Interview with Katie Simpkins, Author of The Southern Belles

Hi! I am sat opposite Katie Simpkins in the living room of her terraced house in Burgess Hill. She’s the author of romance novel, The Southern Belles, a story set in sunny Brighton, about three hugely wealthy heiresses, who lose everything when their Father dies, leaving a huge financial mess within their family’s business empire. Although it sounds daunting for the sisters, they endure their predicament, finding jobs and love into the bargain. It really is a heart-warming, feel-good story about overcoming adversity.

 

 

Katie, it sounds rather bleak, but is it?

Katie: The backdrop of the story certainly is, especially given that their Dad dies on Evelyn’s 30th birthday, while he’s being driven to visit them to give Evelyn her present. That being said, the story starts after the fact, so the reader only hears of this in the form of a prologue. The main bulk of the book is about how the sisters endure their situation, and wind up growing as people, especially Georgia, the fierce, punchy sister. She grows the most, I think.

So, can I ask where you got the idea for the story?

Katie: I get asked this by my family and friends, and the truth is, I don’t have the first clue. These characters and stories just seem to jump into my brain, somehow. I’d thought a lot about the Belles before I started writing, so I had a good idea of what was going to happen, although the end result was somewhat different to what I’d planned. I find writing’s quite fluid; at least mine is, anyway.

And where did the title come from?

Katie: I love the title. After I’d thought of their surname, I thought about where I was going to set it. Then, when I decided on Brighton, the title just stuck out like a sore thumb. Brighton’s in Southern England, so…The Southern Belles, it was. I think it works on two levels, which is how I knew it was the perfect title…I mention at the start of the book that Evelyn regards herself as a Southern Belle of old, only minus the plantation, and living in the Deep South of America, of course. It felt fated to be called that.

And I’m sure you’ve been asked this by hopeful readers: who are the sisters based on?

Katie: Honestly, no one I know. I’m not just saying that; these characters are entirely fictitious. I can’t think of a single person who inspired me to write Evelyn, Olivia, and I certainly don’t know anyone quite like Georgia. My process is to take three positive traits and three negative traits for each main character, and I write them around those traits. I also have a storyboard, which I intermingle the characters in, creating tension and suspense.

 I like the way you break up scenes, leaving cliff-hangers, throughout the story. Is this done deliberately?

Katie: Absolutely! It’s my best method of keeping readers turning those pages. If I just wrote a scene as it should be, it would be readable, but it wouldn’t be as suspenseful. I generally have three or four storylines per chapter, which I mix and match at certain points. Being an aspiring writer, I don’t know if I’m doing it the right way; certainly, my friends think I am, so I’ll continue writing it this way.

Well, we loved reading it, so keep it going! And now, we come onto a more personal question: I understand you suffer from agoraphobia. How do you deal with that? If it’s too personal, we can ignore that question.

Katie: No, it’s fine, really. Agoraphobia has served my writing really well. I never leave my flat, so I’m always around my laptop. Writing also means I don’t spend hours watching TV, which I love, by the way. I could literally spend a whole weekend binging boxsets on Sky, so writing keeps me grounded and away from those beautiful boxsets. I think I write like I’m watching a movie or TV series. Plus, I work from home, entering data onto spreadsheets for a company in Swindon, which is where I got the idea for Georgia’s job.

There’s so much more I want to ask you. Would you mind me coming back at some point? Katie said she’d be delighted to speak to us again. And so, until next time, go and buy her new book, The Southern Belles. Let us know what you think of it, by reviewing it on our website. Cheerio!