Monday 13 October 2014

Twenty Questions with... Kathleen McGurl

I am delighted to welcome fellow Carina UK author Kathleen McGurl onto my blog today, author of The Emerald Comb, released a couple of weeks ago.

Grab a brew and make yourself comfortable for a round of twenty questions that features John O'Groats, Orinoco (yes, the Womble), and wise words from Joe Konrath.

ACT ONE – all about you…

Kathleen McGurl lives near the sea in Bournemouth, with her husband, sons and cats. She began her writing career creating short stories, and sold dozens to women’s magazines in the UK and Australia. Then she got side-tracked onto family history research – which led eventually to writing novels with genealogy themes. She has always been fascinated by the past, and the ways in which the past can influence the present., and enjoys exploring these links in her novels. 

When not writing or working at her full-time job in IT, she likes to go out running or sea-swimming, both of which she does rather slowly. She is definitely quicker at writing.

You can find out more at her website,, or follow her on Twitter @KathMcGurl.

1) Have you always been a writer or is it something you fell into?

I was always going to be a writer, when I had the time! From a young age it was something I aspired to. During  my first maternity leave, before my son was born I started a novel. Then the baby came along, he wasn’t a sleeper and I found I hadn’t the time to write. Also, this was back in the mid-nineties and we had no computer. I’ve since found that I need to type a first draft for best results! It was about 10 years ago that I finally, properly started writing and since then I have not looked back.

2) Do you have a particular writing style or ritual?

Style-wise, I think I have two ‘voices’. There’s one I use on my womagwriter blog which is chatty and friendly, and worked well for my two ‘how to write’ books. Then there’s the voice I use for novel writing. 

Writing rituals – no. I have none. I just sit down on the sofa when I have time, and get on with it, trying not to be too distracted by social media!

3) Is there a book or an author that has influenced you in your writing?

I think writers are influenced to some extent by everything they read, and I have always read a wide and varied selection of books. I love timeslip or dual timeline novels, and those by Kate Morton and Katherine Webb are my favourites, so I guess I’ve been more influenced by those two authors than anyone else.

4) Is there one piece of writing (or life?) advice that has stuck with you, or that you would like to share?

Yes. I think it was on Joe Konrath’s blog that I came across the quote -  There’s a word for a writer who never gives up: Published. 

5) Can you tell us three things about yourself that we probably don’t already know?

Ooh! Right then, here goes:

1 – I once cycled from John O’Groats to Land’s End, carrying camping gear on my bike panniers. It took 3 weeks and it rained every day.

2 – I love sewing and craft skills, and have reupholstered nearly every item of furniture in my house and my mum’s flat. I gave up doing upholstery when I began writing. Now the sofas are wearing out again – maybe I’ll need to go back to it!

3 – I have a full set of Womble pencil top figures, collected when I was 10. My favourite is Orinoco.

6) What five luxury items or gadgets would you hate to be without?

1 – My Kindle. Love it to bits.

2 – Moisturiser. Though it’s more of an essential than a luxury.

3 – My fit-flops. World’s most comfortable footwear.

4 – My laptop. Current one is a hand-me-down from my son. You know your kids have grown up when they start passing their electronics on to you rather than the other way round.

5 – My leather jacket. After coveting one for 25 years I finally bought it earlier this year and now I don’t understand how I managed without it.

ACT TWO – all about your new release…

Some secrets are best left buried...
One afternoon, Katie takes a drive to visit Kingsley House, the family home of her ancestors, the St Clairs. She falls in love the minute she sees it. It may be old and in desperate need of modernisation, but it is her link to the past and, having researched her family tree extensively, she feels a sense of belonging to the crumbling old estate.
When it suddenly comes up for sale, she cannot resist persuading her family to sell up and buy it, never telling them the truth of their connection with it. But soon the past collides with the present, as the house begins to reveal the secrets it has hidden for generations. Does Katie really want to discover what she has come from?

7) Congratulations on your recent release of The Emerald Comb, what was your inspiration for writing Katie's story?

I’d researched my own family tree, and wrote a novella based on it (self-published as Mr Cavell’s Diamond). Then I started thinking, what if you dug up more than you bargained for? What if you discovered skeleton’s in your family history closet? And so The Emerald Comb was born.

8) Did the story flow from your finger tips or did some scenes take a bit of cajoling?

The historical section flowed well. The contemporary sections took more work as they had to fit around the historical story. If I get stuck on a scene I tend to leave it and push on with the next one. Chances are when I come back to it I’ll decide I don’t need the difficult scene anyway.

9) How long did it take for the initial spark of the story to make it onto the page and then onto the publisher’s desk?

Hmm, let me think. I started writing it in March 2012. It was complete by the summer of 2013 and I submitted it to some agents around that time. But it was a year later in June 2014 that I sent it to Carina and was offered a two book deal on the back of it.

10) Do you have a favourite paragraph or sentence from your story that you would like to tantalise us with?

What a great question! I think this bit, from the prologue, will do nicely:

Read this only after I am dead, after I am buried. Read this and understand why you must never sell Kingsley House. You must live in it until the end of your days, guarding its secrets, as I have.

11) Over to you, what can you tell us about The Emerald Comb, to make us rush out and buy it?

There’s a lot of fascination with family history research. The TV programme Who Do You Think You Are has been very popular. My character Katie thinks she knows her ancestry but has she got it right? Her ancestors had dark secrets which they’ve buried deeply – can Katie ever uncover the truth?

12) What can we expect from you next? Is there something you are working on right now? 

I’m working on another timeslip novel – this one is part 1944 and part contemporary, and has a supernatural element.

QUICK FIRE ROUND – it’s pop quiz time…

13) Plotter or pantser?

Plotter. Mostly.

14) Digital books or print books?

Both. Print for keepers, digital for holidays/long journeys/reading in bed.

15) Tea or coffee?

Both! Tea first then coffee, and back to tea in the afternoon.

16) Extrovert or introvert?


17) Facebook or Twitter?

Facebook. Though Twitter’s growing on me.

18) Christmas or birthday? 

Christmas. Definitely. 

19) Morning person or night owl?

Neither – middle of the day for me!

20) Sweet or savoury?

Savoury. Except chocolate, obviously.

And that’s a wrap!

Thank you so much for taking part, Kath, I wish you every success with your new release.

To discover even more about Kathleen McGurl, and to keep up with her latest projects, you can visit her at:

Website     Facebook     Twitter

Buy it now…

Add to Goodreads
Release date: 22nd September 2014
ISBN: 9781474007504

Amazon UK ¦ US


  1. Thank you so much for hosting me here today, Aurelia!

  2. I loved reading this interview! Great questions and wonderful answers!


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