About Judith Kinghorn
Judith’s acclaimed début The Last Summer was first published in the UK, Canada and British Commonwealth countries in 2012, and in the USA in 2013. The novel was chosen by Lovereading UK as their MEGA début, listed in The Bookseller magazine’s round up of that year, ‘Ones To Watch’, and has been translated to languages including German, Spanish, French and Italian. Judith’s subsequent novels include The Memory of Lost Senses (2013), The Snow Globe (2015) and The Echo of Twilight (2017). She lives in Hampshire, England.
Frequently asked questions
My mother taught me to read and write before I started school, so the impetus probably began then, when I was about four. Throughout my childhood, adolescence, twenties and thirties, I kept a journal and filled notebooks; and then, finally, in my forties, I stopped the notebooks and journals and decided to write a novel.
I grew up in Warkworth, a village on the coast of north Northumberland with a ruined castle, vast empty beach and wide looping river where a pelican named Percy lived happily amongst the swans and a dolphin resided in the nearby estuary. For a few years I attended a convent school: teaching was low on the agenda, and so allowed for endless hours of doodling and daydreaming. I then went to a boarding school in the Lake District. The Brontë sisters had once been pupils and, according to rumour, it had been Charlotte’s inspiration for the school in Jane Eyre. It was miles from anywhere, surrounded by hills and usually shrouded in mist. After that, I headed straight for the bright lights of London.
Warkworth Castle, Northumberland - Thunder Storm Approaching at Sunset
People, history, art, words… the rhythm of a seemingly effortless, perfect sentence or paragraph. I studied history of art and I paint, and art in all its forms inspires me. I’m also inspired by nature. After twenty years in London I now live in the country and cherish the sense of space and peace, a connection with nature I didn’t have in the city. Music, too, can be inspiring, but I’ve learned over the years that silence can sometimes be more powerful and help the words to flow.
I’m lucky enough to have my own room. It’s quiet, overlooks my garden and is filled with all sorts of treasure: books, photographs, paintings, my children’s pottery and artwork from when they were young, and a few lucky talismans - including a photograph of Jean Rhys and a signed postcard from Daphne du Maurier. I love this room at all times of day and through all seasons because of it's ever-shifting light and atmosphere. At night, I regularly hear the owls in the trees beyond my window and find that gurgling woo-woo sound very comforting.
Before I began writing my first novel I'd spent years immersed in the early twentieth century. I read countless memoirs, biographies, collections of letters and fiction written during that time. I watched old news reels, studied photographs and maps, and because there were very few archives available online then, I'd regularly drive from Hampshire to London - or to another county - to spend a day at a record office, museum or library. I joined a local history group, tracked down and became friends with a few very old people who provided me with invaulable first hand accounts and entrusted me with family journals and diaries.
I’m a big fan of many twentieth century women writers: Jean Rhys, Virginia Woolf, Elizabeth Taylor, Rosamund Lehmann, Anita Brookner and Edith Wharton are top of the list; and Barbara Pym, Daphne du Maurier, Muriel Spark, Barbara Comyns, Beryl Bainbridge, Elizabeth Jane Howard, Edna O’Brien and Molly Keane are up there too. As for male writers... Stefan Zweig, Ivan Turgenev, James Baldwin, Patrick Hamilton, Laurie Lee, F.Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Hardy, the nature writing and poetry of Edward Thomas, and W.B. Yeats. I could go on. And on.
Author, 1890 – 1979
Firstly, read as much as you can by writers you admire. Sometimes they’ll make you feel wretched, because they’re better than you and I will ever be. But there’ll be an unconscious filtering that will help you find your own style and voice. My second bit of advice is to be patient: hold off from writing for as long as possible, and until you know who the story belongs to. I think Virginia Woolf expressed this perfectly when she said, “As for my next book, I won’t write it till it has grown heavy in my mind like a ripe pear.”