Guest Author – Margaret Kaine

I’d like to welcome Margaret Kaine as guest author to my website today.

Tell me a little about yourself, Margaret – what you write, where were you born, where live, what do you like to do? 

An avid reader since childhood, I always had a dream of becoming a writer. But after marrying quite young, with a family, two dogs, and working as a lecturer in further education, there never seemed to be any ‘me’ time. It wasn’t until my youngest left for university, that I came to this wonderful world of writing fiction.

I live in Eastbourne, having moved here from Leicester almost five years ago. But I was born and educated in Stoke-on-Trent widely known as the Potteries, which is where several of my novels are set. As someone who came late to a writing career, I have found that it has enriched my life in so many ways. I really enjoy discussing publishing with other writers and especially attending writing conferences.

When I’m not writing, I love to read. The printed word has always fascinated me, and I used to haunt the public library as a child. I also enjoy chess preferably with a glass of wine by my side, while listening to music. As I’m a lark and write mainly in the mornings, the evenings can usually find me engrossed in a good film. For exercise I like to walk as much as I can, and I’m now lucky to be able to do so by the sea.

When I first began to write, the thought of a long novel was daunting, so I honed my craft by writing short stories which were published in women’s magazines in the UK, Ireland, Australia and South Africa. Later I found the discipline needed to write to a word count extremely useful when editing longer manuscripts.

As new writers are always advised to ‘write about what you know’, I set my first novel against the distinctive industrial background of the Potteries. I am hugely proud that Ring of Claywon not only the RNA New Writer’s Award but also the Society of Authors’ Sagittarius Prize. The boost to my confidence was amazing and I went on to write six more successful Potteries sagas.

What originally attracted you to writing historical novels?

 I think the simple answer is that I enjoy reading them. Authors such as Norah Lofts, Susan Howatch, Anya Seaton, Mary Stewart and Catherine Cookson, enthralled me in my formative years, writing enthralling page-turning stories that brought me hours of pleasure. And left me with an abiding love of social history.

My last three novels Dangerous Decisions, The Black Silk Purse,and now A Life of Secrets, are set early in the twentieth century and against a wider canvas. In them all, I have tried to portray the way that prevailing attitudes towards women severely constricted their lives. It’s almost impossible to envisage now but many men even believed that ‘too much thinking caused a woman’s womb to wither’.

What do you find are the challenges of writing historical  fiction?

 Getting the details right. One has to be conscious of the need for accuracy in all aspects. Fashion, morals, manners, dialogue relevant to the period, and an awareness of what was happening in the world at that precise time.

Where do you write and when? Do you plan your writing?

 I’m lucky enough to have a corner desk in my large bedroom, giving me peace and quiet. I know that many authors can write with a background of noise, even with the TV on, but I’m not one of them. It’s good to be able to settle down and enter another world without any distractions.

I do wish in a way that I could plan my novels and write a detailed synopsis before I begin a new book. But for me, that’s impossible. I’m purely an organic writer, with only a vague idea of the theme, the period, and the setting. And I can’t write a word until I have the name of my heroine. From then on, the novel is like a flower, buds appear and then blossom. And like many writers I find the characters can take me in a direction that surprises me. For me, writing the story is a journey of discovery in the same way that it is for a reader. Apparently, you are either a plotter or a pantster and I’m definitely the latter.

Do you have any rituals and routines when writing?  What is your strategy if you are hit by writers’ block?

 No rituals or routines, except that I’m at my most creative in the mornings. If it ‘isn’t coming’, I find it best to retreat, usually to catch up on the ironing. There’s something about the rhythm of smoothing clothes that lends itself to deep thought. Another thing that helps, is to go for a walk. Fresh air does help to clear the mind. And not to stress about it – sometimes just walking away from a manuscript for a few days, will do the trick.

 Your latest novel, A Life of Secrets, is published today. What inspired you to write this particular story?

 Growing up in an industrial area, I often heard expressed the political views of working people, their frustrations and resentment at the inequalities of the class system. And I’ve always been both angered and mystified by the failure in 1926 of the General Strike. It was determined by the powerful establishment that the ‘lower orders’ must not gain any influence, fearing it would create a precedent, and with Russia in mind, even lead to a revolution. The indisputable rights of the action were ignored.

And I decided to set my new novel against this background, and that my heroine would be a member of the aristocracy. Surely not every member of the upper classes would have been immune towards the needs of hard-working men to be able to feed their families.

Troops on guard at a bus station; each bus had a police escort during the strike.

What have you found the most interesting or surprising historical fact when researching the General Strike?

 The shocking injustices meted out, and the callous attitude of the government. And how difficult it was to pinpoint the true cause of the strike’s failure. Certainly it was felt that much of the blame lay at the feet of the Unions, whose inefficient communication let down thousands of brave people. The strike came so close to success, and yet the miners suffered even more hardship for months afterwards.

 What do you want your readers to take away from your books?

 A feeling of escapism, of enjoyment, to have touched their emotions with insights into relationships and of course, romance.

In A Life of Secrets I’ve tried to give a sense of a glamorous and elitist world, yet one with underlying menace. It’s always a thrill when your latest book is released. Is it possible for an author to be in love with their book cover? If so, then that definitely applies to this one.

A Life of Secrets, is published by Allison & Busby, in hardback and ebook on the 22nd January 2020, with the paperback following on 18 June 2020.

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