Welcome to my guest page. Here, each week, I’ll be sharing a conversation, over tea and cakes, or maybe a glass of something, if they are not driving, with a friend about their work in progress, or latest new release. I’ll be talking to all sort of writers and authors at different levels of their writing careers.
My guest today is the amazing Kirsty Ferry. Kirsty and I go back a long way when we were both published in an anthology published by English Heritage called ‘Whitby Pure Inspiration’ in 2010.
Please Kirsty can you tell us a little about latest writing project. Is it a new idea or one you have been mulling over for some time.
I’m working on the fourth book in the Cornish Secrets series. It needs to be written as there are a couple of characters who have had a bit of a will-they, won’t-they relationship over the rest of the series, so I owe it to them and to the readers to tell their story. I know the beginning and the end, but I’m not sure what will happen in the middle yet!
How many unfinished projects do you have on your computer?
Currently only two. Book four in the Cornish Secrets series is on there at about 7,500 words, and a sequel to my first self-published book The Memory of Snowis also partially written in several different guises. That’s been lingering a long, long time, and is unlikely to be finished at all. Maybe some things should just stay as standalones.
Do you write a synopsis first or write the first chapter? (If you only write short stories, do you plan your story or let the characters lead you.)
I always start with a concept and work it out as I’m going. I don’t plan my work, and the odd time where I have tried to do it, I’ve always gone off-piste. The only time now I’ll even attempt to plan is when I’m close to the end and need to work out how many chapters I have left and then I’ll put one line in the manuscript at the point of each chapter and build on it. And that inevitably gets altered as well. I find that the characters lead the way once they start becoming ‘alive’ to me.
Choosing only five of your favourite authors, can you list them in order 1 begin the top of your list and say how have they influenced your writing?
Emily Brontë – who wouldn’t want to recreate Wuthering Heights? It’s an amazingly dark and Gothic story and people are still reading it and debating it two hundred years later. I read it when I was a teenager and was entranced.
Victoria Holt – the mistress of Gothic Romance. I devoured her books when I was younger and the first ‘book’I wrote was hugely influenced by her. I began it in 1997, and it got published in 2019 as A Secret Rose – with a lot of changes to it! ( Me too Kirsty)
Mary Stewart – again, a woman who wrote incredible Gothic Romances – but hers were usually contemporary, as she wrote lots in the 1960s, whereas Victoria Holt’s were largely historical. I think I probably combine elements of both styles in my timeslips. Also Mary Stewart wrote a beautiful magical realism romance book called Thornyhold which is one of my favourites and again I would love to write something like that. (Oh yes, another one of my favourites)
Susanna Kearsley – I only discovered Susanna Kearsley a few years ago but I love her work. She again writes wonderful timeslips and dual timelines. Ghosts and seeing ghosts are commonplace and quite normal in her books. Elodie and Kate in the Hartsford Mysteries series probably borrow a little bit of an influence from her work.
Barbara Erskine – dual timelines and ghosts, the influence of the past on the present, and real-life historical characters fictionalised – basically, all that is wonderful in a timeslip book. I don’t think you can write a timeslip or a dual timeline and say you haven’t been influenced in some way by Barbara Erskine’s work. I don’t think I’d ever be able to write about the Druids and Celts the way she does though, and to be honest I’d never even try. I prefer writing about the eighteenth through to the twentieth century, thank you very much!
When reading back through your work do you ever find that you daily mood swings are reflected in your writing?
I don’t know if it’s evident to readers, but I can tell when I’ve got fed up of a particular scene if it’s drawn out too long for my liking – there are certain words I can spot that I’ve used, and that is the point where I generally switch off and come back to it another day. But I’m not going to say what my phrase is, as then everyone will know!
Were any of your characters inspired by real people?
Many times! For instance, in my latest book, Lily’s Secret, my historical heroine, the Victorian actress Lily Valentine, is inspired by infamous stage stars of the day, like Evelyn Nesbit, Lillie Langtry and Ellen Terry. In Watch for me by Moonlight, I’ve shamelessly based my Highwayman Ben on Claude Duval, a very famous (and apparently swoonworthy) Gentleman Highwayman who stole a dance from one of the lady’s he held up in her carriage. So yes! The answer is definitely yes.
Do you set yourself a daily word count?
Absolutely not. I refuse to put pressure on myself. I can go weeks without writing a word – life just gets in the way and I have a day job and a family to consider. I know I’ll get back into it when I can, and then it just clicks and I can do 3,000 – 4,000 words in one afternoon if I’m really in the flow.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I have done. I have written a book that was in my head and I needed to get it out there, but it was very, very different to what my readers have come to know. It’s much darker and quite fantastical, a bit of a dark fairytale, really, and I didn’t want them picking it up with my name on the front and getting a shock. as it wasn’t quite what they were used to. One of the reviews on the book does give me away though, and she points out that although it’s a good book, it’s not my usual style! I cleared it all with my publishers first though, as I didn’t want to do anything without letting them know – we all agreed it was the sensible thing to do.
How do you select the names of your characters, & do you know everything about them before you start writing their story?
I used to have a bank of names I liked, and now sadly I’ve used them all up, except one, but I haven’t found a character to suit it yet. It’s getting harder, as I don’t usually like to use names of people I know in case I subconsciously relate to them somehow, but it’s unavoidable to pick different names at times. My latest historical heroine is called Lily. My friend’s daughter is called Lily and I also have a friend called Lily. But the names suited my character and she’s very different from either of the Lily’s I know, so I’m pleased about that. I don’t know everything about the characters – I know enough to get started but they tend to develop and become alive to me, and they are always surprising me. One of my characters had a link to the historical heroine that I didn’t even know about until I was driving to work one day and I just suddenly yelled, ‘that’s it!’ to my steering wheel on a slip-road into Newcastle! The whole book then slotted into place like magic and I knew it was something she’d been hiding and something which wasn’t revealed in the novel until very near the end.
What was your hardest scene to write?
Although I write romance (albeit with a few ghosts and mysteries thrown in), I can’t write Bedroom Scenes, so my scenes are kind of ‘they kissed, blah, blah, blah, and then they didn’t consider anything else for quite some time…’ I’ve actually had someone say she was happy the scenes were like that and to be honest it’s a technique I’ve borrowed from Mary Stewart! I definitely like to leave the reader at the bedroom door.
Thank you, Kirsty for taking time out from your writing to drop by to share a cuppa with me.