Today, I am so excited to welcome onto the blog Kathryn Hughes , author of The Key as part of the blog tour. And most excitingly of all I have a very small Q&A with Kathryn Hughes today.
Q&A with Kathryn Hughes:
Briefly, can you tell us how you came up with the idea for THE KEY?
The idea for The Key came from a true story I read about The Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane in New York State. In 1995, after the hospital had closed, a collection of over four hundred suitcases was discovered behind a locked attic door. The forgotten cases had been stored between 1910 and 1960 and belonged to former patients. The average stay of a Willard patient was 30 years and most of them never left. I thought this would make an intriguing premise for a story, so I switched the narrative to the UK, did loads of research on the history of our mental institutions and THE KEY is the result.
Do you always know the plot before writing a novel, or do you make it up as you go along?
I always begin with an intriguing (I hope!) premise and take it from there. I know how the story begins and how I want it to end but it is the characters I introduce who may decide the route from one to the other.
Did you have a favourite character to write in THE KEY?
I especially liked writing the character of Ellen. (I chose the name because my daughter asked if I would name a character after her). Ellen is an idealistic, naïve student nurse, who arrives at Ambergate full of ambition. She’s determined to make the patients’ lives as comfortable as possible. She can hardly believe some of the horrors she witnesses and vows to make a difference but she’s fighting against a system which is just not ready to change.
Do you ever use real life people to create your characters?
Subliminally maybe, but nobody will be able to identify themselves in one of my books!
I might take an aspect of somebody’s character, their mannerisms or phrases they use but that’s all. I also like to have a visual picture of what my characters look like. It helps me to describe their appearance. I cut out a picture of them and stick that in my notebook. This may be of a famous person or somebody off the front of a knitting pattern!
Is Ambergate based on a real place?
Ambergate is based on lots of real places! It is an amalgamation of many of the 120 asylums built in this country. However, when describing the façade, the grounds and the endless corridors, I had in mind the derelict North Wales Hospital, more commonly referred to as Denbigh Asylum. This Grade II listed building is still standing empty awaiting development. It closed over twenty years ago and has suffered extensive damage during this period. It’s a magnet for urban explorers, sometimes known as trespassers. I’ve been myself, but of course stayed behind the perimeter fence! A photo of this once-magnificent building is attached.
What’s your top piece of advice for someone wanting to self-publish a novel?
Anybody who has completed an entire novel should be proud of themselves because it’s hard – really hard. It takes commitment, drive, perseverance in the face of adversity and an awful lot of time. If you’ve gone through all this, do you really want to just leave your manuscript festering away in the bottom of a drawer? You’ve written something that deserves to be read so you need to give people a chance to read it. Before self-publishing though, invest in your work and have it professionally edited. Not by someone you know but by someone whose job it is to do these things. They will give impartial advice and you will try not to interpret this as criticism! Then, when your manuscript is the best it can be either employ the services of a dedicated self-publishing company or if you possess above -average computer skills, then do it yourself through Kindle Direct Publishing. What have you got to lose?