November, 2007


Kate Harrison is the author of four novels, including her latest release The Self-Preservation Society. Based in London, she has worked as a journalist and TV reporter and is now a full-time author.

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  1. What can you tell us about the book you're just finishing working on?

    It's called The Secret Shopper's Revenge and it's about three women who become friends while they're working as mystery shoppers, snooping on bad service in shops and bars. Each woman has a secret of her own, and a reason for wanting revenge. It's been a brilliant excuse to go to all my favourite London shops, but also to dredge up memories of the times when I've wanted to run screaming from a changing room, and when I worked as a Saturday girl in a hardware and kitchenware shop at the age of 17. It's published in May 2008.

  2. Which of your characters do you most identify with?

    Probably Jo in The Self-Preservation Society - like her, I was terrified of nuclear war when I was growing up (though I never went to the lengths of stockpiling baked beans in case of the holocaust) and have also been a bit of a scaredy cat in the past. For me, writing novels was a way to become braver - for Jo, it's an accident that triggers the big changes in her life!

  3. What is your greatest fear?

    I'm still scared of nuclear war but on a day-to-day basis I hate flying and the dentist. I am also a bit scared of making small talk at cocktail parties. I always run out of things to say . . .

  4. Were you ever a Brownie?

    Sadly not, which may be why I felt the need to write Brown Owl's Guide to Life. I lived in Holland for three years as a child in the 70s and they weren't big on uniformed youth groups there. I was a Girl Guide when we came to live back in England, and used to help out in the Brownie pack but it wasn't quite the same thing. I hated camping, and spent a miserable Easter under canvas with my fellow Guides. It didn't stop raining all weekend.

  5. How important is the internet to your writing career?

    It's a huge help - and a massive hindrance. On the plus side, it really does reduce the isolation that can kick in when you're working from home. It also makes lots of factual research easy as one-two-three-Google. But the web also offers far too many opportunities for procrastination and I am an expert at wasting time on message boards and blogs.

  6. Tell us about the Novel Racers.

    It started as a light-hearted race between me and another author, Lucy Diamond, who had been following my word count on my blog - we realised we were about to start new books at the same time so we thought it would be fun to compete. Then I posted about it on my blog, offering any other writers the chance to join in, and it just grew and grew. I've been taking a bit of a break from my blog (though I plan to resume soon) so the Novel Racers, now around 40-strong, set up their own online home at - it's a great support group for writers of all ages and experience.

  7. What is your favourite piece of feedback you've received about one of your books?

    It's too hard to single out one, but I love it when people say that a book has mirrored their experience and made them feel better by making them laugh, or helping them to see there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I hope that's because, even though the stories are humorous, I do put my heart and soul into my characters and their experiences.

  8. Tell us about how you got your first book deal for Old School Ties.

    I won a competition at the Winchester Writers' Conference in Hampshire - I'd tried a few agents, and had the usual rejection letters, but winning the novel contest meant I got myself a publishing deal and an agent in the space of a fortnight. I know it's a cliche but I really did feel like I was walking on air!

  9. What do you know now that you wish you knew before you were published?

    To stay motivated because I'd end up achieving my dream and being published. Oh, and maybe that I should try to sleep with a famous person, to help generate publicity! Seriously, I learn something new about the process of writing and editing with every book, but each writer has a different method and so part of the journey of discovery is finding out what works for you. I have also been so pleasantly surprised by how supportive other writers can be. I think that's because our jobs are very solitary, so we all know how important it is to have people in the same boat who you can moan to or celebrate with!

  10. What does chick lit mean to you?

    To be honest, the term used to drive me a bit crazy - it can be used in an insulting way, to suggest that women writers and readers are only interested in shoes and shopping (though, of course, both have their place!). I'm a bit more laid-back these days as readers know that the term encompasses a broad range of books, from romantic comedies to big emotional reads. The best 'chick lit' writers - Lisa Jewell or Marian Keyes, for example - combine great story-telling with bags of insight into people and relationships.

  11. What are you reading now?

    I am reading the Virago Book of the Joy of Shopping (for inspiration), and Matt Dunn's very funny From Here to Paternity (for fun).

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