My guest today is author Catherine Kullmann. Catherine writes historical fiction from her home in Ireland.
Linda Covella: Catherine, thanks so much for joining us today!
When and why did you decide to become a writer?
Catherine Kullman: It was always my dream to write fiction but it was only after I took early retirement that I was able to devote my time to it.
From my earliest school days, I have loved writing and wrote a lot all through my working life. I am always flattered when someone tells me that my books are easy to read because I put a lot of effort into making the narrative flow easily.
LC: That is a compliment. With a skilled writer, readers can better immerse themselves in a story rather than be distracted by poor writing!
What is your writing process: where do you write, how often do you write, are you a full-time or part-time writer, do you outline or do you plot as you go, etc.?
CK: I spend several hours a day at my desk, although not all of these are devoted to writing. As a historical novelist, I spend a lot of time in research and have a large research library as well as a collection of prints and engravings from the extended Regency period where my books are set. In addition there is the marketing that is now almost obligatory for authors.
I start with the seed of the story (see below). Then I do some work on developing the characters—who are they, what is their family history, their appearance, likes and dislikes, hobbies, habits, what drives them. I don’t overly plot in advance but plot as I write. I keep a record of chapter content—who? what? why? when?—so that I can check for continuity and also make any necessary changes. I also edit as I go. I’ll go over the completed first draft a couple of times and then set it aside for some weeks before I start the second draft.
LC: Where do you find your inspiration for your stories?
CK: Generally, something triggers my imagination. I keep a notebook of ideas and possible plots where I jot down all ideas as they come to me. It is very much ‘what if?’ or ‘what then?’ I like to know what happens when life gets in the way of love. A throw-away line in Perception & Illusions led to The Murmur of Masks. I had to know what happened next. (Although there is an overlap between the books, there are no spoilers and they can be read in any order.) With A Suggestion of Scandal, the initial impulse came from a notorious Regency divorce case that was triggered when a governess surprised her employer with her lover, her hand inside his military pantaloons. These lovers made no attempt to hide their guilt but I began to wonder what if they had tried to do so. What might have happened to the inconvenient witness?
LC: Do you draw from your own experiences?
CK: Indirectly. My books are set in the early nineteenth century but in many ways, the Ireland I lived in before my marriage was closer to that of 1814 than to 2014.
I remember the drudgery of wash-day; the cold in a house that was heated only by open fires, the tang and reek of smoke in the air from all those fires; horse-drawn carts, even in the Dublin streets, with sparrows pecking at the oats spilled from the nose-bag; the meat-safe that hung outside on a north-facing wall before the advent of our first fridge. Everything was delivered from coal to groceries, with invoices sent at the end of the month when my mother did her accounts.
Dublin has a wonderful Georgian core. I went to school on one Georgian square and later managed four houses on another and the memory of those long flights of stairs with their returns and return rooms, the beautifully proportioned rooms with sash-windows, the basements and coal-holes under the pavement stays with me as much as the straight lines of Yeats’s ‘grey, eighteenth-century houses.’
LC: Well, I think you could write an interesting memoir!
Who is one of your favorite characters from your story(ies), one that you enjoyed creating and writing about, and why?
CK: That’s a terrible question, almost as bad as asking a mother which of her children she loves best. I enjoy creating all my characters, even the small walk-ons and try to make them as individual as possible. It’s fun creating the baddies—Lord Rembleton, for example, in The Murmur of Masks— is an obnoxious person who, according to his brother Jack was “proof that the family’s antecedents reached back to the brutish, British mire. Jack described him as “operating on instinct and an inchoate sense of entitlement, allied to brute strength and unrefined by even a veneer of civilisation and culture.”
I enjoy giving such a character free rein and then seeing them get their come-uppance.
LC: Okay, I won’t make you choose. 🙂
Do you incorporate (or inadvertently find) any of your own personality traits into your characters?
CK: Certainly not deliberately, although it would be interesting to see what people who know me well think.
LC: Do you find your stories are more plot driven or character driven? Please explain.
CK: About fifty/fifty, I would say. Plot is what and characters are why. Different characters would react differently to different dilemmas and so affect the plot.
LC: Great, simple explanation of plot and characters.
Did you read much as a child?
CK: I always had my nose in a book. I am eternally grateful to my parents for whom time spent reading was never wasted.
LC: How important do you think reading is for writers?
CK: It is essential. A writer who doesn’t read would be like a cook who hated food.
LC: I like that analogy.
Who are some of your favorite authors and/or books? What draws you to them?
CK: My tastes have changed a lot over the years but there are still some authors I go back to again and again. In the past I read a lot of thrillers and mystery—favourite authors included P D James, Reginald Hill, Manning Coles, Michael Gilbert, Dorothy L Sayers—but I find many of today’s thrillers too violent and depressing. I like historical mysteries and favourite authors include Barbara Cleverly and Lindsay Davis. I love Gillian Bradshaw’s novels set in ancient Greece and Rome, Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series and her more recent works that can be best described as magical, historical realism, and urban fantasy e.g. by Patricia Briggs. I also enjoy J D Robb’s futuristic crime series. Looking at this, I realise that what draws me to these and other authors is that they take me out of my own world, let my imagination take flight.
LC: Anything new in the works?
Next year I hope to publish two new Regency stories, both of which tie in to The Murmur of Masks and Perception & Illusion. The Duke’s Regrets is a novella about the Duke and Duchess of Gracechurch whom readers will know from the previous two books and The Potential for Love is Arabella Malvin’s story. Heading into her fourth season, she is ready to marry but which of her many suitors has the potential for love?
LC: Bonus question: Do you have anything you’d like to add?
CK: Just to thank you for your interesting questions.
LC: And thank you, Catherine. I loved learning more about you and your writing!
Catherine Kullmann was born and educated in Dublin. Following a three-year courtship conducted mostly by letter, she moved to Germany where she lived for twenty-six years before returning to Ireland. She and her husband of over forty years have three adult sons and two grandchildren. Catherine has worked in the Irish and New Zealand public services and in the private sector.
After taking early retirement Catherine was finally able to fulfil her life-long ambition to write fiction. Her debut novel, The Murmur of Masks, published in 2016, is a warm and engaging story of a young woman’s struggle to survive and find love in an era of violence and uncertainty. It takes us from the ballrooms of the Regency to the battlefield of Waterloo. In 2017, the Murmur of Masks was short-listed for Best Novel in the CAP (Carousel Aware Prize) Awards.
In Perception & Illusion, published in March 2017, Lallie Grey, cast out by her father for refusing the suitor of his choice, accepts Hugo Tamrisk’s proposal, confident that he loves her as she loves him. But Hugo’s past throws long shadows as does his recent liaison with Sabina Albright. All too soon, Lallie must question Hugo’s reasons for marriage and wonder what he really wants of his bride.
In Catherine’s new book, A Suggestion of Scandal, governess Rosa Fancourt finds her life and future suddenly at risk when she surprises two lovers in flagrante delicto, Even if she escapes captivity, the mere suggestion of scandal is enough to ruin a lady in her situation. In Sir Julian Loring she finds an unexpected champion but will he stand by her to the end? It too
You can find out more about Catherine at her website www.catherinekullmann.com/ where, in her Scrap Album, she blogs about historical facts and trivia relating to the Regency or on her Facebook page fb.me/catherinekullmannauthor Catherine tweets @CKullmannAuthor
Catherine’s books are available worldwide from Amazon as e-books and paperback. Amazon links include:
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2n9Ljxi