Sunday, 23 April 2017

Fab Firsts - Q&A with Catherine Kullmann

Fab Firsts is my new regular Sunday feature, that is going to be highlighting books that are firsts. When interviewing authors, it will be about their first book, as well as other firsts in their lives. When reviewing books for this feature, there will be a mix of debuts, first books in a series, the first time I read an author, and possibly other firsts depending on what I can think of!

If you are an author wanting to take part in Fab Firsts then please do email on gilbster at gmail dot com and I'll whizz the questions over to you.

I hope you enjoy this look at a variety of hopefully fabulous firsts, while making some sort of dent in my review and paperback TBRs which are my current main focus!

Thank you for inviting me to talk to you about me and my writing. My name is Catherine Kullmann and I write historical fiction ‘for the heart and for the head’. I was born and brought up in Dublin and, following a courtship conducted mainly by letter, moved to Germany on my marriage. We returned to Ireland in 1999. I have worked in the Irish and New Zealand public services as well as in the private sector. In 2009 I took early retirement and this gave me the opportunity finally to explore my creativity.

My books are set in England in the extended regency period from 1800 to 1825, the time of the Napoleonic wars and their aftermath, and look in particular at the consequences for the many women whose men disappeared to fight in a war that happened off-stage and far away. Fathers, sons and brothers were absent for years. Communication possibilities then were so different to what they are today—no news reached home apart from that provided in the official dispatches published in the Gazette and what little was contained in intermittent private letters. 

1) Can you tell us a bit about your first book?

The Murmur of Masks, my debut novel, was published in July 2016. It begins in 1803, after the collapse of the Treaty of Amiens with England again at war with France. Eighteen-year-old Olivia must say goodbye to her father and brother, both of whom are recalled to active service in the navy. Not long afterwards, her mother dies suddenly. Now she has lost not only the person who has been her anchor all her life but also her home.  Adrift and vulnerable, she accepts the offer of a marriage of convenience from Jack Rembleton, an older man in need of an heir. Olivia hopes that love will grow between them, but Jack’s secrets will prevent this. When, at her first ball, she is obliged to tell the clearly interested Luke Fitzmaurice that she is married, she realises that she has thrown away her youth and the chance of love. 

     Ten years later, fate throws Olivia and Luke together again. Before they can explore what might be between them,  Napoleon escapes from Elba and Luke, who as a young man was prevented by ill-health from joining the army, is determined that this time he will do his bit and joins Wellington’s army in Brussels. After Waterloo, he discovers he must fight another battle, the battle to win Olivia’s heart.

2) What was your original inspiration to become a writer, and to write your debut?

I have always enjoyed writing, from those very first compositions at school. The written word was also an important part of my professional life.  I read voraciously and often continued stories in my head, wanting to know what happened next. Life so frequently gets in the way of love and what makes a book interesting to me is how the characters deal with this.  The marriage of convenience that turns into a love marriage is a favourite theme of regency novels and I wondered how a woman would cope with a marriage of convenience that remained just that. 

3) How long did it take you to write your first book?

About a year and a half. Although The Murmur of Masks is my debut novel, it is not the first novel I wrote but the third. The second, Perception & Illusion, was published last month 28th March 2017, while the first, A Sensible Marriage will probably not be published until 2018 as I need to do a considerable rewrite of it. In fact there will be at least two more published before it. Although not a series, the books are all interconnected. As A Sensible Marriage is set in the early 1820s, I decided to leave it to the end. It will complete the Waterloo Arc.

4) If you could do anything differently in retrospect, what would you change about your debut, or how you went about writing it?

Apart from somehow managing to start earlier, no. Having said that, it is wonderful to be able to start a new career after my retirement. I love both the research and creative sides of writing historical fiction; part of the challenge is to reflect accurately your chosen period while making it accessible to the modern reader.  

5) Was your first book self or traditionally published, and how did you go about making that decision?

The Murmur of Masks is self-published. After I received several warm rejections from publishers, saying that it ‘falls between the stools of historical romance and historical fiction’ I decided not to waste any more time waiting for a publisher to find the right pigeonhole and  went ahead and published it myself.

6) Do you have any tips for other first time authors?

Keep writing. Edit and re-edit. Let a book lie fallow for several months and then try and read it as if someone else had written it. Be honest with yourself. If you stumble over a phrase, or find a section dull or tedious, change it or omit it. 

Tell us about your first…

7) Book you bought

I can’t remember exactly which one, but one of the Pocomoto series by Rex Dixon. I loved this Western series about an orphan brought up by two prospectors.  I had to have several milk teeth removed to make way for the permanent teeth and my mother promised me a shilling a tooth as a reward / bribe if I was good at the dentists. I remember going into Eason’s in O’Connell Street afterwards and spending my loot on this book.

8) Memory

I am a year and ten months old and my father is telling my elder brother and me that we have a new baby sister. I can also remember seeing her cradle in a corner of the front room after she and my mother came home.

9) Person you fell in love with

My future husband.

10) Holiday you went on

To visit my grandmother in Cork. I don’t remember how old I was, four or five, maybe. We went by train and I remember how the red plush of the seats scratched my legs. Girls didn’t wear trousers then, so I would have been wearing a dress and ankle socks.

11) Prize you won

The German Government Prize for German in my Intermediate Certificate (Equivalent of O Levels).

12) Album you purchased

Dietrich Fischer-Diskeau singing Schubert’s Die Schöne Müllerin accompanied by Gerald Moore. It was a present for my father.

13) Sport you enjoyed participating in

Ballroom dancing – I was never interested in sport, but when I was in my thirties my husband and I started ballroom dancing and I really love it.

14) Embarrassing moment you can remember

The time at a dance when I was sure a boy was coming to ask me to dance. I started to get up but then he asked the girl sitting beside me.

15) Pet

A kitten called Frisky

16) Time you were in trouble

I was always in trouble for speaking my mind to teachers.

17) ..choice of alternative career if you weren’t an author

I went the alternative career route first.

18) …time you had any independence

I would have been around twelve, I suppose, and was allowed take the bus into town by myself and spend my own money (pocket money or birthday presents).

19) …toy that you recall loving

A Moses basket with a baby doll

20) … time you felt like an adult

When I was given money and told I could buy my own clothes. I was sixteen, I think.

21) … time you realised you were good at something

I was always good at school (see no. 15)

22) Dish you cooked

I don’t remember, but probably scones or apple tart. From the very beginning, I ‘helped’ my mother in the kitchen and bit by bit learnt to do everything by myself. I still love cooking and experimenting with new recipes.

23) … time you were really scared

I was nine. I was participating in a big rally to mark the centenary of the death of the founder of the order of nuns who ran the school I went to. Afterwards, I couldn’t find my mother. I remember I went up to a policeman and asked him if he had ‘seen a lady in a hat’. All the women were wearing hats. However, she found me soon after.

Thank you so much Catherine for answering my questions and sharing with us your most embarassing moment!

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Purchase Links The Murmur of Masks: 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Rachel. I have to say that as you get older, you are able to see the funny side of embarrassing moments. About ten years ago, I was waiting in a restaurant to meet a former colleague whom I hadn't met for some years. I was wondering would I recognise him so when a man of roughly the right age and appearance came in, looked around expectantly and caught my eye, I got up and went to meet him.We had done the mwah mwah bit before we both drew back, laughed and said 'wrng person'. I then sat down again, and a few minutes later repeated the whole thing with the right guy. I found the whole experience more amusing than embarrassing, but if it had happened when I was in my twenties......Although, come to think of it, a novelist could make something of it. What a start for a romance!


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