Her book, My Everything, is out today, so what better time to sit down with debut novelist Katie Marsh for a natter and ‘get to know you’ session?
My debut novel My Everything is the story of Hannah, a young teacher whose husband Tom has a stroke on the day she’s going to leave him. He’s only 32. It’s a poignant, thought-provoking story of two people working out what really matters to them in life.
Where do you find inspiration for your books?
Everywhere. I am constantly on the hunt for stories, from conversations in coffee shops to newspaper articles that catch my eye. I also worked as a healthcare manager for ten years and was awed by the everyday bravery of those around me as they faced some of the greatest challenges life can offer, and My Everything was directly inspired by the courage of stroke survivors I worked with in London five years ago. I was about to get married at the time, and the night before the wedding the two things combined in my head, and I thought ‘What if…?’
Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
I’m an early riser, so I creep out of bed at 5 and get some words down before my husband and daughter get up at 7. When I’m not doing my day job as a freelance copywriter I keep writing all morning, break in the afternoon, and then edit in the evenings. When I’m working I just get up earlier and drink more caffeine.
When you are writing, do you use any famous people or people you know as inspiration?
Not consciously, no, but I am a bit of a magpie. If someone uses a phrase or tells a story that I think might prove book-worthy one day, I’ll note it down and store it away in a big ideas folder on my laptop. You never know what might trigger your next idea.
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
OK, so this question has taken me about a day and a lot of agonising to answer. There were so many possibles, from Jane Austen’s Persuasion to Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You, but I have to plump for I Capture the Castle by Dodi Smith. I read it every December without fail – it’s as much a part of Christmas for me as decorating the tree or overdosing on mince pies. I love Cassandra’s voice – so honest, emotional and true. I love the humour, the eccentricity and the innocence of the story, and the poignancy of the ending always makes me cry. And I love it when books make me cry.
What female writer has inspired you?
Rosamund Lupton. I adore her books. Her premises are so striking, and her novels are so gripping, so visceral and written in such beautiful prose. My favourite so far is Afterwards.
Can you give us three book recommendations?
I could think about this one for years, so instead I’ll give you my three favourites from my reading over the past year. They are The Silent Hours by Cesca Major, Wonder by RJ Palacio and Gold by Chris Cleave.
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I plan characters very carefully, taking time to work out what makes them tick, what they’re aiming for in life, their likes, dislikes etc. I like to know everything about them before I start writing.
As for plot, I map it out very broadly and then dive in and see where the characters take me in the first draft. I’m a long way from settling on a technique though – I am constantly learning from other writers and from my experiences so far. My Everything went through eight drafts before publication and I’m currently on the second draft of my second novel.
It was LONG. I first started writing fiction in 2005, and a couple of novels didn’t quite make it along the way. I began My Everything in 2010, got an agent – the wonderful Hannah Ferguson – in April 2014 and then did one final edit before she submitted the book to publishers that August. From there things moved quickly and I am so delighted that I’m being published by Hodder & Stoughton. It’s absolutely my dream come true.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That everyone earns as much as JK Rowling and lives a life of constant glamour. They should see me in my PJs at 5am…
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
I think everyone carves their own writing path, but the one thing that really helped me was surrounding myself with friends who were really positive about my writing. They always asked me how things were going, and kept encouraging me every step of the way. Writing can be so lonely, so I found this support incredibly helpful during the (many) years when it was just me in an attic surrounded by Post-its.
What are you working on at the moment?
My second novel which is due out in summer next year. It’s about dementia and family secrets and I’m really enjoying writing it so far.