Home Interviews Katherine Langrish for Lost in Childhood

Katherine Langrish for Lost in Childhood

by Louisa Klein

1)Why children’s books? Did you choose this genre or were you ‘chosen’ by it?
Oh, chosen by it, definitely. I can’t remember ever having wanted to do anything else. I began writing children’s fiction when I was nine or ten years old – I’d written stories and poems before that, but aged about nine I discovered the Narnia books, and like so many other children, was passionate about them. I almost believed Narnia was a real place; I was desperate to read more about it, and so I wrote my very own ‘Tales of Narnia’. Fan-fiction, you’d call it now, but the burning admiration of a child deserves a better name. Of course my stories were terrible! But I enjoyed writing them, I did fill an entire notebook with them, and I suppose taught myself that I had the capacity to finish something. After that, I just went on writing more of the sort of books I loved. Between the ages of ten and twenty I wrote at least five more unpublished and doubtless unpublishable children’s novels. And of course I still write and love children’s literature!
Is there a children’s author, living or dead, who inspired you particularly?
C.S. Lewis, clearly. But also Rosemary Sutcliff’s historical novels, particularly ‘The Silver Branch’ and ‘The Mark of the Horse Lord’, with their carefully researched world-building, strong characters and story lines, and lyrical writing. And Alan Garner, whose use of Celtic and Norse folklore was a massive influence. My, let me see (*counts on fingers*), fourth unpublished novel, written when I was about fifteen, was all about menacing moon goddesses pursuing fugitives through dripping English woods, and indifferent golden-faced elves walking along straight tracks and dancing in stone circles. Lewis, Sutcliff and Garner were writers who opened worlds for me: the worlds of the past, the worlds of fantasy, the worlds of folklore and mythology, and I have been walking in them ever since.
2) Please tell us about your last book, and if you can, about your future projects.
My last book is a slim ‘quick read’, a mermaid story called ‘Forsaken’. It’s based on the classic 19th century poem ‘The Forsaken Merman’ by Matthew Arnold, which in turn is based on a Scandinavian legend about a merman who marries a mortal bride, Margaret. They live happily together under the sea until one day Margaret hears the church bells ringing and feels a sudden longing to go on shore and pray in the ‘little grey church’. The merman, who loves her, agrees to part with her for a short visit. But once on land she never returns to the sea, leaving her husband and little mer-children grieving.
The old belief about merfolk, and indeed all the faerie, was that they had no souls, and therefore no life after death. Margaret fears she too will lose her soul, her chance of eternal life, if she stays with her mer-husband. But this fear leads her to abandon all her loved ones. Can such an action ever be right?
In the original Danish legend the merman clambers into the churchyard to find his wife, but when he peeps into the church ‘all the stone images turned their backs on him.’ When I read that, I got the authentic shiver running down my spine, and I knew I had to tell the story again; but this time I wondered what would have happened if, instead of the merman, one of Margaret’s own children had gone after her to bring her back?
As for my next project, it couldn’t be more different: it’s a post-apocalyptic YA novel set in London in the late 22nd century, with fantasy and sci-fi elements.
3) How was your writing journey? Was it difficult to find an agent and get published?
I was lucky. My first published novel, ‘Troll Fell’ was rejected about nine or ten times, I think, and I realised I needed professional input to sharpen it up. I went to the editorial consultancy Cornerstones, where I received the encouragement and criticism I needed to transform the book from near-but-yet-so-far to a professional standard. Following that I was introduced to my amazing agent Catherine Clarke at Felicity Bryan, who eventually sold the book at auction to HarperCollins for a six-figure sum.

4) What’s your opinion about the E-book revolution. Would you consider the indie route?
I don’t know if anyone really understands the E-book market yet, but I have friends, published authors, who are able to bring back some of their really excellent out–of-print titles which their traditional publishers haven’t been able to support, and present them to the public again. That can only be good. On the other hand, for a new title, I personally still prefer traditional publishing with a good editor and, hopefully, a decent marketing budget.
Nowadays many publishers expect their authors to use social media to promote their books. Many authors on the other hand would prefer to write only, without being distracted by digital trivialities. What are your thoughts?
The genie is well and truly out of the bottle, and any author who thinks they can expect to keep their head down and let the publisher do all the marketing, is, quite frankly, living in Cloud Cuckoo Land. Nobody cares as much about a book as the author, so why wouldn’t we do all we can to help promote our own titles? Publishers tend to concentrate their efforts around the month of publication, if they do much at all: they can’t exceed their budget and may spend most of it on high profile, high-return titles. It’s pointless to complain about it. We just have to divide up the time in a workmanlike way. I’ll do what I can to help my books along: it can be a pleasure; but I’m keenly aware I do have to make time to write.
Info about the author: 
Katherine Langrish is the author of several children’s fantasy novels
including the Viking trilogy *Troll Fell*, *Troll Mill* and *Troll
Blood*, recently republished in one volume as *West of the Moon*, and
*Dark Angels *(US title *The Shadow Hunt*), one of Kirkus Reviews’ Best
Books for Children 2010 and the US Board on Books for Young People’s
Outstanding International Books 2011.Her writing is strongly influenced
by folklore and legends and has been compared with Alan Garner’s.
To know more, please visit:
To buy her latest book, simply click on the cover below:

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