Name: Katherine Blakeney
What you Write: I read and write a broad range of genres. At the moment I’m focusing on historical thrillers and mysteries, but I previously wrote a Sci-Fi novel with elements of Fantasy and I’m currently developing some Middle Grade projects (mostly historical), and a number of graphic novels. I’m also interested in experimenting with the emerging field of interactive/app-based novels. I like to consider myself a literary mad scientist.
Agent: James McGowan
Why BookEnds? See below
What book do you wish you had written, and why?
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. This novel has so many of my favorite things – magic, illusionism, theatre, mythology, and a beautifully textured approach to atmosphere and setting.
I was especially moved by the way Bulgakov embeds mythology and the supernatural into the most ordinary moments of everyday life. My archaeologist mother read Greek myths to me instead of fairytales when I was a baby. Then we progressed to Japanese demons and Icelandic Sagas.
I didn’t want to be a princess when I was six. I wanted to be Odysseus.
If you’re not reading or writing, what would we catch you doing?
Making or watching films, usually silent and black-and-white. My background is in film and animation, so I’m always working on a new film project. I made the delightfully practical decision to embark on a BFA in Stop Motion Animation at the School of Visual Arts in New York. When I managed that, I went off to Edinburgh, Scotland, (allegedly the most haunted city in Europe) to pursue a PhD in Film Studies. There I wrote an entire dissertation on monster figures in Silent Era adaptations of Gothic novels, gifting my family and friends with a host of stylish new nightmares. If I’m not busy relishing the sight of hundred-year-old monsters slink silently across my screen, I’m probably crafting new ones in my workshop.
Believe it or not, animation is surprisingly helpful in my writing work. I’m a very visual person and can’t connect with a character until I’ve sculpted him or her with my own hands, sewn their costume and laid down every strand of their hair. Only then do I feel like I’ve really connected with them.
In the summer months, you may find me digging in the Egyptian desert, courtesy of afore-mentioned archaeologist mother. We’re excavating an ancient necropolis in southern Egypt and just organized a major exhibition at the Luxor Museum.
Other than that, I’m probably ice skating to cool off after the desert heat. Figure skating is my favorite sport and I watch every major competition with profound emotional involvement. You’d be surprised how heart-wrenching it can be to watch men and women dancing with knife blades tied their feet.
Where can readers find you on the web and social media?
Facebook Author Page – https://www.facebook.com/KatherineBlakeneyAuthor/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/YorwickCastle
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/yorwick/
Author Website – https://katherineblakeneyauthor.wordpress.com/
Animator Website – http://yorwickcastle.com/Yorwick_Castle/Home.html
What’s the last book you read?
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind.
The murder part is entertaining enough, but for me this book is really about living through smell. Scents play an important role in my life too and in the way I approach every new setting I find myself in. In my writing, I imagine locations through their scentscapes first and each of my characters has a signature fragrance that expresses their essence. In one of my earlier novels, I created an entire alien civilization that worships scents and communicates through an intricate language of fragrances.
As for myself, like Süskind’s Grenouille I claim no single scent as my own. I put them on like clothes and chose whichever suits my mood and purpose for that day.
If money were no object, what would be your dream writing location?
It’s one of my favorite cities in the world. I love its rhythm, the charm of its architecture, the narrow streets and the tapestry of scents and sounds that varies with each neighborhood. I love to nestle among the snarling chimeras perched atop Notre Dame and gaze out over the city with them. It’s a bit windy to write up there, but I wouldn’t mind a chez longue by one of the fountains in the Jardin des Tuileries with a cup of frozen Fruits du Bois slush by my side. A bench overlooking the Jardin du Luxembourg in the shade of the chestnut trees would be perfect too.
But probably one of the most inspirational places in Paris for me is the Louvre. I used to take writing workshops at the Metropolitan Museum in New York as a child. We would roam the galleries and get inspired by what we discovered there. I think museums are the most inspirational places to write. They’re so full of characters and stories and worlds to visit, everywhere you turn. Wherever I am in the world, I always start a new project with a museum visit to find references for the atmosphere and personalities I want to create. Each of my major characters is inspired by the work of a specific artist or artistic movement.
What’s your favorite quote about reading or writing?
“A story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end… but not necessarily in that order.” ― Jean-Luc Godard
Godard was speaking about filmmaking, but I believe this quote applies to narratives of all kinds. It’s such a liberating approach to the art of storytelling.
“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.” – Oscar Wilde
I never leave the house without both a notebook and a sketchbook. I like to steal snippets of overheard conversation, interesting poses, and to chronicle ideas for new and ongoing work. I do reread them quite a bit as I plan new projects.
What’s your favorite piece of writing advice you’ve received?
“To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” – Ulysses, Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Again, this is not explicitly a quote about writing but I see little difference between beginning a novel and setting sail in search of unknown lands. Writing or any creative pursuit is always a struggle, always a battle against overwhelming odds. Tennyson’s words remind me to see it as a journey, an adventure, an endless search that is as thrilling as the discoveries that lie beyond the sunset. To me, that’s the best writing advice of all.
What excites you most about joining the BookEnds family?
BookEnds is a very open, dynamic agency and really in touch with today’s readers. I was drawn in by the charm and energy the BookEnds team projects on social media and by the level of support and advice they offer to aspiring writers. It felt like the best possible home for my book.
I met James at ThrillerFest 2019 and connected with his response to my novel from our first conversation. James represents all the genres I work in, and he’s highly interested in illustrated material as well. I’d love the opportunity to illustrate my own books and further expand my experience as an illustrator.
What advice would you give to other authors in the query trenches?
When in doubt ask Tennyson. I’m serious. Take a volume of his poetry, turn to any page and decode the advice you find there. In my darkest, most doubt-riddled moments, he’s always helped. Sometimes what you really need at the moment isn’t another guide on how to strengthen your verbs. Sometimes you need to hear that even if you’ve been “made weak by time and fate,” you must always remain “strong in will”.
You fail only when you stop trying.