We are thrilled to have debut author, Kate Baker visit us to chat about her book, Maid of Steel, writing and ghostly goings on at boarding school. Her Instagram stories, Otis her dog photos, and chats always make us smile especially this week with her book launch. If you don’t follow her, you’re missing a treat.
Grab your favourite beverage and put your feet up for five to catch up with her news.
Monday Merry Meet: Kate Baker
Willow: Welcome Kate and Otis, I hope you found us okay. Pop through to the back and make yourself comfy. Feel free to let Otis on the sofa, Vincent has gone on his daily prowl of the harbour so there will be plenty of room.
Kate: Otis, stop sniffing that door. I’m sure the witches have told their cats to stay away out of sight while you’re here!
Willow: Yes, with Vincent gone Black Cat is doing whatever feline ghosts do when they’re not haunting properties so we’re safe. What can we get you to drink? We have Yorkshire tea, herbal tea, and other blends, coffee or some celebratory Prosecco. We’re so excited about your debut release and have been following the excitement on your social media.
Kate: May I be greedy and have a glass of Prosecco and a Camomile tea please? I found the latter to be particularly helpful when I was on the radio once.
Amber: I’m so glad you’re finally here as we have cake and Willow refused to let us have any without you. I’ve made Otis some homemade dog biscuits too.
Kate: I think he’s can smell that too – that nose of his will get him into trouble one day. I’d adore some cake, and thank you, Willow, for keeping it safe until I arrived.
Rosa: I’ve just finished reading Maid of Steel and adored the Irish location, and you’ve captured the atmosphere of the time. Emma is strong willed and ready to fight for suffrage. What made you choose this part of history?
Kate: I was fascinated by the Cobh Heritage Centre, a museum down in the harbour of Cobh, formerly known as Queenstown. Depictions of mass emigration brought home to me how terrible life must have been for people in Ireland after the Potato Famine hit. They left their homes in desperation, and hoping to find a new life overseas. Not everyone made it. That became the backstory to Emma’s tale. Emma is the granddaughter of Ellen, an immigrant to New York who did, in fact, make it. Emma travels back to Ireland to see where her grandmother came from. She finds lots out about her family, and lots out about herself too! It had to be set in 1911 and 1912 because of how the book ends!
Willow: Your book mentions so many historical details we knew nothing about, such as soldier’s homes where soldiers could experience a few hours of normality to help with their mental health. Were you aware of these things before you wrote the story or did they crop up in research?
Kate: No! My dear friend, Hannah, whom travels with me when hubby is too busy to leave the farm, spotted the carved out letters in concrete above a doorway in the harbour. I’d have missed it completely! We returned to our hotel and googled it, and that’s when I discovered Emile Sandes (sometimes she’s known as Elise) and all that she did for the soldiers of Ireland and then when it caught on, England too. Emma wishes something like that had been around in the states for her brother.
Rosa: In essence, Maid of Steel is a forbidden love story. Have you always been attracted to this genre?
Kate: Yes. I love fiction where we can explore the darker side of life.
Amber: This is your debut. What has your publication journey been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?
Kate: Great question, Amber. Do you know something? I wouldn’t. I needed it to take four years for the story to evolve. Over that time, my craft and understanding of character improved and had I released it earlier, I fear it would not be the quality I hope it is today. Having jumped off the Finding-an-Agent path and landing on the Indie Publishing route, I had to learn a whole new approach, but that’s where The Book Guild have come into their own.
Willow: Emma isn’t the only strong woman in your book. If you could choose one of your female characters to have afternoon tea with, who would you choose and why?
Kate: This is hard to answer! I think Alice is an intriguing devil, but it’s Mrs Walsh who really captures my attention. To seemingly have such an equal relationship with her husband in 1911 seems astonishing, yet he evidently loves her to be in work, and for a good cause, and doesn’t even bat an eyelid when she refused to be counted on the night of the Census! I’d love to know her outlook on life.
Willow: You live on a farm and run your own business, how do you balance writing and your other commitments?
Kate: By being incredibly flexible and not worrying if plans have to change. I can have a rough idea of how I want a day to go, but if one of my commitments becomes more pressing, then it has to come to the forefront and no longer do I let that bother me. I get on with it, get the other side of it and pick up the other stuff after. Chill, chill … whenever possible; that’s my motto!
Amber: Many writers visit the Emporium. Do you have any advice for people wanting to write?
Kate: Explore your ideas through free-writing. It’s hugely liberating, especially with a pen and paper. The blank screen of a laptop can be very daunting. A stolen five minutes in a carpark, or at the end of the kitchen table while the peas are simmering, can provide a quick moment of escape and your pen can flow with words as you think them. Not whole sentences; but random thoughts. Get them down, let them out. Often they quickly turn into a scene! And sometimes those scenes can morph into something from your WIP.
Willow: The Enchanted Emporium sells several candles in The Wishing Spell range which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?
Kate: (picks up A Good Night’s Sleep candle) THIS ONE! I’m an insomniac so a good night’s sleep is a rare and beautiful thing!
Willow: One candle invokes memories of your perfect holiday or day when lit. Where would it take you?
Kate: Gosh, this is hard. Perhaps the rocky beaches near Padstow in North Cornwall, where we used to go regularly while the children were growing up. But equally can I be boring and say my south-facing patio and describe a ‘holiday’ from work and farm accounts? That’s my special place – and free to get to!
Amber: That sounds a perfect special place. Ghosts and paranormal activity plague The Enchanted Emporium. Have had had any spooky experiences – has it influenced your writing?
Kate: Oooh, I have! At boarding school, in Stamford, Lincolnshire. I was about twelve and killing a Saturday afternoon alone in the dormitory, idly playing my recorder. (I wasn’t very good at the recorder, by the way). At one point, a wardrobe door swung slowly open. I stopped playing and watched. The door opened fully. I began to play the same piece (don’t ask; I don’t recall) and one of the school navy tunics began to sway. I stopped playing and got up off the bed. It stopped swaying. I played again; it swayed. I stopped; it stopped. I was spooked by this and told my friends. They wanted me to re-enact it for them a couple of hours later and sadly, one of the girls got behind the wardrobe (unbeknown to me) and pushed it gently as I played. But I swear, that first time, no-one was in the room with me. I haven’t written anything spooky of any length, but have dabbled in a bit of horror writing, and science fiction, following a course last spring.
Willow: If we could blend you a bespoke potion to give you a superpower for 24 hours, what would it be?
Kate: For everything else around me to pause, and for me to be able to type with focus for hours!
Willow: Sounds a good plan. Our Enchanted Emporium bookshelf is a small lending library full of books with either fantastical, horror, witchy or paranormal theme. What would you add to it?
Kate: Have you got the Carlos Ruiz Zafon series? Set in ancient Barcelona? If not, your witches are missing out, as are your readers. They will thank me for this when you add the series!
Rosa: We’ll check. The bookshelf likes hiding books. I have a Box of Romance books I share with friends and customers. What would you add to it?
Kate: Pernille Hughes ‘Ten Years’ is a great one … Lucy Keeling’s series is fun, and I think the Time Travellers Wife is a classic.
Willow: And finally, what are you working on currently? Or is it top secret?
Kate: The Projectionist is an inter-generational friendship story about a 90-year-old man and an eleven-year boy who wants to run away from home before the end of a six-week summer holiday, before he has to go to High School. Frank becomes Toby’s mentor, an unlikely combination which the town frown upon at first, because people always judge books by their covers!
Willow: It sounds fantastic. Thank you and Otis for joining us.
Title: Maid of Steel
Author: Kate Baker
Publisher: The Book Guild
Genre: Historical fiction, romance
Release date: 28th Feb 2023
Publisher’s link: https://www.bookguild.co.uk/bookshop/book/486/maid-of-steel-SMwd/
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/191535269X/
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/191535269X/
It’s 1911 and, against her mother’s wishes, quiet New Yorker Emma dreams of winning the right to vote. She is sent away by her parents in the hope distance will curb her desire to be involved with the growing suffrage movement and told to spend time learning about where her grandparents came from.
Across the Atlantic – Queenstown, southern Ireland – hotelier Thomas dreams of being loved, even noticed, by his actress wife, Alice. On their wedding day, Alice’s father had assured him that adoration comes with time. It’s been eight years. But Alice has plans of her own and they certainly don’t include the fight for equality or her dull husband.
Emma’s arrival in Ireland leads her to discover family secrets and become involved in the Irish Women’s Suffrage Society in Cork. However, Emma’s path to suffrage was never meant to lead to a forbidden love affair…
Kate Baker wrote terrible holiday diaries as a child, which her husband regularly asks her to read out loud for their entertainment. She has since improved and has written with intent since 2018. Maid of Steel is her second novel; the first is lining drawers in the vegetable rack at their farmhouse.