Kate Sawyer finished writing the first draft of her debut novel, The Stranding, a few weeks before her daughter was born. Here the trained actor talks of recording the audio version and how she nearly fainted in Bury St Edmunds town centre, when Marian Keyes Tweeted about it!
I tend to follow my heart and try to do things before I can talk myself out of it. As a result, I’ve done a lot of travelling, made friends all over the world – with whom I’ve had a lot of fun! I’ve worked as an actress, a chef, a shop keeper (where I learned loads about business and nutrition – it was a health shop), an events manager, a theatre and film producer and now an author!
Also, 18 months ago, I started my most fulfilling (and challenging) job to date, when I had my daughter as a solo mother by choice.
I had my daughter in December 2019, so I wasn’t expecting much acting work in early 2020. My literary agent was working with me on getting my novel, The Stranding, ready for submission to publishers in January and February, so it was a hopeful time, until March came along and somewhat scuppered things for all of us!
I think adjusting to becoming a mum, for the first time, is always a strange time for people. Doing that during a pandemic while you are finding your feet in a new career path is really odd!
I signed my book deal just days before the first lockdown, so all the editing and any contact with my publishers and agent has been digital/virtual. It has been odd. But both with work and with motherhood I’ve tried to strategise, to deal with a situation that could have been really hard.
I’ve made sure I’ve done things I love: walking in nature, reading (lots), knitting and trying to connect with people, even if only on Zoom or social media.
I’ve tried to make friends with other authors who are at a similar stage in their career as I am and I set up a twitter account, @DebutUK2021 – that’s been great.
It’s become both a support network and a way of trying to get our books out to wider audiences by cross-promoting each other’s work. Now I can’t wait to meet these new friends in real life!
I first had a seed of an idea for the book in February 2018. I was very busy working in events at the time and, in order to keep some creativity in my life, I signed up to a playwriting challenge called 28 Plays Later where you write a play every day for 28 days.
One of the prompts for that gave me the idea that played on my mind for the next year and then, in March 2019, I sat down and started to write it.
I started writing it when I found out I was pregnant and finished the first draft just a few weeks before my daughter was born!
As for how it’s evolved: I know some authors hate editing, or being edited, but for me the edit was a wonderful process!
I started revising the book with my agent, who suggested that I might want to put more of a certain character, or less of a particular theme and then left me to rewrite and check for typos etc!
Then, once the book was acquired by a publisher (The Stranding is being published by Coronet, an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton) I revised again, working with my editor.
I did two edits on the text, a ‘structural edit’ (where you get a letter from your editor asking you questions that lead you to jig things around in the story, adding and deleting to make it flow better) and then the ‘line edit’ (where your editor goes through and points out issues/inconsistencies line by line).
The line edit is where you have real laser focus on every detail and ask yourself ‘Is this the story I want to tell?’
Again, there’ll be additions and deletions, but by the end of that edit you have the book pretty much as it’ll arrive in the bookshop.
The copy editor and proof-readers will undoubtedly find more typos and timeline errors than you thought possible, so there are a few final kinks to be ironed out with those edits before it goes to print!
The Stranding is published in Hardback, Audio and E-book in the UK, Australia and New Zealand on June 24, 2021. I can’t wait for readers to get their hands on a copy!
I’m so excited to get reader feedback. It has gone out to advance readers, authors and reviewers etc, and I’m delighted to say that the reception it’s receiving is beyond my wildest dreams!
Marianne Keyes, Jessie Burton and Bryony Gordon are just a few of the people who have read it and sent quotes to my editor saying they love it.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget walking around Bury town centre on a Saturday, my phone pinging and it being a tweet from Marian Keyes saying ‘Oh My God Lads! This Book! Gorgeous!’ I nearly fainted there and then in the centre of the market square!
It wasn’t always the plan for me to record the audiobook. Although I’m a trained actress with experience of voice work, I’d never recorded a full book before, and so I put myself forward but would have understood if the publisher went in another direction.
It was decided that there was something nice about the author being the storyteller, so we went for it. I wasn’t quite prepared for what a marathon it would be! Reading 93,000 words aloud in three days is no joke!
Plus, without giving spoilers, there are quite a few New Zealand accents in the book which was a challenge! But, overall, it was an amazing experience.
Few authors reread their book after the proofread and so I feel pretty lucky to have read the book in such detail before publication. It’ll definitely make answering questions about the book easier in the coming months!
I am currently working on my second novel and, possibly my third. Writing is a funny business, sometimes what you are writing morphs into something else and you end up with more than one project when you were only planning to work on one!
I have a whole stash of ideas, books for adults and children and a couple of screenplay ideas too…it’s just finding the time to do it all!