Getting to Know You: Kate Kerrigan

I’m absolutely thrilled to have Kate Kerrigan on the blog today. Kate, the author of ‘Ellis Island’ and ‘City of Hope’ (among other books) took some time out from writing to answer my questions.

Kate, I adored Ellie’s story in ‘Ellis Island’. Where did you get the idea from?

The idea came from a great-aunt of mine who went to America as a young woman and led a fantastically glamorous life as “dressmaker to the stars” among them the socialite Betty Hutton. Remarkably, or so I thought, she chose to return to Ireland when she retired and opened a small shop in a Godforsaken, dribbly little village in Mayo where she always seemed rather miserable. I always wondered why she didn’t stay in America and part of Ellie’s journey was exploring those motivations for one’s roots and home.

Why did you decide to bring Ellie back in ‘City of Hope’?

When I finished ‘Ellis Island’ – I just didn’t feel done and wanted to carry on. It’s never happened to me before, but Ellie was “bigger” than one book for me. There’s a third, actually, that I am just finishing now called ‘Land of Dreams’. Funnily enough, some reviewers and readers complained that they felt unresolved after ‘Ellis Island’ and wanted to hear more of her – so – I guess – hope – my instincts were right!

Tell us more about ‘Miracles of Grace’ and ‘Recipes for a Perfect Marriage’.

‘Recipes’ and ‘Miracle’ are both books setting past generations stories against modern ones. ‘Recipes’ is a book about marital love – most love stories end with a marriage and I wanted to write a book about the realities of marriage – the depth of love that can be achieved – but how it is hard-won and based on a lot of traditional values like tolerance and respect and endurance. It was shortlisted for an award and Liam Neeson read it and wanted to play the lead in the film. Macmillan have just re-packaged it with a new cover so it’s widely available again, which is great. ‘Miracle of Grace’ is a book about maternal love – kind of a sad/funny book dealing with love and death – the only true subjects worth writing about. It’s dedicated to my mother who is an amazing woman and my muse/hero/mentor.

What do you like most about writing? What do you dislike (if anything)?

I don’t know that I “like” writing. It is more of an extension of who I am. I write constantly – as much as I speak almost. I blog and also have a weekly newspaper column in the Irish Mail and a bi-weekly Sunday one! Fiction is hard though. It’s different to anything else and I do find it hard. It’s rare I get into a rhythm and think – I’m loving this.  Anyone who finds it easy is either not very good or lying. Every now and again I leave my family and go to a hermitage in Sligo for three days and just write (and eat lots of crisps and chocolate). I enjoy writing then – like that – with no distractions. But it’s a false environment. My real life is filled with kids and husband and stuff. The blogging/ journalism is an extension of that – but it constantly interrupts the fiction – and the other way around!

What inspires you to write?

Everything and nothing. I could not say one thing. I talk to people a lot – particularly older people as research. I look and listen around me all the time, but one book dovetails into another. I already have the next book lined up after this one. I always have a novel on the go. Have done all of my adult life, long before I got published.

Do you find time to read, if so what are you reading at the moment?

Gaah. My reading time is down to nil – and then with research! Forget it. ‘City of Nets’ – a book about L.A. in the forties written by a dead academic is my current reading material. Along with Marian Keyes ‘Saved by Cake’ – which is a fantastic distraction because it involves food!

Which author(s) has/have had the biggest influence on your writing?

I read PG Wodehouse and Agatha Christie obsessively as a child – and I would say they were the people who formed my vocabulary and gave me a passion for plot. I love lots of authors – but they would be the ones that influenced me and made me want to write because they made it seem like fun. They lied!

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?

Hairdressing. It’s what I did for the five years after leaving behind a terrible school career.

What do you think are your strengths and weaknesses?

Strength as a person and a writer is speaking from the heart, a propensity for planning and an obsessive desire to complete things. The last is also my biggest weakness.
What are you working on at the moment?
‘Land of Dreams’ – the final book in Ellie’s trilogy. Wartime in the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Where can we find you online?

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Write for the sake of it – not for the money or the career. Easy to say but never more relevant than in today’s uncertain world – and write every day. If you leave it – it’s hard to go back. If you can’t get a deal – finding a good editor is more important than finding an agent – then listen to them. If you can’t get a deal – self-publish. There is NO shame in that. I have a non-fiction book that I plan to self-publish any day now.  However, always with with an editor and always – always get it professionally proof read.
What’s been your proudest moment?
Hands down – having my kids. I do not invest emotionally in what I do. While I invest time and energy and emotion into my work – I try not to worry too much about what other people think. I LOVE when readers respond positively – that makes me feel proud in that moment – but awards and publicity don’t mean a thing and if you think they do – you’re in trouble! Most success as a writer is down to luck – and I have been very, very lucky indeed to have been able to earn a decent living for as long as I have.
Thanks for doing this Kate, it’s been a pleasure talking to you.
Vic x

2 responses to “Getting to Know You: Kate Kerrigan

  1. Thanks for featuring me Vic – love your blog and real treat to share some of that authorey stuff and feel ‘important’! x

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