At the top of a tree

Ideas for The Secret Keeper began to percolate years ago, and a half-finished version of Chapter One sat in an old notebook for ages before I finally started work on the book officially. I’d long carried the stubborn image in my mind of a teenage girl at the top of a tree – it was a warm, summer afternoon, the scene infused with the potency of its adolescent narrator – and I knew that the idyllic picture would be shattered by something shocking–

I just wasn’t sure what that something would be. I tried to force that girl into other books, but she was uncooperative and it seems that she knew better than I that she did not belong in them.

Bringing the Blitz to life

In 2008, my family and I went to live in London for three months. London is a special city for me: there, more than anywhere else, I feel conscious of the past brushing against me. I’ve always been fascinated by the Second World War, in particular life on the Home Front, and I arranged to meet a guide who walked me around central London on a bitter cold November day and brought the Blitz to life. Once I discovered my wartime character, Dorothy, I finally knew what it was that her daughter would witness on that summer’s day, twenty years later.

Past and Present

Blending past and present storylines in order to tell a complete narrative is one of my favourite ways to write. I don’t see time in a linear fashion. I believe that the past is always with us — as memories, but also as influences that inform our behavior in the present and the decisions that we make with respect to the future. Making sure various storylines and character points-of-view weave together in a logical and interesting way can be mind-bending; but, when it works, it’s very satisfying and, I think, an organic way to tell a story, like that in The Secret Keeper, which belongs to an entire family.

Interview: Kate in conversation with Culture Street about The Secret Keeper


Signs of the Blitz are still around if you know where to look: whilst researching The Secret Keeper, Kate discovered a faded shelter sign on the brick wall of a house in Mayfair, and visited the eerie Aldwych tube station, sealed up and frozen in time since World War II.

Interview: Kate in conversation with Waterstones about The Secret Keeper