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. It was chosen by Lovereading UK as their MEGA début, listed in The Bookseller magazine’s ‘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
When did you first start writing?
My mother taught me to read and write before I started school and encouraged me in both. She’d get me to write about my day - a trip to the beach or my new shoes or whatever, and I’m told that I quickly moved on to inventing stories. So the impetus to record and to create other imaginary worlds 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.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Warkworth, a village on the coast of north Northumberland with a castle - made famous by Shakespeare and JMW Turner, a 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. Though I didn’t realise at the time, it was a beautiful, isolated and weirdly magical place to grow up. For a few years I attended a local convent school where I was one a few non-Catholic pupils and teaching was low on the agenda - which suited me perfectly, allowing as it did for endless hours of doodling and daydreaming, and studying the nuns. I then went to a boarding school in the Lake District. The Brontë sisters had once been pupils and the place had, according to rumour, been the inspiration for the school in Charlotte’s 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.
What inspires you?
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, unlike when I was growing up, I cherish the sense of space and peace, and a sort of connection with nature I didn’t have in the city. Music, too, can be inspiring, but I’ve learned over the years that silence is often better for the words to flow.
Where do you like to write?
I’m lucky enough to have my own room. It’s overlooks my garden and it’s filled with all sorts of treasures: books, photographs, paintings, my children’s pottery and artwork from when they were young, and lucky talismans - including a photograph of Jean Rhys and a signed postcard from Daphne du Maurier. At night, I regularly hear an owl or two calling out from the trees and I find that gurgling woo-woo sound very comforting.
Do you do much research?
Before I began writing my first novel, I spent years immersed in the early twentieth century. I read countless memoirs, biographies and collections of letters, as well as fiction written during that time. I studied old film reels and photographs, and listened to music from that time. There were very few archives available online then, so my research meant driving from Hampshire to London, or to another county, to visit a record office, museum or library. I also tracked down and became friends with a few octogenarians, nonagenarians, and even a couple of centenarians who were able to offer me first hand accounts and entrusted with family journals and diaries.
Who are your favourite writers?
I’m a huge 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, along with others - too many to list!
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
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.”