I shared the cover reveal for The Key by Kathryn Hughes a while back now and I am really pleased to be a part of the Blog Tour. I have a Q&A from the lovely author herself.
1. For readers, can you give a brief summary of THE KEY?
The Key is told in two time frames. The book opens in 2006, with Sarah exploring the derelict Ambergate Lunatic Asylum. Her father spent many years there and Sarah is writing a book on the history of the place. She discovers a locked attic door behind which several suitcases belonging to former patients have been stored. The suitcases bear no names and most of them contain nothing more than clothes, books and other mundane items. However, one of them contains something truly shocking…
The story then travels back to 1956 and we meet Ellen, a student nurse at the Asylum. One of her first jobs is to admit a troubled young girl, Amy, who has been committed to Ambergate by her father. Ellen takes Amy’s suitcase to the attic for storage but little does Ellen know, she will be forced to make a decision which will alter the course of both their lives.
2. How did you first come to writing?
I began my first book, The Letter, in 2006 and it took me over six years to complete. It was just a hobby really, plus I am a terrible procrastinator. After I’d finished it and then received loads of rejections from Agents, I decided to self-publish it. It took many months for word to get around, but somehow it reached No. 1 in the Kindle Chart, knocking Gone Girl off the top spot. Nobody was more surprised than me, except perhaps for those Agents! The book then came to the attention of the editing team at Headline who offered to take it on and the rest is history.
3. What did you do before becoming an author?
My husband and I had our own business making licensed gifts and I did the accounts. This went on for twenty-nine years until we sold the business. My husband carried on working for the new owners, but they didn’t want me so I knuckled down and finished The Letter instead.
4. Do you think your writing style has changed at all since you first wrote THE LETTER?
No, I don’t think it has. One of the most gratifying things people say about my books is that they couldn’t put them down or they were a real page-turner. This is exactly what I set out to accomplish. I’m not going to win any literary prizes, but what the reader will get is a fast-moving, easy to read book, with lots going on. Hopefully, nobody is going to close the book at the end and say, ‘well nothing happened.’
5. THE KEY deals with women forced into some very difficult and emotional situations – did you find some parts of the novel hard to write because of this?
One of the great joys of writing a book for me is the research. I love delving into worlds about which I know nothing about. Researching the history of our mental hospitals was certainly an eye-opener and I heard some truly terrible stories. Many of the so-called ‘cures’ were barbaric and it is totally unimaginable today that these procedures were allowed to be carried out. Some parts were difficult to write because although my characters are not real, people did live through this system and I owe it to them to make the book an accurate portrayal as possible.
6. Do you have a future novel planned and are we allowed any snippets of information?
Yes, I do! I can’t give too much away, but on a cycling holiday in Spain last year, we came across a deserted Hermitage in the middle of nowhere, quite cut off from civilisation. Although, it was beautiful, I began to think about what made someone leave their family behind and go and live in isolation, giving themselves to God, in pursuit of a reward in the afterlife. Of course, there’s another thread too – Manchester, 1978. It’s quite a contrast – but a tragedy will bring these two worlds together. The photos attached show the hermitage and the area which inspired this idea.
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