Dreamer | Meet Kate Weinberg
Hello Kate. We’re very excited to be introducing your debut novel – and you - to our audience here at Yawn. Described by the New York Times as “An uncommonly clever whodunit”, “The Truants” is garnering rave reviews and currently “Book of the Month” at Waterstones. A fantastic achievement, huge congratulations to you.
- Please introduce “The Truants” to Yawn’s readers.
So, The Truants is part coming-of-age drama, part campus thriller, which basically means I like to tell a good story, but I want to make you fall in love with my characters too. It follows Jess Walker, a first year undergraduate who falls under the spell of a charismatic female Professor who is teaching a module of Agatha Christie on a university campus in Norfolk. Later, the story spins off onto a remote Mediterranean island off the coast of Sicily. The book starts with Jess looking back six years later, when we know something awful has happened.
- This is your debut novel. How does it feel?
A delirious relief. I started writing fiction twenty years ago, and made the terrible mistake of telling my family and friends. There’s nothing worse than that question, “how’s the novel going?” for both the person flailing around with an unpublished manuscript and the person asking. You have a couple of years of grace, and then it becomes a real sticking point. So it’s wonderful for me personally, and a huge relief to be able to let everyone else off the hook. The problem is, everyone has started to ask about the next one...
- What have been your most challenging and exciting moments in getting this book published?
For me it’s been a stamina game. Each draft has been a mountain to climb, and the ones before the publishing deal were done without crampons or a base camp. The fact that it took so long, and I fought so hard to keep myself from giving up, meant that by the time I got there I was absurdly excited to be a published writer. I’ll never forget the moment, sitting on a bench in Bedford Square, outside the Bloomsbury offices. Everything has counted since. Every book I’ve seen in a shop window, every review, every kind word by a new reader.
- Where does your inspiration come from?
Pretty much everywhere. People I know mutate into characters, sometimes without me realising until later. Most of the settings come from my life – I tend to think of them like characters too as they are so important in creating atmosphere. When I’m building the characters themselves I’ll often start with a defining experience in their childhood and a lot of those are taken from my own life.
- Which books have most inspired you?
All of J.D. Salinger, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, The Secret History by Donna Tartt, Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John Le Carré, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Bad Blood by Lorna Sage.
- Where and how does your best writing happen?
I wish I knew that! The truth is I have to really understand what I want a scene, or a moment, or an emotional beat feels like before I start writing. Physically, I need to be somewhere quiet, and crucially, writing longhand if it’s a first draft.
- Your top piece of advice for those looking to spend more time on their own writing?
Stop thinking about it. Just get something down. And join a writing class or group. I found I only really got into a rhythm when I had those community and weekly classes to hold me to account.
- In a world where many women are feeling stretched, do you have any tips for our audience on switching off?
I like to go to bed with Agatha Christie! I find that rereading books I’ve read several times can feel like chatting with an old friend – reassuring and familiar – and while I’m there, maybe sneak in a siesta, too. Everyone says “exercise, exercise”. But I find almost everything feels better after a nap.
- Where in the world makes you feel most happy and relaxed?
There's this beautiful tumbledown farmhouse in Italy I visit every year with banks of lavender, beehives and a wood behind it. I go there in my head a lot, too. Closer to home, wild swimming in cold water and a woodland walk in the evening light can get me pretty near bliss.
Now for a few quick fire questions:
Top of your summer reading list?
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. Her latest, and apparently greatest – which is saying something.
If I’m in the house, anything soulful, preferably with a story or characters you can imagine from the lyrics. So, Nina Simone, Tom Waits. But I do like running to rock and sometimes rap.
Tortoise News. I’m biased, but once you start listening to Slow News you stop feeling frantic about the headlines and it gets a bit more peaceful and starts to make sense.
Pyjamas or nightshirts?
Nightshirts, hands down. If I’m writing from home, some days I’ll spend all day in them.
Lark or night owl?
I’d love to say I was a lark – they get so much more done – but the truth is I’m a night owl. Evenings are where the fun is. Best of all with a girlfriend, on a sofa, laughing ‘til it hurts. So make mine a double vodka on ice with a twist of lime, please...
Discover more about Kate at www.kateweinbergwriter.com