Shrewsbury author Kate Innes is looking forward to the publication of her latest book Wild Labyrinth this November, the third in a medieval adventure trilogy - she speaks to Katy Rink about navigating the publishing industry and staying true to an original idea. Picture credit: Sarah Ibberson
Wild Labyrinth has been three years in the making and is inspired by The Mappa Mundi at Hereford Cathedral, the fate of the Knights Templar, and many other intriguing and bizarre historical events in AD 1306-1307. It is the latest in the Arrowsmith series of medieval literary adventures that started with The Errant Hours and sailed off to Aquitaine in All the Winding World.
Shrewsbury Writer Kate Innes trained originally as an archaeologist, then a teacher, and worked as a Museum Educator around the West Midlands before having her children. She initially started out as a poet and then wrote The Errant Hours, her first literary adventure story, set in Shropshire and North Wales in the late 13th century.
"It was always going to be the first book of a series, now called The Arrowsmith Trilogy," Kate explains.
The Errant Hours did very well for an independently published book, selling over 3,000 copies and has been put on the reading list for Bangor University’s Medieval Women’s Fiction course. In 2018, Kate published the sequel, All the Winding World, set in Shrewsbury, Acton Burnell and other UK locations as well as south-western France.
This year, Kate also published a children’s book, Greencoats a historical fantasy set in Shropshire and Birmingham in 1940, during the Birmingham Blitz. It has been taken up by several schools, and a scheme of work for KS2 has been produced by a head teacher, which is free to download from her website.
Wild Labyrinth follows the same heroine as The Errant Hours, Illesa Arrowsmith, later Lady Burnel, who lives in Langley Manor near Acton Burnell. Some of the action of the story takes place there, and also at a holy well in Shrewsbury and by the river at Atcham. The plot also takes in London, Tewkesbury, Ledbury, Hereford, and the Dordogne in France.
Kate says: "I was very inspired by the Mappa Mundi in Hereford Cathedral - which is said to have been created in Hereford at the same period as the action of this book - early 14th century. The mapmaker is one of the main characters."
"I’ve always been interested in Medieval history and art, and I’ve always had a stubborn streak. I was sure there would be enough people interested in my 'Medieval Literary Adventure' to make publishing it worthwhile"
- Kate Innes, author of Wild Labyrinth, the third and final book in The Arrowsmith Triology
We asked Kate to explain a little about her publishing journey - and how to stay true to your original intentions despite market forces!
When I started writing, I knew next to nothing about the publishing industry, assuming that if I wrote a good story and wrote it well, it would be published. When I started looking for an agent/publisher for The Errant Hours back in 2014, I was very quickly educated out of this assumption! Publishers are risk averse and like to know that a book will definitely sell before taking it on. They tend to want books that reflect successful trends, or that are about famous characters or time periods, and that firmly sit within a specific genre. They look for an obvious marketing 'hook’.
I was told that, although I was a very good writer, a book set in Medieval times, in Shropshire, about unknown historical characters, was too big a risk. I was advised to write instead about the Romans, Tudors or Victorians, and preferably a murder mystery. But I’ve always been interested in Medieval history and art, and I’ve always had a stubborn streak. I was sure there would be enough people interested in my 'Medieval Literary Adventure' to make publishing it worthwhile.
Traditional publishing has to make money for everyone in the creative and distributive supply chain, but an independent author only has to make enough for themselves as well as a percentage for bookshops and for any professional services, like graphic designers. My designer is Mike Ashton of MA Creative based in Shrewsbury. I think his excellent book covers have helped make my books successful. All the beautiful maps in the Arrowsmith Trilogy, including ‘Wild Labyrinth’, have been drawn by James Wade, artist and architect, the genius behind the exquisite Shrewsbury Streetscape Project. I really enjoy working with other local, creative people.
I’ve always sought to write and produce books of the highest quality that look traditionally published. Having been given several accolades, including being shortlisted for the International Rubery Award, I'm proud of what I’ve created and very grateful to all my readers and to the fantastic Shropshire Independent Bookshops, for their support.
Kate Innes Launch events for Wild Labyrinth:-
Saturday, November 27 from 10am-4pm - Launch Day for Wild Labyrinth in the Second Story Space pop up shop at The Simple Life Unwrapped - (previously Wenlock Books) - in Much Wenlock
Sunday, November 28 10.30am - 12.30pm - Shrewsbury Festival of Literature - talking about characters alongside Alix Nathan and Annie Garthwaite.
Saturday, December 4, from 12noon -1.30pm - Book signing at Castle Books in Ludlow