Interview with author Kitty Wilson
This month, we are thrilled to welcome author Kitty Wilson to our blog. Her book series, The Cornish Village School, features characters you just can't help but fall in love with - and all of these books are set in Cornwall. The most recent release, Happy Ever After, culminates in the finale of the popular romantic comedy series.
There are 5 books in total and each one tells the story of individual characters set in the fictional village of Penmenna. No matter which book you're reading, Kitty Wilson deftly manages to capture a vibrant humour in her writing, explores what local village life can be like in Cornwall, and yields a truthfulness to her characters that leaves you desperate to be by their side.
Join us and read on to discover more about Kitty Wilson, her writing and her latest book, Happy Ever After.
Tell us about your wonderful book series, The Cornish Village School, and what inspired you to write it?
Originally when I was planning Breaking the Rules (the first book), I knew I wanted to write romance. I adore a happy-ever-after and I knew that my love of Cornwall would feature strongly in anything that I was to write but after that I was unsure where to go. So, I took the age-old mantra ‘write what you know’ seriously, and having been a primary school teacher in Cornwall, decided it made sense for me to use a school as my setting.
Once that had been decided the themes became clear and off I went. Whilst the whole story is obviously entirely fictional – it really is – I found having experience in the classroom made writing romance set in a school lots of fun. The heroine of my story was to be the headteacher and the village school was to be faced with possible closure, thus giving her a worthy battle to fight.
Living just outside of Lostwithiel meant I had The Eden Project down the road, we made regular trips as a family to Heligan and I loved my veg patch so gardening was at the forefront of my mind. Having the hero hosting a gardening show from a local Manor house seemed like the natural next step and ta-daa, the first book was born.
When I was offered my publication deal for this first book, my editor suggested I write a series based around the school and the village community and I very happily agreed.
What has your journey been like from book 1 (Breaking the Rules) to the finale of book 5 (Happy Ever After)? Is there anything in particular you wish you had known before?
I have loved writing this series. Whilst the five books have been published over a two-year period, it did take three years from start to finish, three years of waking up every day and immersing myself in the fictional village of Penmenna and the community there. And I learnt a lot, I hope, in the course of these three years.
Initially, I was a little insecure about my writing, about the jokes I would make, about the traits I would give certain characters. I was terrified of offending anyone but I soon realised that if I continued down that path I would end up having terribly bland characters and that having people in the books that said or did atrocious things didn’t mean I approved of them, their actions merely evidenced how awful that character was – anyone who has read these books knows I mean Marion here. Marion is horrendous (and yet over time she became my absolute favourite, the last book in the series – which was published in June – ended up being her story).
The other thing I learnt was to trust my brain. By this, I mean that when there was a plot niggle or I would hit a wall, the worst thing I could do was to worry about it. My brain would sort it out. I realised this somewhere around book two and began to trust in it more and more as I went along. Now I truly believe that if you feed the information you need into your brain and walk away and do other things, the solution will somehow pop into your head at some point. I’m not suggesting anyone use this as an excuse not to write but if I’m genuinely stuck, I give myself a couple of days, remind myself gently of the issue now and again – I don’t forget it entirely – and the answer magically presents itself. It is a fabulous feeling.
So if I had known to stop overthinking and trust my brain then I wouldn’t have had nearly as much angst.
The Cornish Village School series is largely based around a school setting. What made you decide to write about this?
Being an ex-teacher meant that I was used to being in the classroom, I understood the way the teaching day panned out and the practical things involved in working in a school. But more importantly, as a teacher and a parent, it meant I knew about the human side: the teachers who struggle to have privacy in a small community despite having the same everyday problems in life that everyone else does; the wonderful, hilarious and heart-warming things that children do and say; the realities of being both sides of the playground door. I also knew how supportive relationships between parents and teaching staff could be, as are those formed between parents waiting to collect their children. I myself have made lifelong friends that way.
So for me, this was the perfect recipe. I could create extreme, comedic characters by amplifying the competitive nature and sheer silliness, and likeable, relatable main characters in the teaching staff. I wanted to explore how these people have to present publicly as calm, kind and utterly in control but how they too are as human as the rest of us, and are dealing with all sorts of things from their past as well as living in their present. Then I could add some twinkly-eyed heroes with buckets of integrity, some wonderfully romantic moments and a hefty dollop of humour and my setting and characters were created.
Cornwall is often tied to ideas of romance. What do you think there is about this county that makes it so popular for love stories to unfold?
Oh my goodness, where to start? Cornwall is heaven. I am biased but, nonetheless, I think it’s true. It is a county rich with history, of jagged cliffs, sandy beaches and brooding moorland. There is beauty almost everywhere you look and it is no surprise to me that so much romantic fiction is set here. I myself grew up reading these books, tales of smuggling and brooding Cornishmen took up a large part of my adolescence. Du Maurier has a lot to answer for – I was forever waiting for a pirate to whisk me away.
But it’s not just the beauty of the scenery that makes it so captivating, so perfect a setting for romance, although let’s face it that on its own is enough. The Cornish are rule-breakers – back to smugglers and pirates – they will happily challenge authority and the whole county is imbued with the mischief of piskies who will misbehave if you don’t leave them a bit of your pasty. As well as this, the wild and the mystical combine in this county, Bodmin Moor and Boscastle spring to mind. This spirit of adventure, the hint of the otherworldly and the sheer beauty of the county lends itself to romantic imaginings and provides so much inspiration for writers. Secret coves and sunsets on the beach are the very epitome of the romantic dream. Throw in a brooding hero – think Ross Poldark – and it is no surprise that Cornwall becomes the perfect romantic setting.
What do you love most about Cornwall, and why?
I brought my children up in Cornwall and the things I love about it are deeply woven into the books I write. If I were to prioritise the top two it would be the beaches and the sense of community.
We spent every spare minute on the beach, even when I was working I would zoom out the door as soon as I could to spend time with my children splashing about in the sea, sculling on our backs looking up at the cliffs, barbecuing on the beach, burying each other in stones and then I would do my planning and marking late at night when they were in bed, happy and exhausted by the day’s activities. We didn’t limit our love of the beach to summer, we would picnic on the beach at all times of the year and it really was our happy place.
Then there is the spirit of community, I find that the villages are often quirky, picturesque and a perfect microcosm of all human behaviour. I love the community feel, people may be quick to gossip but they are even quicker to help. I love how the community pulls together, creates a cocoon of warmth and support through the tough times as well as the good. When I moved house, I had over thirty people (really!) turn up to help over the course of two days. In my books community is supportive and funny and a character in its own right and that really reflects my real-life experience.
Now The Cornish Village School series is complete, what can readers expect from you next?
Ah! I get lots of lovely messages from readers asking if I’ll be writing a series again, and I am sure one day I will but the next book is a stand-alone. I have to be fairly Secret Squirrel about it at the moment as nothing has been formally announced although I can say I have now moved to a different publisher.
I no longer live in Cornwall – although I will be returning the minute my partner retires and we can head back down the A30 – so I thought I should write a different setting. This book is set in Bristol and Bath and is a Christmas story. Although I do miss writing about Penmenna and its inhabitants, I have fallen deeply in love with my new hero and heroine - I really do adore them - and hope that readers will too when it hits the shelves next year.
Kitty Wilson lived in Cornwall for twenty-five years having been dragged there, against her will, as a stroppy teen. She is now remarkably grateful to her parents for their foresight and wisdom – and that her own children aren’t as hideous. Recently she has moved to Bristol, but only for love and on the understanding that she and her partner will be returning to Cornwall to live very soon. She spends most of her time welded to the keyboard, dreaming of the beach or bombing back down the motorway for a quick visit! She has a penchant for very loud music, equally loud dresses and romantic heroines who speak their mind.
You can order any book from The Cornish Village School series from us by using our online order form here. Alternatively, please use the contact button at the top of the page to get in touch with any books you would like to order if you can't find them on our website.
Hold on to your reading hats, we are working on releasing future blog posts featuring different interviews with authors who have deep connections to Cornwall. Check back on our blog, or follow us on Twitter or Instagram for the latest announcements so you don't miss out.