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Kitty Neale

Q & A with Kitty Neale

3 January 2017

Kitty Neale writes family sagas set in and around South London, where she grew up.

Both her parents worked full-time in local factories and she spent her childhood exploring Battersea and Clapham Common. She worked in various jobs before starting a family. The tragic loss of her son eventually sparked a desire to start writing in the year 2000 and she has since penned more than 15 novels. She now writes from her home in Spain where she lives with her second husband.

Magna have published her collection in large print and we will be publishing her latest book, A Mother’s Sacrifice, next year.

Where do you get the ideas for your books?
My ideas originally form from a character. A small scene with a character will pop into my head, and from that scene, a whole story will develop. It most often happens when I'm in bed at night, just about to drift off to sleep. Of course, once the story begins to form, sleep will evade me!

How did you start writing? Can you tell us about your journey to becoming a writer?
After losing my son and then chairing a bereavement group for two years, a friend suggested starting a writing circle. With no experience and a lot to learn, I began my first novel. I needed help with the formatting, and punctuation, but despite this the story seemed to flow as I became embroiled in the lives of my characters. When the book was completed, fellow writers in the circle encouraged me to send the first few chapters and a synopsis to some literary agents. I was thrilled when one of these agents, Judith Murdoch, asked to see the rest of the book, then going on to secure my first publishing contract.

How long have you lived in Spain? Do you know many other writers over there? What are the pros and cons of living abroad?
My hubby and I have lived in Spain for thirteen years now and love it. I haven't met other writers here, though I am sure there must be many. We live inland, close to a mountain village with wonderful scenic views. It’s a peaceful, lovely location, perfect for writing with few distractions. On the negative side, it was hard to leave my daughter and grandson when we moved here and I missed them terribly. However, my daughter and her husband now live in Spain too, with us all looking forward to visits from my now grown up grandson.

What about your working day, do you have a favourite time to write?
I prefer writing in the mornings, though once started, and on a good day when the story is flowing, I can still be at my desk until the early evening.

Most of your books are set in London, can you tell us about this?
My books are mostly set in South London, and as I lived in the area from the age of two, my formative years were spent there. It’s a place that holds many memories, and the influences of this working class area, along with the varied characters that crossed my path, shape my novels.

Are you planning to set any novels in Spain?
I'm not planning to, but you never know.

How do you come up with storylines for your books? Do you plan the whole plot before you start writing?
Like I mentioned earlier, a small scene and a character from the basis for my stories, and once I have a story in my head, I will write a more detailed synopsis. It helps me to remember! Quite often, even with the plot planned and written, the story will develop and go off on a tangent from the original plan.

Do your personal experiences and the losses you have suffered in your life, influence your writing?
Yes, I think my personal experiences, loves and losses, influence my writing. I feel that everything we go through in life gives us empathy, an understanding of what others have had to face. This can range from negative experiences, such as poverty, illness, cruelty and the devastation of losing loved ones, to positive ones, such as love, marriage and the joys of childbirth.

You lost your son in 1998, how did writing help you to get through this terrible tragedy?
I have spoken earlier about how I took up writing, but I also found it cathartic, a way to bury my grief for a while in the lives of my characters. While writing, their world became my world, all the characters so real to me that when the story came to an end it was hard to let them go and say goodbye. However, another story was already forming in my mind, new characters taking shape, and new experiences to explore. Now, many years and books later, I still feel the excitement of starting a new novel.

What’s the best writing advice anyone’s ever given you?
There were times, for one reason or another, I would sit down to write but it just wouldn't flow. When this happened, nine times out of ten when I looked at this work the following day, I would delete it. I was then advised not to force it - that when my writing wasn't flowing to just get up and walk away - to do something else, such as going for a walk or even tackling the dreaded ironing. It's the best advice I've received and it never fails to work for me.

What do you enjoy about being a writer?
I love the finished product. It's great to feel you have created something unique that will bring others pleasure.

What are you planning next?
A Daughter's Courage is in the final processes of editing with my publisher's, Avon Books UK. It will be released in February 2018. In the meantime, I'm busy writing my next novel plus I have another two stories busting to get out of my head and onto paper!

Interview by Nicky Solloway at Magna Large Print.