If I had to choose only one writer as my all-time favourite, it would be difficult but in the end I’d probably vote for Kate Atkinson. Ever since I read her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, I’ve been a HUGE fan of her work (although I’d be lying if I said I enjoyed Emotionally Weird).
I’ve read all of her novels and I’ve tried on numerous occasions to get tickets to see her at book festivals but have never managed to beat the rush of sales. So when I noticed a link on Twitter to a series of free library events called Edinburgh Reads featuring top authors, I jumped at the chance to see one of my literary idols in person. So, on a dreich Saturday afternoon, I headed east with my hubby in tow to hear Kate interviewed by top literary agent, Jenny Brown, at the city’s Central Library.
Kate’s new book is a departure from her successful Jackson Brodie private detective series and it is a standalone novel where the reader is asked to wonder, “What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?” Life After Life tells the story of Ursula Todd born during a snowstorm in England in 1910, but two parallel scenarios occur – in one, she dies immediately. In the other, she lives to tell the tale. As the possibility of having a second chance at life opens up, Ursula lives through the events of the twentieth century again and again….
To be honest, if I wasn’t such a fan of Kate’s work, I wouldn’t be attracted by the premise of this novel as I prefer realism and a mere whiff of speculative writing would normally have me running for the hills. However, knowing how clever a writer Kate is and out of sheer curiosity, I was keen to see whether this latest offering would live up to my high expectations. I also follow a fantastic blog, On the Literary Sofa, which features reviews written by Isabel Costello and I have great respect for her opinions. Isabel’s review of Life After Life talks highly of the book giving a good insight into the story-line without containing spoilers so have a read if you want to know a bit more.
The conversation between Jenny and Kate was interesting as a reader and a writer. On a personal level, I found the fact that Kate’s debut novel was published when she was 43 inspiring and as a forty-something, this gave me hope that it’s never too late to launch a literary career. I also enjoyed the fact that Kate was very honest about her development as a writer, saying that in the early days, she found dialogue difficult to write and used to pepper it with unnecessary adverbs, a lesson I hope I’ve learnt too. She also spends a lot of time letting an idea mature whilst she’s doing mundane stuff like hoovering. As I can faff for Scotland, this reassured me that while I might not be tapping away on my laptop, I can still be ‘writing’ in my head, well that’s my explanation and I’m sticking to it!
It was also refreshing to see that someone who is a best-seller, achieving international acclaim and awarded an MBE can still be so down-to-earth and humble about her success. As a literary idol, Kate didn’t disappoint me.
Who is your literary idol? If you’ve met your idol, was it a positive or negative experience?
P.S. Apart from admiring her amazing literary talent, being star-struck and gooey-eyed in the second row, I couldn’t help but also be literally dazzled by Kate’s stunning diamond bracelet. She’s clearly a lady who doesn’t feel the need to brag about her accolades but does like a bit of bling-my kinda woman!