Sometimes a book comes along that I am desperate to read but I simply can’t fit it in with the other commitments I have. Such is the case with Nicola Matthews’ debut book. However, I do have time to chat with Nicola all about it and luckily she agreed to stay in with me today.
Staying in with Nicola Matthews
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Nicola and thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.
Thank you very much for inviting me.
Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?
I’ve brought along my debut novel, Kitty Canham. The novel is based on real events that took place in the early eighteenth century, here, on our Essex backwaters. I am so excited to share with you something of Kitty’s intriguing story; the very thing that inspired me to write.
Oo. I love a blend of fact and fiction. What can we expect from an evening in with Kitty Canham?
I love to be transported to another time and place when I read. Kitty travels from Essex to London and further afield, but it is the liminal landscape of the estuary on which I live and which Kitty would have walked 300 years previously, that really took my imagination. It was lock down when I started writing, so I found myself immersed in the area’s haunting beauty. Some of my Amazon reviewers call the novel ‘immersive’ or as one said in a different way, ‘This is a story that captures the imagination and allows one to be lost in its pages.’
That’s such a lovely thing to hear. Congratulations.As well as landscape, tell me a bit about Kitty.
How a character deals with dilemmas fascinates me. Kitty is a feisty and passionate woman who finds herself struggling against the conventions of the age, sometimes making progress, at other times finding the tide of expectation too difficult for her. In forging her own path, she faces moral dilemmas that are not easily settled.
It is important to me not to put characters in ‘goody and baddy’ categories. People are complex and when things go badly it is usually because of faulty communication and wrong expectation. Kitty is surrounded by people who are not inherently bad but who sometimes make terrible choices or who withhold truth to misguidedly protect another. My hope is that all my characters, draw you into their lives and leave you feeling that you know them and have travelled with them.
I think the people in Kitty Canham sound vivid and real Nicola.
My background in theatre is, perhaps, evident in my writing. When I write I see every scene unfolding before me in 3D. The characters are active: their presence and movement always comes to me before their facial features. Maybe this is so for most writers. I’ll have to ask about.
I have seen review that suggest Kitty Canham would be perfect for television or film so you could be right!
Another factor is that a story needs to be told in an evening in the theatre. Kitty Canham is not a light read, in terms of content, but it is an easy read. The narrative takes you on a journey that spans a number of years. However, it is told in a linear fashion. It starts at the beginning and ends at the end, making it perfect for an evening of reading. As one reviewer puts it, ‘Loved this book from the beginning with the story weaving through the varied life of Kitty at pace. Such a visual read. Hardly put it down till finished.’
That’s so refreshing to hear. I’m not always keen on multiple timelines. So, how is Kitty Canham being received?
I expect every author wants to feel that their efforts have enriched their readers lives. Another reviewer suggested that the novel did just that, for her anyway,
‘I absolutely loved this book and heartily commend it to anyone who would love to escape for a few hours into another era and environment. I feel so much richer having read it.’
That is fantastic and makes me want to read about Kitty even more!
That is, I suppose, my greatest accolade and my hopeful expectation for anyone having an evening in with Kitty Canham.
Absolutely. What else have you brought along and why have you brought it?
I had planned to bring along a picture of the backwaters, because I could wax lyrical about the landscape all day. But then I remembered this antique perfume bottle. I bring it because this little bottle blindsides Kitty at a time when she is beginning to realise that her life at home is becoming untenable. It opens her to possibilities she never would have imagined. It is the emblem of both her hopes and her inevitable sorrows.
Now you’ve intrigued me completely Nicola. Thanks so much for staying in with me to chat about Kitty Canham. I think it sounds fabulous. Let me give Linda’s Book Bag readers a few more details:
This is a fictional story woven around real life events that took place on the North Essex coast.
It is 1739. A woman had to be strong to make her way amid the conventions of the age. When the withheld truths that uphold those conventions begin to unravel around Kitty, she finds herself alienated from all she knows and loves.
Through an unexpected invitation she visits London society. There she becomes the keeper of a secret, which leads her into a deception of her own.
With few options Kitty determines to live a conventional life, but when tragedy strikes, misunderstandings follow and her life unravels once more. All the while she keeps her secret close, but the time will come when she can keep it no longer.
Kitty Canham is published by Hall House Press and is available for purchase here.
About Nicola Matthews
Nicola Matthews has always been involved in the creative industries, particularly in theatre and art. However, she primarily considers herself a storyteller and observer of the human condition. Nicola loves the enneagram and anything that picks our personalities apart! Nicola also loves her family, the countryside, and evenings round a campfire musing with friends. Poetry has been a constant companion, and she has published a small anthology called Anxt and other poems. Kitty Canham is her debut novel.
For further information, visit Nicola’s website, follow her on Twitter @nicola_author or find her on Instagram and Facebook.