I am delighted to welcome author K M Pohlkamp back to the spotlight
Hi and welcome back to Jaffareadstoo, it's a real pleasure to have you as our guest today.Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started as an author.
Thank you so much for hosting me!
By day I am the Chief of Trajectory Operations for NASA Mission’s Control and at night, when my kids are in bed, I write to maintain sanity. Writing is my escape, just as reading is for so many. I am originally a Cheesehead from Wisconsin and now live in Houston, Texas. I also attempt a ballet class once a week.
I have always loved writing – so much that along with engineering, I double majored in journalism. B.C. (that’s before children), I was a freelance writer for broadwayworld.com and worked at my hometown city’s newspaper as a sports journalist. Over years of practice, I honed creative writing skills and must thank all the editors and beta readers who helped along the way. It is amazing to now see my books in the hands of readers and I cherish every note from someone who had read my work. Those little tweets and e-mails keep my fingers fueled and flying upon the keyboard.
Shadows of Hemlock is the sequel to Apricots and Wolfsbane –what can you tell us about the story and did you feel more of an obligation to make this book even better than the first?
Apricots and Wolfsbane follows the career of Lavinia Maud, a female poison assassin in Tudor England (watch the book trailer). While navigating betrayals as her marks grow from tavern drunks to nobility, Lavinia struggles to justify her profession with her faith and is forced to choose between the man and the poisons she loves.
Shadows of Hemlock features Lavinia’s apprentice, Aselin Gravel, and releases tomorrow November 19! Aselin confronts regrets and fallout from the first novel and finds she is ill-prepared for the independence she craved. When the Guild of Poison Assassins comes for retribution, Aselin must seek aid from a fickle contact who only wants one means of payment: a ring that is more than it appears. While Apricots is a stand-alone story, Shadows continues the journey, twisting things readers thought they knew.
Honestly, I was nervous to write a sequel. Apricots is a Historical Novel Society Editors’ Choice Selection, a Discovering Diamonds Historical Fiction Reviews Book of the Month, and a finalist for the 2018 International Chanticleer Chaucer Historical Fiction awards, amongst other accolades. I was blown away by the tremendous reception of my debut novel and little nagging demons of doubt made me question if I could really do it again. Thankfully my publisher has provided fantastic support. I roughed out the sequel while we finished edits on Apricots which allowed me to dangle a few hooks in the first novel to better set up the second. Most importantly, Shadows stays true to the world of Apricots that so many readers have responded too. I am thrilled that Shadows just recently also received 5-Stars from Readers’ Favorite Reviews.
Both works are written in first-person and changing the narrator between the two novels makes the second book feel fresh. We see a few of the same events but from a new perspective which causes the reader to rethink opinions from the first novel. These spins made Shadows fun to write and I have loved hearing comments from the fantastic reception of early reviews.
Your writing is darkly atmospheric – how do you recreate a sense of history in your novels and how much research do you do in order to bring place and people to life?
Seeing the world through the eyes of an assassin provides a wonderful way to keep tension high and the pages turning. My writing can be poetically dark, invoking suspense and emotion -- but without violent description. This is important to me so that my writing is accessible; that the reader can connect with the anti-hero protagonists and even root for them as they slip toxins in chalices. Poisoning also provides distance from the kills and keep the prose palatable.
While my characters are fictional, this is historical fiction. It is incredibly important to get facts correct because the smallest inconsistencies can take a reader out of the story. Each novel has a discussion guide in the back which points out the historical reference for each novel and is part of a Book Club discussion guide. Here is a list of my favorite historical fiction research resources.
Not only did I painstakingly research Tudor England, I also ensured the taste, feel, and effect of each poison is correct. Like so many authors, this destroyed my Google search history, but those little details bring a story to life: how a wolfsbane leaf feels in a gloved hand, how a mixture bubbles in a forge.
|Filles Vertes Publishing|
19 November 2019
Especially writing in first person, I had to dive into the heads of my protagonists and understand how they feel when they kill and more important, when they themselves are hunted. Avoiding spoilers, I teared drafting the end of Apricots and readers will understand why.
Having dove so deep into Lavinia’s head, I did several practice writings and character development exercises before switching to Aselin’s narration for Shadows. To help my readers make this transition as well, I have released a FREE short-story prequel told from Aselin’s perspective. This also serves as a fantastic introduction to Lavinia’s world in Tudor England. I hope everyone reading this blog will give it a try and since it’s free, there is nothing to lose!
My favorite characters are Lavinia, because the entire world originally built around her, and Dauid, who we see more fully in Shadows. He guides Aselin through her transformation from self-centered naivete and also provides comic relief.
Your style of writing is very much ‘from the heart’. Does this take its toll on you emotionally, and if so, how do you overcome it?
I sincerely appreciate that compliment! Writing in first person increases the emotion and helps heighten this sentiment. I write very slowly and often find it exhausting; the emotional connection is a big reason why.
But that is the fun of writing (and reading), to examine the world through different eyes, to be someone you could never otherwise be and let your mind take you on an adventure.
How can readers find out more about you and your writing?
I know everyone’s to-be-read lists are long and I am so honored every time a reader trusts me with their precious reading time. I hope everyone will please give me a chance to captivate them with my free short-story prequel.
I love hearing from readers. I do not write to have books published, but rather to have my books read. Readers can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, GoodReads, or through my website. I have been told my novels make fantastic book club selections because there’s a little something for everyone. I include a free Book Club discussion guide in the back of my books and have skyped with book clubs all over the world. I would love to meet with yours next and I provide all interested book clubs with my family’s recipe for stuffed mushrooms to bring a little something extra to your next meeting (just hold the wolfsbane).
K.M. Pohlkamp is a blessed wife to the love of her life, proud mother of two young children, and a Mission Control flight controller. A Cheesehead by birth, she now resides in Texas for her day job and writes to maintain her sanity. Her other hobbies include ballet and piano. K.M. has come a long way from the wallpaper and cardboard books she created as a child. Her debut novel, Apricots and Wolfsbane, was published October 2017 by Filles Vertes Publishing and was designated an Editors’ Choice Selection by the Historical Novel Society, among other accolades.
✨✨Thank you so much Kara for being our author in the spotlight today ✨
Do come back and see us again soon