top of page

Pride-iversary: An Interview with Katherine Blakeman

Ready to hear from another sapphic romance author? Today, Katherine Blakeman joins us to discuss her novel The Summer We've Had, including inspirations behind the book and her representation of Dissociative Identity Disorder.


Plus, we have a new Instagram giveaway coming your way at 5pm BST, this time from Rien Gray, who is giving away copies of two sapphic romance books!

 

Tell us about your newest book, The Summer We've Had, and what inspired you to write it.


Oh my goodness… what to say?


The Summer We’ve Had is a book that languished in my head long before I actually started properly writing it. I knew that I wanted to write a book in which one of the MCs had Dissociative Identity Disorder, and what I started with (back in summer 2018) was a very complicated, tangled-up story of a celebrity singer (Cass) fleeing her career to a remote Croatian island and falling in love with a woman with multiple personalities and a selectively mute daughter. I wrote just over 50,000 words of it over the next eighteen months, then got stuck. I sent it to a fellow author, Mary Torjussen, who advised me that it was far too complicated. At the start of the first COVID lockdown in spring 2020, I started a completely new version, which eventually turned into The Summer We’ve Had. I was in a very good frame of mind, and I think it shows.


What happens when a woman with depression falls in love with a woman with Dissociative Identity Disorder? You find out in The Summer We’ve Had. Cassandra Mulligan is fleeing London after the premature death of her celebrity singer mother, having spent two years immersed in grief. When she arrives in Cornwall, she meets next-door neighbour Felicia Wilson, and soon connections begin to form. Except… Felicia has a whole system of alternate personalities living in her body, sharing her mind and her life. It’s a very fragile setup, and the house of cards could all come crashing down if the relationship went wrong…



Can you tell us a little bit about your characters? Which, if any, did you identify with most and why?


Due to the nature of Dissociative Identity Disorder, you will get to know quite a few characters! But don’t worry: all their perspectives are seen, and I’ve labelled each chapter so you know whose POV we’re in. I won’t talk about all of them, but I’ll talk about the most important ones…


Cass is the protagonist of the story. Arriving in Cornwall, she is emotionally battered and bruised. Not to mention clinically depressed after her mother’s suicide rocks both her world and the music industry (thanks to her glittering career as a celebrity singer). She is at a stalemate in her life, and has forced herself to make this move and get a job. But she soon realises that she’s not the only one in need of some TLC.


Heather is the main alternate personality of Felicia’s DID ‘system’. She spends most of the time in control of the body (‘fronting’), and thus she is the one who begins to get to know Cass the best over time. She is the human embodiment of sunshine, and her love and care soon starts to bring Cass back to life. But she couldn’t do it without…


Daniella, who is the ‘caregiver’ of the system. She makes sure that the other alters don’t burn themselves out. But she is not without her own struggles, and when Cass discovers them, she tries to help. This causes a few fireworks, but most of the tension is reserved for…


Coral, who’s sixteen and very reserved. She has no time for this relationship with Cass, and this soon begins to cause problems. But she’s also hiding something, and Cass knows that she has to get through to her in order to make this work. (The fact that Coral is a massive fan of Cass’s deceased mother Eulalia Gray doesn’t help, either.)



One of your MCs, Felicia, has Dissociative Identity Disorder. How did you come to choose this specific disorder in your story and what other representations are important for you to see in fiction?


I tried to pack this book full of representation. I don’t remember ever making a conscious choice to cover DID – it was just something I knew I had to do. There are little-to-no accurate, healthy portrayals of DID in the media, much less in fiction, but I really wanted to read some. So… I wrote it. Simple as that.


I’ve also represented a few different letters of the LGBTQ+ acronym - perfect for Pride Month! Lesbianism, biromanticism, and asexuality are covered explicitly, with another letter alluded to later in the book. It was very important for me to distinguish between asexuality and aromanticism when it came to Cass - so many people think that the two come as a package deal, and while they often go hand-in-hand it’s important that people understand that they don’t always. It’s possible to feel romantic attraction without sexual attraction, but I rarely see that acknowledged in the media, or in fiction. So, again… I wrote what I wanted to read!



Did you come across any challenges while writing The Summer We've Had? How did you overcome them?


Many! When I finally finished a decent draft and sent it to my beta readers, I discovered that I had managed to create a main character who was… utterly devoid of personality! It was surprising how little I actually knew about Cass as a person, even though I’d been writing about her for a year and a half by that point. I had to knuckle down and get right to her roots, then embellish her.


I also massively struggled with finding sensitivity readers. It seems that when you’re self-published, nobody wants to know. I wanted to make sure that I was representing DID both accurately and in a positive way - unlike most portrayals out there - so I approached charities (and when that failed, counsellors) to ask for someone to read my manuscript and make sure it was okay. I kid you not - nobody wanted to know. I was either rejected or politely ignored. But there was no way in hell I was letting this book out into the world without having it sensitivity read, so I persisted, and eventually Cheshire Psychology put me in touch with Ms Anna Perrin and Dr Lisa Nolan, both of whom are clinical psychologists, and both of whom helped me massively.



The Summer We've Had is a sunny romance, but you also wrote The Silent Chapter, a cosy historical fiction. What were the differences in your process when it came to these two books?


They couldn’t have been more different!


The Silent Chapter definitely saw more evolution. It started off as a short story when I was thirteen, based on a tale my grandmother had told me about her time as an evacuee during World War Two. I wrote it, then decided I loved the characters and wanted to learn more about them. So I started right from the beginning, some forty years previously, and wrote about Dorothy and Patrick. How they got together, the trials they faced, and how they kept emerging stronger. The Silent Chapter is much rawer than The Summer We’ve Had, which saw a hell of a lot of editing. ARC reviewers aside, nobody except me saw the manuscript until it was published.



The Summer We've Had is a queer (sapphic) story. Who are some of your favourite queer characters from other media, and is there any representation you’d like to see more of?


I WOULD have said Anne Lister of Gentleman Jack… up until series 2. Without spoiling anything, they made her much more dislikeable in series 2. I recently rewatched the first series, and I can see that they rather smoothed out her corners there in a way that was absent in the second. I just can’t like her the same way now.


Honestly… other than books, I don’t consume a whole lot of LGBTQ+ media. I don’t have the attention span for films or most TV series, and I don’t have any paid subscription services like Netflix. So I’m probably not qualified to comment on what representation I’d like to see more of. But all the same, in books, I’d like to see more… food allergies. More ambivalence to sex. More portrayals of mental health conditions. All of which you will find in The Summer We’ve Had…



What made you decide to self-publish rather than follow more traditional routes?


Despair.


No, I’m kidding!


The credit has to go to Claire Highton-Stevenson. In Autumn 2021, I was bemoaning my position in the query trenches on Twitter - this was when I was querying The Silent Chapter with agents. Suddenly I had Claire in my comments, asking why not self-publish? It was like a lightbulb moment, and I have never ever looked back.



Tell us a little bit about your writing process! Are you a plotter or pantser? Did you overcome any challenges and how?


I’m an absolute pantser. My last few projects have started with an outline, but I always always deviate. I mentioned this to S-Jay Hart the other day, and their response was one of incredulity. I have great admiration for plotters, but I just can’t stick to it!!



What are your favourite tropes to write? Are they different from the ones you like to read?


Honestly, I don’t have any particular favourite tropes, either to read or write. But books about mental health always make my heart sing. Hence the topics covered in The Silent Chapter (loss, PTSD and domestic abuse) and The Summer We’ve Had (depression, anxiety and Dissociative Identity Disorder).



We’d love a hint about any of your current projects! Are you working on anything that might please or even surprise your readers?


I have two projects on the go! Both of them are sapphic fiction. One is set in scorching hot Cyprus, pre-pandemic, and the other is set right back in the Cornish village of Miltree where we first met Cass and Felicia, post-pandemic. I think both of these will surprise readers, because all the protagonists are older women. I’m actually only nineteen, so writing about people in such different life stages is a… challenge. But I’m not afraid of hard work, and I’m really enjoying it!



Have any shows, movies, books, or games influenced your own work at all?


Shows, books, movies and games… not really. There’s a touch of young Donna Sheridan (as portrayed by Lily James in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again) in the character of Heather, but I’m much more influenced by music. My new Miltree project is inspired heavily by music - it’s a tribute to it, almost.



Our podcast focuses on media we’re currently loving. Are there any books, shows, movies, games, or podcasts you’re enjoying this Pride month? Any recommendations for our audience?


As I said before, I don’t really consume a whole lot of media. But in terms of book recommendations, I’ve got to mention…


Oh My Stars by S-Jay Hart

Maverick by Max Ellendale

Hart and Stocker by Max Ellendale

Ransom To Love by Chloe Keto

The Willing by Lyn Hemphill

Losing Touch by Jenn Matthews

When Sparks Fly by Kristen Zimmer

The Roommate Arrangement by Jae

Sprinkled In The Stars by Violet Morley

 

Katherine Blakeman is the England-based author of The Silent Chapter (a sweeping straight historical fiction novel set in twentieth-century Bedfordshire) and The Summer We've Had (a sunny lesbian romance set in modern-day Cornwall). She loves to tackle difficult topics, from child loss and shellshock in The Silent Chapter to depression and Dissociative Identity Disorder in The Summer We've Had. Her books are full of emotions, twists and love - always, always love.

Her Instagram is @katherineblakemanwriter, her Twitter is @kblakemanwriter and she also has a Facebook page. Her website is www.katherineblakeman.com, where you can subscribe to her monthly mailing list and read her regular blog posts.


Comments


bottom of page