Author Interview: Kath McGurl



I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to interview one of Carina’s newest authors, Kath McGurl, who releases her first book with the publishers, The Emerald Comb, TODAY (get your copy here). I have heard so many good things about this book and I’m beyond excited to start reading, so it was great fun to quiz the lovely Kath about her previous books, researching her family tree and what it was like to write part of a novel set in the 1840’s…


DSCF0555-edited - CopyHi Kath, welcome to Bookaholic Confessions! Thank you so much for participating in this interview. Would you like to start by introducing yourself…?

Hi Holly, and thank you for having me! I live in Bournemouth, and am mum to two teenage boys. I work full time in IT for a large retail company. I love walking up mountains (slowly), running (slowly) and sea-swimming (also slowly). But most of all, I love to write. Thankfully I’m a little bit quicker at that!


Can you tell us a bit about your latest novel, The Emerald Comb? (released 22nd September, published by Carina UK)

It’s a dual time-period novel, telling the story of amateur genealogist Katie who’s researched her family tree, and digs up a little more than she bargained for. In the historical strand, we hear the story of her ancestors, and find out just what secrets they had that they needed to bury so deeply.

What inspired you to write a novel based around researching your family tree? Is this something that you have done yourself?

Yes! I began researching my own family tree about 5 years ago, and discovered a few interesting characters. I wrote a full length novel based on them, but found that being tied to the facts was too constraining. So then I had the idea for The Emerald Comb, which is purely fictional, and which allowed me to come up with a well-structured plot over which I had full control.

How did you find writing the parts of the story set in the 1840s?

If I’m being honest, I think I preferred writing the historical sections more than the contemporary ones. I actually wrote all of the historical chapters first, so I could get into the voice and characters, then slotted the contemporary sections around them.


How did you go about doing the relevant research for writing a story set in this time period?

I’ve always read a lot of historical novels, and I also love novels which were actually written in the 19th century, especially Wilkie Collins. The more you read the more you absorb, and you end up with a good feel for the period you’re writing about. Of course you have to be careful and do your research properly, to make sure you don’t get your facts wrong or include anachronisms. One of my beta readers is good with history and gave me lots of advice and corrections! And my motto is, if in doubt, check it out. These days with Google at your fingertips, it’s so easy to check historical details.


Can you tell us a bit about your other novel, Mr Cavell’s Diamond?

This one actually started life as part of my ‘practice’ novel, the one I mentioned above which was based on my family history. Although the complete novel was not commercial, there was a nice little love triangle in the middle section, and I decided to pull that out and rewrite it. That became the novella Mr Cavell’s Diamond which I self-published. It is still roughly based on my family history, but I changed names and took a lot of liberties with the actual facts!


The Emerald Comb V3 cover smallAs well as novels you have also written a number of short stories. Do you prefer writing these to full length novels? Are short stories harder to write?

I began my writing career with short stories, many of which I sold to UK women’s magazines, especially Take A Break and My Weekly. I loved writing them, and loved even more the buzz I got from selling them. But I always wanted to write novels and nowadays I much prefer writing longer fiction.

Are they harder to write? Well, yes and no. The shorter length makes them less daunting of course, and you can easily write a 1-page magazine story in an evening. A short story needs great characters, a plot, a theme, a beginning, middle and end, and it must make a point or contain a universal truth. Same goes for a novel but it is a lot easier to do all that in 90,000 words than it is in 1000! In a short story every single word has to count. I think one of the best exercises for any writer is to take a story and reduce its length by a third.


Can you tell us a bit about your journey to publication?

I had some interest in The Emerald Comb from agents I met at the Winchester Writers’ Festival in 2013. It was an exciting time and I thought, hey, this could be my moment! But in the end, nothing came of that. In spring 2014 I decided to submit the novel to Carina UK. I’d read a few of their books and was impressed. There was a surreal moment at a Romantic Novelists’ Association party when I got chatting to one of the Carina editors, and it turned out she’d read my submission that very morning! A couple of weeks later I got an email offering me a two book deal. I’ll leave you to imagine my reaction, and the quantity of wine which may have been consumed that evening.


Who are your favourite authors and what kind of books do you enjoy reading?

Probably not surprisingly, I love timeslip and dual-timeline novels. Kate Morton and Katherine Webb are two of my favourite authors. I love how they weave past and present in believable ways.

And finally – can you tell us a bit about what you’re working on at the moment?

I’m working on book 2 for Carina. It’s also dual-timeline, alternating between 1944 and the current day, and also contains a supernatural element. It should be published as an ebook some time next year. After that, I have some more ideas, all for books in which the past collides with the present in different ways…


Oooh, I’m liking the sound of that! Thank you so much for answering my questions, Kath. It’s brilliant to have you featured on my blog!

Thank you, Holly!



 The Emerald Comb is released on the 22nd September 2014 by Carina. Click here to get your copy.

One afternoon, Katie takes a drive to visit Kingsley House, the family home of her ancestors, the St Clairs. She falls in love the minute she sees it. It may be old and in desperate need of modernisation, but it is her link to the past and, having researched her family tree extensively, she feels a sense of belonging to the crumbling old estate.

When it suddenly comes up for sale, she cannot resist persuading her family to sell up and buy it, never telling them the truth of their connection with it. But soon the past collides with the present, as the house begins to reveal the secrets it has hidden for generations. Does Katie really want to discover what she has come from?



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