First Drafts With… Katharine Johnson

Hi everyone, and next up in today’s First Drafts Process is Katharine Johnson.

Before we launch into the Q&A, below is a brief biog of how Katharine started writing…

Katharine Johnson is the author of four novels. She grew up in Bristol and now lives in Berkshire. After doing a History degree she trained as a journalist.  She’s worked on a variety of magazines, mostly about home and lifestyle, and has written a history book. When not writing you’ll find her with a book in one hand and a coffee in the other, exploring cities, restoring a house in Italy, walking her spaniel or playing netball (although not usually at the same time.)

Her latest novel, The Suspects, is out now…

About The Suspects 

Shallow Grave meets The Secret History in this quirky psychological thriller

Bristol, 1988. Five young graduates on the threshold of their careers buy a house together in order to get a foot on the property ladder before prices rocket out of their reach. But it soon becomes the house share from hell.

After their New Year’s Eve party, they discover a body – and it’s clear they’ll be the first suspects. As each of them has a good reason from their past not to trust the police, they come up with a solution – one which forces them into a life of secrets and lies. But can they trust each other? 

Purchase links:

Amazon UK:

Amazon US

Below… you can find the chat between Katharine and myself! Enjoy!!

1) When you begin the next book, how do you go about it? 

Funnily enough, I’m just starting a new novel now. I’m going to begin by going through my notebooks and box of newspaper cuttings and the Ideas files on my computer where I store  ideas that come to me when I’m working on something else. Then I’ll play about with some characters and storylines and see which one has the most potential.

2) Do you follow the same process you did for the book before? 

I probably will although I’ve promised myself I won’t edit as I go this time so that I can get to the end of the first draft more quickly. Not sure I’ll be able to break my habit of re-reading everything from the previous writing session though!

3) What is your research process, if you have one?

Initially I research online or from books so that I have enough information to write the story but once the first draft is completed I’ll highlight areas that need verification/more detail, do more research and consult an expert in that area. For example, with The Silence I went through a scene with a police firearms expert. There are very few Italian phrases in that book but I had them checked by a native-speaking Italian to make sure they sounded natural, and I’m lucky that my sister’s a speech therapist so I could check the selective mutism aspects with her. My other sister’s a GP which was also very helpful as Abby the main character is a doctor.

For The Secret I did a lot of historical research in books and online which I enjoyed (I did History for my degree). I also visited some exhibitions and villages in Italy whose wartime histories are similar to some of the experiences described in my fictional village. 

With The Suspects I sent scenes and a list of  legal questions to an author friend who is also a lawyer and scenes involving police matters to a police fact-checking service.

4) How quickly after thinking or planning do you sit down to write?

The gap’s getting longer with each book! I don’t have an agent and having a small publisher means having to do a lot of marketing yourself (although I think that’s often also the case with larger publishers these days). I’ve been throwing my energy into getting the word out about The Suspects which has just been released, as well as trying to maintain some presence for my other three books.

But now I’m ready to face that blank page – in fact, I can’t wait to get started!

5) How does the draft form on the screen?

I write in scenes rather than in a linear way so I usually have several files open at once and do a fair bit of moving scenes around – but that means having to check the timeline quite carefully. I’m going to be using Scrivener this time so it will be interesting to see how I get on.

6) Where do you write the majority of the draft?

I have an ideas gathering stage when I’m very alert for ideas and then a notebook stage when I start writing. Then I write the novel on my laptop which I take with me everywhere and hate to be parted from until I’ve finished! I wrote most of Lies, Mistakes and Misunderstandings  in a sports centre café where my daughters had their ballet lessons. My Villa Leonida ones were written mostly in Italy and The Suspects was a project I never really expected to be published – it was just a bit of light relief while I was working on The Secret and fancied a change.

Thank you very much for visiting my blog, Katharine. Finding out about your first draft process has been fascinating!!

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