I’ve had the great pleasure of reviewing Kathleen Kirkwood’s three books, “Shades of the Past”, “A Slip in Time” and “His Fair Lady” and I have to confess that she is a magical storyteller whose books should be on your must-read list. You can find the reviews here and here . I’m so excited to have her with us today; she was kind enough to stop by and answer a few questions.
Kathleen, welcome to Confessions from Romaholics!
Can you tell us a little bit of your background?
I’m an east-coaster, raised in Southern Maryland where my father’s people arrived in the mid 1600’s (late comers compared to Mom’s Puritan ancestors who sailed to New England!). Maryland is considered to be a Mid-Atlantic state but it has always been Southern in flavor, temperament and cooking. It is especially known for the Chesapeake Bay and its blue crabs.
Having a bit of adventure in my soul, I left Maryland when 19 to attend the University of Arizona. There I met my husband and a new adventure began. We were sent overseas to Iceland and Italy for several years, courtesy of Uncle Sam and the Navy. Returning, we spent the next 22 years in Virginia before moving west again to Colorado and finally back to the Southwest.
When did you first get bitten by the writing muse and what intrigued you about the genre you write in?
I’m not one of those authors who were writing as soon as they could hold a crayon. I was drawing pictures. By age 12, I was enrolled in oil painting classes. Everyone expected me to be a professional artist one day. Writing came much later, yet the seeds were always there. I’ve always loved a good story and there was plenty to inspire me where I grew up.
As to the genre I write in (Historical) and why that intrigued me, I grew up surrounded by history and simply love it. Maryland was one of the original thirteen colonies and many of the pre-Revolutionary homes still stand today, my aunt and uncle’s being one of them. Naturally, there are many tales attached to them, including haunting ones. The Civil War played out, literally, where I lived, which was also home to one of the Lincoln conspirators (later hanged) and center of the Confederate spy network which fascinated me. My mother, too, loved history of all centuries and places. Thanks to her selections from her book club, there were always wonderful books with historical themes to read in my home.
After high school, I surprised everyone by not becoming a studio artist but by pursuing a degree in Art History (major) & History (minor). So my love of history and art blended together and the courses opened me to a wider (and very visual) view of the past and more wonderful stories of for peoples and cultures across the ages. I was also involved in community theatre during those years, on stage and off, stateside and later in Iceland. Acting also influenced my writing as well.
Did you see writing as a career for yourself from the very start or had you considered another profession?
Definitely I was pointed toward a different profession, that of Art Historian with a desire to work in a major museum or to teach at the university level. I did teach briefly at the community college level, but after our adventures overseas and a third baby, I never got back to that path. By then, I’d begun writing and found great pleasure and fulfillment in writing historical novels that allowed me to pull on my studies and all that I loved.
–How does your mind work when you are laying down the outline for your story? What is the triggering mechanism for a story idea? A place, a character, a whole story or something else altogether?
My stories always begin with a kernel of an idea which I then spin out . . . and spin out and spin out. The characters are usually inherent in the idea, but it’s the “kernel” that gets me going — such as my interest in the theory of time slips. I read some fascinating accounts of experiences that others claimed to have had. Suddenly, an idea formed in my head – time “slipping” in the bedroom of an ancient keep where my hero/heroine (of one century) discovers the other (of another century) sleeping in their bed and unceremoniously tosses them out the door, leaving them tottering barefoot on the cold stone floor. That led to A SLIP IN TIME.
As to spinning out the story line, there is so much discussion of being a plotter or a pantser. Though most people would label me as the latter, I see myself more as a juggler. I love brainstorming a new novel. It is the possibility of all worlds. I start with the kernel of an idea—something that captures my imagination—and I start tossing possibilities around in my head. When there is an “aha” moment—something gels that really clicks and excites me—I toss it on a skeleton outline form. Yes, the good old traditional outline form. Not all ideas come in sequence. Plus some come in bits and parts and others in full scenes. There has to be a way to capture them so they’re not lost, and then to put some order to them. This initial approach helps me identify and build the spine of the story, plus the different sub-levels (which differ in importance) can be collapsed. My outlines aren’t pristine by schoolmarm standards by any stretch of the imagination, but they do help me keep track of ideas and organize them. And then there are other things I do in the process to help identify “turning points” and “beats” and that sort of thing.
Many authors will say their characters write their books, that they are surprised at the direction their books wind up taking. Has this happened to you?
LOL, there are times they resist what I want them to do, usually with good reason (especially if their motivation isn’t worked out well), and other times there are definitely surprises such as when Ketil Bluntnose popped his head into my hero’s tent in THE VALIANT HEART and was literally born onto the page. I loved that bearish man right away and knew he was destined to fall in love with gentle Aleth, my heroine’s lame friend. One of the creepiest things that happened to me was when one of my villains, (who had been getting darker and darker as I wrote him) paid me a “visit” at night. I woke up and it was as if he were standing rather respectfully at the foot of the bed — he knew I could kill him off with a few clicks on the keyboard — and he wanted to tell me something. He did and that was definitely written into the book! I do worry, though what place in my brain do these villains come from, especially the really evil ones.
-Generally speaking, what is your inspiration?
Goodness, inspiration is all around, everywhere. There’s no end to it. Things that interest me, raise my curiosity, surprise me—those are things that get my juices going.
My 10th century HEART series came out of my time in Iceland when I became interested in the Vikings and began studying them in earnest. I decided to set THE VALIANT HEART at the foundation of Normandy. During the research for that book, I became fascinated with the Viking trade and travels to Byzantium. That spawned the hero’s brother’s story, THE DEFIANT HEART. Next, I wanted to bring back a villain that I hadn’t killed off. We’d been in Normandy, all the way to Byzantium and back (with an opening scene in Ireland), so I turned my sites on England and sent one of the children of my last couple to King Athelstan’s court, THE CAPTIVE HEART. Now, I’d like to bring back another character from the last book to continue the series, THE GALLANT HEART. And so it goes. Those books will be revised & re-edited for next year and the new one also begun.
For my Scottish book, the inspiration came from reading about “time slips”, a paranormal phenomena (theory) of two doors opening and closing between times.
The inspiration for SHADES OF THE PAST came out of that research and a specific book on British country houses. Loving ghost stories, I envisioned a ghost turning up on a photographer’s exposed plate. Of course, there had to be a mystery with that beyond the specter’s repeated visitations.
After the publication of SHADES, my publisher asked that I return to writing medieval. I believe they wanted more of a relationship novel, not so much a mystery or cameras and such. I thought it would be fun to write a Medieval-style Pygmalion—a noble child being mistakenly given to the peasants, her birthright stolen until a quest is undertaken and she is thrust back into the world of knights and ladies.
-Does research play an important role in your books considering many of your books are historical in nature? How much prep work goes into your stories prior to starting them?
I do tons of research, most of which doesn’t make it into the book. I do love big, meaty Historicals and that is what I aim toward—multi-layered plot lines. I hopefully give the reader an “I am there” feeling as they journey with the characters through the pages of my books. That is what I love when I’m reading and I’d like to give others that experience as well.
Prep work, well, so much is armchair research these days. For the American settings I’ve done on site research, taking pictures, interviewing, visiting locations and ferreting out old newspapers around the dates I’m writing about to see what’s reported. Those two books are not yet released but will be coming soon. One is set in Southern Maryland (another time travel novel) and the other in Charleston, SC (more ghosts).
Getting the time frame pinned down is important before diving into the research. Then I go for the larger “picture” and telescope down to the specifics. The usual rule of thumb is to know the history on either side of your dates by at least 20 years. I have to go farther than that with the next books because the h/h are coming from different centuries in both books. So location, the history of the place is important, then there’s the everyday life issues—clothing, transportation, housing, how does one cook, light the indoors at night, etc. Language is another area I always spend time with. My Norsemen in the HEART series speak Icelandic (9th c Norwegian) and in my Scottish book I had to find a way to differentiate Scottish characters, some being a 15th c Highlanders and others “modern-day” residents of the19th c.
Do you have a special routine when you’re writing? We hear some writers say they roll out of bed, grab b’fast and then they’re at it for 8 hours straight, taking minimal breaks as if they were working in a 9-5 office environment. Others have suggested they write as the story unfolds in their mind, on and off throughout the day while they multitask. What’s a typical day like?
LOL, these days my schedule is much, much better than when I was writing my first six books. At that time, I had three children attending three different schools in three different directions. Thankfully, due to my husband’s job, I could stay home and write full time. However, that took the form of writing around the clock, trying to accommodate everything and everyone. I used to get up at 3:30 in the morning, punch the button on the coffee maker, slap a hot washcloth on my face to wake up, and then stretch with Angela Lansbury’s exercise tape which got the oxygen flowing to my brain. That kick-started me and I’d write what I could before the family got up and then every scrap of time I could claim. Evenings, I wrote after everyone was in bed until I dropped in the wee hours. We did a lot of “take out” for dinners in those days.
These days all my energy is at the top of the day and then it’s straight down hill, LOL. I usually try to nail mornings down for the more creative parts of writing and the afternoons for things that require less brainpower. All that said, mornings usually still start with a cup of coffee, then my husband and I take the dogs across to the park for a morning walk. We all need it, especially since writing, and now also producing the books, is so terribly, terribly sedentary. Not at all healthy, especially as I have a tendency to want to nosh at the computer. Popcorn (unbuttered) helps out. Apples with cinnamon on it, too. Much better than some alternatives!
I often think of the scene from the movie SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, when Shakespeare goes though his ritual before writing—rubbing his quill between his fingers, spinning around, then spitting in the spittoon. My little ritual is less dramatic. I light a candle.
-What do you like better: when you’ve just started writing a book or when you’ve just finished one?
I adore the beginning phase of brainstorming the book. Like I said, it’s the possibility of all worlds. At the end, there is a great satisfaction of having gotten to the end, but also a sadness of parting with characters who seem like family. Writing sequels help, knowing I’ll spend more time with them again.
Ten years is a long time to not be writing after your previous successes. Did you find the return to writing difficult?
Revising, re-editing and publishing my backlist has certainly helped “rev up” the proverbial engine. It has been daunting, though, as I pick up where I left off on PIRATES’ MOON, as a little voice deep inside seems to say, “Can I do this one more time? Can I still write? Will it be any good? Is the story line sound or sappy? Does it need more, or less?” and on and on. My husband tells me I go through this with each book. Just write forward! So I am. That brings with it the many times I feel like I’m hitting my head against the wall, trying to get just the right words to spill out and wondering if they ever will. Ah, but that’s familiar too, so I’m trying to not panic that my brain has caved once and for all, ha, ha. Besides it’s a wonderful experience to step through the page and exist in the world of one’s characters. It’s worth the challenges that come with the writing.
Would you share with us what writer or writers influenced you, maybe even inspired you to write yourself?
Again, I love history, plus Mom had wonderful selections from her book club such as novels by Irving Stone, Thomas B. Costain, James Michener, Anya Seton, Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt.
Some books that I clearly remember as favorites were DRAGONWYCK, by Anya Seton, BRIDE OF PENDORRIC by Victoria Holt. THE ROAD TO BITHYNIA, by Frank G. Slaughter.
When I was growing up, big sweeping historical novels as well as movies were in favor such as Ben Hur, Spartacus, and Gone with the Wind (which I didn’t see until a teenager). I loved these big, sweeping, larger-than-life dramas. I guess it’s natural that I gravitate to write in that direction with my own writing and I really do love the research. It was while I was writing THE VALIANT HEART that a friend gave me a copy of Kathleen Woodiwiss’ SHANNA. I fell in love with that book and read all of her others before going on to read Cynthia Wright, Jude Deveraux (her early medievals), and more. It was while reading SHANNA that I realized I was writing Romance. At that point, I sought out other writers and connected with RWA National and our local chapter WRW (Washington Romance Writers) that served the D.C. metropolitan area, including Virginia and Maryland.
What book are you reading now?
I just finished Caroline Mickelson’s FROM MANGIA TO MURDER, a marvelous cozy mystery set in Little Italy in 1946, and am just beginning LIGHTBRINGER by Frankie Robertson. VAMPARAZZI by Laura Resnick is the choice for our local book club for October, so that’s in my to-read pile and promises to be wonderful and funny read.
Can you tell us a little about your current projects? Your website mentions that you are bringing back old favorites that will be revised for the new digital medium. What will this updating include? Can we expect character expansion or perhaps additional chapters?
My current project is PIRATES’ MOON, another paranormal romance that uses a time “aberration” and is set in Southern Maryland and the Chesapeake during the last days of the Civil War. Consider it a time travel though, like A SLIP IN TIME, technically it’s not. It is more of a time “aberration” in that the17th c sea captain (hero) and his crew sail out of the mists of time once every quarter on the night of the blood red moon. They take on mortal form until the next full moon (29 days) and revisit their old haunts on the Chesapeake until they must return from whence they came or turn to dust.
PIRATES will join two other paranormals that I’ve just brought out from my back list (A SLIP IN TIME and SHADES OF THE PAST). Possibly, another paranormal (more ghosts) will follow next year. WHEN SPIRITS TOUCH is set in Charleston, S.C. in 1898 and is partially written.
My 13th c medieval, HIS FAIR LADY is also now out, and I’ve also released the KATHLEEN KIRKWOOD SAMPLER that includes sample chapters (20%) of LADY, TIME and SHADES. It is free through Goodreads, Smashwords and Lulu. On Kindle and Nook it is listed at .99 cents (the lowest I could make it) with the hope they will price match it to zero soon.
Next year, my aim is to release all three of my HEART books, not too far apart. A fourth book will join them, bringing back Rannulf—hero material from CAPTIVE who lost his position due to the heroine of that book. He’s really not interested in meeting her sister, Etainn, but once he does, he can’t get the falcon mistress out of his mind. This story will be set in King Athelstan’s England against the famous battle against the Danes at Brunanburh. In the HEART books my main revisions will be to even out the “medieval voice” and take care of some other things that might stand out. Anything smacking of purple prose also must go
As to additional chapters, only THE DEFIANT HEART will get extra pages. My publisher would not allow me a single page more than what is in the original book (I had to slash the original story by 20%). The book was greatly tightened which is a good thing; however, I needed a couple more pages to properly dispense of a particularly nasty villainess. Since I didn’t, I had to refer to her being caught and arrested. (Telling, not showing). It was all I could do and believe me, I got mail!
To learn more about Kathleen Kirkwood, check out her Blog. To find out more about her books, check out her website. Kathleen also writes under the pen name of Anita Gordon. She is the recipient of the Romance Writers of America’s 1989 Golden Heart Award and winner of RWA Desert Rose Chapter’s 2002 Golden Quill Award among other honors and recognitions
Book Blurb :
A MAIDEN TO BE SAVED. . .
During the murderous assault on the village of Vaux, little “Ana” lost all she knew. Suddenly, out of the burning wreckage, a young man appeared and rescued her from the horrors of the night. He proved to be a squire in a company of knights, on their way to join the Crusades. At a neighboring village, he delivered her into the care of a peasant couple who promised to love her. Before departing, he gifted her with something to remember him by . . . the silver cross from around his neck.
A WRONG TO BE RIGHTED. . .
After a decade of fighting in the east, Sir Royce de Warrene returns to England a celebrated knight. But he soon discovers the terrible mistake he made on that long-ago night. The orphan girl was no peasant child, but an heiress of noble blood — Lady Juliana Mandeville — and he deprived her of her birthright. He is charged with a quest — to find her at once and restore her to her grandfather — by order of the king!
LOVE TO BE FULFILLED, FATED LONG AGO. . .
Now grown to womanhood, the stunningly beautiful and saucy “Ana” refuses to believe the knight when he disrupts her wedding day, intent on taking her from those she loves and to deliver her to strangers at the English court. She grips the silver cross she wears, wishing her gallant squire could rescue her once more. Although she cannot remember his face clearly and never knew his name, she has not forgotten the night he saved her so long ago . . .
With “Her Fair Lady”, Kathleen Kirkwood shows us once again that she is a marvelous storyteller with a wonderfully prolific and fine imagination. This is the story of Royce and Juliana, our two heroes, who are simply trying to find their place in this world and it’s certainly not easy, to say the least!
Young squire Royce de Warren was lucky enough to be chosen by Lord Hugh to join a group of knights going to the Holy Land to fight beneath the banner of The Lion Heart. His head is full of dreams and expectations. But he won’t need to go very far to be confronted with a horrific and nightmarish vision.
Darkness was falling and after a turn of the road they saw the village in fire, they heard the cries, they discovered the bodies of both villagers and animals butchered, scattered here and there … and again the same devastation and gruesome spectacle inside the manor house of Lord of Vaux! But by the merest chance, or is it fate, Royce discovers a trembling little girl with extraordinary silvery hair hidden under a boat near the river … The miller’s family is dead in the grass nearby so he just assumes that she’s their daughter. In the neighboring village, she’s entrusted to the brewer and his wife who are childless. But before continuing his journey, Royce gives the little girl his silver cross and he vows that he will always protect the weak.
Ten years later, Sir Royce de Warren is back in England. All he wants is to settle down. The late King Richard promised him some lands and he has now to claim them from King John. Lord Gilbert Osborne of Penhurst, an old man barely able to stand, interrupts the sumptuous royal festivities and demands justice from the Knight Royce de Warren. He’s responsible for the loss of his granddaughter, The Lady Juliana Mandeville. Wrong must be set to right and so Royce embarks on his quest to find the lost heiress and return her to her rightful family!
Today it is Ana’s wedding day, she’s smiling, she’s radiant and she’s happy; she had dreamed about this day for years, but alas, this was not to be … a knight arrives and steals her happiness and her future—she’s ripped from the only family she remembers. Nobody is here to help her; it’s a nightmare! She doesn’t recognize Royce as her long-lost squire. She absolutely rejects the idea that she could be Lady Juliana. She’s furious, alone with her fear and she’s going to fight him every step of the way … and what an understatement!
This is only the beginning of an arduous and very eventful journey and it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better.
Juliana is an impulsive and head-strong girl who is determined to express her refusal of her new circumstances by any means possible. But she understands very quickly that she has no choice but to go with Royce … for now. Despair combined with a good measure of recklessness and naivety is a powerful mix for creating perilous situations and indeed there’s no lack of them here. Very frankly, I’d be lying if I told you that I never wanted to slap the girl, but on the other hand, I can understand what she’s going through and she has so much to lose by doing nothing … well, so she thinks.
Royce is a good and honorable person who has the patience of an angel because Juliana is a constant source of irritation and even danger in his present life. He’s definitely not used to dealing with such an adversary. To observe the progressive evolution of their personalities was very exciting and even funny to watch. Then very slowly but surely Juliana accepts her destiny.
Ms. Kirkwood’s captivating style of writing and wonderful descriptions keep you immersed in this story full of danger, emotions and romance until the very end. I give it 4 stars.
Pubisher : ByDand Publishing
Source : Purchased
Released : September 1st 2012