Thursday, 11 April 2013

Kate Worsley

THERE aren't enough novels set in small towns. Which, given that that's where most of the population of this country actually live, is a damned shame. There are even fewer books set in small Essex towns. I think there's only me and my latest interviewee KATE WORSLEY doing it. My book's set in a kind of contemporary Manningtree and Kate's is - partly -set in a vividly imagined eighteenth century Harwich. And in her's people do get actually manage to get themselves away from Essex.

Her widely applauded first novel SHE RISES takes its title from the sea shanty the drunken sailor, and is a visceral read. Right from the beginning of the book the reader is tossed into the roil and swirl, the wet dirt stench of sea-faring England 250 years ago, though it's not all storms and sails. We are also guided through the cool, quiet, bucolic world of dairy farming. And the back-streets and rookeries of the pre-industrial working class.

SHE RISES gives us characters in revolt against the place in society allotted for them,  surprising themselves with their capacity for risk and adventure. This is also a gripping, sensual tightly-wound love story of the kind Sarah Waters would be proud of.

And Kate Worsley also claims to know where the world's best pub is.

Can I have your autobiography in EXACTLY 50 words (not 51, not 49)?

Born in Preston. Spent my teenage years mooning about in various get-ups. Got to London as soon as I could. Worked as journalist, follow-spot operator, massage practitioner, restaurant manager... Moved house as often as I changed jobs. Finally got down to writing fiction when I moved out, to the coast.

Why should people read your book?

Because, I hope, they'll have as much fun reading it as I had writing it. And if enough people buy it I can write another one.

What is your most pressing concern right this minute?

Remembering to take my chores headscarf off before I leave the house in 30mins to visit someone I've never met before. And to put my contact lenses in.

How is being a woman who writes different from being a man who writes?

Anecdotally and personally, it seems women are far less confident about our work, and find it harder to prioritise writing over everything else. But both factors can benefit the writing, as long as you actually get it done.

Who - in life or writing - do you most admire?

In life, my other half. In writing, anyone who can combine humanity of feeling, and clarity of thought and expression with humour. Current literary crushes include William Trevor, Helen Dunmore, Joseph Conrad and Jon Cantor.

Why do we need the Women's Prize for Literature?

Because I think both men and women don't take women's writing as "seriously" as men's. If we did it wouldn't be an issue.

Would you eat a mucky fat sandwich?

Only as research for novel number two.

What will the next book be about? (does it have a title yet?)

Working title is Newbourne, about a Depression-era miner's wife moving south under a government land settlement scheme. Hence the dripping.

If you could be anywhere right now, it would be....?

In a sauna. My own sauna. I wish.

Tell me something I don't know...

The best pub in the world is in Harwich. It's called the Alma.



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