#MABLE: #Author Interview with Kate Russell.

Kate Russell

You’re all cordially invited to join in the fun of the Massive Autumn Book Launch Event (#MABLE) organised by my publisher, Fantastic Books Publishing. The books in the event are hugely discounted, so it’s a great opportunity to try some new and exciting fiction. It begins tomorrow, 17th September, and runs to 31st October. And you can sign up to join in the fun here.

I’m posting interviews with the authors here during the event. This one is with Kate Russell:

Kate has been reporting on technology since 1995, appearing weekly on the BBC’s tech show, Click, for over 16 years. Starting her media career as a gaming journalist in 1995, she is a campaigning advocate for diversity in the tech sector, speaking at thought-leadership conferences and government policy meetings as well as educating the next generation of technologists though her work with non-profit organisation, Teentech (founded by Maggie Philbin). Since the lockdowns in 2020 gave her far too much time on her hands, she has also become a professional ferret-mom, launching YouTube and Twitch channel http://ferrettube.live .

Did some specific event trigger the creation of The Bookkeeper’s Guide to Practical Sorcery or, alternatively, was this a project you’d been considering for some time?

The Bookkeeper’s Guide to Practical Sorcery is the 2nd novel I have had published, but I actually think of it as my ‘first album’, as it is the story that has been clamouring to get out of my head since I was about 12 years old. I finished the manuscript 10 years before it was eventually rewritten (to add in a very important character I felt was missing from it before) and published by FBP in the wake of my success with Elite: Mostly Harmless.

  • Most works of fiction have themes either at their heart or subtly roving beneath the surface for the more analytical reader; what were your themes here, and why do they matter to you?

This book is crammed with all the themes as a young teenager I found important. Trust, friendship, tolerance. Coping mechanisms for annoying brothers and nosey relatives. Adventure, bravery and above all, magic. I was quite logical as a kid, but desperately wanted to find a way to believe magic is possible. So, I would invent all these weird pseudo-scientific descriptions for the mechanics of magic, and how it might be harnessed and applied. In writing this story it was important to me that I explain why and how magic is possible.

  • Is The Bookkeeper’s Guide to Practical Sorcery your first created book or do you have others both published and/or awaiting publication?

As well as the two fiction books mentioned, in 2013 I published a business book about using the internet as a small business. It’s no longer in print – who knew a book about cloud technology would be out of date after a few years? (sarcasm)

  • When did you start writing and what prompted you to choose words as your creative medium?

When I was very little and having a fight with my older brother (which was often) I found it much easier to express myself in the heat of the moment with written words. My mother still has a collection of angry and indignant notes I wrote in protest to Matt’s behaviour. I used to fold the notes into paper aeroplanes and fly them downstairs into the living room to be read while I continued sulking upstairs.

  • To what extent does genre guide your treatment of story/subject?

Interesting question. For me the story is most important and if it is necessary to wander around within different genres in the telling, so be it. The exception to this rule is if you are going to call your book ‘Sci-Fi’, since fans of this genre tend to have visceral objections to any deviance from the prescribed genre.

  • Do you plot, or are you a ‘pantster’ writing without a definite plan, and why do you use this method of construction?

All of my story ideas begin in a different place in a different way. The seed of inspiration could be a snippet of dialogue, or the view out of a window, or the way the bed covers feel resting upon your chest. I will normally ‘pantster’ a couple of pages around that seed, working backwards, forwards or sideways at will to explore it. Once the seed has become a sapling, with the form of a main story arc hidden inside it, I plan like crazy, using a spreadsheet to map out chapters and connect plot/subplot and character development events together. This leaves me with a spreadsheet that I can work on chapter by chapter, treating each chapter really like a short story, containing all the elements that are needed to progress the main story along. I do not always write these chapters in order, since sometimes I might be feeling melancholy so will use that emotion to work on a chapter when people are sad, and sad things are happening.

  • What, if any, input did you have in the design of the book cover, and is such collaboration important to you?

We scoured the image bank for a good dragon we could license, then Heather, the brilliant cover artist, took my description of Henry and added him…

  • English is a temperamental language; how important is it for an author to understand its rules?

Understanding the rules has always helped me find ways of breaking them more elegantly (and I am not just talking about writing!). But I think anyone who wants to tell a story should be encouraged and uplifted to do so, despite their understanding of language. If they are able to finish it to their own satisfaction, then all power to them. If it is enjoyable enough that people want to read it, they have just as much right to call themselves ‘author’ as anyone else. For me the joy of reading/writing is the different shapes language can take on depending on how it is used.

Penny’s Ponderings – A view from Penny Grubb

Melodie’s Musings – A view from Melodie Trudeaux

My review of Kate’s book
Mark Henderson’s review
Reviews on Goodreads
Amazon Reviews

6 thoughts on “#MABLE: #Author Interview with Kate Russell.

  1. waltpilcher1

    Fine interview. I really like Kate’s idea of a spreadsheet (or equivalent) to map out plot. I could have used that for my novels and may in future instead of making a bunch of notes and trying to remember their order and all the characters’ backstories and relationships. I already don’t write all my chapters in order and as a result new ideas keep cropping up that end up making the book even more interesting. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Walt.
      Yes, spreadsheets can be very useful. I write as a pantster, so plot issues are not evident until I’ve completed the first draft. But I used a spreadsheet when writing my fantasy series, A Seared Sky, as I had over 100 named characters, and was telling the story through the eyes of eight of them over three books, all of which exceed 200,000 words. To keep track of the characters, I used the spreadsheet as a timeline, with the dates (3 years in length) across the top and the character names down the side, each linked to their character profile. It solved most of the organisational problems. But mt wife is also my premier beta reader and was reading each chapter as I finished the penultimate edit. She popped into my study on one occasion and suggested I shouldn’t be having a certain character taking action in Book 2. I asked why. ‘Well, you killed him off in book 1!’ I’d forgotten to ‘mark’ him as dead on the spreadsheet. Fortunately, my wife’s wonderful memory saved me a rather red face!


      1. waltpilcher1

        Yikes! I don’t think I could keep up with more than a handful of major characters even with a spreadsheet!
        I agree it does pay to have faithful first readers who are paying attention.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. It was an epic quest, Walt. Each book involved activity in different lands of the created world, so new characters kept popping up out of necessity!
          And, yes, what would we do without our faithful beta readers?


    1. You’re welcome, Lynette. I’ve met this talented author a few times at conventions hosted by my publisher, even shared a stage with her discussing books. She’s a breath of fresh air and often highly amusing, with a mischievous streak!

      Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.