Welcome to my guest page. Here, every few days, I’ll be sharing a conversation, over tea and cakes, or maybe a glass of something stronger, if they are not driving, with a friend about their work in progress, or latest book release. I’ll be talking to all sort of writers and authors at different levels of their writing careers.
Welcome to my guest page, Cathy. I’m so pleased to have a chance to chat with you.
Thank you for asking me to join you at the clubhouse tearoom today, Paula.
You’re very welcome, Cathy. We first met at the RNA parties in London. My good friend Ivy Lord (Maggie Ford) introduce us. Anyway, here comes our drinks and a selection of lovely cakes.
I would like to start our conversation by asking you when you first begun your writing journey what drew you to your chosen genre?
I guess the influence to become a writer came from my great aunt, who went to live in America in 1914. She was a poet and wrote the lyrics for sheet music that sold all over America. My father wrote plays and my three sisters all write for pleasure. Writing is in my blood. But what drew me to my chosen genre was childhood memories and the need to write about what I know.
What writing elements do you think is your strongest points, and what would you like to do better? I’ve been told by a well-known writer that I can plot. In fact, I love a good plot in a story. The things I would like to do well are details and descriptions of things and places that I can’t visualise in my mind’s eye. I find I have to work hard to get them right.
Tell us a little about latest writing project. Is it a new idea, or one you have been mulling over for some time? After I finished The Dublin Girls, I had a strong urge to write a sequel. However, my agent advised against it. I can see her point of view that if my previous books didn’t do well, my publisher might not want a sequel. But I couldn’t rid myself of the itch. I wrote 17,000 words before the penny dropped and I knew it would not work as a standalone. I then wrote a story on Kate’s life, one of the sisters in The Dublin Girls. For me this worked and I’m enjoying her journey. I’ve now written 83,000 words.
Were any of your characters inspired by real people? No, not really, Paula, apart from the first novel I penned, Where the Shamrocks Grow. It is part biographical and part fiction. Young Jo’s early development in the story is based loosely on my mother’s young life.
What did you learn when writing your book (story, play)? In writing it, how much research did you do? I love the research part of writing, but when I began writing The Dublin Girls, it practically wrote itself. I was familiar with the setting and the places mentioned in the book. My two aunts lived at the top of a tenement in the 1950s, and each Sunday my father used to take me and my sisters to visit the aunts. We loved climbing the dark staircase and dad had to keep striking matches so we could see our footing. My aunt who always heard us tramping up the stairs had the tea ready by the time we reached the top. There was no research involved and why I wrote the book so quickly.
Is there anything about you your readers might be surprised to find out?
I don’t have any special talents, Paula. Although, readers’ might be surprised to learn that I come from a musical family. I still play the Melodion and the Mouth Organ, but not very good. The instruments only come out at Christmas.
How many hours in a day do you write? I try to aim for 1000 words a day, but depending on what’s happening it can be as little as 500. I used to spend more time writing, in fact eight hours every day, on and off. I am now caring for my 96-year-old husband, and I have less time.
How do you select the names of your characters? & do you know everything about them before you start writing their story? I spend little time pondering over character’s names. Once I’ve created them, a name comes into my head. The names come easily as I know the era and the place I’m writing about.
What was your hardest scene to write? Some scenes can be difficult and when this happens I go away from it and come back at a later date. The hardest passage to write so far was the rape scene in The Dublin Girls. I had nothing to base it on, and I was concerned about upsetting people who this had happened to.
How long on average does it take you to write a book (story or play)? A year, once I have the idea, know the era, the setting, and the characters I will use in the plot. With research, it can take eighteen months or more.
Thank you so much Cathy for joining me here at the tearoom. Please join me again soon.