How Kirsteen Stewart’s debut novel secured a double-page spread in the Daily Express

By   Hannah Bickerton 2 min read

The problem

Kirsteen Stewart’s life has been filled with adventure. Born in 1941, she spent her childhood in a ruined castle in the Highlands, where she lived until her father was tragically assassinated in Sarawak in 1949, during ceremonies to welcome him as its new Governor, and the castle was sold. Kirsteen earned a first in History at St Hilda’s College, Oxford, and joined the civil service via the competitive entrance exam in the early sixties, the period described in her novel. She lived in Tito’s Yugoslavia during her first marriage, to a diplomat, in Jordan during the 1973 Palestine–Israeli war, in Iraq until she was thrown out by Saddam Hussein and then in the world of sheikhs and sheikhas in Abu Dhabi. Since returning to London, England, she has worked on social innovation projects in the East End, at organisations supporting refugees and asylum seekers and on a project in Bosnia using arts for post-conflict reconciliation.

Recently, Kirsteen enrolled onto a Faber Academy creative writing course. As she wrote what would become her debut novel, Break These Chains, she found huge inspiration in her life experiences: her time at Oxford, her experiences as a woman in London in the 1960s and her family. One manuscript later, and Kirsteen was ready to self-publish…

The solution

Avid lovers of fiction, the whitefox team couldn’t wait to support Kirsteen with the self-publication of her book. We supported her from proofread to publication, creating an eye-catching front cover and working with editorial experts to perfect her manuscript with copyediting and proofreading. Finally, whitefox arranged for Break These Chains to be printed, sold and distributed all over the country. You can see Kirsteen’s book on the Summer Reading table at Daunts bookshop in Marylebone!

The result

Kirsteen was thrilled with the result of her self-publishing project, and Break These Chains has seen huge success, with a double-page spread in the Daily Express, a feature article in the Telegraph, an article in the Camden New Journal and interviews on BBC London, Talk Radio and Talk Radio Europe. Break These Chains has earned high praise from Ann Chishold, Anthony Barnett, Rachel Johnson and the one and only Margaret Atwood, and continues to sell well online and in bookshops. Here’s what Kirsteen had to say about the process of writing Break These Chains.

‘Publishing my first novel, aged seventy-eight, gives me a new perspective on the sixties. I now see things that I didn’t understand then – how unresolved childhood trauma (in my case the assassination of my father) could throw you off course when faced with the dismantling of old-fashioned values and social and sexual change. Break These Chains is semi-autobiographical, influenced by bittersweet memories of those days.’ 


Hannah Bickerton
Hannah Bickerton
Hannah has worked in marketing for nine years, specialising in strategy development for start-ups and EdTech companies. Having recently jumped across industries to join the Whitefox team, Hannah isn’t a complete stranger to the publishing world with previous employment at Macmillan and TES Global. She is now dedicated to ensuring that anyone who has something interesting to say knows all about whitefox.