Kate Hewitt stopped by the Tule blog to discuss the first book in the Keeping Up with the Penryns series, A Casterglass Christmas!
The Penryns are quite the family. Where do you get the inspiration for this series and the characters?
It was so much fun writing this family with all their quirks and eccentricities. I had a little inspiration from the classic book I Capture the Castle, and also from the castle Casterglass is based on, in Cumbria, Muncaster.
How do you relate to Althea, your heroine, and how do you hope readers will relate to her? How do you relate to John?
I relate to a middle-aged woman struggling to figure out what the rest of her life is going to look like. I think everyone gets to an age where time doesn’t stretch out as endlessly as before, and it makes you think more seriously about your choices. I relate to John as someone who has been slow and steady and dependable, faithful in the little things, who is looking for more in life.
What was your favorite scene to write and why?
My favourite scene to write was probably Althea’s arrival, when she is plunged into this crazy family and their amazing castle, with all its quirks.
Here is a snippet:
“Come on,” she told her two children who were lagging behind, and she headed for the kitchen door. Its handle turned easily enough, and Althea breathed a sigh of relief as she stepped into the kitchen, the comforting rumbling of an Aga like a soundtrack to the room as well as her childhood. In the gloom lit only by the moonlight outside, filtering from behind the storm clouds, she saw everything exactly as it had always been: the battered red Aga along one wall, the rectangular table of scarred oak seating twelve taking up one end of a room the size of a basketball court, or at least half of one. Several Welsh dressers lined another wall, filled with dusty Willow Ware. On the other end of the kitchen there was a sofa and several squashy armchairs, every one of them piled with old newspapers and magazines.
“What is that smell?” Poppy exclaimed in disgust as she stepped into the kitchen behind Althea. “It’s absolutely rank.”
Althea took a sniff, and then wished she hadn’t. The usual musty, dusty smell of home had definitely been dialled up a notch or five. And knowing her family, it could be originating from anything or anywhere.
“I’m not sure,” she hedged as she put down her bag by the door. “Maybe some milk’s gone off.”
“Or a whole cow.” Poppy shuddered as she looked around the room. “This looks like something from an episode of Hoarders.”
Do you have any favorite Christmas or holiday traditions?
Yes, lots, and readers might recognize them from some of my Christmas books! We have shepherd’s pie on Christmas Eve, and also read Luke 2 and sing Silent Night before hanging our stockings. On Christmas Day, we all go around one at a time and open presents, and then there’s a scramble at the end. And of course we have a Christmas roast dinner, and Christmas crackers (a particularly English tradition!) and pavlova for dessert.
What are you currently reading?
I am currently reading a sweeping epic set in Colonial India, called Zemindar.
About the Author
Kate Hewitt wrote her first story at the age of five, simply because her older brother had written one and she thought she could do it too. That story was one sentence long—fortunately, they have become a bit more detailed as she’s grown older.
She studied drama in college and shortly after graduation moved to New York City to pursue a career in theatre. This was derailed by something far better—meeting the man of her dreams who happened also to be her older brother’s childhood friend.
Ten days after their wedding they moved to England, where Kate worked a variety of different jobs—drama teacher, editorial assistant, church youth worker, secretary, and finally mother.
When her oldest daughter was one year old, she sold her first short story to a British magazine, The People’s Friend. Since then she has written many stories and serials as well as novels. In 2007 she received ‘The Call’ from Mills & Boon for her first Harlequin Presents novel, The Italian’s Chosen Wife. Since then she has written over 25 books for Harlequin, and also writes women’s fiction for Carina UK and Lion Hudson Press. She loves writing stories that both tackle tough issues and celebrate the redeeming power of love.
Besides writing, she enjoys reading, traveling, and learning to knit—it’s an ongoing process and she’s made a lot of scarves.
Kate lives in a tiny village on the northwest coast of England with her husband, five young children, and an overly affectionate Golden Retriever.
I loved that scene you described. I remember laughing as I read it. I can’t wait to read the rest of this series.