Newspaper Quotes

I always feel that reading snippets of information about someone can be equally as fascinating and illuminating as reading entire biographies or overly-long interviews.  Below you will find a brief selection of bite sized quotes from our favourite author.  As there is a plentiful supply of newspaper interviews with M M Kaye during the 1970s and 1980s, I hope to update this page on a regular basis.  The quotes appear in no particular order.

St Martin’s Press Release - Interview with M M Kaye - 22 December 1982

On writing her first novel.  “Most of the stuff I was reading was total rubbish, and of some of them I used to think: ‘Well, for goodness sake, I couldn’t write worse.’  So I sat down and wrote one.  It was called Six Bars At Seven, and it was my very first effort.  Why on earth they published it, I don’t know.  It was about a noble fellow who managed to foil the villains who were proposing to start World War II.”

Death Walked in Cyprus was the only book (apart from The Ordinary Princess) I’d written in my life which wrote itself… My hand couldn’t keep up with what my brain was telling it to say.  It took 23 days.  I couldn’t write quickly enough - it was a very exciting experience.”

Kestrel Books Press Release for The Ordinary Princess (20 Oct 1980)

The Ordinary Princess was one of the first stories M M Kaye ever wrote when she was twenty-one years old.  The story was completed in just one day and, says the author, it is the only thing she can claim to have written really quickly - ‘it just wrote itself.’

The Times, 11 June 1981

Mrs Kaye remembers well how she came to write Trade Wind.  “I was sitting in Nairobi airport one morning in the 1950s and the stewardess’ voice came over the tannoy: ‘Will passengers for flight 034 for Mobmasa, Tanga, Pemba, Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam be kind enough to take their seats?’  “Such courtesy and such a string of romantic names!”

On the flight that morning she passed what looked like a peach coloured cloud but turned out to be the early sun splashing the snows of Mount Kilimanjaro (now called Mount Kibo).  In Zanzibar she stayed at the British Club and in the library on the bottom shelf found “a whole row of out-of-print books about nineteenth-century Zanzibar.  That’s how it started.”

Making History Come Alive by Ash Suraiya

“After the book (The Far Pavilions) was published and all the money came rolling in, I was talking to Paul Scott (author of The Raj Quartet) and he said, ‘Mollie, you’ve done it, you’ve really done it, now go buy yourself something you really like - like diamonds or something.’  I just laughed.  Maybe if I was younger yes.  But what would I do with diamonds now?

Later, one day I was talking to Paul again on the ‘phone (he was in the US at the time) and he was talking about books and writing, really enjoying himself, when suddenly he stopped and said: ‘Well I have been going on - must have been carrying on for 20 minutes!  Think of your ‘phone bill, Mollie, you shouldn’t have rung me.’  And I said, “Well you asked me to”, and he said.  ‘Never, I never asked you to ring me!’  And I said  “Well you told me to buy myself  diamonds - and that’s what I’m doing.  Every word from the lips of a great man is a diamond.”  I laughed as I said it, but I could tell he was really pleased.  A few days later he was dead - and I was so glad I’d said that to him.”

Wall Street Journal, Friday, 13 October, 1978

Mollie’s favourite writer is, no surprise, Rudyard Kipling.  “The Jungle Books were the first stories Daddy ever read to me - I was about four.  The only reason I’m living in Sussex now is because of Puck of Pook’s Hill.  It’s right in the middle of Kipling country.  Whenever I feel homesick for India, which is about once a year, I fly to Kim and read it again.”

The Daily Telegraph, 14 May, 1986

Mollie and her husband, Goff, met on Monday, 2 June 1941 in India where she was born.  “Don’t ever let anyone tell you there is no such thing as love at first sight.  I thought, ‘that’s it,’ as soon as he walked through the door.”

I asked her if it was true that Ash had been based on her husband, and she agreed.  “Though an awful lot of the divided loyalties is me.”  The tenderness with which she speaks of Ash is plainly derived from Goff.

She took 15 years to complete The Far Pavilions and with his knowledge of military procedure in India, Goff checked her manuscript for accuracy.  On publication day, he gave her one of the rare coins of Alexander the Great once in constant circulation.  “That’s the sort of chap he was.”

Midweek for Women - Auckland Star, 17 December 1980

M M Kaye likes to talk about her treatment and cure (of cancer) because she feels it’s important for people to realise cancer can be cured.  During treatment she would recite to herself a poem by Francis Brett Young, included in Rosemary Sutcliffe’s book about Camelot, Sword at Sunset.  “Everyday I knew exactly how many verses it would take to get me through.”

She designed the book jacket (for The Ordinary Princess) and is pleased to have it compared with Arthur Rackham, for she is devoted to his illustrations. 

Sunday Times, 16 November, 1997

Another thing we found invaluable during prohibition in India, and that is still necessary in Pakistan, is to take your own drink.  Bets (her sister) and I would have a bottle of rum, which we would mix with mango, orange or Coca-Cola.  If we ran out of drink we would have to go along to the government-licensed places and register as alcoholics in order to get another bottle.

About writing:

Mollie writes her books in pencil “It has to be a round one, or I get a groove in my index finger which hurts like hell.”

She says that her best work comes in the evening “I’m like  a stone-cold engine in the morning.”

On why she wrote under different names: “I used M M Kaye for the mysteries and Mollie Kaye for the children’s books.  If you’re writing about rabbits” she explains, “readers might not take you seriously with a large historical romance under the same name.”

On explaining to Somerset Maugham that she sometimes spent an entire day bogged down on one sentence, his reply was “My dear young woman, that’s the only thing you’ve said to make me think you may be a novelist one day.”

On why she stopped writing the Death Walked In… books “it was getting a bit footsore.”

Mollie looks back on her life with heartfelt gratitude “I’ve been jolly lucky and have had a marvellous life.”