The novelist flicks through the pages of her life online.

‘If you’ve ever wanted to disappear from your own life, this book will speak to you’, enthuses the Observer’s Book of The Year review of The Truants, Kate Weinberg’s startlingly good debut of a whodunnit. Its reviewer was far from alone in eulogising the propulsive addiction to be unearthed within its pages. ‘The parallels between her story’s events and incidents in Christie’s books are ingenious,’ wrote the Daily Telegraph, while The New York Times called it a ‘hypnotic debut’ and then listed it amongst its top ten crime novels of 2020.

That rare thing – a critically acclaimed commercial novel – The Truants has been a number one bestseller and is currently being optioned for Netflix. Not bad for a first novel. But then, if anyone could pull it off, it was Kate Weinberg. Having studied English at Oxford and later creative writing on the much-vaunted course at East Anglia, all the building blocks were in place. However, her considerable skill at creating character and plot that stay with the reader long beyond finishing the final chapter was, doubtless, honed when she cut her literary teeth as a slush pile reader (in other words, the first person to trawl through untold numbers of unsolicited manuscripts submitted to publishers). She then polished them as a bookseller, a journalist and a ghost writer. Want to know more? Check out her website, where you can also listen in on conversations with fellow writers – such as Jojo Moyes, Kate Mosse and firm GWG favourite, Nicola Rayner – via her podcast.

Here Kate bookmarks the pages of her digital life – despite some self-confessed internet-related committed issues. Read on to discover the only place she – slowly – consumes her news; why listening to Mel Giedroyc talking about quilting reliably has her in stitches; how taking pictures of post-its is an essential part of her writing process; and why you should never, ever write a first draft of anything on a computer.

My favourite website...


I’ll confess right away that I have commitment issues with the internet. I tend to flit from passion to passion rather than go steady. So it’s hard for me to choose ‘the one’. Can we play sleep with; marry; push off a cliff instead? If so, I’d sleep with Spacenk.com, marry Findmyiphone.com, and as for Foxnews.com…



My favourite app...


Tortoise, a Slow News outlet. I used to think that leaping to see what BBC News notification just went ping and bingeing on newspapers or social media over the weekend meant that I was engaged with the world. Actually, I was just headline-addicted. I’ve traded in all the noise for the Tortoise app, which examines all the big issues in the world in a thoughtful, clever, investigative way. OK, it was set up by my husband. But for any newsy person, Tortoise is genuinely life-changing.

My favourite blog...


How I Eat Now, a snappy, joyful recipe blog that gets straight to the point – the food itself – cranking out delicious, planet-friendly plates such as crisp greens with sweet-salt sesame and sizchuan-inspired cauliflower steaks for the likes of me (not an amazing cook but wants to feel like an amazing cook) who needs hand-holding in the kitchen by an older sister (it is in fact written by my older sister).

My favourite podcast...


Mel Giedroyc Is Quilting. You don’t need to know anything about quilting. You don’t even have to intend to make a quilt. It’s just very, very funny.

My favourite YouTuber...


I don’t have a favourite YouTuber but I do want to nominate three unintentional YouTube stars whose clips act as instant anti-depressants for me: The deadpan BBC reporter on Korea (whose little kids strolled into shot pursued by wife frantically skidding in, pulling up her trousers); the unnamed posh man who bellows after his dog Fenton as it sets a herd of deer stampeding through Richmond Park; and perhaps best of all, the really serious foreign correspondent Quentin Somerville who is reporting on the huge mound of marijuana burning behind him when he starts giggling in a very, very stoned way.

My most recent buy online...


Do you mean the last, non-embarrassing item? Because if I’m honest its some leg waxing strips and a dog chew.

Last book you downloaded or read...


I’ve been working my way through the Maggie O’Farrell’s back catalogue and just finished My Lover’s Lover. Not her best (my favourites are After You’d Gone and This Must be the Place) but then again she sets a very high bar.

Favourite tweeter...


I only follow a handful of people on Twitter (I find Instagram hard enough to manage in terms of temptation/self-esteem/time-suck) but Jon Winokur @advicetowriters always nails it with brilliant quotes on the psychology of being a writer.

Favourite Instagrammer...


@unitybooksauckland, an independent bookshop in New Zealand which I’m now dying to go to. All the booksellers seem to be hilarious and full of character and exactly the kind of people you trust to pick out your next favourite book.

Favourite tech gadget...


I have a total love-hate relationship with my Apple earbuds. Every day I wake up filled with love for them, and every day they let me down with their cruel, on-and-off behaviour.

The most useful gadget/item on your desk...


The humble Post-It note. I use Post-Its for plotting, sticking them up on a big piece of cardboard on the wall. It means I can move them around when I have new ideas or change my mind about structure. Now I take a quick snap every time I do some rearranging – I learned the hard way when I walked into my office one morning and most of the Post-It notes were lying like a sad heap of yesterday’s confetti on the floor.

Most useful digital resource during lockdown...


I’ve always thought I was too twitchy to meditate but since November I’ve had Long Covid and I’m using the Calm app. Just ten minutes a day, for beginners like me, but it makes a huge difference.



Most inspirational digital resource during lockdown...


@HumansofNY, which is pretty much a blog – stories of people that Brandon Stanton has photographed and interviewed on the streets of New York. He distils them down into what feels like a perfectly formed very-short story. Moving and thought-provoking, every time.

First thingyou look at on your mobile when you wake up in the morning...


My Tortoise app. It has a daily digest called the Sensemaker which is written by clever editors that make you feel like you’ve peeped behind the curtain of the news and really know what’s going on.

Last thing you binge-watched...


‘Unbelievable’. A gripping mini-series on Netflix based on a story of a true crime in the US, with two female detectives (one played by Toni Colette) on the hunt of a serial rapist. I know, sounds a little dour, but trust me you will be glued.

Favourite brands have you discovered online...


Ashantidesign.com. A South African company with bright, gorgeously colourful homeware. I bought two of their ginormous, stripy beanbags and just looking at them makes me happy.

Social media allowed me to meet...


The author Jojo Moyes. When I found out that she was going to endorse my novel, I took a chance and DM’ed her on Instagram, inviting her to my book launch. I almost fell off my sofa when she said yes.

The best digital advice I've been given...


Is actually a note to self that I worked out after years of getting stuck on first chapters: never write your first draft of any scene on the computer. Long hand first, no exceptions please.

My screensaver is...


The rear view of my daughter and dog (both unclothed) as they deliberate whether to jump into an ice-cold lake.

My standout online memory...


The one that jumps to mind is watching Amanda Gorman reciting ‘The Hill We Climb’ at Joe Biden’s inauguration. I wasn’t expecting it, and her talent and poise made me well up with awe and hope.

My pet online hate is...


The fact that we all – myself included – take too many photos. Photographs can be wonderful time capsules, but they tell plenty of lies too, and the impulse to frame our lives for others’ approval is quicksand for the self-esteem.

Do you have any online rules or resolutions?


Not having screens in the bedroom (she says, typing this on a laptop in bed with her phone plugged in beside her.)

The Internet. On balance, a force for good or ill?


I think it magnifies and accelerates everything that is good and bad in human nature. So that’s like asking me if humans are more good or bad. Maybe it’s privilege or luck, but I’d say: good. I think it would help if more of us got off our arses and did something about it, but the goodness, I have no doubt, is there.

By Nancy Alsop
April 2021

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