Friday 15 January 2021

Blog Tour: Interview with Margaret Skea Author of Katharina: Deliverance (Book 1 Katharina series) @margaretskea1 @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours

Today is my stop on the blog tour for Katharina: Deliverance (Book 1 Katharina series) by Margaret Skea. I have an interview with the author to share with you today and if you like the sound of that you can click here to order your copy now. Don't forget to check out the other stops on the tour for more exclusive content and reviews.

Here's what it's all about...

At five Katharina is placed in a convent.
At twenty-three she escapes.
At twenty-five she marries the most controversial man in Europe.

This is her story - of courage, resilience in the face of adversity and a determination to choose her own life.

If you like your historical fiction to be absorbing, authentic, beautifully written and full of warmth and heart, this portrayal of Katharina von Bora, the escaped nun who married Martin Luther, is for you.

Are you ready for that interview?

How did you get into writing?

Two important things happened when I was eight.  I won a children’s poetry competition and my dad published a school textbook. Inspired by both I wrote a story about a family of white mice – which I thought the company producing my dad’s book would publish. Sadly, no… but there and then I determined to be an author ‘when I grew up’. Of course life intervened and I did lots of other things first, but I have finally ‘grown up’ now.

Do you write full time and if so have you always done this?

For much of my adult life I concentrated on writing short stories, and quite a number won or were placed in competitions, becoming the perfect avoidance tactic - stopping me from writing my first novel. Thankfully I broke through the barrier and now have five published novels.  But like most writers, I don’t have the luxury of writing full time. However, the other work I now do is all writing related – I am the Creative Writing Fellow for a collective of eight writing groups in the Lothians (around Edinburgh) – running mini-workshops and providing one-to-one feedback on their writing; and I also do a limited amount of individually tailored mentoring for other authors / would-be authors. 

Do you have a particular writing style or genre that you prefer to write? 

All my novels are historical fiction, but rooted in real history. However, most, but not all of my short stories are contemporary. They are as far removed from me in terms of location as my novels are in time and I’ve come to realize that  the challenge I most relish is to take readers somewhere neither I or they have ever been, to  provide them with a ‘you are there’ experience. 

How do you develop your characters as you write – are any of them  based on real people?

Most of the people in my novels (give or take a few servants and one key fictional family in my Scottish trilogy) were real and that poses particular problems. The fictional family develop through the course of the trilogy – and often in surprising ways, but I have to be careful with the real people. 

For them I need to make sure that everything I write, even the fictional elements – for example their motivations and conversations - are in keeping with the known facts, as well as what can be deduced of their character from documented actions. Sometimes it’s possible to ‘eavesdrop’ on conversations – for example in my Katharina books we have Luther’s  ‘Table Talk’ which was written down by some of the participants; and sometimes we can gain an understanding of a character through letters. My ‘rule of thumb’ is that everything I write should at least be plausible, and preferably, likely.

What was the inspiration behind your book?

In 2015 – two years before the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing of his 95 theses to the Wittenberg church door – I discovered he had a wife. I knew nothing about her and that intrigued me – why didn’t I?

 A little bit of research showed me that there wasn’t a lot of documentary evidence to be known. However, and this I found very significant, she is the only reformer’s wife of whom there is an attested contemporary portrait – and there are lots of her – so clearly in her own time she was important. I felt she, and her legacy as a remarkable woman of faith, deserved to be much better known.

What is your writing process – do you plan it out first? Write a bit at a time?

Because of the historical setting I have a start and (sometimes) an end point, with various historical events as ‘signposts’ along the way. But I generally have little idea of how I am going to get from ‘a’ to ‘b’ to ‘z’. I focus on writing a section at a time, but I never finish at the end of one. I always stop part way through a paragraph or sentence. That makes it much easier to pick up where I left off. My other ‘trick’ is to read over a day’s writing before I go to bed and allow my subconscious to continue to work on it while I sleep.

How much of you is reflected in your writing?

I think it is impossible for an author not to reflect themselves in what they write, whether consciously or unconsciously. 

I write for a secular market, even when, as in the Katharina novels, the context is religious. And I don’t, in this or any other context attempt to ‘preach’.  However, the most important aspect of my life is my personal faith in Christ, and that impacts both on what I write and how it is written. As a result, it is my deliberate choice not to include explicit sex or strong language, and where the history demands the inclusion of violence, my intention is that it isn’t gratuitous. The books are therefore suitable for anyone from 12 to 112.

What kind of research did you have to do before / during writing the book?

I spend as much time researching as I do writing (often more!) As I mentioned earlier, there was a dearth of written records about Katharina von Bora, so my research for these books was a little different from usual. 

There is debate about her parentage, her birthplace, and the reason why she was sent to a convent aged five. So I had to weigh up the conflicting evidence for her early life and come to my own conclusion of what I felt most likely.

The time she spent in two separate convents is documented, along with, in the case of  the Marienthron at Nimbschen, the names of the other members of the order, but there are no specific details of her life there. Therefore the research for her convent years was based on what is known of everyday life in Benedictine and Cistercian convents of the time, along with the evidence that she had a close group of friends who escaped the convent with her. 

From the time that she came to Wittenberg we know quite a bit about what she did, but not her personality, so I had to deduce her motivation and character from her actions  and from what is written about her by others. Perhaps most importantly of all I went to Saxony, to walk where she walked, stand where she stood and, where possible, handle things that she handled, and thus attempt to see her environment  through her eyes. 

How much attention do you pay to reviews?

From time to time I read reviews and if they are positive, that’s obviously pleasing. If they are negative I try to assess if they have any validity and f so, take a note of the comment to help inform my future writing. But often it is simply a matter of differing tastes and that doesn’t worry me. What I do find a little annoying is if someone is factually incorrect in their criticism and it is tempting to respond – but as there’s nothing I can do I sit on my hands and resist the impulse. 

Are friends and family supportive of your writing?

My friends have always been supportive, as have my parents, but my wider family initially thought of writing as my ‘hobby’ and therefore not a priority. It wasn’t until I started winning prizes and gaining a wider recognition that recognition came at home also. Now, I’m glad to say,  they are totally supportive. 

How do you feel leading up to publication day?

I have always focused on paperback book launches in bookshops – and so there has always been both a build up of excitement and also a wee bit of trepidation as the day approaches – 

Will the folk who have promised to come actually turn up? / What will the person chairing the event say about the book? / How will my readings go? / Will there be a deathly hush when questions are invited from the audience? / Will people want to buy signed copies? But it’s only once the evening is over, with none of my worst fears coming to pass, that I realize just how much tension there has been. 

Which other authors inspire you?

I’ve always been a fan of classics such as Austen and Hardy, as well as a host of children’s writers that are my ‘comfort’ reads; but three of my favourite authors are Daphne d Maurier, Winston Graham and Dorothy Dunnett. I love books steeped in atmosphere and a sense of place and all of these authors are masters at that. 

Finally, what are you working on right now?

Just before lockdown I finished the paper research for a new novel set outside Britain, and I was getting ready to organize a trip to do the ‘on location’ research required.  That of course couldn’t happen, and I found I couldn’t settle to write anything else. 

Instead I decided to focus on other aspects of my writing career that would be useful over the long term. So I am learning to (almost) touch type – at least I’m using all my fingers now, not just two – even if it isn’t always the right ones). I’m also doing several online courses on marketing books – a very steep learning curve. But the really exciting development has been working with a fabulous narrator to produce Audiobooks of my Scottish trilogy – 2 down, one to go!

Thanks so much to Margaret Skea for stopping by the blog today!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for hosting me! It's interesting that however many times I am asked to do an interview the questions always seem to provoke new thoughts and new insights, for me as much as anyone else!!