The Maiden: A Q & A with Kate Foster


‘I didn’t just find her life interesting; I found her notoriety fascinating.’

We spoke to another debut novelist this month, Kate Foster, about her historical crime novel, The Maiden.


The Maiden
By Kate Foster
Published by Mantle


Congratulations on the publication of your debut novel, The Maiden. Tell us what it’s like to see your first book in print.

It’s been an unbelievable experience! I signed my publishing contract in summer 2021, so it’s been a long journey but seeing the book come together has been thrilling, and hearing the audiobook has been incredible too. The actors have really brought the characters to life.


Tell us about the Bloody Scotland Pitch Perfect showcase. How did it feel to take part, and can you share what happened after your win. How has your first publication journey been for you?

I pitched to the Bloody Scotland panel in September 2020 so the festival was being run online that year, because of lockdown. Pitch Perfect is a competition where new writers get the chance to run their idea past industry professionals and get feedback. I was nervous but I had already been doing a lot of zoom interviews through my work as a journalist so I felt OK about it. Normally the pitch event happens live on stage which I would have been excited about but is probably more nerve-wracking! I was also doing a Curtis Brown Novel writing course so my manuscript was in decent shape but it wasn’t finished. After I won, I got interest from agents and publishers and I signed with Viola Hayden at Curtis Brown Books because she had some suggestions for the manuscript that matched my vision. My road to the publication of The Maiden has been straightforward and pretty much the dream. I have been very lucky. But I have a lot of unfinished projects and rejections from previous work!


The Maiden is based on real life events. What was it about the life of Lady Christian that you thought would make it a great thriller? 

Christian Nimmo (she wasn’t a Lady in real life) was embroiled in an intriguing and probably very toxic relationship with her aunt’s husband and murdered him during an argument. I didn’t just find her life interesting; I found her notoriety fascinating. After her death, she became a local ghost and is said to haunt the spot of the murder in Corstorphine, Edinburgh, the village where I grew up. She was portrayed in court reports as a whore, an adulteress and a murderess and I wanted to strip that away and create a fictionalised version of a real woman but with a murder mystery element that questioned the assumed facts of the case.


Did you always know you wanted to write historical fiction? What is it about the 17th century that particularly fascinates you?

I found I really clicked with the story of Christian Nimmo because we come from the same part of Edinburgh but I was also reading some great historical fiction at the time, such as Burial Rites by Hannah Kent and The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins. These books shine the spotlight on women and I think that really resonated with me and what I wanted to do. The 17th century was not a great time to be alive for women or men and historical fiction gives us a chance to highlight unheard voices.


How do you think the patriarchal society you explore in this book resonates today?

Not really, thanks goodness, but we still have a long way to go!


Which authors and books have influenced your writing so far?

The books I already mentioned, plus authors like Margaret Atwood, Lisa O’Donnell, Megan Campisi, Janice Hallett and Sarah Waters. I could go on!


What are you reading just now? What are you looking forward to reading this year?

I have a huge TBR pile and I am doing structural edits on book 2, which means I have to cut back on my reading in order to get work done. But Hear No Evil by Sarah Smith and Ritual of Fire by D.V. Bishop, which is out in June, are at the top of it.


The Maiden by Kate Foster is published by Mantle, priced £14.99.

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‘I didn’t just find her life interesting; I found her notoriety fascinating.’