Our book club choice for January was Sedition by Katharine Grant. We had the pleasure of having Katharine come to speak to us about her book. Katharine has written a number of children’s books but Sedition is her first adult novel. I was delighted that she took the time to answer some of my questions.
1. The date of Sedition, 1794, is very precise. Why did you choose 1794?
In revolutionary Paris, the Terror reaches its climax in 1794. London holds its breath. Will revolutionary fervour hit its streets? Will a guillotine be erected in every London square? For subversive fever and revolutionary excess, 1794 is a perfect year. Having said that, Sedition is not a novel of the Revolution. Harriet’s French shoes are the girls’ only experience of France. Rather, Sedition is a novel about revolution with a small ‘r’, or about how five girls, whilst doing exactly as their parents direct, contrive to do precisely the opposite. But 1794 gives Sedition a particular edge. That’s why I chose it with such care.
2. Sedition is quite hard to categorise in that it’s both tragic and comic. How do you think of it?
I can see the value of labels for books: they’ve got to be described somehow! But just as life is darkly comic, so I see Sedition. It’s interesting that when people talk about it, some foreground the comedy, others the tragedy. If I was the reader, not the writer, I’m not sure which way I’d fall.
3. Did the plot of Sedition arrive first, or the characters?
I could see the concert scene at the end of the book. I think that came first, then I heard the music – Bach’s Goldberg Variations – then the girls. Perhaps the plot was in my subconscious. It’s actually quite hard to remember. A bit like spring in the garden, a novel creeps up on you.
4. Did you draw on real people for the characters?
That’s for me to know, and the models to discover …
5. Who’s your favourite Sedition character?
A bit like your children, it’s hard to have a favourite amongst your creations. If readers hate a character, that’s signals success for the writer in that the character has made a real connection. So, in a rather contradictory way, the most hateful and hated character can sometimes be a writer’s favourite. Amongst the Sedition girls, I’d be friends with Harriet, want to make music with Annie, and be frightened of Alathea.
6. Do you have a routine for writing?
I try and always fail. Writing is hard – can feel like breaking stones. Procrastination is much easier! Research, though necessary, can also be a form of procrastination. My 2015 New Year’s resolution is to write at least 200 words every day, on the basis that once I start writing, it’s like oiling a hinge. And actually, once a novel has found its voice, I write obsessively, almost blind and deaf to anything else. Sedition was written mainly in my study at home, but also in the supermarket queue, the dentist’s waiting room, in various carparks, and at Glasgow Central Station. (I’m a ridiculous traveller: I like to arrive at least 30 minutes before my train leaves.)
7. If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
In an ideal life, I’d be a ballet dancer or a concert pianist. I think it’s a bit late for ballet! As for a concert pianist, I think people would pay to stay away …
8. Have you any advice for wannabe authors or even solicitors?
Writers of both novels and legal documents use the same tools. Use them with care to say precisely what you mean. The best friend of all writers is the delete button.
To learn more about the book please visit http://katharinegrant.com/