About the author:
KATE MORTON was born in South Australia and grew up in the mountains of south-east Queensland. She has degrees in dramatic art and English literature and lives now with her husband and three young sons in London and Australia. The Shifting Fog, published internationally as The House at Riverton, The Forgotten Garden, The Distant Hours, The Secret Keeper and The Lake House have all been number one bestsellers around the world.
The narrative for The Clockmaker’s Daughter has a number of timelines and a host of different character perspectives. How do you think this elevates or enhances the story?
For me, as a reader, there’s no better feeling than being immersed in the world of a story. It’s a love that I discovered in childhood, that I continued to seek into adulthood, and which ultimately led me to write for myself. I believe that fictional life should be as multi-faceted and layered as real life, and in The Clockmaker’s Daughter, a book that explores the passage of time in a single location, it seemed inevitable that the central story should be told by different voices. I love that we hear from so many characters who call Birchwood Manor home over the century, and whose lives intersect across time to reveal the answer to the mystery at the novel’s heart.
As a piece of historical fiction, how much research went into The Clockmaker’s Daughter?
A lot, but I consider research to be one of the best parts of being a writer. If pressed, I usually say that the Victorian period is my favourite historical setting, but it’s an almost impossible choice to make, which is why it was such a pleasure writing The Clockmaker’s Daughter, being able to bring characters to life in a number of different periods. Throughout the novel, Birchwood Manor serves as an 1860s’ artists’ retreat; a school for young ladies during the last years of the nineteenth century; a refuge for a returned World War One soldier; home to a family expelled from London in the Blitz; and, in the present day, a country house museum at which a young man is trying to solve a hundred-and-fifty-year-old mystery.
What inspired the idea behind The Clockmaker’s Daughter?
A book is thousands of ideas woven together, but in the beginning it only takes a few threads to form the kernel of the story. In the case of The Clockmaker’s Daughter, these included: a chance meeting with an archivist; a longstanding fascination with Victorian London; the discovery of certain unique aspects of Harvington Hall in Worcestershire; a lifelong love of art and photography; an abiding obsession with houses and their hidden stories; and my deep affection for the beautiful countryside along the banks of the Upper Thames.
The Clockmaker’s Daughter is an interesting fusion of historical and crime fiction, two very popular genres. Why do you think people enjoy reading historical and crime fiction?
I think people enjoy reading any genre that allows them to live inside the world of the book. My novels always contain an historical element, but what interests me more than history itself is the way the past and the present remain tethered. I grew up reading mystery stories after discovering The Famous Five when I was six years old, and one of the most enjoyable aspects of writing is the sense that I am playing a game with readers, concealing the answer to a central mystery in scenes that appear to be about something else entirely.
What are you currently reading?
At last count, there were over twenty books stacked beside my bed, four of them lying face down to hold their page, bookmarks in at least half of the others. I’m a very eclectic reader, shifting between fiction and non-fiction, and open to most genres. In my bag at the moment I’m carrying dog-eared copies of Penelope Lively’s Moon Tiger and Joan Didion’s The White Album, and my to-be-read pile grows daily and includes Tyrant by Stephen Greenblatt, Warlight by Michael Ondaatje, and Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler.