My guest today on Espresso Tales is Kate Braithwaite, historical novelist, whose latest book, The Road to Newgate, is about a man voted one of the worst ten Britons of all time - Titus Oates.
I'll let Kate introduce herself:
Kate: I’m a mum of three and Scottish, although I have lived in different parts of England, Canada, and now we live near Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, a place that proudly calls itself ‘The Mushroom capital of the World!”
Megan: Kate, thanks for joining me. Can I get you something to drink?
Kate: Hmm. It’s hot right now over here so I’m keen on cold strawberry green tea, thanks.
Megan: Of course. Please tell me a little about your latest book - the premise sounds intriguing.
Kate: The Road to Newgate is about a dark time in English history, in the late 17th century, when Titus Oates had London in uproar with false claims that Catholics were planning to assassinate Charles II. But against that background, it is really about a marriage: about a couple called Nathaniel and Anne Thompson, who, because of Nat’s work, get caught up in the plot, become enemies of Titus Oates and find their security, friends, their marriage, and even their lives are at risk. Oates has been voted one of the top ten worst Britons and is a great villain that I loved bringing to life on the page.
Megan: A fascinating time in history. What inspires your writing?
Kate: Definitely history. I really think there are so many interesting stories and people in our past that can be explored in fiction. I love doing the research part and finding mysteries or scandals to read about. I feel strongly that the past informs the present and that although people may change in certain ways (understanding of the world, religious beliefs, social changes) in other ways people are always people, concerned with love, family, money, life, death, secrets and lies.But most of all, I’m inspired by all the books I have read and loved as a lifelong fiction lover. I’ve read so many great books with fantastic plots and incredible characters and I’m always trying to write a book that I would love as a reader. I’ve always gravitated to historical and crime fiction as a reader, so it is no surprise that historical crime seems to be my niche.
Megan: Do you have any writing rituals?
Kate: I think I need some writing rituals! I certainly need to be more disciplined. I have so many things ideas for novels and getting a book out of your head and onto paper is an incredibly time-consuming business. I wish I could say that I write for two hours every day but the truth is I don’t. Right now, my kids are on summer holiday for ten weeks (blaaa!). For some reason I can write non-fiction with other people in the house but for fiction I want to be on my own! So when they are all out at school again in September I will be at my desk at 7.30 am with my dogs on the floor waiting for a walk and the cat probably sitting on the one piece of paper on the desk that I need to refer to. I’ll have a cup of tea next to me and I’ll be ready to go. Until then, I’m writing in my head, thinking about characters and working out plot lines.
Megan: What sort of books do you like to read? What was the last book you read?
Kate: I just read The Death of Mrs Westaway by Ruth Ware. I started it in the evening and woke up in the morning and finished it in bed with a cup of coffee. It’s a super read – family secrets, a missing sister, questions over who someone’s father is, a big old house and a contested will. I love books like that. I’m going on holiday to the beach this week so I have lots of books by Crooked Cat Books authors to read and also Forever Amber – it’s a classic of 17th century historical fiction (or so I’m told) and it’s a big fat book that’s perfect for the beach.
Megan: What kind of research do you undertake ahead of writing a book? I imagine with historical fiction, research is vital.
Kate: Research is a big part of my books. I’m writing historical fiction but not just a story set in the past. I’ve chosen so far to base my books on real events – a poisoning scandal in Paris , a fake plot that caused uproar in London – so I need to know all about the facts before I start weaving in the fiction. Research means reading lots of history books, hours surfing the internet and, where possible, visits to the places I’m writing about. But my favourite aspect of research is finding documents from the time in question.
For The Road to Newgate I read several lengthy trial transcripts and at times quoted from them in the story. The transcripts are word for word records of events over 300 years in the past but the voices of the people are vivid and real. There’s sarcasm, disgust, complaints, interruptions – the original sources make the people come alive.
My next book is about an intrepid 19th century Nellie Bly. I’m constantly reading and re-reading her articles. She is super smart, has a dry wit and doesn’t suffer fools in any way. Hearing her voice is very important to me getting her character on the page in my novel.
Megan: Kate, thanks for joining me and all the best with The Road to Newgate.
Kate: Thanks for having me.
To learn more about Kate and her writing, you can visit her at: