Kate Sawyer: 1st December 2021
This was a fascinating evening with a young author who became a writer through an untraditional route. Ably interviewed by Gill Lowe, Kate explained that her journey towards her first published novel started in February 2017 with a challenge: to write a play every day in February. Twenty-eight plays later, one of the outcomes from this was a work called ‘Blue Whale’ which provided the inspiration for The Stranding: Kate Sawyer’s debut novel. Readers have found it very hard to classify her book; it is truly original.
Starting with the idea of a family living on a beach within the bones of a whale, Kate’s book evolved against a background of an unexpected career break for the author and some initially unsuccessful fertility treatment. She applied for a creative writing course at the University of East Anglia and submitted the first draft of The Stranding as part of the application. Luckily she met a literary agent and got advice and connections while on holiday and with judicious use of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook managed to secure her own agent and eventually contact interested publishers — her contract for the book being signed just before lockdown March 2020.
The novel deals with the story of Ruth, a teacher in Suffolk and her family. As the result of an unspecified world catastrophe and various vicissitudes she ends up sheltering on a beach within the bones of a dead whale. The book is by turns about whales, the environment, families, being a mother and ultimately hope; while Ruth represents ‘every woman’. The book has been described as a type of science fiction — which the author finds strange: it actually defies genre.
This was an absorbing evening, with the questions being as intelligent as the responses. Well done to Gill for conducting such a revealing interview.