Romantic Novelists' Association

Kate Ryder: Secrets Of The Mist

16 September 2019

I would like to welcome Kate Ryder. Kates first novel, a self-published time-slip romance and mysterious ghost story, was shortlisted for Choc Lit’s “Search for a Star” and also awarded a Chill with a Book “Book of the Month”.   In 2015 she joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s new writer’s scheme and graduated in the spring of 2017 when she signed her first traditional publishing contract.

Until recently I didn’t believe in ghosts, do you? And why do you think lots of people are so quick to dismiss ghosts?

I believe there is something more than just the physical world we see around us, but only a few people have the sensitivity to experience the dead manifesting themselves to the living.  Everything is connected; not only in the natural world but also the spiritual.  Many people are sceptics, rejecting the possibility of ghosts and dismissing their existence, as it takes them out of their comfort zone.  They tend to view it as beliefs only folk who cannot grasp the material world we live in and seek for something more indulge in.  They find it incomprehensible to consider ‘otherworldly’ possibilities.  However, in my job as a country property negotiator, I have visited many old houses where there is definitely the suggestion of something more.

Do you have a particular place where you like to write? If so where? What does it look like? Any special requirements, notebooks, pens?

I live in a three-storey cottage and my office is on the top floor.  With a little imagination, it feels as if I’m in a tower and remote from the world.  It’s my writing sanctuary where I’m undisturbed by anything else occurring in the household.

If it’s a beautiful summer’s day I like to take my writing outside.  Using my laptop, I sit on the decking that overlooks the garden to the hills of Devon beyond, whilst trying very hard not to be distracted by the view.

Do you have any rituals once a book is completed?

To breathe…! ☺

I don’t have any rituals, as such, but I do like to celebrate publication day with something special.  For instance, when my first book with Aria was released, I treated myself to a beautiful stacking ring made by Alison Moore in her Orkney workshop.  A combination of gemstones – labradorite, rose quartz and rainbow moonstone – the ring is infused with the colours of the island.  The designer says it’s inspired by her ‘walks on the beach, moods, emotions, and the textures, forms and colours of nature’.  I love it!

Does Maddie’s character in ‘Secrets of the mist’ reflect you at all? She’s clearly brave and adventurous. Do you see yourself that way?

I believe that all characters created by a writer have some element of the author’s personality.  I’d like to think I was brave and adventurous, although I remember a rather unsympathetic English teacher telling me he didn’t believe I’d do the things I’d written in a short story, which I’d written in the first person.  Talk about encouragement… not!  My novels tend to be about the hard choices we make, moral dilemma and having faith in the journey.  That’s something I’ve faced, so – from that point of view – I would say Maddie’s character does reflect me… to some degree!

In spite of several rejections, your determination carried you to the next stage in your career of self-publishing which clearly paid off. Any tips for aspiring writers? How was your experience with self-publishing?

For aspiring writers I would say just write, write, write… and join a writer’s group if possible, be it the RNA or a local group.  Encouragement from like-minds is invaluable.

I believe all writers go through periods of self-doubt and now that I’ve written almost 4 novels, I’ve noticed a pattern.  It’s usually at the three-quarter’s stage of creating a book when I wonder if the current WIP is a load of old tripe!  The trick is to keep plugging away, as you can always go back, tweak, sift and move things around.

My self-publishing experience was a creative joy and one that was very uplifting, once I’d learnt how to upload the manuscript and master page layout.  I found the perfect watercolour on the internet for the front cover, but had difficulty discovering who had painted it.  I put out feelers but didn’t get any response, so I started to look at alternatives – nothing compared!  About 10 months later, out of the blue, I received an email from a student in Ohio (the wonders of the World Wide Web) who had used the watercolour in a thesis.  She gave me the name of the artist and, having checked her website, I made contact to ask if she’d agree to my use of her artwork.  I didn’t hold out much hope as she is an award-winning equestrian artist from Northern California and I imagined her fee would be enormous.  However, I received an instant reply.  She told me that my email had landed in her inbox on Thanksgiving Day and it was the best present she’d received!  She agreed to the use of her painting, as long as she had the final say in cover design and that I mentioned her website.  The company I’d chosen produced a beautiful cover and she was more than happy.  I was truly humbled by her generous gift.

If you were to leave your own time capsule buried in your home, what would you put in it?

That’s an interesting question.  I’d definitely have to include something to do with the current Brexit debacle and also environmental issues.  Who knows what type of world future generations will face?  I’d also put in a newspaper – perhaps The Guardian and, maybe, The Daily Mail (to give a different perspective).  I’d write a summary of what we knew of the cottage’s history and that it was originally, reputedly, a sawmill; who we were and the life we led whilst living in the early 21st Century; a food bill; a local building merchant’s invoice; a Mars Bar wrapper; and a photo of the property in our day.  Finally, I’d include a signed copy of Secrets of the Mist, explaining that the renovation of the cottage had directly inspired the novel.

What’s next? Any writing avenues you’ve yet to and want to explore?

My novels, to date, have fallen in the romantic suspense genre.  However, much of the suspense includes psychological elements and it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to move into psychological drama/thriller mode.

A gorgeous timeslip romance for fans of Kate Mosse, Diana Gabaldon and Barbara Erskine.

Maddie is restless in London. She has friends, a job and a sort-of boyfriend, but something in her life is missing. Then she visits the ancient village of Walditch, deep in the Dorset countryside. Something stirs in her, and on a whim she buys a centuries-old cottage and moves there three months later. Her friends think she’s crazy, but for Maddie it feels like coming home. 

Late at night in the cottage, Maddie hears strange noises and sees mist gathering indoors and out. When she starts investigating the cottage’s history, she becomes drawn into the tragic story of a family who lived there 400 years ago. Meanwhile, Maddie starts to fall in love with a local carpenter – but he has a relationship already… 

Can Maddie solve the riddle of the past? What is her connection with the family that lived there so many years ago? And can she and her true love ever be together? 

Previously self-published as The Forgotten Promise.

Inspiration for the Book:

I’ve always had an interest in the possibility of great love leaving a vibration across the centuries, and I definitely believe in old houses retaining memories.  Set in Dorset, Secrets of the Mist is a contemporary romance played out against a mysterious ghost story, which takes the heroine on a time-slip journey to the dangerous days of the English Civil War, visiting the ghosts of her past.  The story is all about choices and having the courage to follow one’s true path – a recurring theme in my writing!

The inspiration for Secrets of the Mist is two-fold.

A few years ago, my husband and I moved from Sussex to Cornwall to restore a 200-year-old cottage.  Whilst carrying out extensive renovations (I lived on a building site for 4 years) we discovered a time capsule hidden by a previous owner.  The contents were fascinating and sparked my imagination, making me not only consider past occupants and the lives they led during the preceding two centuries, but also the dramas that may have taken place within the four walls of our cottage.

However, the true seeds for this novel were sown one cold, winter’s day while I waited for customers at a country market.  I’d come to know a fellow trader as someone who possessed a down-to-earth attitude, so I was somewhat surprised when she told me about a Dartmoor cottage she once owned that she’d shared with a ghost.  Apparently, during the years she’d lived in the cottage an apparition was regularly seen moving from behind a stained-glass screen in her living room before disappearing through the wall.  Well, that was all the information I needed for my creative juices to kick in!  At the time I was a member of the South Dornaford Writers’ Group and I penned a short story from this golden nugget.  When I finished reading it to my fellow writers, a sea of expectant faces peered up at me and demanded to know what happened next.  Combined with the discovery of the time capsule in my own old cottage, that was all the inspiration I needed…

About Kate Ryder:

I am one of those people who from a very young age felt compelled to write.  School bored me – I hated the authority and what I perceived to be unnecessary constraints – and the only subjects that truly captured my imagination were English and Art.  They still do to this day, although I’ve since acquired other necessary skills!

On leaving school I went to drama college, but it wasn’t long before I realised I preferred writing to performing.  Then life happened.  Over the years, I’ve been employed in various industries – predominantly publishing, travel and property – but always it comes back to the ‘written’ word.  I’ve worked as a proof reader, copy editor and writer; the latter role necessitating a reining-in of my imagination and sticking to simple facts, as I was on the reporting team for a national magazine.

However, on approaching a milestone birthday, it occurred to me that if I didn’t write that novel soon I never would.  I joined a local writers’ group and it was during a particular workshop when I read out my ‘short story homework’ that I looked up to find ten expectant faces all wanting to know what happened next.  That intrigued me.  What did happen next?  I allowed my imagination to have free rein and was so fired up that the words just flowed.  Three months and eighty-five thousand words later, I had a novel – the quickest book I’ve ever written!

In 2015, I joined the RNA New Writers’ Scheme and submitted that novel.  When I received my reader’s comments I mulled them over, implemented changes and then sent the manuscript out into the big wide, publishing world.  I tried to forget about it and concentrate on completing the next WIP.  Several months and a number of ‘very nice’ rejection letters later, I decided to publish the book myself under the title, The Forgotten Promise.  Self-publishing was a huge learning curve but one I found creatively fulfilling.  I was thrilled when this version was subsequently shortlisted for Choc Lit’s 2016 ‘Search for a Star’ and awarded the first Chill with a Book ‘Book of the Month’.

In 2016 I submitted another manuscript to the NWS (the ‘completed’ WIP).  This one caught the attention of a publisher and Summer in a Cornish Cove made me a 2018 Joan Hessayon award nominee.  I feel so fortunate to have a 4-book contract with Aria (digital imprint of Head of Zeus) and I’m pleased The Forgotten Promise was accepted as Book No. 3.  A big fat thank you must go to the RNA for its part in my journey to publication.  Taking on board my NWS reader’s comments and implementing further additions suggested by my Aria editor, I tweaked and expanded the story, which I’m proud to say has been reinvented as Secrets of the Mist.

Today, I write romantic suspense with a true-to-life narrative.  When not selling country property I can be found working on the final book of my Aria contract, which is set on the north Cornish coast and scheduled for publication in autumn 2020.

Find Kate on social media:


Twitter:  @KateRyder_Books


About the interviewer:

Catherine Lawless lives in Hertfordshire with her husband, daughter and their three border terriers. She writes novels, journals and children’s books. Catherine’s career started out as a singer/songwriter in a rock band. She toured extensively throughout Europe and the UK before settling down and following her childhood dream of writing books.