Q & A with Katherine Webb, author of The Legacy
One of Reading Group Choices' Featured Books for the month of September is The Legacy by Katherine Webb. Here we get a peek at Katherine’s story of her first novel, favorite authors, and loves and qualms about being a writer!
For book club members, using an interview of an author during a meeting can bring interesting points to your discussion that you may not have thought of with just the novel as a reference. For example discuss the setting of The Legacy after reading why Katherine chose it!
1. When and why did you begin writing?
I started to write as a child – I was always coming up with stories - and I won several poetry and prose competitions at school and college. I did start to write a fantasy novel in my teens, but quickly abandoned it! I sat down to start my first “proper” novel after a post graduate course I'd enrolled on was cancelled, and I found myself in the north east of England with little idea of what to do next. I finished it having moved to Venice, and started the next one straight away.
2. Who has influenced your writing?
This is such a hard question to answer! I'm sure all writers like to think that their voice comes entirely from within, but I'm also sure that we're all a product of everything we've ever read, all the people we've met and the experiences we've had. My mother cultivated a love of reading in me at a very young age, and introduced me to a wide variety of excellent books, so I would say that she has been very influential.
3. Who is your favorite author?
There are so many! I love Helen Dunmore, Joanne Harris, Kate Atkinson, Ian McEwan, Margaret Atwood and Terry Pratchett.
4. Why does your book make a good holiday read?
I've always thought that a good holiday read should be one that you can take the time to really get caught up in; one that draws you deeply into a story and transports you to different places. I hope that The Legacy embodies these characteristics.
5. Why did you pick the setting/settings for this book?
The modern day strand of the book is set in a faded English manor house during a spell of bitter winter weather. This is a place that has changed very little since my characters, Erica and Beth, spent time there as children, and I wanted them to feel somewhat isolated and cut off from the rest of the world; the house being almost like a time capsule where they are beset by memories, and forced to confront their demons.
The historical strand is set in Oklahoma Territory, in the USA, between 1902 and 1904. I wanted my character, Caroline, who has left New York to marry a cattle rancher, to find herself in the real wild west – an untamed place of vast landscapes and harsh conditions that would be a real challenge for her to adjust to. Because the area had been reserved for Native American tribes until the last years of the nineteenth century, Oklahoma Territory remained relatively untamed in the early twentieth century, when a lot of the prairie elsewhere had been cultivated and settled by white farmers by then, and opened up by the railways.
6. How long did it take you to write this book?
The first draft took about ten months to complete, including all the historical research beforehand. I tend to write very quickly, once I'm under way. I then worked on a final draft with my editor at Orion, which took another two or three months.
7. What are the best and worst things about being a writer?
The best thing has to be the satisfaction of creating a story and characters from scratch, and seeing both of them come to life. I also love the research involved in writing a historical storyline. I love the chance to keep learning.
The worst thing would have to be finding the will power to stay at your desk on a sunny day and get that word count up, when all you want to do is walk to the pub or lounge about in the garden.
Katherine Webb grew up in rural Hampshire, England. She has lived in London and Venice, and she currently resides in Berkshire, England. Having worked as a waitress, au pair, personal assistant, potter, bookbinder, library assistant, and housekeeper at a manor house, she now writes full-time.