I'm delighted to welcome best selling author Margaret Kaine to be my guest on Oapschat today. Margaret has very kindly agreed to answer some questions for us.
How do you remember your childhood growing up in Stoke-on-Trent?
With warmth and nostalgia. Being born in 1939 just before the outbreak of the Second World War, my earliest memories are of two soldiers who were billeted in our house. And I remember my father returning home and I didn't recognise him. The years after the war were hard in many ways, especially compared with today. There was rationing, no central heating, and in the Potteries, wages, even for skilled work, were low. As a small child I remember my mother concocting healthy meals from a shortage of ingredients, the thrill of going to the 'pictures' with my parents, and a close and loving family life. My brother and I both passed the 'scholarship' as it was called then, later the eleven plus, and I value the excellent education I received at a grammar school, although I didn't stay on for the sixth form, instead taking a secretarial course at a local college. This I absolutely loved and despite the dreaded shorthand homework, regard it as one of the happiest years of my life. Looking back now to that era of the late forties/fifties, we may have had few of the luxuries people now regard as essential. But what we did have was a strong community spirit, job security, and hope for the future. I recall that people seemed happier – it was a regular thing to hear a man whistling as he rode a bicycle.
How important are friends in your life?
Very important and especially my writing friends who I meet on a regular basis.
Please tell us about your journey from writing to publication.
I began with short magazine stories, a novel seemed too daunting, and after joining a Writers' Workshop – something I would recommend to any new writer – when I realised how much I had to learn – my stories began to be published in the UK, Ireland, Australia and South Africa. This gave me the confidence to begin a mainstream novel. Write about what you know was the advice, so I began with my own childhood and as I mentioned above, the soldiers who were billeted with us. I would stress that what happened later to my heroine definitely did not happen to me! Once I'd written the first few chapters, the rest of the novel was pure fiction. I nicknamed this book 'boomerang', because of the number of times it was submitted and then the postman opened our storm porch door and dropped it back on to the mat. Could I get an agent? No. Could I find a publisher? No. So I joined the Romantic Novelists' Association who have a brilliant New Writer's Scheme. Off my manuscript went for a critique. I followed the advice given – which didn't involve an enormous amount of work - and after seeing an article in Writer's Magazine, sent it to Poolbeg, the top Irish publishers. After three months of nail-biting suspense, I was offered a 4-book contract. And Ring of Clay, the novel that nobody wanted won the RNA New Writer's Award, and the Society of Authors' Sagittarius Prize. I then had a choice of agents!
Where is your latest novel set?
Unlike my previous novels which were set in the Potteries, Dangerous Decisions has a more cosmopolitan background, being set mainly in London, also in Hertfordshire where Oliver has his country seat, and Lichfield, where Helena grew up. But the story also takes the reader to Italy and to Venice.
What or who inspires you?
I read widely from childhood and haunted the local public library, but I think out of all of the disparate books I read – it was a case at first of taking anything that appealed from the shelves - it was strong women writers/storytellers such as Anya Seton, Susan Howatch - and because she wrote about 'ordinary people', Catherine Cookson.
Describe a typical day.
While the kettle is on for that first essential 'cuppa', I go into my downstairs study and check on emails, and yes – I confess it – the Amazon sales figures for Dangerous Decisions. Then after breakfast and making myself presentable, with some reluctance I do the essential domestic chores, always impatient to begin writing! I'm lucky in that my study is downstairs, as I can't sit at the computer for too long without a break, otherwise I suffer from neck and shoulder pain. So I'm 'in and out', quite a lot, which seems to work because quite often it's while I'm away from the computer that my mind, wrestling with the story and a plot/character problem resolves a problem. We have our main meal at lunchtime, and weather permitting I try to get some fresh air, not always easy if it's cold, as my mobility is still recovering from recent foot operations. I may do some more writing in the afternoon, but as I'm a lark rather than an owl, never in the evenings. Nowadays, I enjoy watching TV with my feet up! An occasional glass of wine is a treat, but I have to be careful because I'm prone to migraines.
Available to buy now
How do you relax?
I don't think you can be a writer without being a reader, so definitely books, either print or on my Kindle. DH and I also enjoy playing chess while listening to our favourite CD's which are varied. We both love music of the 20's, 30's, 40's and 50's, Irish folksongs, Country, Mozart and often play Andre Rieu for his selection of light classical music. I've also always loved walking in the country, especially when we had dogs, and am hoping to be able to enjoy that again.
Five quick fire answers please
Cat or dog?
Sweet or savoury dish?
Hot or cold climate?
Classical or pop music?
Radio 2 or Radio 4?
Thank you so much Margaret, some fascinating answers there and I'm thrilled to be able to tell Opaschatters that Margaret's latest book, Dangerous Decisions is going to be a donated raffle prize for this month. Margaret will send a signed copy to one very lucky winner.
Visit Margaret on her website www.margaretkaine.com
Ring of Clay is available to buy Here
Dangerous Decisions is available to buy Here