Coronation hears of the murders before she even reaches the slave port of Bristol – six boys found with their throats slit. Horrified, she questions the locals’ readiness to blame the killings on Red John, a travelling-man few have actually seen. Coronation yearns to know more about the mystery. But first she has to outsmart the bawds, thieves and rakes who prey on young girls like her: fresh from the countryside and desperate for work. When the murderer strikes shockingly close to Coronation, she schemes, eavesdrops and spies on all around her until the shameful truth is out.
When and where do you prefer to write?
I’m happy writing anywhere. But I love to work first thing in the morning in a silent house. In winter the kitchen table is the warmest spot. In summer I go to my study, and try not to be distracted by the birds outside the window.
– Do you have a certain ritual?
Just a longstanding preference for orange Bic biros and A4 lined paper. I write my first drafts by hand.
– Is there a drink of some food that keeps you company while you write?
Builders’ tea in the morning, Earl Grey in the afternoon. Lots of it.
– What is your favourite book?
Jane Eyre is a great role model: rebellious, critical, passionate, moral. Yes, she plumps for marriage, but on her own terms.
– Do you consider writing a different genre in the future?
I didn’t consider writing historical crime until relatively recently, so who knows? That said, I loved writing A Pair of Sharp Eyes, so I plan to stick with the genre for a while.
– Do you sometimes base your characters on people you know?
Characters have a habit of taking on lives of their own. And real people are infinitely complex and contradictory – fictional characters need to be easier to comprehend. So no.
– Do you take a notebook everywhere in order to write down ideas that pop up?
It’s not always a notebook, but I always carry something to write on. Too often it’s a receipt or a flattened paper cup or the back of a packet. Then I try not to lose it.
– Which genre do you not like at all?
I don’t read fantasy. But as a child I loved E. Nesbit’s The Phoenix and the Carpet, C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books, Beverly Nichols’s The Tree that Sat Down, and Alan Garner’s The Owl Service, and I’m still very fond of those books. So maybe I should try fantasy again – I could be missing out.
– If you had the chance to co-write a book. Whom would it be with?
I’m not sure I could write with another novelist, but I’ve always thought it would be incredible to work in a script-writing team. I’d learn so much from the better writers around me.
– If you should travel to a foreign country to do research, which one would you chose and why?
The past is a foreign country, as we know. To be teleported back to Bristol in 1703 would be amazing. It would also be terrifying, and scientifically impossible. Which is where historical fiction comes in …
Thank you, Kat Armstrong and Love Books Group Tours.
About the author
Kat Armstrong grew up in Bristol, and became an English lecturer after writing a doctoral thesis on eighteenth-century fiction at the University of Oxford. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Manchester, and has written articles for The Guardian as well as a scholarly study of Daniel Defoe.
Kat’s debut novel, A Pair of Sharp Eyes, was published by Hookline Books in September 2019.
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