I recently had the chance to chat with Australian author, Kate Murdoch to find out about her latest book, The Orange Grove and what it’s like to write historical fiction. Plus, read on to get a sneak peek into The Orange Grove…
NLK: What has been the biggest surprise about being a published author?
KM: Having less time to write! I feel like there’s always so much to juggle that doesn’t involve getting words onto a page. Social media, organising and doing events, editing, chasing up various things with my publisher. I find I need to actively carve out time to write whereas before it happened more naturally.
NLK: What do you most enjoy about writing historical fiction?
KM: I love research. Not only does it enrich my writing, but I finish a project with a lot more knowledge about a particular time and place. It’s like a treasure hunt and you’re never sure where it’s going to lead you, what strange pathways you’ll head down, and what might be uncovered.
NLK: What is the biggest obstacle to writing historical fiction?
KM: It depends on the project I’m working on. At the moment, I’m a quarter of the way into a new manuscript, but I keep having to stop and start due to gaps in my knowledge. It turns out there’s not a lot of information on the specific time, place and situation I’m writing, so I have to find a way around this. Research can be challenging, but there is a satisfaction in trying to find the answers.
NLK: What is the strangest thing you’ve ever done for research?
KM: In The Orange Grove there are several tarot reading scenes. As I attempted to write them, I realised I couldn’t proceed without a basic knowledge of tarot reading, so I bought a pack of cards and taught myself to read them. This gives the scenes more authenticity.
NLK: Can you share your vision for your professional artistic career?
KM: For me, writing is about connection. If I can continue to write stories people enjoy and relate to, that would be my vision. Connections with readers and other writers are the aspects of this career that satisfy me the most. To be translated into another language would also be fabulous!
NLK: You were an artist before you were an author, do you draw on any of your skills as a visual artist to write your books?
KM: Absolutely. To write visually is something that’s important to me and this comes from working in a visual medium for so many years. I need to be able to ‘see’ my scenes – the clothing, the food, and the landscape and I want my readers to see these things too. As a painter, I pay close attention to the details in my surroundings, it’s innate, and I can’t separate this from my writing.
NLK: What advice do you have for emerging writers?
KM: Don’t get too hung up on the ‘rules’—learn the craft, but experiment with different styles to discover what works for you. Find your own voice and develop confidence in it by writing short fiction and by critiquing and receiving critiques. When editing your own work, ask yourself if each sentence contains emotional truth rather than cliché. Read widely and diversely.
The Orange Grove
When status is survival, every choice has its consequence.
Blois, 1705. The chateau of Duc Hugo d’Amboise simmers with rivalry and intrigue.
Henriette d’Augustin, one of five mistresses of the duc, lives at the chateau with her daughter. When the duc’s wife, Duchesse Charlotte, maliciously undermines a new mistress, Letitia, Henriette is forced to choose between position and morality. She fights to maintain her status whilst targeted by the duchesse who will do anything to harm her enemies.
The arrival of charismatic tarot reader, Romain de Villiers, further escalates tensions as rivals in domestic politics and love strive for supremacy.
In a society where status is a matter of life and death, Henriette must stay true to herself, her daughter, and her heart, all the while hiding a painful secret of her own.
‘What do you want?’
‘I am Léonard’s wife. You must be Madame Rochard. Your nephew has been captured and he told me to find you. You have something of his, I believe?’
‘I have his blood and that is all.’
‘I beg you, madame. My husband told me to find you. We need help and you do have something for us.’
‘I do not. Good day to you.’
Henriette wedged her foot in the door as the woman attempted to shut it.‘I refer to the gold bars Leonard gave you, the gold you keep hidden beneath your floorboards.’
Madame Rochard gave a mirthless laugh. ‘You see before you a fine example of reverse alchemy, madame, the miraculous transformation of gold into stone and mortar. Now leave, before I set the dogs on you.’
‘The gold was meant to support us if Léonard was imprisoned. What do you expect me to do? Sell myself on the street? You say you carry Léonard’s blood. So does this innocent child. If you won’t help me, please help my Amalia.’ The little girl looked up at the older woman, her grimy face pleading.
Madame Rochard sighed. She fished a small drawstring bag from the folds of her skirt, and pressed a handful of louis into Henriette’s palm. ‘This should cover your travel to Blois. Saint Bernard de Thiron is a convent where you can leave the girl. Mention my name to the abbess, she knows me well. Wait here.’ She turned and disappeared into an adjoining room.
Henriette’s heart hammered in her chest and she gripped Amalia’s hand, her mouth dry.
Madame Rochard returned with a small piece of paper. ‘This is the address of my friend, Madame Tavel. She has connections at the Château d’Amboise. They are often looking for servants there. Good day.’
Before Henriette had a chance to reply the door had clicked shut and she was left standing with Amalia, watching the fog lift on the gridded gardens.’
About Kate Murdoch
Kate Murdoch exhibited widely as a painter both in Australia and internationally before turning her hand to writing.
Her short-form fiction has been published in various literary journals in Australia, UK, US and Canada.
Her debut novel, Stone Circle, a historical fantasy novel set in Renaissance Italy, was released by Fireship Press in December 2017. Stone Circle was a First in Category winner in the Chaucer Awards 2018 for pre-1750’s historical fiction.
Kate was awarded a KSP Fellowship at the KSP Writers’ Centre in 2019 to develop her third novel, The Glasshouse.
Her novel, The Orange Grove, about the passions and intrigues of court mistresses in 18th century France, was published by Regal House Publishing in October 2019.
Connect with Kate
Buy The Orange Grove