Katharine Swartz has been writing serials for The People’s Friend for many years, with a new one starting in this week’s issue.
I’m delighted to welcome her as my Writer of the Week.
The Girl From Amherst Island is the third serial featuring Ellen Copley, and completes your Amherst Island trilogy. Was a trilogy always your intention when Ellen first left Glasgow and you began to tell her story?
Yes, I always envisioned Ellen’s story in three parts—as a girl, a young woman, and then a fully-fledged adult.
As a writer, it must be challenging to pick up the threads of the story when each serial is written years apart? Or is she so much in your heart that you know her story?
It can be a little difficult, but I first conceived of Ellen’s story twenty-five years ago. I wrote a rather juvenile version of it—my first finished novel-length work—and I used that as the basis for the serial, although much has changed, including some major plot points, as I have quite a different perspective as a forty-something mother and wife than I did as a teenager!
Many readers may not know that you also write as Kate Hewitt, writing your own style of women’s fiction and for Mills & Boon. Again, other writers will be intrigued to know, how hard—or easy—is it to write in so many different styles?
It can be hard but I think all my stories have the same emotion, the same themes, the same tackling of tough issues. I like being able to write different things because it stretches me as an author and allows me to expand my writer’s voice. But occasionally I get it a bit wrong—and realise I am writing a People’s Friend serial in a Mills & Boon style, or vice versa! It helps to read something different for a sort of authorial ‘palate cleanser’.
With your own writing and for The People’s Friend, it must take great discipline. Can you describe your writing routine?
My writing routine is much easier now my last child has started school! Before then I just snatched whatever time when I could. Now I try to write for 2-3 hours a day, five days a week. I think the biggest challenge is to not write when I am off—in the evenings, on weekends. It can be hard to turn off and just spend time with my family, but that, of course, is really important.
Notebook and pencil or laptop? Kitchen table or study? Blank wall or inspiring view?
Definitely laptop and usually kitchen table, although I’d love a study. An inspiring view always helps but normally I am staring into space 🙂
And a PS: What’s your one top tip for aspiring writers?
My tip for aspiring writers is to write something and finish it. That might seem overly simple but so many would-be writers start projects and then drop them after a few chapters when that first rush of excitement dies off. I think I learned the most from actually finishing my manuscripts, wading through the sagging middle and realising how it needs to wrap, even if some of those stories never saw the light of day. I do believe nothing is wasted—my latest release, The Secrets We Keep, is a heavily revised version of the first women’s fiction I ever wrote ten years ago, which had been languishing on my hard drive!
You can read more about Katharine’s books on her website: https://www.kate-hewitt.com