤン said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator. said...

I passed your books on to my aunt today. It was hard to let them go! I finished up "The Girl From Junchow" while on bedrest in the hospital. My water had broken at 24 weeks into my pregnancy and I was terrified. I was already about a quarter of the way into the book when it happened. Your book gave me an escape from reality. Every time I opened the book I entered into a different and familiar world. When it ended I was heartbroken. I felt as if I lost good friends. I am so happy to hear you are writing about Lydia's mother now. She is such an intricate woman. . . I am sure your book will be fantastic. I hope you tour again and come to the Chicago area, I would love to meet you. Thank you for continuing your writing.

Kate Furnivall said...

Great to hear your story - I am so impressed that Lydia was able to hold your interest at such a crucial moment in your life! I have found writing Valentina's story in The Jewel of St Petersburg (to be published in July 2010) quite a challenge but one I relished. And yes, I'd love to come to Chicago. Maybe one day soon.

Traci said...

Hi Kate,

I just chanced upon your books a few weeks ago, and have since devoured them! Wow, you are SUCH an amazing writer!! I absolutely LOVE historical fiction....and I love that you do more than just scratch the surface--you really make me FEEL like I'm in whatever place you are describing. And I have really enjoyed reading about Russia and China--places that not many fiction authors choose to tackle.

Forgive me if you've already stated this in one of your posts, but I was wondering if you plan to write a sequel to "The Red Scarf?"
I've really enjoyed getting to know all of your characters....I just can't seem to stop thinking about them and their powerful stories.

Thank you for all of the research, blood, sweat, and tears that you must put into each book. I am most appreciative!

Kate Furnivall said...

Hi Traci,
I agree with you about historical fiction. I love reading about a different time and place - it helps put one's own world in perspective. Delighted to hear that you've enjoyed my books and that the characters have stayed with you. They certainly stay with me long after I have finished a book! That's why it is so tempting to write sequels because the characters are so real in my head that it's hard to let them go. But at the moment I have no plans to write a follow-up to The Red Scarf (Under a Blood Red Sky in the UK), though Sofia and Anna do both make a small appearance in the prequel THE JEWEL OF ST PETERSBURG which will be out in the US in August. However - I never say never, so one day I might be tempted to return to Tivil in the Urals and pick up Sofia's story. Watch this space!

~T said...

Hi Kate,

Thank you for your kind response. I am SO looking forward to your next book! (and the one after that, and the one after that) :) I'm glad that Anna & Sophia will make a small appearance in your upcoming book. Keep up your wonderful writing!!


Karen said...

how are things going Kate?

Kate Furnivall said...

Hi Karen,
I apologise for being such a slouch at keeping up my blog recently. As I said in my post today, it was a mad effort to get the book finished, then do the editing, copy-edit review and finally check proofs separately for both UK and US. There just wasn't room in my head for more. But now I emerge like a butterfly from my cocoon and am ready to throw myself into reader interaction once more - which I love. I am giving a couple of talks at a school in Bath, UK, next week which will be interesting because A-level students who have studied Under a Blood Red Sky (The Red Scarf) as their off-curriculum reading will be quite a different kettle of fish from a delightful group of ladies who come to be entertained. Should be fun - if somewhat testing. Can't wait to hear their bright-eyed questions. Hope you're reading some good stuff.