Kate Lord Brown’s novels include The Christmas We Met, The Taste of Summer and The Last Rose of Summer. The Beauty Chorus was published by Corvus in ebook on 30 April 2020.
Kate kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about The Beauty Chorus.
It’s drawn from the true story of the WW2 ‘Spitfire Girls’. The book’s title is really tongue in cheek – the male pilots called the girls ‘the beauty chorus’ but in fact the women were incredibly brave and skilful. ‘The Beauty Chorus’ follows three girls from different backgrounds – a deb, a young mother and a teenager. It’s about female friendship and solidarity – ordinary women doing extraordinary things at a time of crisis.
2. What inspired the book?
I read a tiny obituary for one of the women pilots. We have Lancaster pilots in the family, and I’m married to a pilot but I’d never heard of women flying during the war. I thought ‘why don’t people know about this??!’ It was a story which had to be written.
3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?
Because I write historical fiction, I have a strong scaffolding for each story. The facts are there to support the fiction. But what counts is writing a really entertaining story and I like to have a few surprises when I’m writing. I love it when characters leap into life.
4. Having been through the publishing process a number of times, is there anything about the process of creating a novel that still surprises you?
I still get a kick out of holding each book for the first time. It’s also amazing seeing the foreign editions – your words being read in a language you can’t understand. It’s wonderful seeing your book out in the wild – I remember sitting in a cafe in Oslo and a woman was reading ‘Parfymehagen’ the Norwegian edition of ‘The Perfume Garden’. It sill seems miraculous and a privilege.
5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
I’m lucky to live in a beautiful part of Exmoor, so I love horse riding and running, or surfing in the summer. Writing involves a lot of sitting around so even getting out to walk the dogs a couple of times a day is a great way to unknot your plot problems. At the moment I’m running on the treadmill each day, and the dog walks are rather short so I’ve been working in the garden. A bit of fresh air really clears your mind.
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
‘The Leopard’ by Lampedusa. I love that book, and get something new from it each time I read it. I love a book with a magical house at the heart of the story.
7. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
‘If you hadn’t been a writer, what would you be?’ In my case I wanted to be a horse vet, a ballet dancer, an architect. I’ve written about a ballet dancer so perhaps it’s time to write about the others! That’s the lovely thing about writing, you get to live all these incredible lives.
About the book
New Year’s Eve, 1940: Evie Chase, the beautiful debutante daughter of an adoring RAF commander, gazes out at the sky as swing music drifts from the ballroom. With bombs falling nightly in London, she resolves that the coming year will bring more than just dances and tennis matches. She is determined to do her bit for the war effort.
2nd January, 1941: Evie curses her fashionable heels as they skid on the frozen ground of her local airfield. She is here to volunteer for ‘The Beauty Chorus’, the female pilots who fly much-needed planes to bases across the country. Soon, she is billeted in a tiny country cottage, sharing with an anxious young mother and a naive teenager.
Thrown together by war, these three very different women soon become friends, confidantes and fellow adventuresses. But as they take to the skies, they will also face hardship, prejudice and tragedy. Can their new-found bond survive their darkest hours?