Book Talk with Lynda: Special Guest Kim M. Watt
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I have a special guest today on Book Talk, and I’m really excited for a number of reasons. First of all, she’s a tea drinker, so I don’t actually have to share my coffee. That’s at least a little bit exciting. Second of all, she’s a versatile author who writes short stories and full-length novels and pulls them off well.
The rest—well, you’re just going to have to read this and discover all of it for yourself. Without further ado, may I introduce to you author Kim Watt!
KIM: Hi Lynda and lovely readers! Thanks for the wonderful intro, and I’m so excited to have the opportunity to take part in a book chat. Especially as there’s tea. And, um, cake? You did mention cake . . .
LYNDA: Of course there’s cake! I honestly thought you might not come if I didn’t have some. I’m so glad to have you here today, and I meant to have French things to decorate with, but my house was suspiciously empty of French flags and berets. I’m not sure what that’s all about. But then I remembered that even though you currently live in France, you’re not actually from there. You seem to have lived just about everywhere but my house, from what I gather. And not all of your living has even been on land—but how many places do you call home?
KIM: I have to admit that I didn’t even come bearing French cheese and a baguette, nor riding a bicycle, so we’ve both let the side down. I hope they let me back in.
LYNDA: This is how they can tell you’re not a native, I bet.
KIM: And my terrible accent. As far as places I call home—that’s actually a weirdly tricky question! I’ve called a number of places home over the years, including Greece, the Caribbean, and Spain (I’m apparently very bad at committing to a country). I love living in France. And the Yorkshire Dales, where Baking Bad (and numerous other stories) is set will always be somewhere that has a lot of magic for me. But if I talk about home as somewhere that has a real hold on my heart, and where, when I come back to it, it fits me—then Tonga, where I spent quite a bit of my childhood. I also worked there as a SCUBA guide when I first left New Zealand, and it’s a place that I’ve never quite got over. And New Zealand, of course, because I was born there and I’ll always identify as a kiwi. That’s home, too. Although my accent is so mangled now that every time I go back someone is guaranteed to ask me if I like their country.
LYNDA: I can see how you have a tough time choosing a favorite. They all sound so exotic to me, and so explore-able. So out of all those places, what made you choose the Yorkshire Dales as the setting for the Beaufort Scales mysteries? Based on what I’ve read in Baking Bad and Yule Be Sorry, it does seem like the perfect setting for the characters.
KIM: That’s actually a really interesting question, and I had to think about it for a bit (I’m glad this isn’t live—it’s saved a lot of umm-ing . . .). The character of Beaufort actually came about while my dad and I were sailing from the Bay of Islands up to Whangaroa Harbour (New Zealand) and talking all sorts of rubbish. I was already living in France at the time, and hadn’t lived in the UK for quite a few years. But, somehow, when I realised that Beaufort was a character who needed to be written, it just made sense that he lived in the Dales. He immediately felt very English, and the Dales is an area that I’m both a little familiar with and have a lot of affection for. It’s a wonderful mix of still quite wild scenery, and little villages of the stone-built, picture-book variety. Not to mention all the dry-stone walls, beautiful fells, and lovely old market towns. It seemed like just the sort of place a small-ish dragon clan could stay undisturbed for generations.
LYNDA: And certainly a place where the ladies of the Toot Hansell Women’s Institute would be found. Now that I’ve gotten to know them, I can’t imagine them in any other setting. And now the world can get to know them, too, because you have written not only one, but TWO books about Beaufort, Mortimer, and the W.I. gals.
Did you plan both books before you started writing them, or did you just have too many good ideas that turned into separate stories?
KIM: Planning sounds very organised. I’m rarely that organised. I am, in fact, only just learning to plan out each story, and quite often once I get started my stories veer off in unexpected directions, so I have to re-plan as I go along.
LYNDA: I like to think of myself as a planner, but in actuality, I’m more of a lister. I love lists that I can read through and cross off. Making them is always more fun than executing what’s on them, though.
KIM: Lists! I love lists. I actually write things I’ve already done on my lists so that I can cross them off in a triumphant manner. It gives me a feeling of enormous satisfaction, even though it’s often a little thing, like "retrieve hair ties from the cat."
LYNDA: Oooh, like always starting the list with “make list.” That way you can cross it off before you even put the pencil down to start everything else. But . . . back to the books, I suppose . . .
KIM: Right! I knew we were talking about something other than lists. Baking Bad began life as a serialised story on the website that was just a bit of fun. It was only later that I realised I could make it much better, and started reworking it, and it was very much a spring/summer story. Yule Be Sorry in its first version actually followed on very quickly after that, and when it came up it somehow had to be a Christmas story. Plus I couldn’t work all the bad jokes into just one book.
LYNDA: I hope you never run out of bad jokes, because the world needs more of them. And you know from my extensive margin notes how often I was just laughing and had nothing constructive to add. One of my favorite visuals is that the dragons have modernized to where they have Webers instead of constantly looking for firewood to stay warm in winter—and that they sell dragon-scale baubles on Etsy to fund their propane needs. It’s so practical and ridiculous at the same time that it always makes me smile.
So okay, you know I love Beaufort and Mortimer and the human people they interact with. Baking Bad and Yule Be Sorry are a great start to what I hope is a long series of adventures. BUT. But but but. You also know how much I love the characters who have only gotten short stories so far. I need to ask where these people come from. Do you have brainstorming sessions with yourself and think of the most unlikely situations, or do the ideas come from late-night conversations that just keep getting sillier until you realize they’re So Crazy They Just Might Work, and BOOM, there’s a story? Anyone who’s read “Glenda & the Horsemen of the Apocalypse” or knows a Grim Reaper named Gertrude who doesn’t deal well with fools who ruin her seaside vacation is instantly drawn into the fun. It’s addictive, really.
KIM: One of the best parts of this whole writing lark is that I’ve discovered other people are tickled by many of the same things as me. And that makes coming up with story ideas so much fun, because I can think of lovely readers like you, for instance, and all your side notes and wonderful comments. I figure that if it’s going to make you chuckle, it might make a few other people do the same. And while that may not be my primary goal in writing, it’s a big one. If I can write something that can take even one person out of their worries for a few moments and make them smile, I’m happy.
As to where the ideas come from, I’m a big believer in what-ifs. Glenda's a good example—I just woke up in the middle of the night and thought, Glenda and the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. I had nothing else. But I let that phrase sit for a while, and kept coming back to it—what if Glenda was a lady of a certain age? What if she had some unexpected visitors? What if they came in for tea and Jammie Dodgers? And what if they just happened to be the Horsemen? For me, writing is really just me sitting around asking myself questions, then seeing where they lead me. And if it gets a bit silly, well—all the better!
And I’m really trying to remember where the idea for Gertrude came from, but I can’t. Just cake and reapers, which I'm sure made sense at one stage.
This was a really long answer.
LYNDA: That's okay, it was a really long question.
KIM: Basically, I have no idea what I’m doing. I just ask myself questions and see what happens.
LYNDA: I know for sure that I rarely have any idea what I’m doing, so the asking questions thing works well for me.
We’ve probably given everyone a lot to think about for today. Readers, I can’t stress this enough: if you like humor and a touch of the unusual, you are guaranteed to enjoy Kim’s books. I’ve added links to Gertrude’s story and Glenda’s (both are free on Kim’s site, in addition to other short stories) so you can get a little taste of her style and the characters I’ve become so attached to. And there’s even a chapter or two of Baking Bad on her blog, and now the first chapter of Yule Be Sorry, too, to whet your appetite for the Beaufort Scales mysteries. And I mean whet your appetite in the most literal sense there . . . those people are always baking, and I even ended up making shortbread one night while editing because I couldn’t take it anymore.
Kim, do you have any final thoughts, or bits of advice, or an answer to a question I forgot to ask? I’d hate to have missed anything important!
KIM: I think I’ve rambled on for quite enough! Thank you so much for inviting me to do a book chat with you—it was an enormous amount of fun, and hopefully no one’s fallen asleep while reading . . .
And I think as far as final thoughts go, it’s just that we need to read and write what speaks to us, even if it is tea-drinking dragons and civic-minded gargoyles. As writers, we might not reach as many people as sparkly vampires do, but nothing makes me happier than people who can celebrate cake and wonderful oddness with me. And as readers, we should never have to be ashamed of what we enjoy reading, no matter how odd it may seem to others. Read on, lovely people!
An excerpt from Yule Be Sorry:
“Oh! Sorry, Beaufort. Are you alright?” Miriam was pink-cheeked in the soft light, hair escaping in all directions from under a misshapen wool hat.
“Just keeping an eye on things. It’s terribly busy out there, isn’t it?”
“Yes.” Miriam checked for eavesdropping customers before she kept talking. “I don’t think anything needs keeping an eye on, though. And you do need to be careful – we don’t want a repeat of the first Christmas market.”
Beaufort Scales, High Lord of the Cloverly dragons, veteran of more battles than he cared to remember and possessor of a most impressive set of age-yellowed teeth, looked suitably chastened. He sat down next to Mortimer, out of the way of the two women selling Christmas cake and chutney and hot drinks, and Mortimer’s own enchanted dragon-scale baubles and magical boats.
“That market was more fun, though, don’t you think?” he said to the younger dragon.
Mortimer snorted. “You made us wear dog suits, Amelia almost ate a dog, and then you caught fire. I guess it depends on your definition of fun.”
You will have a serious cake addiction after reading these books.
It’s best to not fight it.