Let’s get to know Kim Taylor Blakemore, author of The Companion!
What made you interested in writing this particular story?
Stories come to me as glimmers and fleeting images. The idea for this novel began as an image. A young woman in prison, alone in a cell, in the last days of her life. I remember the light, and how it sliced through a single high window and didn’t warm. And the whitewashed stone. I still have, from years ago, the initial pages and the beginning lines that I played around with: “Stories move in circles.” Yes. I liked that line. I didn’t use it, but I think it informs the structure of The Companion.
I am drawn to dark mysteries, like Charles Todd’s Inspector Ian Rutledge series, or dark historicals such as Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites. And I have quite the love affair with gothic novels, particularly in the Daphne du Maurier mode. So, when Lucy, the main character in The Companion decided it was time her story be told, I used a fusion of those genres. The reader knows who was murdered, that Lucy is caught, and that she will hang. But it’s the unravelling of the why that intrigued me.
Tell us about your main character.
Lucy Blunt is a young woman of twenty-two. Her life has been marred by the early death of her mother, her father’s alcoholism, an affair with a married mill manager, the death of an illegitimate child, and she comes to the door of the Burton mansion in search of a job as a washer up. She is desperate; the position is her last hope. It’s 1855 New England; women’s roles were circumscribed. She has no money, no husband, nothing but her wits. She’s cunning and charming, a liar with the guts to tell the truth, maddeningly conniving and tough and vulnerable.
Do you listen to music when you write?
I do! I have playlists set up in Amazon Music, such as “30-minute write”, or “90-minute write”, that I will use to pace myself and to take breaks (or not). The soundtrack for this novel is Ludovico Einaudi’s works, particularly Una Mattina and Divenire. His piano pieces are deeply moving and atmospheric. In fact, the last chapter was written while listening to A fuoco from the Una Mattina album. If you stream that and listen, you’ll see why.
Other pianist/composers in the mix: Michelle Mclaughlin, Helen Jane Long, Philip Glass, Max Richter, Philip Wesley, and Chad Lawson.
What’s next for you?
I just turned in the manuscript for the next historical mystery to my editor at Lake Union Publishing. It’s called (at least for now) After Alice Fell, and is set for release in January 2021. It’s super dark and twisty: an asylum, an apparent suicide, and a woman who doesn’t buy the story she’s told about her sister’s death. And she won’t stop until she finds the truth. (Can I say she’s pretty kick ass?)
What is your favorite/least favorite thing about the writing process?
- The initial idea and premise and the bright shiny objects they are. Everything is possible.
- The blank page.
- When I’m in “the zone”. Everything in the outside world fades away and I am fully immersed in the story with the characters.
- Making my word count goal.
- Making deadline.
- The End.
- Editing and working with editors – I love this part, because this is when the rough stone becomes a gem.
- The blank page.
- The anxiety that takes over midway through the writing of the book. I call it The Swamp. Characters aren’t completely fleshed out, storylines are dangling like frayed thread, there’s no end in sight, and I think that I have no idea how to write a novel at all. The key is to just wade through.
Thank you so much for the interview! I am so grateful.
Kim Taylor Blakemore is the author of The Companion (January 14, 2020; Lake Union Publishing), as well as the historical Young Adult novels Bowery Girl and Cissy Funk. Known for writing darker stories with tangled lies and hidden motives, she has been honored with a Tucson Festival of Books Literary Award, a WILLA Literary Award, and two Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC) grants. She teaches fiction with PDX Writers in Portland, Oregon, and is a member of Women’s Fiction Writers Association, Historical Novel Society and Sisters in Crime. You can visit her online at www.kimtaylorblakemore.com.