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.
You can buy The Summer We’ve Had here.
Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. It sounds like a cliche, but it’s true! My first proper, full-length, publishable novel was The Silent Chapter, a straight historical fiction that I released in 2022, aged eighteen. (Yes, really.) But while historical fiction was always my first writerly love, I have to say it got rather usurped by Sapphic fiction—that is, fiction that centres around two female-identifying or non-binary people that are attracted to other female-identifying or non-binary people. Probably around the time I started accepting my own lesbianism. No sooner had I finished my first drafts of The Silent Chapter, I was working on a Sapphic book, and the result (after much editing, beta reading and sensitivity reading) was The Summer We’ve Had.
Why did I want to write about Dissociative Identity Disorder, specifically? Well, it had always intrigued me. I was thirteen when I first heard of Kim Noble, a UK-based artist who has Dissociative Identity Disorder, a type of complex-PTSD that leads to the shattering of a person’s mind. To cope, the main identity of the person disappears, replaced by a system of other identities (or ‘alters’), each of whom have their own identities. I had never seen this condition represented in fiction, especially not Sapphic fiction, and I’ve always been told to write what you want to read, so that was what I did.
Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?
I honestly can’t remember. I know that’s not the answer you’re looking for, but I can’t pin down a specific moment that it popped into my head. What I do know is that its working title was “Sitting On A Secret,” back in the very early stages when the entire plot and setting was completely one-hundred-percent different, and somewhere in the first draft it had changed to The Summer We’ve Had.
How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?
I’m self-published, which means that there was no first time that I saw my book cover. I created it from scratch, based simply on what looked and felt right. It took a very long time, with many drafts and mood boards and font changes. But I got there eventually. I deliberately wanted it to seem ambiguous with regards to its LGBTQ-ness—that’s why the rainbow on the cover is very faint. As an LGBTQ-fiction writer, you never know whether your readers are in the closet or not, so I didn’t want my book to be the one thing that outed them.
As for when I first held my book in my hands… well. What I wish I could say is that everything clicked into place, and I had a gut instinct that I was destined for self-published stardom, and that the tears just rolled down my cheeks as I cradled my work lovingly in my hands. You know, the romanticised version. But what really happened is a bit more prosaic. I’d had a handful of proofs, just to check that everything was okay with the cover, but they had an unattractive ‘not for resale’ banner across them, so I just stuck them in a cupboard (which is where they still are, actually). When I first got the actual author copies, I brought the box in, put it down and… forgot about it.
What can I say? I was busy and it was a bad day for CFS-induced brain fog! Plus, the book had already been out for two weeks, and the novelty had sort of worn off. I have to confess that my main thought, upon finally holding a proper copy in my hands, was ‘I must get outside while it’s still sunny and take some pretty pictures for my Instagram’. How very Gen-Z of me.
If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?
Oh, I’ve been waiting for someone to ask me something like this!!
There are a few songs referenced in The Summer We’ve Had… but a lot of them are made up. However, I did have plenty of real songs in mind as I wrote various parts—not always for the lyrics, sometimes just for the general vibe. Among them are…
“Tattoo” by Jordin Sparks
“When I Have Sung My Songs” by Ernest Charles
“Shut Up And Dance” by Walk The Moon
“Marry You” by Bruno Mars
“I See The Light” by Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi
“Maybe It Was Magic” by Agnetha Faltskog
“Fix You” by Coldplay
“Whistle Down The Wind” by Tina Arena
What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?
I hope readers take away the knowledge that a mental health diagnosis does not equate to a metaphorical death sentence. That you can live a happy and healthy life, with happy and healthy relationships, alongside a mental health condition. And that the stigma around mental health—the notion that those who suffer with theirs are ‘weak’ or ‘unstable’ or ‘unreliable’ or ‘inferior’—is completely unnecessary. Do Cass and Felicia seem weak or unstable or unreliable or inferior to you?
My notion of a perfect reader is not too specific. They simply have to be open-minded. The rest is negotiable, but willingness to be educated and to consider new things is crucial.
What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?
When the feedback started rolling in, and people with depression told me that they could see themselves in Cass. I had very little personal experience of depression at that point, so I was writing her struggles based on mounds of research and my ability to put myself in someone else’s shoes. In fact, the very first review I got (from the wonderful Briony Molly Media) said that it was ‘the first book I’ve read that tackles mental health and romance in a constructive way without making things toxic’. It meant—and still means—everything to me to know that I’ve done a good job in representing mental health conditions well. That was, after all, pretty much the point of the book.
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