Author On the Bookcase: Kate Furnivall

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The White Pearl 

Please welcome Kate Furnivall, author of The White Pearl, to On the Bookcase! In an essay she has written, she tells us how note taking is the key to writing her novels. Take it away Kate!


I am a fanatical note-taker! My problem is that I love doing the research too much. Once I get started, I can’t stop. I make hundreds of pages of notes, most of which I will never use, but they fill my head with the time and place I intend to write about. For The White Pearl I had to be so familiar with Malaya in 1941 that I could move with ease through the world I was going to create for Connie.

I devour everything I can lay my hands on that will expand my knowledge of the period, some fiction but mainly non-fiction. I adore memoirs. They are a rich vein of information because they provide the kind of intimate details that no historian would bother to record. These personal accounts are wonderful for helping me build the daily life of my characters. I get excited about discovering facts about a whole new subject – like the planting and milking of rubber trees. Nigel’s passion for them in the book was a reflection of my own. The temptation is to include too much research material, but I always keep in the forefront of my mind that the characters and plot have to come first.

I thank the Internet, Amazon and Google Books from the bottom of my heart. They give me access to facts and accounts that it would otherwise take me a lifetime to track down. Whatever the subject – the flying snakes of Malaya, the sail configuration of native trading boats, the placement of guns in Singapore or the address of General Percival’s headquarters – there is always someone out there who has written about it. I thank them all.

Where possible I also spend time in the country I am writing about, but I am cautious about doing so, because I can’t bear to see McDonald’s and Coca-Cola signs eclipsing the 1930s world I have conjured up in my head. But this is where old film footage and old photographs are invaluable. Often a photograph, curling at the edges, will tell me more than any number of books.

One of the problems of living with research notes is that the facts and places become so fixed in my own mind that it is easy to forget how much the reader does – or doesn’t – know about the period. The city of Darwin in Australia is a case in point. I refer to it at the end of The White Pearl, because, as a strategic military port, it was savagely bombed sixty times between February 1942 and November 1943, causing great devastation and killing many inhabitants. A dangerous time for everyone.


With themes of self discovery, history, and culture & world issues, The White Pearl is a great book club pick!


Kate FurnivallKate Furnivall was born in Wales and currently lives in Devon, England. Married and the mother of two sons, she has worked in publishing and television advertising. She is the national bestselling author of The Jewel of St. Petersburg, The Girl from Junchow, The Red Scarf, and The Russian Concubine.

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