||GIRL with CAT (Blue) by Sam Hawksmoor
*Kindle version on Amazon
Hammer & Tong (Print)
Reviews: 'Awesome book. Saska is fierce, a true heroine...'
'An exciting and fast paced story'. DJA Amazon
'It is a funny, bloody, colorful narrative that never fails to surprise the reader. Girl with Cat (Blue) provides great entertainment'. Allen Cook
Q&A with Sam Hawksmoor
- This is your eighth Sam Hawksmoor novel and some claim it's your most ambitious yet. Congratulations on being shortlisted for the Rubery Book Award. That's a tough selection process and very competitive, so that's pretty good going. Where did the idea of 'Girl with Cat (Blue)' come from?
H: It begins with a painting of a girl with her blue cat standing on the ramparts of a ruin overlooking her bombed out city. Who is she? Is she real? More importantly is the cat real? It's blue, a Lynx and extremely rare. Have you never stood before a painting - a Pre-Raphaelite romantic perhaps with a beautiful girl staring out at you with a question on her face? That's how my story begins. Jules, a modern girl, uncannily similar to the girl in the painting feels an immediate bond with the other girl. The artist claims he is a refugee from a country she has never heard of and feels a terrible guilt for abandoning his young sister, Saska. Jules, with the aid of her trusted best buddy, the geek McReady, is determined to reunite them. But McReady, being very down to earth does not believe anything about parallel worlds and thinks Kye, the artist is a fake. He insists... 'There's only one world and we're living in it.'
Only when Jules and Kye disappear into a solid brick wall in Holland Park does he finally accept it could be real. But then what on earth can he do about it?
For me, writing a book set in present day London and an alternative London called Lundein gave me permission to be that artist, to be the Pre-Raphaelite painter I always wanted to be.
- So you had to create a different history?
H: Of course, Lundein is in Inglund. It is more 19th Century - scientific progress has gone in different directions. But now it lies in ruins. Saska is the last line of defence. She meets with Merry, the Ratkin, a child ratkiller abandoned by the city. Together, with Cat they must fight the enemy. She has long wanted to follow in the footsteps of her brother, but has never found the tunnel. In fact come to beleive that it never existed, it was just a myth to give comfort to those who remained. London is a terrible lie and her brother lies dead in the rubble, like her parents.
- Does writing energize or exhaust you?
H: Energize, at least when I’m writing the first draft. I like to get started by walking along my favourite Milady Beach listening to the crashing waves. I’ve no idea why, perhaps the ozone level, I always feel inspired to find a café and get writing. (It works best if you already have an idea and need to get the next scene down).
- What are common traps for aspiring writers?
H: Drifting or rewriting the beginning endlessly. I have been supervising some Master's students and I keep saying move on, we can fix things later. It is is advisable however to read through your previous chapter before you start another so you keep a consistent voice.
- Do you believe in multiverses ?
H: I think so. Lundein isn't the only other version of London. McReady discovers another, even more lethal as he begins his search for Jules. If there are two multiverses, who to say there aren't 20? The tunnels are passages to specific places in time. If you can read the map you can forward or back, but this is forbidden knowledge and as Saska discovers, her own Uncle as guardian of the secret, betrayed them all. Saska's main ambition is find the man responsible for killing her city. She is tough and resilient. Jules's just wants to reunite brother and sister and McReady's job is keep everyone sane. It's not an easy task.
- Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
H: I’m afraid I’m only considering specific readers when I write. My first readers are Roxy and Kit. If they hate it, I’ll probably stop writing. I’m not sure how to write to a formula. The story must go where the story must go. Cat (Blue) has taken years to finally bring it all together. (Interrupted by my heart attack and then my mother's death). I was determined to get it right and dismissed the idea of it being in two parts as I like a big fat book myself. I have left some wriggle room for a sequel though. I wrote four endings. One ending was like Butch and Sundance in a hail of bullets, but readers hate that kind of thing and I quickly threw it away. But I wanted there to be consequences for their adventures. It's a journey for all of them where they will learn that nothing can be taken for granted.
- Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
H: Hopefully not. Life without passion for what you do is a life being wasted.
- If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
H: Go into real estate.
- How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
H: When they sent me the proof for my first book I was so shocked at the changes the editor had made I demanded to rewrite the beginning. I wish I could have rewritten all of the changes he’d made. I hadn’t realized an editor could do that. I literally sat down and dictated a new first chapter down the phone from New York.
- What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
H: Two weeks holiday in Corfu. It came to the exact amount I was paid for the Danish rights to an earlier novel.
- What did you do with your first advance?
H: Blew half of it on Dancing Brave that came second in the Derby. Grrrr. Haven’t gambled since. But almost every advance has gone into travel and researching the next book.
- What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
H: The Droughtlanders by Carrie Mac. It should be on every school curriculum. Revolution, climate change, circuses, sex, disease, powerful young characters in an arid landscape. I’m not even sure its still in print.
- As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
H: A friendly dog. Pippas in France became my best pal when I was writing VoLontaires (The Repossession) and starred as Moucher in the novel and Mr T - a Cocker Poo helped me through J&K 4Ever and of course found his way into the book as a dog with divided loyalties.
- What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
H: Depends on the book. For 'The Repercussions of Tomas D' about a boy who goes back to the Blitz, it was a lot of reading and testimony of people who lived through it. My mother especially, who was a nurse in the war and remembers her hospital being bombed and the surgeon she was assisting having to finish an operation even as walls crumbled around them.
- How long were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one?
H: I’m still a part-time writer. Never give up the day job. Publishers go out of business, or mislay royalties or agents disappear with your money. It’s precarious, foolish and often dispiriting.
- How many hours a day do you write?
H: When on the first draft I like to do three/four thousand words. I write by hand, it’s hard to read back sometimes but the slow bit is typing it all up.
- What are the ethics of writing about historical figures?
H: Be as true to the people and events as possible. Remember that people in the past held views and opinions that might offend todays more sensitive times but don't shirk from it. Once smoking was considered to be healthy and conquest and oppression of other nations was normal, even necessary. Sanitation and toothpaste were not even considered. Your beautiful heroine might never have had a bath in several years - her suitor likewise.
- How do you select the names of your characters?
H: Hmmm, they just happen mostly. I see some foriegn editions where they change the names and I no longer consider them my characters.
- What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
H: The half-way point. If you know when that is. Sometimes you can sense it, sometimes not. But knowing you have created enough set-backs is a key moment and let your characters breathe, pause to gather their strength before you throw something else at them. Some writers never give enough time for their protagonists to eat or sleep and it’s important to do that. In Girl with Cat (Blue) I'm constantly thinking about eating, sleeping, bathing. These scenes are just as important as action in character development in my opinion.
Well let's hope readers discover Girl with Cat (Blue) and enjoy as much as I did. Thanks. Kindle version here