Writer Of The Week: Kathy Schilbach

Writer Of The Week

Hi, Kathy! Thanks for being our Writer Of The Week!

You’re known to our readers as Kate Finnemore. Why did you decide to write under a pen name?

For one very down-to-earth reason: no-one is ever quite sure how to pronounce or spell my surname!

Have you always been a writer?

Way back in the eighties I wrote a romantic novel which was published by Robert Hale. But then I moved to France with my husband and children, and we had our hands full working, restoring our house and building up a holiday homes business. No time for writing!

It’s only now that I’ve retired that I’ve been able to spend time writing again. My first “Friend” story was entitled “Then And Now”, which was accepted for publication in January 2017.

Tell us about your story, “In Love And War”, which appears in this week’s issue.

The story started out as a contemporary romance. But it’s not so easy nowadays for emails, text messages, etc to go astray, so I made the decision to set it just after World War Two.

Lena’s father in the story is based on my own father – a young man during the war, he was always quite scathing about the “Yanks” (and probably quite jealous, though he’d never admit it!).

There was some research and checking of facts involved, but I love history and always enjoy doing the research.

Do you prefer writing historical or contemporary stories?

I like writing both – probably half my stories are historicals and the other half contemporary. One advantage of historicals is that there were no phones or computers. Communication and finding out information are more or less instant nowadays. In a historical, you have more time for misunderstandings to develop . . .

The story is quite short, at around 1200 words. Which story length do you prefer?

It depends very much on the story. I like the concision of very short stories, where every word must count. But I also very much enjoy writing pocket novels – I find I live my characters’ story with them. I even dream about them!

Whose stories do you enjoy reading?

I like crime fiction, for example Minette Walters, Ian Rankin, and Nicci French, and historical fiction – Philippa Gregory, Bernard Cornwell, Tracy Chevalier, to name but a few.

Are you a fan of writers’ groups?

Yes. I’m part of an online writers’ group, and I find it invaluable for the support and encouragement everyone offers each other, and for the practical advice we give each other.

I’d urge all writers to join a group (or to start their own), if only because writing can be quite a solitary activity.

Notebook and pencil, or laptop? Kitchen table, or study? Blank wall, or inspiring view?

One of those yellow Bic pens with a fine point, and A4 paper that’s already been used on one side. I write longhand, because it gives me thinking time as I write. Writing directly on to the laptop paralyses me into total inaction – what if I delete something, only to realise it’s the most perfect word/sentence/paragraph ever?

I write in the morning (I’m a morning person), then type up what I’ve written in the late afternoon, giving the story a first edit.

I don’t mind where I am, but I need to be sitting at a table with space around me.

Above all, I need silence. My favourite spot, whether I’m in France or in England, is the table by the window overlooking the garden or the street. I spend quite a lot of writing time watching the birds, the cats or people going by!

And a P.S. – what’s your one top tip for an other aspiring Writer Of The Week?

I immediately thought of three (sorry!).

Firstly, if you want to be published, you might be lucky and it happens straight away, but chances are it’ll take a year or two, so don’t give up. Learn and progress, and you’ll get there.

Secondly, learn to touch type. That way you can concentrate on the words, not on how to get them on to paper.

Finally, and most importantly, write the sort of story that you enjoy reading. It’ll show!

For more from our Writer Of The Week series, click the tag below.

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Lucy Crichton

Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 155 years of 'Friend' fiction!