About Judith Kinghorn
Judith Kinghorn was born in Northumberland, England, and is a graduate in English and History of Art, a former Woman of the Year and Fellow of the RSA. Her acclaimed début The Last Summer was published in the UK, Canada and British Commonwealth countries in 2012, in the USA in 2013, and has been translated to languages including German, Spanish, French and Italian. Her subsequent novels include The Memory of Lost Senses (2013), The Snow Globe (2015) and The Echo of Twilight (2017). As well as being a writer, Judith is an avid reader, nature lover, and an occasional painter. She lives in Hampshire, England.
Frequently asked questions
My mother taught me to read and write before I started school, and I think my love of books and the impetus to write probably began then, when I was about four. Throughout my teens, twenties and into my thirties I kept a journal and filled notebooks. Then, finally, in my forties, I stopped the journals and notebooks 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 a 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 local convent school where 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
I'm inspired by nature and the landscape - its shifting light and colours, and its timelessness. I'm inspired by women forgotten by history; women whose lives went largely unrecorded but were nonetheless epic. And I'm inspired by old houses, not so much for their architectural form as for the stories they hold; the lives lived within their walls, the tragedies and triumphs witnessed.
I like to catch up on my reading, because there's never enough time and I always have a stack of to-be-read books; or set up my easel and paint - listening to a podcast. I love to spend time with my family, and my friends, who have to put up with my unsociability when I am writing. And I regularly head back to London, where I did all my growing-up and lived for twenty years. Although I now live in the country, I have a deep affection for London and need a blast of its energy every once in a while.
Before I began writing my first novel I'd spent years immersed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The immersion started when I decided to research the history of my house and its former inhabitants. It grew from there. At that time there were very few archives available online, so I'd regularly drive from my home in Hampshire to London, or to anther county, to spend a day at a record office, museum or library. I also 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. And I read a lot of memoirs, biographies, collections of letters, and fiction written during that time. The research on my house took me to France and Italy, and resulted in The Memory of Lost Senses. In fact it was whilst taking a break from writing The Memory of Lost Senses that I wrote The Last Summer, which was published as my début. I also spend a lot of time researching the locations for my novels. Although these might be places familiar to me, I need to know them as they were one hundred or more years ago. And because there's usually an important house or two in my novels, I spend time researching architecture, planning the internal layout and style. I have to be able to see these places and know them intimately for my characters to inhabit them.
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.
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.”