Tonight on the blog I am delighted to welcome to Friday Night Drinks, prolific blogger, aspiring author, fellow member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) New Writers’ Scheme (NWS) and my very good friend (and partner in crime) Kate Baker.
Welcome to the blog, Kate, and thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. I love your hair, although didn’t you ask for blue?
Yes, I did, but that’s a whole other story!
First things first, what are you drinking?
Vodka and diet coke please … double? Oh go on then, you twisted my arm.
I’d better have a double gin then, to keep up. If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?
I’ve love to start our evening in Tuttons, Covent Garden. Not the restaurant part, but the small bar on the left hand side with its own entrance on to Russell Street. It is cosy and atmospheric with a bar menu of nibbles to aid the consumption of the many cocktails when a vodka simply isn’t exciting enough! Then, can we perhaps hop in a time machine and whizz our way to Skiathos, where there is a bar/restaurant that overlooks the harbour? It must be one of the most idyllic places I have ever sat. Is that too much to ask? We can be back by 11pm in the time machine!
That looks like a beautiful place to spend an evening. If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?
My first, if you don’t mind, would be 007, preferably of the Daniel Craig variety. If he’s unavailable, Pierce Brosnan, or Sean Connery. I’m sure we could both bombard him with questions about gadgets while he sips his martini. I’ll pull the bow tie loose while you keep his attention engaged with the cocktail stick in the olive challenge.
Secondly, please may I bring Audrey Hepburn, my female icon. I want to ask about her life, her mother, her relationships with actors and directors. And I’d love to know if the filming of ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ was as wonderful as the finished version suggests.
Glamorous choices, I’d best get my best frock on! So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?
Right now, I’m attempting to shift my typing time away from my beloved blogging and on to my manuscript. Like yourself, I’ve received the professional critique report from the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme. I’m itching to process quite a few of the suggested improvements into my manuscript which would, could, should (shall?) become my debut novel. I’ve already added a new Chapter One in the hope it now captivates the reader with a big Jaws-style hook rather than a limp piece of bread bobbing on the pond surface which politely and apologetically asks them to read on.
I am aiming at contemporary romantic suspense, told from two points of view, set mostly in an Italian vineyard and Milan, with a few chapters based in the main character’s home in Cornwall. I’m planning to use the NaNoWriMo energy to up the word count from the approx. 32,000 words I’ve been fiddling with all summer.
I take part in the Twitter flash fiction pieces when I can, such as the recent #vss365 started by @RozLevens .. all good fun and great brain exercises for omitting unnecessary words, because – have you noticed – I tend to waffle on a bit.
The support and friendships I’ve discovered through joining the Romantic Novelists Association is and are amazing. I truly feel a new world has opened up to me which came at a good time as my two children are 18 and 20 and no longer require my attention in the same all-consuming way they have done to date! Actually, I’ve you to thank for the RNA connection; it was when you posted about them that I discovered them for the first time. So, second round is on me – same again? Back shortly…
What has been your proudest moment since you started writing/blogging and what has been your biggest challenge?
As yet, having nothing published, it is hard to pinpoint a proudest moment with my writing, although I do feel incredibly excited each time a blogger takes time to comment on any of my fiction posts. Knowing that someone has enjoyed a poem or part of a serial is really exciting.
The biggest challenge appears to be allocating my time wisely. I’m fortunate in that I run my own business and my workshop is here on the farm – about eighteen steps from my back door to be precise. The hours I choose to work are within my control but this is not always the blessing one might imagine it to be. I never feel ‘off duty’ (unless I leave the county, or better still the country). I cannot relax in the house when the three industrial washing machines are idle if there are dirty horse rugs waiting in a queue to be washed. Approximately 70% of my annual workload comes through the door during the May-September months and so any recent attempts to add to my wordcount have been stupendous failures, but autumn through winter is when I plan to really give the writing my time. The goal is to complete the first draft by January, send it for some edits and then resubmit to the NWS in the late spring for a second critique.
What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all!
Well, if you’re sure it’s just between us, then I’ll say the one ‘big thing’ would be to see my name in print on the cover of a paperback! Eeeeeek – can you imagine? OMG, I’m sweating just thinking of it. Look, let’s grab that waiter’s attention for a jug of iced water shall we? Is it me, or is it quite hot in here, I’m all of a fluster now.
I spend a lot of time imagining it for myself! I’m sure it will happen for you. What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?
Currently working on what I have temporarily entitled THE KEY TO VERONA, but as my critique report pointed out, I haven’t mentioned Verona once in the first 24,000 words, so this working title barely makes sense. I’m leaning more towards UNDER THE OLIVE TREE but that’s only because I recently wrote a scene in which the two protagonists start to open up to each other. It takes place under the olive tree behind the house at the vineyard, in the early hours of one morning when unbeknown to either of them, the other couldn’t sleep in their separate bedrooms. I would happily let an expert come up with a title and I love obscure one or two word titles … I could just call it ‘THE KEY’.
Titles are so hard! I have a tendency to nick them from whatever song feels relevant to my work in progress, but I guess that’s kind of cheating!
I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?
I also love to travel and now I’m slightly free from offspring taxi duties, I hope to do more. I did dust the passport off last year and managed Spain, Paris, Bahamas (for three days – long story) and Skiathos.
I need to hear The Bahamas story now, as that is a long way to go for three days! Aside from that, tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.
What can I tell you… um … well, I used to work for BBC Radio in Broadcasting House in Portland Place, London as a production assistant on the Johnnie Walker show called AM Alternative on Radio 5. This was long before it became 5Live – now I’m showing my age). It was such an exciting few months, meeting lots of famous people who came in daily to be interviewed by Johnnie during the show – Robbie Coltrane, Bob Monkhouse, Liz Dawn, Cheryl Crow, David Hasslehoff.
Actually, can I add at this point that my fantasy of Michael Knight driving Kit was blown clean out the water when I rushed down through the building in order to bump into David accidentally-on-purpose. I knew he’d just finished a guest slot on Radio One – which then was situated in a separate building across the street – and would be making his way back to reception. I knew how to intercept him and gain that all-important autograph, but as his post-Baywatch 6’4” self sauntered across the street and when I said “Hi, would you mind?” I realised I was rather out of date. Thrusting my ID card at him, he barely registered my presence as he took the offered pen and scrawled one line across the card while maintaining his long gait, me now walking backwards to keep up. I still have it somewhere in the attic – or maybe I threw it out in a moment of clearing the clutter. He was somewhat worse for wear and looked nothing like the man I’d pictured leaning against the front of that car!
I can’t believe you left such a glitzy job to go and live on a farm in East Anglia! Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?
So many amazing books. This is a horrible question to answer! I’m going to say Gail Tsukiyama’s The Samurai’s Garden. Introduced to me by an American blogger, my rusty reading eyes were treated to such an awakening once I opened the pages. Gail’s writing, it turns out, is often used on the American High School literature lists for reading and I can see why. There is a love story here, but the content is more about the choices we make during our time on this beautiful planet and living with the consequences thereof.
Her main character Matsu delivers wisdom to a twenty year old Japanese city dweller who is sent to stay by the sea with Matsu to recover from a bout of TB just as WWII breaks out. If you’ve yet to read it, I will lay my life on the line and tell you that you won’t be disappointed. Hang on, I’ve had too much to drink .. can I rephrase that? After all, reading is subjective, so I’ll bet you a tenner you’ll enjoy it. Yeah, that’s far easier to follow through.
Another one to add to the ever-growing TBR. So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?
Quite. I think a pint of water for starters, preferably warm from a previously boiled kettle. Don’t stress those stomach muscles with a shock of cold water when they are already dealing with the liquor but diluting it somewhat before going to bed can work wonders. I hear milk to line the stomach before you start can help but I always forget to try it.
After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?
Can we lie in on the Sunday perhaps with a good paper and all the supplements which promise of travel and youthful skin while I sip freshly squeezed orange juice and nibble on white bread, toasted to a pale golden, dabbed with soft, salted butter. Have you booked the adjoining suite? Shall we do a gentle walk along the river by Hammersmith Bridge late morning, along the stretch where you can watch the Boat Race? The Home of British Rowing occupies a stunning Georgian building next to two pubs.
That sounds like a great way to spend a Sunday, I’m in. Thank you so much, Kate, for chatting to me on the blog today. I am sure your writing will continue to grow and I can’t wait to see the book in print soon.
If you haven’t checked out Kate’s marvellous, eclectic blog yet, you can find her at https://violableu.com. Or catch up with her on social media:
Next week I will be joined for Friday Night Drinks by the ever ebullient Alison May, author, writing tutor and Vice Chair of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, so you won’t want to miss that.