It is a pleasure to welcome Katie McMahon to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews for A Tea Break with Mrs B, a author interview series. To help celebrate the release of The Accident we sat down for a chat. Thanks Katie!
Hello Katie. It is my pleasure to welcome you to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews. I greatly appreciate the time you have provided to answer a few questions. To begin, what is your drink of choice as we sit down for a chat about your new book?
Thanks so much. Definitely tea. At the moment I’m making Madura loose leaf tea in a one-person cast iron pot that was a Christmas present.
What kick started the creation of your new novel The Accident?
I’ve always been fascinated by the way co-incidence and seeming co-incidence can have such a big impact on our lives, so that was the starting point. But the novel evolved in different directions – it ended up a bit darker than I originally intended.
What themes dominate The Accident?
The impact of loneliness. I think loneliness is an experience that’s very common, but it’s also one that people can feel ashamed of. Imogen, one of the characters in The Accident, is very lonely, and has been for many years, and doesn’t know how to get herself out of that. This is disastrous for her and others.
Another theme is being single in your thirties. These days women have many more choices, and thankfully there isn’t the stigma about being a ‘spinster’ that maybe was faced by women in years gone by. Of course, many people choose to stay single. But I think for some, it’s not completely a choice and that can be something that’s hard to resolve. I think you can be a feminist and be totally on board with being financially independent and not obsessed with finding a partner and so on, but still want to find love. You can want to have babies with a partner and realise that that’s going to be difficult. So, the character of Zoe is dealing with these issues. A final theme is to do with the issue of bullying and exploitation, and the impact that can have on people.
The Accident features a single mum, a teacher and a doctor. Did you find it challenging to capture the voices of these protagonists?
I worked very hard to capture the three different voices. Because the book is told from three points of view, it was important that each voice was distinct. I didn’t want the three characters to sound the same. So it was important, for example, to make sure that the characters’ patterns of speech were different, and that the things they noticed were different. Imogen notices her environment in a negative way – she’ll comment on the traffic fumes or the ugly carpark. Zoe notices her environment in a positive way – the beauty of the city at dusk, the peace of an early morning walk. And Grace is too busy to notice all that much about her surroundings; she’s more focussed on what’s going on for her loved ones! In terms of their patterns of speech, Grace has a more sophisticated vocabulary – she tends to use longer words and make more complex observations. Zoe uses simple language to express herself. Imogen has an unnerving habit of seeming as nice as pie and then suddenly revealing this damaged, angry side through making a very harsh observation or suddenly swearing. So, I did a lot of editing and rewriting to make each voice distinctive.
How different was the experience of writing The Accident, compared to your previous release?
Well, this time I knew the book was going to be published, whereas when I was writing The Mistake I thought it probably would never be published. So, this time there was the time pressure of a deadline. Probably what was more of an issue was constantly having a sense of what future readers might want and so a fear of not giving it to them. I had to really recognise that there is no way I or anyone could ever write a book that would please everyone, because different readers look for different things in a book.
What is one thing you would like your audience to take away from the experience of reading The Accident?
Really I just hope they find it an enjoyable story and that it makes them think a little bit about some of the issues – loneliness, who is to blame, how the past influences the future. The nicest thing anyone can say to me about my writing is that the characters have stayed with them.
What does a typical writing day look like for you?
I generally start at about nine a.m.. I do have a little writing nook, but when the house is empty, I tend to work at the kitchen bench on my laptop. I make sure my phone is well out of reach, as otherwise when I get to a tricky bit I tend to pick up my phone hoping it’ll have some other terribly urgent job for me to do. I quite often read the manuscript out loud to myself, particularly dialogue, and I might act out the parts to help me capture what gestures the characters are making. So, that’s kind of embarrassing if the electricity-meter man or a visitor happens to walk past the windows. I tend to read over what I did the previous day, make some edits – which sometimes ends up taking ages – and then move onto the next task. I don’t have a set word count that I write to and I tend to find that some scenes come together relatively quickly, while others I can spend weeks on. I go over everything numerous times, I slash lots – I have an ‘off cuts’ document that ended up being bigger than the actual manuscript – and I tweak many, many times before anyone else sees it. I use Word rather than a writing program – I have tried writing software but prefer Word. I work through until about 2:30pm. I stop to make something easy for lunch, which I unhealthily tend to eat at the computer. I also never stand up to stretch, nor do I step outside for any mindful inhaling of fresh air. I just make lots of cups of tea.
What books are on your to-be-read pile?
I’m looking forward to Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – somehow, I haven’t read that yet – and I’m also part way into re-reading The Harp in the South, by the great Australian writer Ruth Park. She was really a master at creating a world. I’ve just finished The Angry Women’s Choir, by Tassie writer Meg Bignell. I loved the premise, and anyone who doesn’t understand why feminism is relevant should definitely read this!
Are you currently writing a new book?
It’s very early days. But I do have a new notebook for it, and I’m at the jotting down ideas stage.
Thank you for taking the time to visit Mrs B’s Book Reviews Katie and congratulations on the publication of The Accident.
A SINGLE MUM WITH A SECRET.
A KIND TEACHER NAVIGATING NEWLY SINGLE LIFE.
A LONELY DOCTOR WHO IS STRUGGLING AT WORK.
Grace, Zoe and Imogen are three women whose worlds are linked by unseen connections to friends, family and lovers. In this psychological drama, set in contemporary Hobart, they move inexorably towards an event that will change them all forever.
The Accident is an insightful exploration of the ways our formative years shape us, the resonating influence of first love and the impact of social rejection set against the healing power of friendship.
The Accident by Katie McMahon was published on 30th August 2022 by Echo Publishing. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
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