Book club webchat with Kate Atkinson
Her previous novels include Case Histories, When Will There Be Good News?, One Good Turn, Human Croquet, and Behind the Scenes at the Museum.
She chatted to us about what inspires her writing, what she thinks of the TV adaptations of her Jackson Brodie novels and her favourite childhood books (and abbeys) but wouldn't be drawn about the future for her most recent character, Tracy Waterhouse.
Clary: I really want to know if Jackson is ever going to find happiness with someone, anyone?
KateAtkinson: I have no idea! I like him best when he's on his own and slightly miserable.
SixtyFootDoll: Is there another Jackson Brodie novel being written? I do hope so.
KateAtkinson: Not at the moment. I am writing something else, but i am sure I will return to him.
downbutnotout: Behind the Scenes at the Museum is one of the best books I have ever read - I am always recommending it to people. Particularly resonant for parents, I think. Love the Jackson Brodie books although I have not read them all yet. Am very intrigued by Tracy Waterhouse - will we see her again?
KateAtkinson: Glad you liked Tracy, she is one of my favourite characters, but I think her future must remain mysterious.
hatllDoPig: Are you secretly a little bit in love with Jackson?
KateAtkinson: No! I think he would be rather annoying if he were a real person!
SixtyFootDoll: Behind the Scenes was such a massive success. How did you cope with the pressure of following it up?
KateAtkinson: I'd already half-finished the second book so it wasn't too bad. You just have to get on and do it really.
Moulesfrites: I absolutely adore your books, have read them all except Human Croquet, which is on my wish list. I would like to know, as the plots of your crime novels are generally so complex, to what extent you plans and plot them in advance or to what extent they evolve naturally.
KateAtkinson: I do very little advance plotting, although I often wish I did, as I quite often get halfway through and have to go back and unpick everything.
lateforpickup: Can I also ask why you switched to writing crime (do you consider yourself a crime writer)? Which other crime writers do you enjoy reading?
KateAtkinson: I just think of myself as a writer, but I do enjoy crime. I like PeterTemple, Megan Abbott, Harlan Coben, amongst others.
peggotty: I would love to know which writers have inspired/influenced you. I've often thought that Angela carter may be an influence, especially in kate's earlier books? Would she agree with this?
KateAtkinson: I do love Carter's The Bloody Chamber but came to it late after I'd writen Human Croquet, my own "fairytale" book. Otherwise Jane Austen always inspires.
peggotty: Yes, THe Bloody Chamber is one of Carter's books that I can return to, along with Wise Children - I thought there was definitely a whiff of magic realism in your Not THe End of the World short stories. (I have a signed copy of that! <proud>)
Threadworm8: Kate, I wondered if you ever think about Daniel Deronda when you are writing Jackson Brodie. Maybe that's daft, but they do remind me of one another. They both seem to draw other people's sadness and need onto themselves in a striking way.
Also: thanks for writing so many strong and warm lovely women. It is nice to see a crime drama on TV in which the female parts aren't all either corpses or female police officers battered into maleness by a male police force (Prime Suspect).
Even Jackson Brodie seems female - very masculine, but with a whole woman inside him too. Do you think of him as having feminine qualities?
KateAtkinson: Daniel Deronda - how funny, I was just talking about that book today. Not a conscious influence but I do love that book - perhaps he crept in.
And, yes, you are right, I think Jackson has a female sensibility. Secretly he is a woman...
ThatllDoPig: Does your writing generally flow or is it frustrating? How disciplined are you with it? Have you been on MN before?
KateAtkinson: No, I have never been on MN before. Sometimes it flows, sometimes it doesn't. But you have to do it anyway. Sometimes I surprise myself at how disciplined I am!
BelleEnd: Did you make a conscious effort, after your first three novels, to change the direction and setting of your writing? Did you feel as if you couldn't win, in a way: write another in the same style and you'd be branded a one-trick-pony, do something different and risk alienating the people who enjoyed your existing work?
I will admit to having been really disappointed when I heard you were writing about a copper... Your writing, however, won me over, and I love your books equally.
KateAtkinson: I think as a writer you have to write the book that's in your head, rather than what people want you to write. I did consciously change my style and the book I am working on at the moment is very different from the Jackson Brodie books - again a conscious change of style for me. Mainly because I get bored!
TillyBookClub: Which childhood book most inspired you? What would be the first piece of advice you would give anyone attempting to write fiction?
KateAtkinson: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Just William. Read everything ever written!
peggotty: Can you give us a little hint about what the book you are currently writing is like (I'm guessing you might not want to but I have to ask!) Or even when it may be finished?
KateAtkinson: I keep saying it's about the War, but i have 56,000 words and I haven't got to the war yet!
helhall: I keep trying to have a go at writing "for fun", I find it quite easy once I start to keep on writing for a while, but all my ideas run out of steam too quickly so I'm struggling to come up with a basic plot to keep me going - any tips? From what you've said up-thread, I'm guessing you tend to allow the plot to lead you, rather than planning it all out in advance?
KateAtkinson: I took a long time to start writing - everything I did to begin with was practice pieces, I didn't just jump straight in there. I would always recommend to start by writing stories - not so much plot!
Piccalilli2: When Will There Be Good News seemed to me on reading and definitely in the TV adaptation to be much darker and less humorous than the other three. Were you getting a little bored of being stuck in genre?
KateAtkinson: Yes, I think it is the darkest of the four. I think that was intentional.
bahookie: I've just recently discovered you as an author - I made the mistake of watching the TV adaptation of the books - I got a bit annoyed when they weren't exactly true to the story. Although I do like places I know and travel to every day being used in TV programmes - the back road at Bo'ness (where Brodie's car broke down) and all the Edinburgh sights. Do you have much input to the televised versions?
KateAtkinson: I think with TV you have to remember that it is a very different animal to the books and make your peace with that. I thought they made a good attempt and Edinburgh looks lovely - and so does Jason.
lateforpickup: Were you happy with Case Histories on TV? Were you consulted about the casting?
KateAtkinson: Hello! I would say I was 80% happy On the whole, yes, I was happy with the casting. I still have doubts about one or two but it would be very wrong of me to say who!
concertvirgin: Have you met Jason Isaacs, Kate - and is he a dish or, as I suspect, maybe a bit too fond of himself?
KateAtkinson: No, he's not full of himself, but he is definitely charismatic.
daftnan1: Do you feel that, having seen your work on TV, this will influence your future writing?
KateAtkinson: Good question. I hope not!
Sherbert37: I would like to ask if Kate has a border terrier? Her descriptions of the dog are spot on. My lovely girl is JUST like the first description we have of The Ambassador in the park. Border terriers are so clever and funny - they rock!
KateAtkinson: Hello, no I don't and I really wish I did! You are so lucky...
Threadworm8: Is that Fountains Abbey on the cover of Started Early...? It looks like it. That is a beautiful set of ruins, and funnily enough it is a great place to take your dog.
KateAtkinson: Yes it is Fountains, I love Fountains Abbey. I visit often, although Rievaulx and Jervaux come close joint second for me - beautiful.
KateAtkinson: Thank you everybody for your questions! We could have gone on all night... Bye for now.
TillyBookClub: Kate, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us this evening. It has been such an honour and pleasure to have you here. And thank you too for all the glorious books. Good luck with the war one, and please come again when it's published... can't wait to read it.
Last updated: 9 months ago