So your latest paperback Watch For Me By Moonlight is inspired by real life ghostly happenings – can you tell us a bit more about that?
I love anything ghostly and love reading and writing about the paranormal. I would say the setting of Watch For Me By Moonlight is inspired by real places, as Hartsford Hall is a mish-mash of Kedleston Hall and Ickworth Hall, two fabulous National Trust places, and is also inspired by the poem The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes, but the ghosts that Elodie and Alex meet in the book are largely fictional.
However, I have experienced ghostly goings on myself in my workplace – as indeed they do at Hartsford. I’ve seen and heard previous residents of the houses at my workplace, a Georgian terrace of five houses, all knocked through to make one long block of offices. I’ve followed what I thought were colleagues into rooms to find there’s nobody there, heard laughter and conversation and arguments through closed doors, yet when you walk in the place is empty. Cleaners have seen people sitting at desks and pairs of legs walking up the stairs. We’ve recently relocated offices and I was sad to leave our ghosts – but happily we think we have some more. We’ve been experiencing a lot of feelings that people are behind us and they aren’t, even as we turn to speak to them, or cold draughts blowing past us, or figures catching the corner of our eye. And I’m not the only one noticing it! The building was used, we believe, for ammo storage and railway transportation during WW2, and we don’t think the workers have ever left.
How would you sum up your work for prospective readers?
My work is mainly a combination of time slip and dual timeline. If readers like writers such as Barbara Erskine and Diana Gabaldon, they’ll like me. There’s also romance in the books, and if paranormal, ghosts and history isn’t what they want, I also offer gothic, romantic mysteries, contemporary and rom-com. My work is like a variety pack of biscuits – something for everyone!
What do you do when you’re not writing fiction?
I always seem to be pretty busy – I have a day job, family, dog, house and garden to look after, so I’m usually consumed by one or more of these things at any one time. I fit writing fiction in around other things, but I’m pleased it’s not my sole source of income, as I wouldn’t like to have the pressure of writing to pay the bills. Doing it the way I do it means other things can take priority if they have to – and if I’ve had a really long day at work, I can just come home, flop into a bath, and pet the dog.
Have you always loved writing?
Yes. I wrote on and off after leaving school, starting work and getting married, but then after I had my son, I didn’t write for about seven years. I was made redundant from the bank I worked at and had three months where I was between jobs and did a short writing course from the Open University. I managed to keep my writing up after I got my new job, which was fortunately part-time, and then I did a literature degree with two creative writing modules in it. I was writing and submitting fiction and non-fiction items at the same time, and I eventually got the courage up to self-publish The Memory of Snow. That did pretty well, and I self-published a couple more books, then Choc Lit took me on in about 2013 with my first traditionally-published book, Some Veil Did Fall.
What’s your writing process like?
Sit down and go, generally! It’s a case of ‘right, nobody needs me for a couple of hours, let’s fit some of this writing stuff in!’ I don’t plot my work so it’s very much switch on the computer and go for it. If I do have time to plan when I'm writing, I like to make myself a nice coffee, grab a biscuit or three and put some music on. Much of my writing over the last few years has been done at the poolside during swimming lessons, in the car outside of Scouts, at a local coffee shop during a guitar lesson, in Costa before my MA lessons or work (if I’m at a really good part I need to work on), on holiday evenings when we are away. Basically anywhere I could fit it in between other commitments.
Who are some of your literary inspirations?
I always have to say Emily Brontë with Wuthering Heights whenever I’m asked this question. I find it fascinating that a girl who lived such a sheltered life could write something so dark and passionate, and I do wonder how exactly her mind worked to create characters such as Cathy and Heathcliff. I also love writers such as Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt and their more gentle gothic romances, as well as Susanna Kearsley, who is one of my favourite contemporary time slip authors.
What was the last book you read?
I’ve got a couple on the go at the minute. I’m reading Playgroups and Prosecco by Jo Middleton which is a very easy-to-read, mum’s diary sort of book, and The Doll Factory by Elizabeth MacNeal. When I saw The Doll Factory in my local Waterstones and saw that it related to the Pre Raphaelite artists and an obsession over a red-haired artist’s model, I was intrigued to see how the subject had been approached.
You’re from the North East – what’s your favourite thing about the area?
I love how close we are to everything, how many wonderful things there are to see and do in the North East, how much heritage and beauty we have up here, and how friendly the people are. Also, from where I live, within two hours driving I can be at the Lake District, the Scottish borders, Yorkshire, the coast or the Roman Wall amongst other amazing places. By train, we can be in Edinburgh in an hour and a half, and in London in three. We’ve got a local International airport which means people can city-hop to Europe or Ireland. It’s easy to be complacent, but we are very lucky in the North East.
What would your ideal Sunday look like?
I’d like a lie-in until about 8am, and then someone would make me breakfast in bed. I’d spend the day with my family, visiting some of the lovely places in our region, and fitting in a tea shop or two. It would be a beautiful, warm summer day, so we’d come home, I’d maybe do a little bit of work in the garden, then settle down to do some writing. I’d finish the day by relaxing in a nice, hot bubble bath with a good book, a glass of wine and some chocolate, then I’d chill out by watching TV in my pyjamas.
What are you currently watching?
We’re watching A House Through Time, a BBC documentary about a single house, and the stories of its occupants since it was built. It’s based in Newcastle which immediately means I will love it, and I also love seeing the history of the people who lived there. An extra bonus is that the house they are researching is a Georgian terrace, which is practically identical to the one I worked in, even to the banisters and the stair-rails. I often wondered about the previous inhabitants of my office and what the house would have looked like as a home – and now I know!
If you could swap places with anyone at any time, who would it be and why?
I’ve given it some thought and I don’t think I’d like to be anyone permanently – I’d like to experience ‘moments’ in peoples’ lives. For instance, when Jane Seymour gave birth to a healthy son, Prince Edward – that must have been a great feeling! I wouldn’t want to die a few days later though. And the lady who lived at Kedleston Hall, where Hartsford Hall is based on – Lady Mary Curzon. She was a famous Edwardian beauty and her husband was Lord Curzon of Kedleston, Viceroy of India. She had a splendid gown for Edward VII’s coronation in 1902. I’d have liked to have been her that day, and to wear that gown. I love reading and learning about these people but I think I’m quite happy to be me!
You can find Kirsty’s books here