Kate Morton's Blog
January 11, 2017
I have been remiss in not posting sooner about my new Australian paperback jackets. If you’re in Australia or New Zealand and have a habit of getting lost amongst the shelves of your local bookstore, you might already have seen them? The hope was to capture a sense of history, mystery and secrets – of texture and layers of story – of past and present – and to reflect my (apparently insatiable!) love of peel-y old wallpaper, houses in need of a lick of paint and forgotten photographs of people whose lives were once vivid and urgent. And of course I also wanted them to be beautiful to look at. (And cradle. And sniff.)
I love them, and hope you do, too!
Stay tuned, US and Canadian readers! There’s a new family of paperback covers coming your way, too. Similar brief, different results, equally beautiful jackets…
January 5, 2017
Happy New Year! This morning was so glorious that I couldn’t resist a walk across Regent’s Park. It was finger-tinglingly cold, but incredibly beautiful. Those bare branches! The long wintry shadows! The low sun turning the sky from gold to blue!
I’ve been working on book 6 and look forward to sharing it with you as soon as it’s ready. The story is set in a number of places, both geographical and temporal (no surprises there!), but the main historical storyline takes place in nineteenth-century England – a treat for me because it’s one of my favourite worlds to find at the bottom of the rabbit hole.
2016 was a year of contrasts and I’m glad to see 2017. TS Eliot (close to my heart for a number of reasons, not least because I was introduced to his writing by my dear friend Herbert) wrote that ‘last year’s words belong to last year’s language, And next year’s words await another voice’. I always love the sense of possibility at the turn of the New Year and look forward to finding as many of the right words as I can in 2017.
Wishing you much happy reading, much happy writing, and much happiness generally as you travel along this year’s path.
February 11, 2016
It’s been a long time since my last post and a lot has happened. Most notably, the wheel has turned, the old year has spun away, and here we are in 2016. Just like that. I’m writing from a small desk in a small room in London. The view outside the window is of chimney pots and stained old bricks and black metal downpipes. The sky is milky and the branches are bare. We really are in the deep midwinter. It’s been a strange year, though. Most of winter has been oddly mild, so although we watch the weather forecast and wonder about the chance of snow, there are daffodils sprouting on roadside verges and cherry blossoms pink against the white sky. It seems spring is coming, ready or not.
I have an exciting and busy few months ahead with the publication of The Lake House in a number of European countries. First up, Das Seehaus in Germany, on the propitious date of February 29th, followed by France in March and Italy in late April. I’ll be visiting each country for the book’s launch and hope to see you there.
Dates for the German tour are now locked in and I’m pleased to be able to share them with you here.
Tuesday, March 15 Düsseldorf: Buchhandlung, Mayersche Droste, Königsallee 18, 40212 Düsseldorf
Wednesday, March 16 Mannheim: Thalia-Buchhandlung, Am Paradeplatz C1 6-7, 68159 Mannheim
Thursday, March 17 Berlin: Hugendubel Bookstore in Berlin Steglitz, Boulevard Berlin, 2 Floor, Scholßstraße
Friday, March 18 Erfurt: Buchhandlung Peterknecht, Anger 28, 99084 Erfurt
Saturday, March 19 Leipzig: 3-3:30pm Book signing at the Bookstore at the Leipzig Book Fair
Saturday, March 19 Leipzig: Buchhandlung Hugendubel, Petersstraße 12-14, 04109 Leipzig
I’ll update this journal and the events page with the details of other launches and tours when I have them.
In the meantime, I’d like to share with you a photograph I took during the week. My eldest son was performing in his school music concert and the event was held in a local church hall. My youngest son didn’t quite grasp the importance of the occasion, nor was he willing to submit himself to the usual protocol expected of an Audience Member. Consequently, I spent rather a lot of time in the foyer with one eye on the concert and the other on an excitable toddler, high on the late night and the change in his routine.
I’m a compulsive reader – my eye is always drawn to text no matter where I find it – which is how I came to be perusing the old bible set out on the entrance table. Inside was a handwritten dedication from a father and mother to their daughter. Copied out carefully was one of the Proverbs.
Perhaps it was the uncertain strains of beginner musicians drifting from the hall, perhaps it was the thumping applause and small proud faces I could glimpse through the glass, perhaps it was the thought of a long-ago parent, long gone now, seeking to instruct their child on the way to live a good life, on how to be a good person. Whatever the case, I was moved by what I read on the frontispiece of that bible. It was clear and simple and it struck me that no matter your faith, the advice given to Phyllis Glynne Evans by her Father and Mother on September 15th 1908 was excellent: ‘Let not mercy and truth forsake thee; bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart.’
October 21, 2015
I’ve been involved in a long-distance love affair with Cornwall for as long as a I can remember: it’s such a beautiful, unique, and enchanting place to visit, whether in person or in my imagination. I’m a very visual person and most inspired when I have interesting things to look at. Country or city, inside or out, natural or otherwise, I’m not particular: I love landscapes and laneways; the sky and the sea; chimney tops, hidden doorways and beautiful gardens. I also love music, art and theatre, and of course history, in particular that lovely, shivery sense that the past still surrounds us. Most of all, I’m drawn to places that make me feel something, and Cornwall—with its windy coastlines and spectacular wildflowers, its abundant gardens and pretty whitewashed cottages, its enveloping atmosphere of history, mystery, myth and magic—is just such a place.
When I was dreaming up The Lake House, I wanted a setting that leant itself to a story in which an abandoned house might be rapidly consumed by nature. Loeanneth in the 1930s, when we meet the Edevane family, is a place of pristine cultivation, of well-kept gardens, and efficient household staff, the country home of a genteel family leading a genteel life. It is a locus amoenus, of course, a ‘delightful place’; and, as is usual with this literary trope, it provides an idealised location of enclosure and containment that engenders a sense of belonging in the characters.
But, by situating the house and its gardens in the midst of such a wild and rugged landscape, surrounded by thick woods and within hearing distance of crashing ocean waves, it was all too easy to imagine how quickly nature would come to reclaim the estate after tragedy struck and the family moved away. Seventy years later, when Sadie Sparrow, a detective on leave, stumbles upon the once-elegant house and garden, she discovers a vastly different scene from that in 1933: a real-life sleeping beauty house, waiting for the truth to awaken it.
I spent a lot of time researching Cornwall in order to write The Lake House, but I wasn’t able to research in Cornwall until I was proofreading the novel. It was a truly surreal experience, like stepping into the pages of my own book and having the world of the story come to life around me. I walked the very cliff-top paths that Sadie runs along, looked out across the same rugged coastline and vast ocean, and visited country houses just like Loeanneth would have been before the Edevane family locked it up and left.
One of my favourite houses was Trerice, near Newquay, an Elizabethan Manor set amidst an estate of gorgeous gardens. I visited a number of times, and on one occasion, the weather was particularly stunning. It was one of those perfect August days when the air holds just the right amount of warmth and it seems as if time might stand still. The sky was a clear, bright blue, and the leaves and flowers of the garden were glistening. It reminded me very much of how Loeanneth would have looking on Midsummer’s Eve morning in June 1933, as final preparations were put in place for the party that night.
I loved driving along the narrow, winding Cornish roads, hedgerows growing tall on either side, rounding the corner to discover yet another village waiting to be explored. One of my favourites was Portloe: I could just imagine Bertie’s place, high on the hill amongst the other whitewashed cottages, overlooking the harbour and wide, blue ocean.
Some of the most breathtaking cliff walks I found were on the north coast. We spent a particularly glorious summer’s day near Boscastle, where the wildflowers were thick with bumble bees, gulls soared above the sea, and contented cows and horses ignored us as they grazed in the nearby fields. Walking such beautiful trails, as the waves crashed against the bottom of the cliffs, and the sky loomed above us, was truly exhilarating.
Tracing my characters’ paths over the summer, I came to know Cornwall in a new and deeper way. Our love affair is no longer one of distance. I have seen and felt and smelled and heard it for myself, and gained new ideas for other stories. Cornwall is a special place, one in which I feel anchored and inspired, and one I know I’ll return to, both in person, and in my novels, many more times.
October 5, 2015
So, here we are in October. From where I sit, typing this post, I can see through the window to where the leaves are turning yellow, ready to fall and scatter. I love the turn of the seasons: there’s something thrilling and wonderful about the year in transition. It gives me a frisson of excitement and makes me want to be writing. To write is usually my first urge when faced with feelings of gladness. I suppose that’s called inspiration, but if so it’s the sort driven by a general elevation in mood rather than by the arrival of a Specific Idea. Oh, but I do love that vague shivery need to be in the Middle of Something!
The only problem is, I’m a monogamous writer and don’t seem able to work whole-heartedly on a new story while still seeing the former into the world. And so, until December, when the first wave of book tour events are ended, I’m happily wedded to The Lake House. The characters and setting and story of the next book won’t disappear, but will remain as glimpsed figments, just out of reach on the edge of my peripheral vision–like a dream I look forward to revisiting.
In the meantime, I’m so pleased to tell you there have been some very nice early reviews* of The Lake House. Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review:
People Magazine named it one of The Best Books of the Fall:
iBooks has selected it as one of the 25 Best Books of October.
And The Lake House has been named as one of The November 2015 Indie Next List picks. Carol Schneck Varner from Schuler Books & Music in Okemos, MI, gave it the following lovely write-up:
“The Lake House explores an unsolved kidnapping that occurred between the World Wars at an isolated country house in England. Morton here continues to do all the things she does so well: weaving together a multi-generational family story from numerous perspectives; showcasing different facets of the same events; and bringing a wonderfully complex plot together in a kaleidoscopic web of uncovered secrets, past and present. With delightful characters, fascinating settings, and a captivating mystery, Morton draws us into a world we’re sorry to leave. Highly recommended!”
If you’d like to hear more about The Lake House, writing, reading, my thoughts on any of the above and more, I’ll be touring in the northern hemisphere throughout October, November and December. The Spanish language edition will be published in November, the Dutch in October, and the German in February 2016. I’ll keep you posted with all other release dates as soon as I have them. So far, the 2015 tour schedule looks like this.
And now, a regret: for the first time in ten years I won’t be in Australia for the launch of a new book. Initial plans had been to travel around Australia in between the UK and US tours, but having recently moved my family for a stint in the UK, and still being in the midst of settling small people, I was forced, extremely reluctantly, to accept that it was going to be too tight. Sincere apologies to readers in Australia: I’ll see you very soon, and hope that you enjoy The Lake House in the meantime.
* I was asked in a recent interview whether I read reviews and how I feel about them. The truth is, sometimes I do, other times I don’t. I don’t seek them out in newspapers, mainly because I don’t know they’re there until after the fact. But I don’t avoid them either. I like it when they’re positive, but I’m quite comfortable with differing opinions on my books: that’s one of the wonderful things about life, we’re all allowed to like different things.
The only reviews that make me feel a bit exasperated (no matter whose book they’re about) are those that don’t play fair: namely, critics who reveal too much of the plot or give away the mystery (!); and those who hold a book up to a set of expectations it never sought to meet. It’s a little like criticising a meal at a French bistro because it didn’t look or taste like Italian food. Pointless and nonsensical and, worst of all, of no help to readers.
September 13, 2015
While I was in Cornwall over the summer, I took some time out from skylarking along coastal paths and eating copious amounts of clotted cream on scones, to spend a few days with PanMacmillan shooting an episode for their YouTube channel, Book Break. It was a huge amount of fun, not least because the show is hosted by Leena Norms who is as perspicacious and delightful in person as she appears on screen. We talked about the magic of Cornwall, the writing process, structuring a novel, lost children, Taylor Swift, and even The Lake House itself. Oh, and we explored some of the most beautiful places in the south west.
Excitingly for those of us who love books, this is only the first episode of the revamped Book Break. You can subscribe here for more, and even leave suggestions about topics you’d like to see covered. For more Leena online, have a look at justkissmyfrog. And to preorder The Lake House, simply visit your favourite online or real life bookseller.
August 18, 2015
It’s being here, in north Cornwall, where the coastlines are rugged, the cliffs drop suddenly away, and the blue ocean seems to stretch forever.
The landscape is breathtaking. It’s dramatic and beautiful and craggy and flower-covered and enormous. And I feel small—happily, contentedly so.
For a long time, Cornwall was harder to get to from London than Europe. It wasn’t until the 1850s, when the railway opened up the countryside, that city dwellers were able to journey—cheaply and comparatively easily—to such locations.
How far away it must have seemed to travellers then, and how baffling. If I—a creature of the twenty-first century, whose life has prepared her with countless films, photos, books and the internet—still find the sight extraordinary, then what must it have felt like for people in the nineteenth century?
What a literal expansion of horizons is must have been. How stunning and majestic: the very edge of the world.
No wonder so many poets of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, particularly those with a fondness for travelling far and walking long, felt nature’s pull so strong on their imaginations. Truth and beauty—there is each aplenty in these landscapes, but it’s not difficult to imagine such places invoking feelings of awe and terror either.
* The title of this post is from Coleridge’s ‘Kubla Khan’.
August 13, 2015
I had the opportunity recently to speak with Barbara Hoffert from Library Journal about books, in particular The Lake House. I love libraries, and could talk about writing all day, so it was a real pleasure. The interview has just been published, and if you’re interested in my thoughts on structuring novels, narrative rightness, and living history, you can read them here.
August 11, 2015
I have a new website! Welcome–I hope you love it as much as I do. Enormous thanks to Ruth from Blink Studios, who dreamed up the beautiful design, and to Alex McVey, for creating such perfect black and white paper-cut illustrations to describe each book.
I am writing this post from Cornwall, where I’ve been following the path of my characters from The Lake House. It is a strange thing to be surrounded by the setting of one’s story when the book itself is finished. If anything, it makes the world of The Lake House seem even more vivid, the events within its pages real. I’ve been posting pictures on facebook and instagram if you’d like to take a peek.
While here in the west, I’ve been glad to visit some of the local book shops and sign copies of the limited editions of my backlist with covers designed by Sophie Allport. Have you seen them yet? They’re very elegant, with a gorgeous summery English look and feel. You’ll find signed copies at Falmouth Bookseller, St Ives Bookseller and the Truro Waterstones.
I’ve also started making notes in earnest for Book #6. Every time I finish a story I tell myself I’m going to take a break, but without fail, the very day after submitting, I find myself at the stationery shop selecting a new notebook. It is just such an odd, uncomfortable feeling to be without a place to focus my ideas. So, a new notebook it is! (And a pen, too, if I’m lucky.) This period of dreaming and planning is one of my favourite parts of the whole writing process: the world of the story is limitless, and everything that excites my imagination may just have a place. People often ask where the ideas for a book come from, and the truth is they come from everywhere, all the time, you just have to be ready for them when they arrive.
May 5, 2015
The Lake House will be released on October 20th in the US and Canada, October 21st in Australia and NZ, and October 22nd in the UK. I’ll be publishing more information, including videos and tour dates, very soon on a brand new website that’s almost ready to launch. (Keep an eye on facebook and instagram for updates on the new site.)
In the meantime, here’s a glimpse of what you can expect…
An abandoned house…
After a particularly troubling case, Sadie Sparrow is sent on an enforced break from her job with the Metropolitan Police. She retreats to her beloved grandfather’s cottage in Cornwall but soon finds herself at a loose end. Until one day, she stumbles upon an abandoned house surrounded by overgrown gardens and dense woods, and learns the story of a baby boy who disappeared without a trace.
A missing child…
June 1933, and the Edevane family’s country house, Loeanneth, is polished and gleaming, ready for the much-anticipated Midsummer Eve party. For Eleanor, the annual party has always been one of her treasured traditions, but her middle daughter, Alice, sixteen years old and with literary ambitions, is especially excited. Not only has Alice worked out the perfect twist for her novel, she’s also fallen helplessly in love with someone she shouldn’t. But by the time midnight strikes and fireworks light up the night skies, the Edevane family will have suffered a loss so great they leave Loeanneth and never return.
An unsolved mystery…
Seventy years later, in the attic writing room of her elegant Hampstead home, the formidable Alice Edevane leads a life as neatly plotted as the bestselling detective novels she writes. Until a young police detective starts asking questions about her family’s past and seeking to resurrect the complex tangle of secrets Alice has spent her life trying to escape…