Welcome to this virtual landscape where debut authors get to take us along ancient streets, deserted beaches and dark forests, showing us what inspired them, pointing out the crossroads and obstacles and describing the next steps for their writing careers. This month Helen Victoria steps out with author Kat Dunn whose debut Dangerous Remedy was out on 6 August 2020.

Let’s begin our journey...

There’s nothing like a good walk to fuel creative ideas and give us inspiration in our writing. Where are you taking us on our walk today? 

The streets of Paris, of course! Dangerous Remedy takes place in Paris during the later years of the French Revolution, in the months known as ‘The Terror’. Though a lot of the city from that time has been lost, you can still walk in the footsteps of Marie Antoinette, Robespierre or Marat if you know where to look. 

What about the landscape you have created in your novel? How important is the setting to your plot and themes? 

It’s at the centre of it - Paris was like its own character, full of quirks and contradictions, defining the shape of the plot that careens through its slums, palaces, rivers and restaurants. Paris was the centre of the Revolution, the philosophical debates, political battles, sieges, executions and riots - there was nowhere else I could have possibly set the book. 

As the saying goes, a journey of a thousand steps starts with one. Tell us about your inspiration for your novel. 

There are always a hundred different threads of inspiration that weave together to make any book, but one of the big strands for Dangerous Remedy was the science of the period. The Enlightenment brought people into contact with all sorts of new ideas from philosophy to politics, chemistry to surgery, but what has always fascinated me was early experimentation with electricity. A strange, near-magical force that baffled scientists and inspired wild theories about the spark of life, mind control and even raising the dead. Frankenstein famously draws inspiration from the macabre experiments with electricity on dead bodies - but I started thinking about what might happen if an unscrupulous scientist experimented on someone at the start of life, and what sort of supernatural powers this might awaken... 

Now we have got into our stride, can you tell us what you loved most about writing this book? 

I want to say the historical research - because I’m a total history nerd and I loved immersing myself in the period - but really, my all-time favourite part of writing Dangerous Remedy was any time the Battalion of the Dead - Camille, Ada, Guil and Al - were together and I could indulge in some banter and bickering, as well as the found family love and support that’s so important to the heart of the book. And in particular, writing the queer love story between Camille and Ada felt particularly meaningful.
We seem to be lost in the woods now. Can you describe your most difficult moments when you were writing … and how you got back onto the right path? 

I was quite lucky in that I found my agent quite quickly and we were able to sell Dangerous Remedy to my brilliant editor Fiona the same year. Really, the hard part for me came before. I’ve been writing stories since I could hold a pen and always planned to pursue traditional publication, but it took me years and years to really commit my time and energy to it, to take risks, and find out whether this talent I’d always prided myself on, that gave meaning to my life, could actually amount to anything. In fact it took several years of therapy and processing past trauma before I could do it. I might be ten years older than a lot of people I’m debuting with, but the only way I could get back onto the right path was to let it take whatever time it needed. 

As we reach the summit, can you tell us how it feels to be a first time author? 

Like most 2020 debuts, I can safely say this was not how I imagined being a first time author. Unfortunately things like a launch party, panels or signings have all had to be put on hold. But I have a great team behind me, and so much support from friends that it’s still been an exciting time and I hope the book will get to its readers one way or another! 

We’ve finished our walk and now so I think we deserve to celebrate with tea in a cosy inn. As we warm our feet by the blazing fire, tell me where you think your writing will take you in the future? 

Dangerous Remedy is book one of a trilogy, so currently I’m working on book two! There’s not much I can say without giving big spoilers, but I can tell you that this time the Battalion are split between London and Paris, and to protect Olympe they’ll have to face an enemy they never saw coming... 

Finally, I have really enjoyed walking and talking with you today. Can you give us one take away tip for yet-to-be-published writers? 

If your problem is never finishing what you start, take a long hard think about why. It’s easier to stay somewhere safe and known than really step into the unknown and take the risk of finishing and finding out what happens next. Risk is scary. That’s okay, it’s meant to be scary, because that means you’re doing something that really matters to you.

Kat Dunn grew up in London and has lived in Japan, Australia and France. She has a BA in Japanese from SOAS and an MA in English from Warwick. She’s written about mental health for Mind and The Guardian, and worked as a translator for Japanese television. Her fiction has been shortlisted for the Mslexia Novel Competition, and Dangerous Remedy is her first novel. 

Follow Kat: Twitter: @KatAliceDunn Instagram: @KatAliceDunn

Helen Victoria is a writer of YA fiction, a full-time drama teacher and a reader of anything and everything. When she is not putting on shows, reading or writing, Helen loves to walk in wild places, or hang out with her family and friends in London, France and Cornwall. Follow Helen: Twitter: @helensimmons100 Facebook:
Imogen Foxell is an illustrator with a particular interest in creating intricate imaginary worlds. She illustrates English literature revision cards for, and interesting words for Her website is

No comments:

We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.