Today we have a special edition of Nine Questions with… and my guest is none other than the delightful Kate Monroe. For those of you that are unfamiliar with Kate, she is an outstanding author with many different publishing credits to her name as well as an accomplished editor. In fact, she helped me to edit my first novel, Days with the Undead: Book One.
Hello Kate, tell us about yourself.
My name is Katherine Seren Monroe – but unless I’m in trouble, call me Kate. I’m a redheaded author and editor who lives in a quiet and inspirational corner of southern England. I have penchants for the colour black and loud guitars, and a fatal weakness for red wine.
I suppose I’m what you would call a geek. I love Doctor Who and Star Trek (Tom Baker will forever be my Doctor, and Patrick Stewart my captain). Gary Oldman’s turn as Dracula fostered a lifelong passion for Victoriana and the world of steampunk, but despite the fact that I specialise in history and literature, my abiding love is for science. Nothing entrances me quite as much as theorising on all the mysteries our world has yet to reveal.
My interests in writing range from horror to erotica, taking in historical romance, steampunk and tales of the paranormal on the way; whatever I dreamed about the night before is liable to find its way onto the page in some form or another. I’ve written numerous short stories, and this month my debut full-length novel, The Falcon’s Chase, was released by Pink Pepper Press.
Excellent introduction Kate! Now it’s time for the hard questions… What is your writing process?
As the mother of a wonderfully exuberant three-year-old, I have to snatch every chance to write that I can get, and so it’s imperative that I make the most of each one. Because of that, I plot everything almost obsessively before I begin to write. I create an in-depth profile for each character, and then I refer to the old adage drummed into me by every English teacher I had that stories have to have a beginning, a middle and an end. When all that is in place, I have a clear idea of how the story is going to develop.
Finally, I sketch out five hundred words or so of each key scene, and then it’s simply a case of stitching them together whilst not losing track of the threads. It makes for a little bit more work in the first edit when, as inevitably happens, the characters evolve and drive the tale in a different direction to that which I’d anticipated, but I find it immensely useful to have that overview of where it’s going and to always have the end in sight.
Is there a genre, other than the ones you currently write in, that you wish you could break into?
I’ve had one eye on the young adult market for a long time now. It’s not that I’m looking to tap the money that’s there – though very few authors would turn down a Meyer-esque payday if it came knocking! – but rather that I remember from my teenage years the power a book can hold. I had an unsettled and difficult adolescence, but the one constant in my life was literature. I kept myself surrounded by books, for they offered an escape into worlds where I was free and unfettered by all the troubles of daily life.
We all remember how hard it can be to be a teenager, and I know that I can’t be the only one who turned to literature to help guide me through it. If I could write something that offered someone in a similar situation even an hour’s relief and escapism, then that would be more than worth the effort.
Fostering a love for reading among any age group is a wonderful thing – something that I think every author attempts each and every time they write. On the topic of writing and reading, what are the 5 books that have influenced you the most, and why?
I read a lot of classic literature even as a child, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula was one of those that really stood out to me. I read it before I saw any of the myriad of the film interpretations made over the year, so I went into it with no pre-conceived ideas of what I would find. I was captivated from the very first page, and my love of horror and the paranormal can be traced back to that moment. Dracula is the definition of an entire genre, and a massive inspiration of mine.
Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre defined to me everything a romantic hero should be, and I fear that I’ve spent all my life looking for the modern-day Mr. Rochester in both real life and in my writing. In a genre where many leading characters can be sickly sweet, Rochester’s appeal proved the necessity of depth and darkness to make a character truly come alive and stand out from the page; a lesson that I’ve tried to faithfully obey whenever I craft characters of my own.
A cursory glance at my bookshelves reveals just how much C.S. Lewis has influenced me. Anyone who’s ever suffered a bereavement needs to read his painfully honest and heartrending A Grief Observed, and his published letters provide a fascinating insight into a truly brilliant mind, but it’s his Chronicles of Narnia that really stand out to me when I think of him. The scope and scale of the world he created is astounding in itself; over the course of seven novels, the world of Narnia comes to possess just as much magnitude as the one that we live in. Though I read many other fantasy novels after my time in Narnia came to an end, that was the one that inspired a love of fantasy and gave me a blueprint for developing a story beyond the scope of one solitary novel.
Melvin Burgess’s Junk was one of the young adult novels I mentioned earlier that had a profound effect upon me as a teenager. It was set in Bristol, the city where I grew up, which was the initial reason I picked it up to read. However, it was its brutal descriptions of life as a runaway and the graphic drugs scenes that really impacted me. I credit Burgess with helping me make the right choices in some difficult times, and when my daughter’s older I’ll be proud to tell her that no matter what other mistakes I made and risks I took, I have never taken drugs and I never will. Had I not read Junk, I’m not entirely sure that that would be true.
Lastly, we come to Jules Verne’s Five Weeks In A Balloon. It was a real toss-up between that and the better-known Around The World In Eighty Days, but though I love them both it was the former’s descriptions of aviation and the freedom it offered that inspire me even to this day. The wanderlust it awoke in me has taken me to many far-flung places, and eventually brought me to the world of steampunk that in turn led to me writing my debut novel, The Falcon’s Chase.
Great choices Kate, if you could cast one of your works who would you choose to play your main characters?
Whenever I’m plotting out a story, I find it helps massively to draft my characters with as much detail as possible; to that end, I often make up a mood board with images of each character to refer to. It means I have a very clear idea of how they look, but that then makes it hard to envisage an actor taking on their roles.
However, were I to cast The Falcon’s Chase, I think I know who would play the two main protagonists. Ian Somerhalder would be fantastic as the Falcon’s captain, Reuben Costello. He has the brooding, dark intensity down to a tee, and I’m convinced that he could pull off the Black Swan’s dreadlocks with a crushing aplomb that few others could match!
Arianne Dalton was far harder to mentally cast, but finally I settled upon an actress who I thought could display the flash of vulnerability alongside the steely determination that Arianne possesses in such abundance. Saoirse Ronan is perfect for that; though she seems delicate, there’s a definite strength behind her eyes that would make her portrayal of the runaway rebel hold true to all that I wrote.
Oh, Saoirse Ronan is a fantastic actress and she’d be a perfect fit for Arianne! What is the first thing you would do if you woke up one morning to find one of your books on the NY Times Bestsellers List?
Crack open the champagne. There are few things better than champagne first thing in the morning, but nowhere near enough valid excuses to indulge in it. That would definitely be one of them!
Do you have any vices that you turn to while you are writing?
Unfortunately, yes. Much of what I’ve written since taking up writing full-time has been inspired at least in part by red wine. There’s something about that heady buzz of a fine red that lifts away the day’s lingering inhibitions and allows the ideas and words to flow. I try not to turn to the bottle too often, but very rarely has it let me down when the vicious writer’s block strikes or I’m searching for a new tale to create. It’s not only the wine; I’ve also been known to be partial to a crafty cigarette whenever the trials of the first edit become too much to bear. Unfortunately, a fondness for Marlboro Reds is one bad habit I’ve never been able to entirely shake. Perhaps it’s all the fond memories of smoky, throbbing mosh pits with a whiskey in one hand, a cigarette in the other and the bass guitars pounding out the beat around me that are to blame for my inability to quit completely!
When you’re not writing Kate, what do you do with your time?
These days, it seems my time is consumed by either writing or looking after my daughter. On the rare occasions that I do have free time, though, you can find me propping up the bar at the local rock club. Before having Rachel I worked as a waitress and a freelance music photographer, and I made many good friends in the music scene that still endure now. I fervently believe in supporting independent music, and the best way to do that is to get out there and show your appreciation for the music you enjoy.
Please share with us the first nine lines of your current work-in-progress.
The Gears Of Time
Ginger Malone dropped to the floor and concealed her head in the bustling skirts of the oblivious woman in front of her. She had snatched a tantalising glimpse of something she had seen only holographically before now, and the sight of it had been enough to quicken her pulse and awaken a fear the like of which she had never known until this moment.
Her heart leapt against the confines of her tight corset as she inched ever nearer to the gunman. She knew that it would be far more sensible to simply find a member of the Circle and alert them to the inexplicable presence of the outlawed item, but something deep inside her was urging her to follow the masked stranger through the crowd and find out what it was had brought him to the masked ball with a gun. No-one was permitted to carry weaponry in Bath, not since the walls had been raised…
Intriguing excerpt! Can’t wait to read this one as well! Tell us Kate, where do you find your inspiration?
I’ve always been a dreamer. My night’s adventures are, without an exception, vivid and easy to remember, and often an entire story will evolve from a snatched image or a remembered piece of prose. If those dreams need a little help, then there’s always the aforementioned glass of wine to give them a prod in the right direction, and putting on music with eloquent lyrics is often the final piece in the puzzle. Tom Waits and Nick Cave in particular can always be relied upon to get me in the mood to take the story to where it needs to go.
Thank you Kate for taking the time to answer my questions today. For those of you that are unaware, Kate is currently touring in support of her new steampunk romance The Falcon’s Chase. Here’s a little more about Reuben and Arianne’s tale…
Captain Reuben Costello is just hours away from facing his execution when the unlikeliest of rescuers storms into his cell. Lady Arianne Dalton needs the assistance of the infamous Black Swan to flee England and all its constraints. He finds himself more than willing to help the fiercely independent Ari in exchange for his freedom.
However, when they come to find their fates inextricably tangled in a plot that threatens the very foundations of British society, they are swept away on a chase that puts not only their lives, but their hearts at risk – and neither of them can defy the wild and stormy ride they find upon the Falcon.
If you’re interested in picking up a copy, you can find it at:
For your reading pleasure, here is a short excerpt from The Falcon’s Chase…
Reuben Costello knew that he had tried a hundred times to wrench the unyielding iron bars of his prison cell apart, but he could not resist the urge to try just once more. However hard he tugged, though, they withstood even the inhuman amount of force that his prosthetic arm applied to them, just as they had so many times before.
He delivered a furious kick to the bars that had him inescapably trapped as his dark eyes settled upon the copper plated arm that he wore like a badge of honour. Meticulously bonded to the living flesh it clung to, it was just as responsive and more effective than the arm of muscles and bones that had existed in its place for the first eleven years of his life; but though he had worn it for twenty years now and it had served him well for all of those, the sight of it still filled him with a bitter and resentful disgust.
Even that painful emotion, though, could not distract him for more than a few moments. Far more pressing was the grim awareness that with every second that passed, sunrise drew nearer, and with it would come his execution. Reuben had lived a far from blameless life, always dancing along the thin, blurred line that separated the pursuits of an ordinary merchant and the more interesting activities that he liked to indulge in.
Betrayed to Her Majesty’s Royal Navy after a dalliance with the pirates that roamed the Red Sea proved too irresistible for his mercenary side to ignore, Reuben had been captured and dragged to the infamous Tower of London. It had taken no less than a dozen captains to bring him in. Had he been aboard his ship when they attacked, he had no doubt that they would not have succeeded.
Reuben had not been aboard the Falcon, though. Instead, he had been spending the night with his latest mistress – and when she had brazenly lounged back on the bed with a cigarillo between her perfect red lips and laughed loudly as they dragged him away, he had silently cursed his propensity for choosing his bedmates based on looks alone.
That, it seemed, was not a mistake he would have the chance to ever make again. Though his crime was nowhere as severe as it should be to warrant execution, that was the sentence that had inexplicably been passed. Time was rapidly slipping away from him and much to his disgust, it was becoming clear that there would be no escape from the harsh fate that awaited him.
He sank down to the cold, grimy cobbles that lined his dungeon cell and affixed a menacing scowl to his face for the sole benefit of any gaolers that should happen to parade past his cell with their looks of disdain and taunts about the noose that was so soon to be claiming his neck in the hangman’s embrace. Soon, light footsteps heralded the approach of just such a person.
Reuben snatched upon the only amusement that would be his on this last lonely night of life. He wrapped his fingers around the hateful bars of his cell and knelt down, drawing back his thin lips to expose the gleaming teeth beneath as he deliberately allowed a low, ominous growl to rise up from the pit of his stomach and echo around the confines of the dungeon.
He squinted into the dimly-lit gloom as the footsteps quickened and caught sight of a distinct shape emerging from the putrid darkness. Far shorter than any of the guards he had become accustomed to – he would estimate that the top of their head would not even reach his shoulder – and dressed all in black, the person reached into their pocket and extracted what was undoubtedly, from the jangling sound of metal against metal, a bunch of heavy brass keys.
Reuben’s eyes narrowed as they quickly swept across the newcomer appraisingly. Their head was bowed low, concealed from his gaze by the shadow of the black cap atop it, and a full-length greatcoat enveloped their body and skimmed across their ankles to reveal tight-fitting breeches and laced leather boots.
Everything about the clothing that they wore screamed of masculinity, but an incredulous suspicion was rising inside him that it was no man that stood before him. The slender fingers that were now fumbling with the keys were pale and unblemished, as far removed from the rough and calloused hands of the gaolers as it was possible to be. As they unlocked the door and hastily slammed it shut behind them, the shape of a second person stepped out of the shadows in the corridor.
“I shall stay at the end of the corridor to stand guard, then – just shout if you need me, ma’am.” They were dismissed with a jerk of the head and an irritable wave of the delicate hand that had unlocked the door.
Even if those intriguing words had not made it plain that it was a woman now locked in the cell with him, any remaining doubt he might have had was extinguished when he inhaled sharply and a delicate scent that had wafted in with the newcomer danced around his senses, teasing and tantalising him with its faint notes of jasmine and gardenia. It was a scent that was intrinsically and undeniably feminine in origin.
Reuben swallowed hard, for a woman’s appearance in his cell could mean only one thing. He let loose a soft groan. He had been alone in his cell for over a month now and the company of a woman was perhaps the only thing that might make him able to forget his imminent execution. With a deep, primal hunger raging inside him, he stared at her intently as she slowly pulled away her cap to reveal the face of the woman that had come to offer him the scant comfort she could provide.
“Ah! You are to be this condemned man’s last meal, I presume?” Reuben’s low voice was hoarse, for the instant that she had removed her cap and revealed herself to him, he had been consumed by such a forceful throb of aching desire that he knew he had to have her, prostitute or not. Not even pausing to think upon the surprising and uncharacteristic generosity that his gaolers had shown in sending such a rare beauty to him on the eve of his execution, he roughly backed her up against the stone walls of the cell.
Her soulful eyes widened and her lips parted, but before she could speak Reuben devoted himself to the far from unpalatable task at hand. If this was to be the last woman he would take before his execution then, he thought wryly, it was fitting that she was by far the loveliest he had ever had in his arms, despite her manly attire – attire that he intended to waste no time in stripping away from her shapely form.
He shook his tangled, jet black braids back out of his face, lowered his head and laid forceful, triumphant claim to her wonderfully soft and pliant lips, already dizzy with the strength of his desperate yearning for her. Reuben slipped one hand behind her head to caress the delicate nape of her neck and hold her in place as his fingers wound through the silken curls of hair escaping the tight bun attempting to restrain them, his arousal rapidly spiralling out of control as he pushed himself up against her to mould himself against every feminine contour of her body.
He forced his prosthetic arm between their bodies to reach for the intricate buttons of her greatcoat and tugged them apart with such force that they ripped free of the fabric, but even that was not enough to persuade him to break the kiss. Never before had a mere kiss managed to arouse him with such ferocity. Perhaps it was the adrenalin pounding through his body in anticipation of his death intensifying all that he felt, but Reuben had never craved any woman as much as he did this one.
As his fingers insistently moved between their bodies to seek out the fastenings of her shirt, though, brushing against the agonisingly tempting curve of her high, full breasts as they did so, she twisted her head to the side with a loud and rasping cry. “What in God’s name do you think that you are doing, sir?!”
Reuben arched one dark eyebrow incredulously as he fought for breath and ruthlessly kept her pinned up against the wall. “I thought that was more than obvious! I was beginning to avail myself of all the pleasures that your sweet mouth had to offer to me. Is that not why you came here?”
“No!” Rage burned in her wide, darkened eyes as she struggled desperately to free herself of his hold. “Good God, I am no…no…” She trailed off, blushing hotly as a small smile began to quirk back the corner of his lips.
“Prostitute?” Reuben offered mildly, his anger at being interrupted fading away in the face of her evident reaction to his proximity – a reaction that it seemed she was not simply falsifying for the sake of her wages.
“Indeed I am not!”
Her curt denial seemed genuine, much to his bemusement. As he allowed his fingers to work their way underneath the shirt she wore to caress the bare skin he found beneath, he tilted his head to the side. “But I don’t understand – how did you get in here if you are not a prostitute, little lady?”
Exciting stuff huh?? If you want to catch up and connect with Kate you can find her on her website. And don’t forget to tune in this coming Wednesday for my interview with Anderson O’Donnell, which happens to correspond with the start of Coffin Hop 2012 for which I will be participating in on this blog as well as on Days with the Undead.