Interview with historical author Katherine Pym

Katherine PymYour latest release is JASPER’S LAMENT. Tell us about it.

It is London 1664. The 2nd Anglo/Dutch war is imminent and England prepares against the threat. After Jasper’s father dies, he learns his father hid the truth of who he was behind a façade of religion. Secrets abound and Jasper finds himself in a plot not of his making.

You have a passion for 1660’s London. What drew you to this time period?

17th century England is an exciting era to study, filled with intellectual, science & political growth, and the decade of the 1660’s its focal point. Living through these extraordinary historical events, people went about their lives as best they could, and tried to accept these changes, some subtle, some that exploded in their faces.

There was so much going on during these years, history deserves one novel per year until old London nearly burns to the ground in 1666.

Pym-JaspersLament-1333x2000As with most people, my characters embrace these life-shifts or merely cope with them. The main characters are not actual historical persons. My stories deal with the common man during a time most extraordinary.

What do you hope readers take with them after reading your work?

I hope readers will take away the experience of being there, in old London, as they walk through narrow lanes. On most days, the city is under a pall of coal smoke, its grit and grime settling on everyone’s noses and cheeks.

When they stroll down the lanes they will encounter a cacophony of sounds. Vendors yell or sing as they hawk their wares and try to be heard over the boisterous activity in the streets.

In some areas, you can spread your arms and touch houses on both sides of the lane, all the while crowds jostling you. As he or she rambles along, the reader will bypass curs and pigs rooting in the refuse piled on walkways. The wider streets allow carts to squeeze through, but if they are too tall, the edges will scrape against upper eaves, while their iron clad wheels (against the law in London) clatter over broken cobbles until you are near deaf.

Readers will experience the myriad of smells, from the enticement of gently roasted pullets in cook shops to the malodorous stink of offal and piss, the tannery section of town, or new beer being made for a family’s daily consumption. Rounding a corner, the reader will run into bakeries with newly baked bread that mingles alongside churches where bodies are buried under the flagstone floors, and for an extra coin or two, a loved one rests near your pew.

When the last page is finished, I hope the reader will sigh, then at night dream of London during the tumultuous years of the 1660’s.

Do you have a favorite writing place?

I have a little office with my research stacked around me (not much elbowroom to type), my notes, music, and a window I can look out of as I think of the next line to write.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

Research over centuries shows people are the same no matter where or when we are born. We run, walk, or skip through our lives and soak in whatever knowledge we can before passing on to wherever is out there.

If you could have dinner with any fictional character by another author, whom would you choose?

Sidney Carton from Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.

What’s next for you?

I am researching London 1665 when plague fills the land. It’ll be a trick to keep the deadly scythe as a backdrop to my real story when it fills most of the year, takes many lives, and has been written about so often, but to continue in my ‘series’, for lack of a better word, I can’t simply skip 1665 and go straight to 1666 (which will include the great fire and often written about).

People have a tendency to look the other way when they run into something unhappy. If it doesn’t involve them, they’ll feel sad, maybe help the person. We are curious, but once we see what happens, or know what will happen, as a safety precaution, it’s too hard to watch the horror unfold, and many walk away.

When I write of London 1665 I’ll have to be mindful not to be too dreary. I don’t want the reader to put down the book because it is filled with too much death and horror. Even Shakespeare knew how to break into a tragedy with a bit of comic relief. I’ll have to do the same throughout my next novel. Too much tragedy can ruin a story.

Katherine and her husband (along with their puppy-dog) divide their time between Seattle and Austin.

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