‘Writing and publishing this novel has been a character building experience’
Today I am delighted to welcome author Kate Boyle to my blog.
Kate has just published her novel Happy as a Partridge : Life and Love in Madrid a humorous book telling the tale of an English girl who, fed up with her London life, moves to Madrid and inadvertently ends up teaching in an institute for aero-mechanics. It follows the realities of expat life with all it’s ups and downs, recounting her entertaining misunderstandings with her students, her romantic entanglements with a number of Spanish men and her struggles to get to grips with a new language and culture.
Kate has written a great piece for us all today where she expresses her desire to bring her real-life travel experiences to a wider audience through the use of her fictional novel set in Madrid but as Kate asks ‘How fictional is fiction?’
I do hope you enjoy!
by Kate Boyle
Fiction, however imaginative and surreal will always be some sort of response to reality. When you start writing people tell you there’s going to be “a lot of you” in your first novel, and as a naturally shy person this is something I struggled with. “Write what you know” they advise. I wanted to write my story, but equally I wanted to distance and protect myself from the judgement of others not only on my writing, but also on my life choices.
To give you a bit of background, six years ago I quit my job in London. The plan was to study Spanish in Madrid for month and hopefully be struck by inspiration as to my next life steps. However, I fell head over heels in love with the city on arrival, all plans of returning home went out the window and I devoted my days to exploring the streets of magical Madrid under the warm Spanish sun, revelling in my freedom and savouring the spontaneity, charm and creativity of my new home. Expat life has its ups and downs to be sure and learning a new language and adapting to a new culture threw up many, often entertaining, challenges. I soon inadvertently found myself working as an English teacher in a vocational institute for 530 trainee mechanics. While the director informed me they needed to learn technical English, all the men seemed to want to talk about was sex and I was distinctly uncomfortable with both of these subjects. After a year of terror, hilarity, confusion and exhaustion attempting to control and teach the rowdy classes I had a lot of rich, entertaining stories and when back in London I wanted to use it as inspiration for my first novel.
Clearly these experiences were a bonus in terms of material to draw from, but I most definitely did not want to write an auto-biography, so just how different to reality should I make it? I wanted the reader to fall in love with Madrid and all its quirks as much as I had, but striking a balance between fact and fiction was something I struggled with throughout the whole writing process. For example, I’d met wonderful characters I wanted to capture on paper, but in changing them sufficiently that they wouldn’t be offended, upset or even want to sue me (!) I felt some lost their original charm and style. Perhaps I was overthinking it and working at cross purposes. It took time for my wonderful editor to persuade me to take a step back to focus more on my audience and less on preserving my memories. When I managed to let myself go I found the scenes of pure fiction often read far better than others where I had been too protective over my memories to fully embrace my creative juices. My characters took on a life of their own, my personal experiences took a back seat and the manuscript improved immeasurably.
Writing and publishing this novel has been a character building experience. There is enough truth in the tale that all my friends assume the entire thing is autobiographical. There’s nothing in there I’m embarrassed by but at the same time I find it almost insulting that they don’t believe I can use my imagination and write fiction. Despite my best attempts to distance myself from the protagonist it seems there is little I can do to persuade people she’s not an accurate representation of me and my time in Spain. Although my experiences there have undoubtedly given the book an authenticity and honesty, I’m being braver for my second book and choosing a more impersonal and entirely fictional storyline.
I’m interested to see how it is received in comparison with Happy as a Partridge.
Thank you so much Kate. I wish you every success with your book and with all your future writing. If you wish to find out more about Kate and her novel, do please check out her website and also over on twitter
About the Book:
Evie Fuller is quite simply fed up. Single, unemployed and rapidly approaching her thirtieth birthday, she finds London life is weighing heavy. When a month of free language lessons offers an escape route, she heads to Madrid for sun-soaked adventures and a crash course in Spanish culture. Will a change of scene restore her zest for life?
Follow Evie as she laughs, cries and adjusts to these foreign lands – a shy English girl blossoms under the Spanish sun and discovers the hardest thing about moving abroad is deciding when to come home.
Purchase Link ~ Happy as a Partridge:Life and Love in Madrid
Kate Boyle grew up in Essex and gained a first class degree from Bristol University before moving to London.
A dogged desire to conquer her inability to roll her r’s subsequently led her to Madrid where she spent two and a half blissful years teaching English to a stream of Spaniards. She never grew accustomed to their regular comments on her pale skin.
Now back in London Kate constantly dreams of the sunny skies of Madrid and persists with the irritating habit of dropping Spanish words into conversation at random. When she’s not revisiting her adopted homeland or trying to perfect the recipe for Spanish tortilla, she can be found in a PR agency by day and writing her second novel by night. She regularly writes for an antiques magazine and has contributed to two architectural books.
Happy as a Partridge is her first novel.