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Katy Moran was born in Cambridge and studied for a BA in English Language and Literature and an MA in Novel Writing at Manchester University. She worked in publishing for many years before writing her first historical novel, Bloodline which was published to critical acclaim. She has since written two more historical novels: Bloodline Rising and Spirit Hunter. Her fourth novel, Dangerous to Know was set in the present day. She lives in Ludlow, Shropshire with her husband and two sons.
1. Essa is a powerful and incredibly brave character who stays with you long after you’ve finished reading the novel – how easy was it to write this character?
Thank you! Essa just popped into my head, really. I could see him very clearly. We looked each other in the eye. So in some ways he was easy, but harder in others: I knew Essa so well that sometimes my editors had to ask me to make his motivations clearer. I understood just what Essa was doing and why but I hadn’t always made it clear enough to the reader. Other people’s input can really help crystallise a character – a friend who read an early draft of Bloodline suggested that Essa needed a special power or skill of some kind, and I knew that his understanding of animals would be at the heart of this. I like to think that some people still have these shamanic powers and just don’t know about it…
2. Is there something of your character (you say you’re a bit of a tomboy) in Essa? He’s so well drawn that we feel some of him must be based on someone you know well.
Essa wasn’t based on anyone I know – I don’t think there’s anything of me in him, other than that he came out of my imagination. I don’t have much physical courage and some of the things Essa gets up to make me feel quite queasy!
3. The main characters in Bloodline are male. Do you think its appeal as a consequence is of more interest to males than females?
Not necessarily – when I was a teenager, one of my favourite books was The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton – all the main characters are boys in that, too, and I loved it. My ultimate favourite book when I was about 14 or 15 (and maybe even now, too) was On the Road, by Jack Kerouac, which is about two men.
4. You say the inspiration for the story came from an antique broach given to you by your parents. Tell us more.
They were in an antique shop in Cambridge when Mum happened to notice the brooch and thought I would like it. The shop owner told her it was possibly a Victorian copy of a Viking piece. My archaeology tutor had a look and we ended up going to the British Museum, where they showed us about 16 or 17 other brooches, just the same as mine. The brooches were probably all made somewhere in East Anglia during the reign of Aethelred in the tenth century, and were so similar that they may even have all been made by the same person. Seeing very old things has always had a strong affect on me – I can’t help thinking about the people who owned them and what they might have been like.
5. Which authors do you think your readers will also enjoy?
Rosemary Sutcliff was another of my favourite writers and her books were one of the many things that inspired me to write historical novels.
6. The historical context of the novel must have meant a huge amount of research prior to writing the book. What did this involve and how long did it take?
I was studying Anglo-Saxon archaeology as part of my degree, so I was very lucky, really, because a lot of the information I needed was there already. I started writing Bloodline nearly seven years ago when I was still at university, doing an MA in Novel Writing, so it was still very fresh in my mind when I began.
7. You’ve been writing for almost as long as you can remember but when did you first feel that one day you’d write a novel?
When I was about 10.
8. Did your time working in publishing give you the impetus to find a publisher and/or change your ideas on what to write?
Well, it didn’t change my ideas on what to write because a very early draft of Bloodline was already finished by the time I got my first job back in 2003. I abandoned writing for a long time, but after a few years I missed it and asked my friend Jude to read what I’d done so far. She was working for a literary agent at the time and it all went from there. The people I worked with then were so, so helpful and supportive and gave me invaluable advice about early versions of the book. The fact that I was working in publishing probably speeded up the process of finding a publisher, but you definitely don’t need to know people in the business to get one.
9. With both your publisher and author hat on, what advice can you give would-be children’s authors in getting published?
Love your characters and the places they go. You can go anywhere and do anything if you write, and have the biggest adventure of your life. Enjoy writing for what it is, and try not to worry too much about finding a deal. I’d say don’t think about trying to fill a gap in the market and don’t try and be rational about it. When you have finished, look for an agent in the Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook. Check their websites to see the kind of writing and authors they work with, and if you like the look of it all, send them your book!
As a child
I grew up in the countryside, where I used to do stupid but fun things like jumping off the bridge into the river. I also watched a lot of telly, read a lot of books and ate a lot of crisps. I got bored easily so I was always making up stories when I was meant to be thinking about something else. I felt a strong connection with the landscape around me, and all the things that had happened there in the past, as if I were part of it. There was a dark pool down a lane where I was convinced they used to duck witches. I had an overactive imagination. I wrote my first novel when I was twelve - it was dreadful but I loved doing it.
As an adult
I went to university in Manchester where I read a lot, fell into a trench on a dig, jumped about in the hills, and started writing what became Bloodline. When I left I stopped writing for years and worked in publishing, which was brilliant, although I always felt something was missing, and I could never quite let go of Essa as a character. It wasn't till a friend read Bloodline and gave me the confidence to finish it that I really started writing again. I'm glad I did.
As an artist
I don't know why, but my main characters always seem to be boys. Maybe it's my masculine side coming out. I like to write early in the morning, and once I've got going, it can be hard to stop. I had a full-time job while I was finishing Bloodline and became quite hermit-like. I missed a lot of parties and didn't see some of my friends for months but I didn't care: I was having a massive adventure. I had a lot of catching up to do afterwards, though.
1. I love fancy dress - especially being a pirate. They had such great clothes.
2. I hate maths because I'm so bad at it.
3. I am scared of spiders - still.
4. I went to school in Texas when I was five years old, and I still want to be a cowboy.
5. I want to sail around the world one day.
6. I wish I could travel back in time but wonder what I would do about my contact lenses.
7. I really should learn to ride a horse.
8. My husband is a drummer in a band, so I know how to take apart a drum-kit.
9. I love going to the countryside with my friends and sleeping outside in the middle of nowhere.
10. I am scared of heights - I wish I could jump off rocks into the sea but I just can't.
Katy Moran returns to the mystery of the Hidden which began with Hidden Among Us.. It is six years on from when Lissy was stolen away from her human life by the King of the Hidden. All the while she has been a prisoner in their world her sister Connie is growing older and more able to reach out from the mortal world. Lissy is trapped because, if she opens the Gateway her father, the Swan King will release the plague. But now Connie is seeing more and more things that she shouldn’t; maybe the two worlds are about to interact again? Told from different points of view this is a highly imagined and powerful story about loss and the importance of family.
A sophisticated and complex novel told in different voices, this interweaves a contemporary family story with a haunting story of another world – the place where the elven folk live. As a newly formed family gather in an old family house in the isolated village of Hopesay Edge, strange things begin to happen. Teenage Lissy is trying to find some freedom while her mother struggles to keep her safe from the Hidden, elven folk with magical powers which threatens to draw her away. From the moment Lissy meets a strange boy as she steps off a train, she is fighting for her life. Katy Moran blends magic and reality with an effortless ease that makes the former alarmingly credible. ........................................................................ In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion for Hidden Among Us a small number of teenagers were lucky enough to be invited to review this title. 'This book stole my heart from the beginning and kept it ‘till the very end, leaving me clutching onto every last word.' Scroll down to read their reviews...