A view of Portland, seen from the harbour,
a few minutes’ boat ride from where Kathy lives…
Welcome to new author Kathy Sharp, author of Isle of Larus, out soon through Crooked Cat.
Thank you Pam. I’m very delighted to be here!
Hi, Kathy. Can you describe Isle of Larus in a few words?
The Spirit of the Sea sends a series of alarming events to test the inhabitants of the Isle of Larus – a fleet of impossible ships, a con-man in a jewelled turban, and the threat of foreign invasion in the guise of a pub landlady. The Spirit chuckles as he settles down to watch the show…
It’s such an intriguing idea. Wherever did it come from?
The idea came from an exercise we did at my writers’ group, Weymouth Writing Matters. We were writing a piece from the point of view of a plant or inanimate object. I loved it, and decided to take it further. I chose four buildings on the Isle of Portland, where I used to live – two castles, a church and a lighthouse – and imagined what characters they might have if they were people. It was a short step from there to wonder how these characters would interact if they needed to work together, and so, in the best traditions of how-to-write-a-story, I gave them a problem to cope with. After that the story more or less wrote itself. I borrowed some of the geography, traditions and the odd place name from Portland, as well as some of its strange beauty and atmosphere, but beyond that it’s pure fantasy.
How long did it take you to write?
When I began it, I actually thought I was writing a short story. But it just seemed to expand into something bigger. Overall, it took seven months to complete and I enjoyed every minute.
Fleet Lagoon, a few minutes’ walk
from Kathy's home
Are you an avid fantasy reader? If so, can you name your favourite author and book/series?
I’m not much of a reader of fantasy at all, strangely enough, unless you count Harry Potter. I’m much more intrigued by historical novel series such as the Jack Aubrey novels of Patrick O’Brian or the Poldark novels of Winston Graham. I think the influence of both is clearly there in Isle of Larus, and I don’t at all mind admitting it!
I’ve asked this before and I will again, because the answers are always so much fun. What did you do when Crooked Cat accepted your novel?
Stared at the screen in blank disbelief; burbled nonsense at my husband; wandered about the house in a stunned state. I checked the email to make sure I hadn’t misunderstood it. Three times. Then came to my senses and opened a bottle of bubbly.
I see you’re a poet, too! Tell us more?
I enjoy experimenting with poetry and trying out new verse forms. I think it’s very useful for a writer to try telling a story or expressing an idea within the constraints of a fixed rhythm or rhyming plan. Concentrates the mind wonderfully, I find, and makes you think very carefully about word-forms and meanings. There are verses (they’re not supposed to be proper poetry!) within Isle of Larus, and I had lots of fun writing them.
Do you have any further plans to di-versify? (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)
One of my other side-lines is writing song lyrics. I belong to the wonderful Island Voices Community Choir on Portland. We write most of our songs ourselves, and over the past eight years or so I’ve written more sets of lyrics than I can count. Many of them have been set to music by my musician friends, and I regularly get to stand up in front of an audience and sing them with the choir. I’m not a particularly good singer myself, but fortunately I have lots of friends who are!
Where do you like to work? In a darkened room or at the dining table amid the chaos?
I’m lucky enough to have a spare room I can use as a study, so I usually work in there at my desk. The window looks out onto a tall hedge, so if I’m struggling to find the right words I can stare at a wall of green. Nature is both soothing and inspiring, and it always helps me to organise my ideas.
When does inspiration strike? Do you have scribbled notes on the bedside table or do you have catalogued notebooks on a shelf? (Guess which I am!)
I’m not quite the catalogued notebooks type, I’m afraid. Inspiration tends to strike, inconveniently, in the middle of the night. Or I wake up in the morning with dialogue pouring out of my head and have to rush off and scribble it down before I forget it. I always have a notepad handy, wherever I am, and sometimes actually use it, but the best ideas always seem to arrive just as I’m waking up.
So, what’s the next project?
I’m already making good progress with a sequel to Isle of Larus. I so enjoy writing about my characters and seeing what they do next. I only hope that the readers enjoy them as much as I do!
Thanks, Kathy. And good luck with your debut novel.
Thank you, Pam. I’ve really enjoyed it.
Growing up by the sea in Kent, back in the 1960s, it was Kathy’s ambition to become a writer. Time passed. She married, moved to west London, and had a daughter. She continued to write, and had a small book or two on countryside and nature subjects published. She worked for many years as a desktop publisher for Surrey County Council, and as a tutor in adult education.
And then, one day, she visited a friend who had just moved to the Isle of Portland, Dorset, and fell in love with the place. She has now lived in the Weymouth and Portland area for eight years, and still loves it. The wonderful Jurassic Coast, and Portland in particular, were the inspiration for her first novel, Isle of Larus.
Kathy also sings with, and writes lyrics for, the Island Voices Choir on Portland, and is a keen member of local writing groups, as well as enjoying studying the local flora.
Interview by Pamela Kelt