KATE MORTON (pictured) made headlines in 2006 when the advance rights sales to her debut novel, The Shifting Fog, published in the UK as The House at Riverton, hit the million-dollar mark. Last month Kate released her second novel, The Forgotten Garden, an even more intricate tale of suspense involving a beautiful Victorian authoress, dark fairy tales and a century-old literary mystery. Recently, I spoke to Kate Morton on the telephone from her home in Brisbane where she is preparing to write her third book.
With the success of her debut novel, we can only imagine the pressure Kate Morton must have felt when it came time to write The Forgotten Garden.
Kate Morton explains, “When I was first starting it The Shifting Fog was just coming out and there were lots of overseas deals happening and I was waylaid by the task of putting the first one out there and letting go of it and thoughts of: ‘Oh my God, this time I have a contract and people will actually read this book’. Where I didn’t know that when I was writing the first book. So with the second book I was more aware and very early on I had to really silence those voices.”
Kate said she overcame this hurdle in the writing process by telling herself: ‘Just do what you did the first time, write what you love and if nobody else likes it, at least you would have enjoyed writing it.’
“As far as I’m concerned that’s the only way to be because you can’t second guess what people will like and you never can please everybody. So as a writer you just have to please yourself and hope there are enough people out there who feel as you do and will see something in the book. And if you love it, some of your heart goes into it and I think people can pick up on that when they’re reading.”
With sales for The Forgotten Garden well on the way to matching the commercial success of her debut novel, Kate Morton’s talent for suspending the reader in a well told mystery, has the Brisbane wife and mother of two, well on her way to building a loyal following who will be anxiously awaiting the release of her next book.
Kate Morton told Australian Women Online she is currently in the process of writing her third novel.
“I like to spend a few months at the beginning thinking and plotting before I actually put the first words down. I scribble in notebooks and ask myself questions – mapping out the book in my mind.”
“The longer you spend thinking about a book the more easily it comes out when you start writing because you have solved a lot of the potential problems before you write the first word,” Kate Morton said.
“Of course it might change once I get six months into the project and the story might not do exactly what I thought it would. But the story genuinely sticks to the plan.”
For me, Kate Morton’s books are a reminder of that glorious age where the gothic novel was embraced by readers all over the world.
Kate Morton said “The type of gothic novel I like to write is very specific in that it doesn’t contain the supernatural. I like more metaphorical ghosts like those in family secrets, rather than actual hauntings. Metaphorical ghosts haunt people in the present until they delve into the past to set things right.”
Kate added, “I think your subject chooses you more than you choose it and I’m interested in the past and family secrets – so I can’t imagine writing in any other genre.”
I also asked Kate about the research that goes into her books. “There is a lot of research but I love doing it. I set my books in historical periods that I love to read about,” she said.
“There are old houses In Australia but we only have one hundred to a hundred and fifty years of history. Where in England there are hundreds of years of history lurking in the bricks and mortar. These houses have seen so much and I get a real sense of that when I visit the older cities and towns. You can stand on the street of a medieval town and really get a sense of the past lives that have been lived. This is something that really fascinates me and is something that I like to capture in my books.”
Much has been made in the media of the fact that Kate Morton wrote The Shifting Fog with a young baby in tow (see Fiona Pardon’s article on the Courier Mail website) and so I asked her where she finds the time to write with two young children at her feet.
“Where I am now with a six month old is the same as where I was when I started writing The Shifting Fog – I write in nap times. But I am much more fortunate this time in that my husband is working from home now,” said Kate.
“My husband writes music for film and TV, and he has a studio at home. So between us we can divvy up the time. He is absolutely brilliant with the boys – so I’m very lucky.”