Tag Archives: The Gate House

Conversations with Readers

2 Aug

One of the parts of being a writer that I like most is conversations with readers about my books, especially when they have questions about the characters, or want to know what is going to happen in the next book!

Their comments motivate me as a writer, because I want to keep my readers entertained and coming back for more.

Recently a couple of readers commented about a minor character in The Gate House. It is a character that I have especially enjoyed writing about, and I was happy that other people saw in “Elaine” what I did. It also encourages me to write more about her, and I hope to give her a bigger part in a future book.

Another reader has been questioning me about the future of the romance between Nara and Alex, which begins in The Gate House. No way will I give away my secrets! But I was very pleased that my readers care about my characters. It means that they are real to them as they are real to me.

I think it is important as a writer to pay attention to what my readers ask for and comment on. And their feedback motivates me when I sit down to write.

Readers — do you ever write to an author with comments or questions?

Writers — do you listen to your readers’ feedback and take it into account when you write?

 

 

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One Out and One on the Way

5 Jun

Now that “The Gate House” is available again, as both as e-book and in print, I am turning my attention the my next book, tentatively titled “Lydia’s Story.” The manuscript is finished, and I am hoping to have news about a publisher soon.
I describe “Lydia’s Story” as a sequel/prequel to “The Gate House.” It features Nara Blake and her family again, including Alex, her love from the first novel, and her newly found half-sister, Lily. But Lydia is Nara’s great-grandmother, and her story is discovered in her diaries from World War II.
Although I love reading historical fiction, it was a challenge to write about the World War II era. I have visited London several times and visited the Imperial War Museum and Churchill’s War Cabinet Rooms, as well as Dover Castle where the Dunkirk rescue of British troops was planned. But it was still a writer’s stretch to tell Lydia’s story from the setting of wartime London.
People occasionally ask why I set my novels in England, and the answer is — because that is where the stories are! And that is also true of “Lydia’s Story,” set in 1940s London. And imagining her life, her loves, her fears means as much to me as her great-granddaughter Nara, who found her diaries.
I will post more news on both books as events happen.

Where Do I Set My Story?

25 Apr

“There is no happiness in love, except at the endof an English novel.” (Anthony Trollope in Barchester Towers)

The passage through Dover Castle at the right just can’t help sparking my imagination.

How Does an Author Choose a Setting

Why did I set The Gate House in England?

The simple answer to that question is — because that’s where the story is. But obviously there is more to it than that.

Setting is one of the crucial elements of fiction, but it is not arbitrary. A writer cannot pick up the plot and characters of a story from one location and drop them down unchanged in another. Even though the characters are what make readers care and keep turning the page, setting shapes the characters as much as the other influences in their lives.

I think my fascination with setting comes from my love of travel. I often “see stories” when I visit a location away from home. Different locations evoke ideas of different kinds of emotions and plot ideas. Washington, DC, where I spent a recent week-end, is a setting full of enormous political power and history. A story set there must somehow touch on those elements. A trip to Lincolnshire, England, where my husband’s family originated, inspired The Gate House, when we spent an unplanned couple of nights in a bed and breakfast of that name. This setting called me to create a story of mystery and the layers of history that are so present in England.

Setting can almost be considered another character, as the time and place of the story interact with the other elements. Literary themes and human emotions may not change over time, but how the pieces fall together can create unique and compelling stories.

Do you every choose a novel based on the setting? Are there certain setting you prefer?

Bed and Breakfast Food

13 Mar

This post was set up to publish when I was traveling last week, but somehow it didn’t happen. But it is happening now, and I hope everyone enjoys the recipe and thoughts of a delicious breakfast!

My novel The Gate House takes place in a bed and breakfast in Lincolnshire, England. I have stayed in a few bed and breakfasts in  the US, Ireland and the UK, and they all have one thing in common — wonderful food! In the UK it was the full English breakfast, complete with mushrooms, tomatoes and baked beans next to the eggs. In Ireland the breakfast was similar, but there was always wonderful brown bread to go with it. In the US  it can be anything, but there is usually some sort of egg dish as the star of the meal.  Breakfasts also often include something sweet — a pastry, coffee cake, or sweet roll.

Here is a recipe for my grandmother’s coffee that is simple and delicious. Make it and pretend you are staying at a bed and breakfast in England. Or have a slice in the afternoon with a cup of coffee or tea.

Grandma Kate’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake

2 c. sifted flour, 1 tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. baking powder, ½ tsp. salt

½ c. butter or margarine, 1 c. sugar, 2 eggs, 1 c. sour cream (yogurt works just as well),1tsp. vanilla

Topping: Combine 1/3 c. brown sugar, packed, ¼ c. sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 c. finely chopped nuts (optional)

Sift dry ingredients together. Cream butter and sugar; add eggs one at a time, beating well. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream. Pour ½ batter into pan, cover with ½ of topping, pour remaining batter over filling and top with rest of topping mixture.

Bake at 350˚ for 40 min. Use tube pan or oblong pan. If you use a tube pan, put a layer of topping in first because you will turn it upside down when you take it out.

Book Review and Other Thoughts

10 Mar

Now that both my parents have passed away, I find myself increasingly interested in the World War II era. And now that The Gate House is scheduled for re-release in May, I am almost ready to submit the sequel to The Gate House, which has a working title of Lydia’s Story.

Lydia is the great-grandmother of Nara, the main character in The Gate HouseShe left diaries that Nara has found, and she learns of her life during World War II in London.

I recently reviewed a novel for Suspense magazine that is set at the end of World War II in Berlin. It is one of a series, and I have not read the preceding one, but I found it an excellent story.

Review of Lehrter Station

Lehrter Station is David Downing’s fifth book in his John Russell series, all named after railroad stations in Berlin which each has a special significance to the story.

Set against the devastation of Berlin in 1945, Lehrter Station is a spy story whose characters struggle to reclaim their lives after World War II. The city has been divided into British, American, French and Soviet sectors, and it is becoming clear that the lines are being redrawn with the Soviet Union as the new enemy for the Western powers.

John Russell is a double agent, spying for the Soviet Union and the United States, not because he wants to, but because he owes a debt to the Soviets for his son’s life. When Soviet agent Yevgeny Shchepkin “requests” that Russell move back to Berlin from London to spy for the Soviets, he has no choice.

Russell and his girl friend Effie, a film actress, return to Berlin and are witnesses to the fragmented lives of the survivors of war. Human life is cheap after the bombings, rapes and mass exterminations of the concentration camps. Since Russell is a journalist by profession, he is on the look-out of a good story as a cover for his espionage activities. He finds a story in the exodus of Jews from Europe to Palestine. But on his return to Berlin, he finds that Effie has been involved in some risky clandestine operations of her own.

Author David Downing portrays an incomprehensibly tragic time and place in history in a manner that shows us the humanity of each character, as well as pointing us in the direction of the world political situation today. He weaves history and fiction together in a way that entertains and makes the reader think at the same time. It is an intelligent and powerful book.


New Cover for The Gate House

4 Mar

 

Image

It has been a long process to reach the point where I am two months out from re-publication of The Gate House. The book was originally released in July, 2009, and the timing could not have been worse for me personally. Outside of the fact that it was my first book and I had no idea what I was doing as far as promoting my book, my life was complicated.

My mom had become ill will visiting me a few months before, and she passed away in July. She did not have a chance to see my book in print. I was teaching full time in a urban high school, and the job was stressful to the extreme.

I had some sales, but things sort of lagged along. I eventually quit the job  so I could spend more time writing, and have a life!

When my publisher, Virtual Tales, announced in April, 2011 that they were going out of business, I felt that suddenly I was not a writer anymore. I had a book published, but it was not available anymore. Fortunately, Whiskey Creek Press picked up The Gate House, and I feel as if I have a second chance.

It will be out again in May; I just received the new cover art and I love it! I have another manuscript that I hope will be published reasonably soon, and I feel like a writer again.

Where do characters come from?

22 Feb

My characters are frequently based on real people, but as the story develops, they take on a life of their own and bear little more than a superficial resemblance to the person on whom it is based.

In the case of Nara, the main character in The Gate House, she is based on the daughter-in-law of a friend from my days in Costa Rica. Her name is Nara, a unique name, and she is petite with dark hair and grew up in a Caribbean island nation. But that is where the similarity ends.

From that basic description, I created Nara Blake, who lives in the Gate House with her father and aunt, and whose interest in art along with her innate curiosity leads her into trouble.

Elaine, the cathedral tour guide who becomes involved with Nara and her adventures, is based on a real guide I met at Lincoln Cathedral. But of course I know nothing about the real woman’s personal life. I created one for the character in my novel.

Next time you are in a public place, look around and imagine a character from someone you see. From that person, you can create a story, or invite him or her into a story you are writing.

Here are a couple of websites I like for help in creating characters:

How to Create Characters http://kathrineroid.wordpress.com/2011/02/08/how-to-create-characters-for-a-novel/

Fiction Factor http://www.fictionfactor.com/characters.html

Isla Tortuga, Costa Rica

Back to Lincolnshire

11 Feb

Since my novel The Gate House is due out in May, I am thinking about the trip to England that inspired the novel. My husband and I stayed in a bed in breakfast in the market town of Spalding in Lincolnshire. We traveled to that part of England because his ancestors had come from their in the 1800s. The bed and breakfast where we stayed was, in fact, an old railroad gate house. In the early days of railroads, a gatekeeper would live in a cottage next to the crossing, and go out to raise and lower the gate as required when people needed to cross the track.

The building where we stayed had been added to and renovated over the years until it became the family home with two or three extra bedrooms upstairs for guests. Our host prepared a delicious full Scottish breakfast for us, and even took us out in his car to a nearby town to visit the church where my husband’s great-great-grandparents were married.

While he was learning about his family history, I was imagining the story that became The Gate House. After all, an old house like that must have a hidden staircase, a secret room or maybe even a ghost.

Check out the “real” Gate House, and maybe book a room on your next trip to England.

A full Scottish breakfast. That black lump is black pudding, a type of sausage made from pork blood and oatmeal.