Catherine Kullmann—Short Biography
I was born and educated in Dublin. Following a three-year courtship conducted mostly by letter, I moved to Germany where I lived for twenty-five years before returning to Ireland. I have worked in the Irish and New Zealand public services and in the private sector. My husband and I have been married for over forty years. We have three adult sons and two grandchildren.
I have a keen sense of history and of connection with the past which so often determines the present. I am fascinated by people. I love a good story, especially when characters come to life in a book.
I have always enjoyed writing, I love the fall of words, the shaping of an expressive phrase, the satisfaction when a sentence conveys my meaning exactly. I enjoy plotting and revel in the challenge of evoking a historic era for characters who behave authentically in their period while making their actions and decisions plausible and sympathetic to a modern reader. In addition, I am fanatical about language, especially using the right language as it would have been used during the period about which I am writing. But rewarding as all this craft is, there is nothing to match the moment when a book takes flight, when your characters suddenly determine the route of their journey.
Catherine, I am sure that you are tired of being asked the usual questions that would be interviewers ask authors, so hopefully this interview is an interview with a difference and I have come up with some unusual questions!
If your latest book The Murmur of Masks was adapted into a TV show or a film, who would you like to play the lead roles?
Kate Beckinsale and Aidan Turner
(Note from Diana: I know a lot of laydees who will watch if Mr Turner is involved!!!)
*If, as a one off, (and you could guarantee publication!) you could write anything you wanted, is there another genre you would love to work with and do you already have a budding plot line in mind?
Before the HNS Oxford Conference I would have said no, but after Christian Courtney’s and Anna Belfrage’s inspiring presentation I am tempted by the idea of timeslip. It is very early days yet, however.
(Note from Diana: Yes. It was totally amazing and inspiring.)
Do you have any rituals and routines when writing? Your favourite cup for example or ‘that’ piece of music...??
I need silence and regular cups of tea. I start by reading and editing what I wrote the previous day and follow on from there.
What is the worse book you have ever read? The Da Vinci Code
What made it unreadable for you? Too much superfluous content, including endless, tedious descriptions of place.
Other than writing full time, what would be your dream job?
There is no other. I have retired from my day job and hope to continue writing until I keel over at my desk.
Coffee or tea? One large coffee in the afternoon, otherwise tea.
Red or white? Whatever matches what I’m eating. Frequently it is a chilled Rosé as we love Mediterranean food. (Note from Diana: Me too! For me The Med is about the food!)
If you had free choice over the font your book is printed in, what font/fonts would you choose?
Fairfield, which is an old-style serif typeface designed by Rudolph Ruzicka and released in 1940. I have one book set in it; it is very elegant and makes for a very pleasant read. I also love the uneven page edges you get in some American hardbacks and decorated hardback covers instead of a dust jacket.
(Note from Diana: My business and consequently full time job, is selling vintage printing equipment. That is a totally wonderful choice and I applaud your excellent taste.)
Imagine that you could get hold of any original source document. What would it be?
A complete bound set of La Belle Assemblée for the period 1810 to 1820.
(Note from Diana: Wow! Yes! If you can, may I read it, please???)
Historical fiction authors have to contend with real characters invading our stories. Are there any ‘real’ characters you have been tempted to prematurely kill off or ignore because you just don’t like them or they spoil the plot?
This is not an issue for me. While real people sometimes have walk-on parts, for example Lord Byron and Colonel Colborne in The Murmur of Masks, my characters and their stories are pure fiction.
Are you prepared to go away from the known facts for the sake of the story and if so how do you get around this?
No. I enjoy the challenge of having my characters live in a real world shaped by known events and the constraints imposed by society in that time. I think that this sinking into the past is partly what attracts readers to historical fiction.
Do you find that the lines between fact and fiction sometimes become blurred?
Of course, especially when you insert your character into a major event such as the Battle of Waterloo. Unless you are writing alternative history, it is important to remain as true to the original as possible.
Have you ever totally hated or fallen in love with one of your characters?
No. I try to understand them and sometimes think I am too nice—I have had to go back and make my baddies more unpleasant.
What do you enjoy reading for pleasure?
As I am immersed in the Regency world when writing or researching, I tend not to read novels set in that period although I love Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series. I like historical fiction set in almost all periods and also futuristic/paranormal/alternative history but not straight science fiction.
What drink would you recommend drinking whilst reading your latest book?
A glass of dry Madeira.
Last but not least... favourite historical author?
This was so difficult to answer. I have picked three favourites whom I hope will write more books; Gillian Bradshaw—I love her novels set in the ancient world, Ariana Franklin’s Mistress of the Art of Death series—I hope her daughter, who finished the last one, will continue with them, and Jill Paton Walsh’s splendid resumption of Dorothy L Sayer’s Lord Peter Wimsey books.
Thank you, Catherine. I really enjoyed this.