Kate Lord Brown's tour for her new novel The Beauty Chorus. Before we get to the Q&A, here's a bit about the book from the publisher McArthur & Company.
New Year's Eve, 1940: Evie Chase, the beautiful debutante daughter of a rich and adoring RAF commander, listens wistfully to the swing music drifting out from the ballroom, unable to join in the fun. With bombs falling nightly in London, she is determined that the coming year will bring a lot more than dances, picnics and tennis matches. She is determined to make a difference to the war effort.
5th January, 1941: Evie curses her fashionable heels as they skid on the frozen ground of her local airfield. She is here to join the ATA, the civilian pilots who ferry Tiger Moths and Spitfires to bases across war-torn Britain. Two other women wait nervously to join up: Stella Grainger, a forlorn young mother who has returned from Singapore without her baby boy and Megan Jones, an idealistic teenager who has never left her Welsh village. Billeted together in a tiny cottage in a sleepy country village, Evie, Stella and Megan must learn to live and work together. Brave, beautiful and fiercely independent, these women soon move beyond their different backgrounds as they find romance, confront loss, and forge friendships that will last a lifetime.'
And now on to the Q&A!!
You've worked as an art consultant and write one of the UK's top 100 blogs (What Kate Did Next). What was the impetus to write a novel?
Yes, I was lucky to have a really interesting 'day job' curating collections for palaces and embassies across Europe and the Middle East. I've always written, (even as a kid I was writing diaries and writing plays for friends). I belonged to a writers' group 'Women's Ink' in London. (UK) Like a lot of writers, I read really widely, and had always thought it would be great to write a novel. So, one day I decided to get up an hour early before work and start writing, balancing my keyboard on my boyfriend's sock drawer in the corridor of our tiny studio. Then, we married, moved overseas, had children - and the manuscript came with me. I kept working on it, and started to blog at What Kate Did Next. The site turned into a global writer's group, and each of the posts has a daily writing prompt for people.
How do you manage to work it all in - mom, blogger and now novelist? What does your day look like?
I like to be busy! I really think being a Mom is the best preparation for running your own business there is - all of the skills you learn about managing your time and other people come into play. The days are full - I'm up 5.30am to get the children to school for 7am, and I work all morning til 1pm when I pick them up. In the afternoons we swim or ride, or there's the usual 'Mom's taxi' service to Taekwando or clubs! Then after their tea/bath/story/bed routine, if my husband's overseas I'll work late into the night. Luckily I don't need much sleep!
Where did the idea for the Beauty Chorus spring from?
I saw a tiny obituary for a woman who had flown Spitfires during WW2 in one of my pilot husband's flying magazines - I was just flicking through while I was doing the recycling (see, inspiration comes from the unlikeliest places for Moms!). I thought 'wow...that would make a great story'!
Tell us about your historical research
I love the research - it was a great joy and honour to find out all about these incredible women, and I spent months in archives and museums across the UK. I was lucky to be in touch with surviving veterans too, which gave me details you just can't get from archives.
Are your characters based on actual historical figures?
'The Beauty Chorus' weaves fact and fiction really closely, so you have characters based on fact - like Amy Johnson the famous aviator, or Stanley Spencer the famous British painter, and you have totally fictional characters like Evie, Stella and Megan. The three lead characters were all inspired by a mix of real ATA girls though.
Do you enjoy flying?
Yes, as I'm married to a pilot, luckily I love flying. We've lived and travelled all over the world, and I still get a thrill the moment the plane breaks through and you get that glorious sunshine over the clouds.
Do you share the same sense of adventure that your characters have?
That's a great question. I like to think that in the same situation I would have had their guts and grace under pressure. A whole generation had to step up to the mark, and for those of us who have been fortunate enough not to experience a World War, it's hard to imagine and important to remember the risks and sacrifices they made. I certainly believe that this is a remarkable world we live in, and I want to experience as much as I can of it, and keep on learning.
You've travelled extensively. Have you visited Canada yet?
Yes, I have - we love Canada! My husband was born in Vancouver, and I have a lot of family in Ottawa, where my husband spent several years growing up too. We've visited Canada a couple of times and I think it's the most beautiful place - we can't wait to bring the children over and show them where Dad was born.
What are you reading right now? Influential authors? Favourite books?
Right now, I'm doing research for a new novel so I'm reading a lot of historical texts and biographies about espionage in WW2. When I'm reading for pleasure, I love authors like Anne Tyler, Carol Shields, Siri Hustvedt, Audrey Niffenegger - I'm in awe of their ability to conjure human relationships, and their quirky take on life's little details. I learn so much from reading their work. One of my favourite writers is James Salter - his prose just blows me away with its beauty, and I find myself going back to his books again and again.
What's next? Another historical piece or another direction?
I've just finished writing my next book, about the amazing women war reporters, nurses and soldiers of the Spanish Civil War. We lived in Spain for three years, and I always wondered why no one would talk about the war - now I know. The research was harrowing, but the story I hope is one of courage and ultimately salvation ... and there is a very cute Canadian doctor in the story, who I pictured as a Gregory Peck type character, very noble and passionate. Who said history had to be dry?! I love unearthing forgotten histories of amazing people, and the next few books are all heading that way. Thanks for your questions, Luanne. Great talking with you!
Read an excerpt of The Beauty Chorus or stop by The Beauty Chorus blog. Or check out this video of Kate discussing the history behind The Beauty Chorus.