Author Cathy Kelly
Did you write stories when you were a child?
I wrote stories and I had the bliss of a younger sister, Lucy, who is nearly eight years younger, so I’d sit up in bed at night and tell her lovely fairy stories, while she snuggled her teddies. When I was 14, I used to write poetry – let’s hope nobody ever gets to see it! Teenage poetry (mine, anyway!) is quite self-absorbed and I used to write about Eastern mythology, sadness and misery – traditional teenage hormonal stuff. I was that child whose essays were read out in class but I always avoided ones like: ‘discuss the Government’ in favour of ones that had to start ‘It was a dark and stormy night….’
What books and authors did you read when you were young?
As a young child, I devoured all the Enid Blytons and was very upset to find that secondary school was not like Mallory Towers! No midnight feasts! This would have been hard as I went to a day school, however. I adored The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge, which I have discovered was JK Rowling’s favourite children’s novel, and my big thrill was being allowed to join the adult library when I was 12 instead of waiting till I was 15. I was a wild child!
What helps you come up with plotlines? (eg, hot bath, long walks)
Long walks and amazingly, driving, helps me when I am stuck. I love driving and listening to music, and somehow, that helps unlock the brain. I can also come up with a plotline when I am racing round the supermarket with my trolley: imagine, having an ‘aha!’ moment while beside the bananas. As a former journalist, I read many papers and a real story can spark an imaginary one in my head. With It Started With Paris, I was thinking about engagements and how, when I was in my twenties, lots of my friends got engaged on the Eiffel Tower. Sadly, this never happened to me but I began to think: ‘what if….’
What is your writing routine?
I am a working mum, so the day starts with getting my twin 12-year-old sons, Dylan and Murray up for school. After I drop the boys at school, I get coffee, put on the washing and sit at my desk, with coffee breaks, until it’s time to fetch the boys. With homework, I don’t get much done after that. I used to be able to work late at night but age (I am now 48) means I get tired and prefer to sit in front of the TV with my dear family and crochet.
What tips would you give to aspiring writers?
Believe in yourself – that is vital. Secondly, read a lot. You can’t write if you don’t read endlessly. I never have a book out of my hands. Reading is like learning your trade. Try to find your own voice, which means write in the way that seems most natural to you. Don’t try to be someone else or copy another style as this never quite works. And write as often as you can. Writing is like a muscle and must be exercised.
Do you have an idea for your next novel?
My next novel, Between Sisters (out in October) is about two sisters and their mother who left them with their grandmother when they were little. Now grown up, lovely Coco is so afraid of being abandoned that she’s ruined a relationship with a gorgeous man, while married mum-of-two Cassie wonders if her own marriage is safe. They have to face up to the past to move on with their lives, but then a little girl comes into Coco’s life and everything changes.
Do you have a favourite classic novel?
I do adore Little Women and still cry when Beth dies – if you haven’t read it, I have quite ruined it for you.
What novels are you reading at the moment?
I have just finished a wonderful psychological thriller called You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz which is about a New York therapist who has written a self-help guide about marrying the right person in the first place, thus saving yourself years of trying to change them. Then, her life falls apart when it seems as if her paediatric cancer doctor husband is not what he seems… Thrilling.
What’s your favourite literary quote?
‘Be yourself; everyone else is already taken,’ by Oscar Wilde.