I love historical fiction and Catherine’s gorgeous covers got me rushing straight to Amazon. I’d always assumed, perhaps wrongly so, that writing in this genre would take oodles of plotting and planning and it’s been really interesting to hear how Catherine does it. Over to you, Catherine.
Now, in my sixties, I am finally living my dream. I always enjoyed writing, and writing was an important part of my professional life but deep down I wanted to write fiction—something that the pressures of family life combined with a demanding career did not permit. It was only when I took early retirement following a year’s treatment for breast cancer that I said to myself ‘if not now, when?’ and literally set pen to paper. I write historical fiction ‘for the heart and for the head’, set in the extended Regency period of the first quarter of the nineteenth century.
I live in Dublin with my husband of over forty years. We have three sons and two grandchildren. I share my love of history with my husband who has had two books of local history published, and a third on the way.
Unless we need to get up earlier, our alarm clock is set for eight o’clock. I get up first, shower and do my hair, make breakfast and take it and the Irish Times back to bed. Breakfast is coffee, a banana and yoghurt and a slice of toast. Over breakfast, I read the paper, listen to Marty in the Morning on RTElyric.fm and do the crossword. Then we discuss our plans for the day, what we will do and what we will eat. We both love food and cooking. I have a large collection of cookery books, mainly Irish, French, Greek and Italian—and we generally eat according to the seasons. We cook everything from scratch and our meals are frequently inspired by what is in the fridge. We don’t like waste.
By eleven, all the chores are done. I make tea which we take upstairs to our studies. One of the joys of writing historical fiction is the opportunity to dive down all sorts of rabbit holes, tracing the minutiae of daily life in the past. I love trawling through antique shops, second-hand book shops, flea markets etc. and have a considerable research library to which I add continually. I have prints and engravings from the era on the walls of my study, wherever there is no room for bookshelves, and when I sit at my desk, I step into the past.
I am a pantser rather than a plotter. My books are usually sparked by ‘what if?’ or ‘what happened then?’ I keep a notebook of possible plots in which I jot down these ideas as they occur to me. When I start a new book, I work first on creating the characters, then I’ll read up on the years involved, to remind myself of the main events. I download calendars for the relevant years and draw up a public timeline into which I note every event—cultural, political, scandalous etc. that might be of interest to my characters. Only then do I type ‘Chapter One’. It is both an exciting and a scary moment.
Once I have started work on the first draft, I create a separate document in which I note as I go relevant data such as names and ages of main and minor characters, including those who are dead before the story opens or who are referred to but are ‘off-stage,’ and the various residences and their servants. I also draw up a table showing the timeline and events of each chapter. This helps me keep the plot on track. It is very much a work in progress, changing as the characters and the story-line develop. I continue to research as I go, because the outcome of the research sometimes changes the narrative.
I stop at one to make lunch—generally tea and a sandwich. I rest afterwards, frequently falling asleep in my armchair while listening to music. I love classical music but do not listen to it while I am writing—I find it too distracting. By three o’clock, I am back at my desk. As an indie author, I am responsible for my own marketing, which is mainly via Facebook. I blog about historical facts and trivia relating to the Regency in My Scrap Album on my website http://www.catherinekullmann.com and am always delighted to guest on other blogs such as this one.
Around four, we have a mug of coffee and a biscuit. That is the end of my kitchen duties for the day as my husband cooks the evening meal. My PC backs-up automatically at six thirty every evening, so I must shut down WORD etc. by then. That is usually the signal to stop working. When I go downstairs, I’ll pour our aperitifs—dry sherry or a gin and tonic and then we have dinner and a glass of wine.
We don’t go out much in the evenings—sometimes we go to a concert or the opera, or meet friends for dinner. From September to May we have our ballroom-dancing class on Wednesdays. We have been dancing on and off for almost thirty years and really love it.
If we are not going out, we settle in with our books and listen to the evening concert on RTELyric.fm. We go to bed between ten and eleven, grateful every night for this stage in our lives.
Thanks so much for sharing, Catherine. It just shows – it’s never too late to follow your dreams.