Today, I welcome another fabulous Crooked Cat author to my blog, KB Walker.
KB, also known as Kimm, has already published a memoir, sharing her account of her son's fight with cancer, and now she's also become a published author of a contemporary fiction drama, Once Removed. It tells the story of a young teacher who befriends a troubled pupil, only to find herself in the firing line when the girl goes missing. Gripping, moving, sensitively written.
So, in order to learn more about Kimm, I've asked her some questions. Here goes...
- Welcome to my blog, Kimm. First of all, tell us about Once Removed, your first fiction release. What inspired you to write about such an emotional topic?
Once Removed is a story about relationships within families, between friends and in schools. It takes a peek under the covers of self-harm.
When I was in high school, a very unhappy girl felt close enough to me to reveal the wounds she’d sliced into her own flesh. I didn’t know what to do. She needed help and understanding but in the 1970s, in my mid-teens, overwhelmed by my mother’s recent death, new to the school and area, I wasn’t able to offer either. In effect, I ran away from her. But the sense of bafflement and helplessness remained.
When Princess Diana’s self-harm and eating disorder hit the media, I decided to find out more about this subject. Out of my research a story grew.
- You've moved from America (where? I'm curious!) to Yorkshire for love. How did you find settling into life in another country?
I was born in Colorado, when my dad was doing his national service, but grew up in Milford, Michigan. I’ve lived in Yorkshire since I met & married my husband in 1977.
Howard was the only person I knew here, in those days. Once in the middle of a big fight, feeling sorry for myself, I reminded him of that fact. He laughed and told me his mum would take me in before she’d have him back. Suddenly, I knew that was true and never felt so far from home again.
Living in another country, even one that is supposed to share a common language, is challenging/interesting/exciting. I think everyone should stand outside his or her own birthplace and see it through the eyes of others. There’d be more understanding between nations and fewer mistakes.
It’s disconcerting watching people’s eyes glaze over when I’m speaking because they’re listening to my accent and not what I’m saying (imagine a blend of Yorkshire & northern US). But my roots here are deep, now, and I have wonderful family and friends. It’s slightly odd because I lived my entire childhood in one country and the whole of my adult life in another so comparisons are not easy.
- Are you working on another novel at the moment? What is it about?
I have started another novel inspired by a news article about a young agoraphobic woman, the sole carer for her mother, who vanished. My mother was a psychotherapist. I guess I grew up fascinated by people and what makes them the way they are.
Blurb for Once Removed:
Suspecting self-harm, newly qualified teacher, Abriella, risks everything for a troubled pupil. An incident with a craft knife and unexplained injuries are not enough to secure help for the girl. Unsure whether Beth is being bullied or has problems at home, Abby tries to win her trust and the two begin a friendship. But has the teacher gone too far?
In the midst of Abby’s own complicated life, Beth disappears. Rumour and suspicion ignite, fanned into an inferno. Abby is arrested, suspended and targeted by vigilantes.
Will either survive?
The shriek scraped down my spine. Hugging my black cardigan more tightly around myself, I stopped. The noisy teenagers flowing in the direction of the school cafeteria barely paused.
Scanning the crowd, I fervently wished for someone more senior. But only chattering children, shuffling and laughing, pushed past. A deep sigh deflated me. Clearly, I still had plenty to learn about vanishing during break times. Tempted to pretend I hadn’t heard, the memory shivered along my back and forced me to respond.
Wading through the torrent into a shadowy side corridor in the direction of the scream, the small knot of gawpers melted away. Megan, a tall year seven girl, slumped against the grubby wall squeezing her hand in front of her like a gun. Blood dripped from two fingers pointed at the other girl. Freckles glared from Beth’s pale face cowering beneath bushy ginger hair. The low growl of obscenities pouring from Megan’s white lips stopped as soon as she saw me.
It didn’t make sense. Megan was a pretty girl, confident and always followed by a crowd of hangers-on. She was too polite in class, all angel-eyes standing in the midst of the trouble she’d stirred up. Beth, on the other hand, sat alone in the furthest corner. Watching the river of young people cascade through the corridors, this girl had seemed an island protected by a reef of sadness. Not your classic bully. A craft knife, glittered amongst the spilled contents of a discarded bag on the floor.
“Well?” I asked, pushing my dark rimmed glasses back up my nose and looking from one girl to the other. Brilliant, Abby, just brilliant, you are way out of your depth here. Trust you to land up in the middle of Marfield High School’s first ever knife crime!
“It was an accident, Miss.” Pulling herself upright, Megan flicked back her carefully styled hair. The shiny blonde layers settled over darker roots. “I picked up Beth’s bag by mistake. Isn’t that right, Beth?”
I was surprised Megan’s laser fierce glare hadn’t set Beth’s school uniform on fire. The child looked smaller than ever beside an in-charge Megan. The ginger head dipped in agreement.
“I was scrabbling around for my phone when I caught my fingers on that blade.” Megan pointed with her dripping finger.
“Beth,” my tone was as gentle as I could make it, “why did you have a knife in your bag? You must know it’s against school rules?”
The girl opened her mouth and furrowed her brow a few times before any words came. “Art class… didn’t realise… must have dropped it in my bag without thinking.”
Beth looked as though she’d been caught running naked down Marfield’s High Street and would disintegrate if any more fuss were made. But she was lying. Despite my inexperience as a teacher, I could tell. Scenarios flashed across my mind and none of them were pleasant. I didn’t know what to do. I thumbed my glasses back into place. My university lecturer’s voice sang in my memory. When in doubt, feign confident authority. I took a deep breath.
“Right, Beth, you go on your way to lunch. I’ll make sure this craft knife gets back to the art department.” I swooped down and plucked the blade from the rest of the debris. “Megan, you come with me and we’ll put something on those cuts. Perhaps you’ll be more careful whose bag you pick up in future.”
I stormed off, my heels rattling in the now empty corridor. Megan marched beside me, radiating fury.
My mind spun and fizzed. Megan always had an answer for everything so why wasn’t she kicking off now? I peered at her through the corner of my eye and noticed she had a leather bag slung over her shoulder, quite different from Beth’s canvas one. The bag she claimed to have picked up by accident.
Slamming through the door into the office I stopped. Anger wouldn’t help. I took a deep breath and reached for the first aid kit.
“Show me your hand, please, Megan. Are you allergic to plasters?”
She narrowed her eyes and shook her head. Her jaws were clamped tight.
I cleaned the wounds and applied butterfly plasters, careful to follow school procedures to the letter.
“Please sign here.” I pointed to my brief entry in the accident book.
“Can I go now?” Megan glared at me.
Unable to think of a single sensible question, I nodded.
Join Kimm's May bank holiday competition over on her Once Removed blog
for a chance to win an e-copy!