Interview with NP author Catherine Chisnall
If there is one determined writer in life, it’s Catherine. I know of no other of my writer-friends who suffer so deeply when they can’t write as Catherine does. Writing is liking breathing to her and when she can’t have a go at it, she feels like she’s suffocating. That must be true writer’s blood, no? Well it is, Catherine’s pen flows with ease and please. She knows how to build up a story, how to draw clear characters, where to hurl in the action. In short, keep the reader focused and turning the next page. With her determination and years of experience, we can rest assured that this lady will have one good book after the other roll off the presses.
Where do you live (town, country)? Were you born and bred there?
I live near Portsmouth in Hampshire. I was born near Nottingham, moved up north when young, then down south. I have also lived in Wales on the west coast and London on the east coast, so you could say I’ve lived in every corner of Britain!
Do you do any sports? How often? What does exercise mean to you? Any other hobbies?
The only form of sports I do watching them on TV! I like motorsport best- MotoGP, Superbikes, Formula 1. I also watch any tournament I’m interested in e.g. Wimbledon tennis, Summer and Winter Olympics, rugby world cup. I’ve been housebound in my life a few times and some of these long running sporting events have saved my sanity.
I generally avoid exercise, although all the walking, carrying and chasing after my young daughter keeps me fit.
Other hobbies: creative writing! Watching films and in general any cinema related things. My speech and writing is littered with film quotes.
Do you have kids? If so, please tell us a little about them?
I have one daughter aged 5, the sunshine of my life.
Do you have another job apart from writing? For how many hours? How do you feel about the ‘other’ job?
At the moment I don’t have another job. I do freelance writing for ODesk.com for various employers, which involves posting on message boards, ghostwriting, creative writing.
I have had about 20 jobs in the last 20 years, ranging from bank work to secondary school teaching. Some were brilliant fun, some were deadly boring.
How do your family/friends react to you being a writer? Have their opinions changed since you became a published author? Which remark from your surroundings has stuck most with you?
My husband, daughter, mum and aunt all think it’s really good and are proud. My in laws just haven’t noticed in the slightest. Some of my old friends are really supportive, some said they felt a bit jealous then mysteriously lost touch, I don’t know whether its jealousy, or other reasons. My new writer friends have been the most supportive to be honest: they understand what writing is like. I’ve had some very interesting conversations- about plot, characters etc- with them that would sound strange to ‘normal’ people. I’d love to meet them in person!
I can’t think of a particular remark, I’ll get back to you on that.
Would you call yourself a social human being? Do you have time for going out and spending time away from the writing desk?
Definitely very unsociable! I like a quiet life with a small circle of friends. Too many people stress me out, I like to live in my imagination mostly. A friend said to me once, about herself: ‘some people want to live life, I prefer looking at it from a distance.’ Which sums me up.
Which character trait do you like best about yourself and why? Which trait would you rather do without?
I think I like my imagination and my sensitivity best, which is two actually. I think I would die if I lost my imagination for whatever reason.
The trait I’d do without is not making a good impression on people first time. People always seem to be suspicious of me at first, then relax after a few weeks/ months. I must look dodgy!
Can you describe the place where you write + the view?
Its on my kitchen table, on my laptop. I can see my garden to the right out of the kitchen door. Alternatively I take my laptop on a tray upstairs onto my bed, where I can see the trees on the disused railway line. I would love to have my own office to
write in, in a cosy attic room overlooking the sea.
Is there something you always need to have near you when you work (beverage, cigarette, mascot, music, quote, etc)?
A drink of water, my glasses, a pen and as much quiet as possible. Oh and my Dictaphone, to copy my verbal ideas down onto the computer.
What genre(s) do you write in? How did that develop?
I started off in contemporary drama, with ‘what if’ ideas that I had e.g. ‘Descending and Surfacing’. Then I moved into historical romance, because I’ve written that sort of story for many, many years as parodies with my friends on message forums. Such titles as ‘Proud and Prejudiced’, ‘Smothering Heights’, ‘Lady Napperley’s Lover’ etc. I got so used to that dramatic, romantic type of plot, I had a go at writing some stories seriously under my pen name Lily Byrne i.e. the Victorian ones: ‘The Jewel of Maythwaite Manor’ and ‘The Errant Necklace’. And then came the Vikings… ‘Ragnar the Murderer’, which Night Publishing took a fancy to and published. I absolutely loved doing the research for that, I could probably talk about any aspect of Viking Britain at the drop of a hat. And frequently do. I have so many ideas for sequels…. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
When was your first book released and how did that make you feel?
July 2010, ‘Descending and Surfacing’. I was so excited and disbelieving. A real physical book. It was like having a baby in my arms again. I was so worried about it getting damaged that I kept it in its wrapper for about a year. Now its on the bookshelf, finally.
Can you tell us some background information on the book? (How did
you get the idea, how long did it take you to write and edit it, is it part of a sequel, how does the published book make you feel now?)
It was inspired by my ten years working in secondary and further education. There are always stories in the news about students and teachers having affairs, so I thought ‘what if that actually happened? What sort of person would do that? What would the end result be?’ And so I wrote it. Originally I wrote ‘Descending’ as a standalone, but so many people said ‘aw, what happened to Emily and Jamie next?’ that I wrote ‘Surfacing’. Then my publisher, Tim Roux of Night Publishing, suggested putting them into one volume to make a ‘proper’ size novel as they were both novellas (as is Ragnar the Murderer, which apparently is the ideal length to read on a European aeroplane journey).
I feel now that I’ve moved on from ‘Descending’. So many people thought it was brilliant, it was a big boost. But now I’ve moved into sex and violence, with my Vikings. I’ve let go of my inhibitions and become Lily Byrne. Haha.
What are your writing habits? (every day, number of words, etc.?)
Its basically when and where I can. I don’t have a set number of words, hours etc. That’s impossible as a mum, wife, daughter. Its usually when they are all at work or school. But at the moment it’s the summer holidays, so I don’t get much time for writing… Hence why I rushed to finish Ragnar by the end of the school term.
Who’s been your biggest inspiration and why? Since when?
I would say my friends from past message boards who encouraged me to write parodies and fanfic. I want to mention them by name: Bridget, Lucifer, Professor Lindsay, Zetti, Jen, Red Ranger, JosieTash and many more. I know some of their real names, but they are like Superheroes and should remain anonymous. I must also mention Chris Morley, who has co written parodies with me on many occasions and we have been in fits of laughter.
Also the writers from Night Publishing I have just met. Before this I just wrote stories by myself, for myself. I wouldn’t even have thought of having one published until
recently. Its all been a learning curve of releasing my inhibitions- do I want people to read my sex scenes? Etc.
What does Night Publishing mean to you?
It is a place which gave me my first chance at writing and opened a whole new world to me. And a place where everyone body knows my name, and they’re always glad I came (that’s the Cheers theme tune in case you’re wondering).
Where do you see yourself in 5-years’ time?
Ooh, now there’s a question… Hopefully still writing, making a living by writing fiction and/or non fiction. I’ll still be writing anyway, making money or not. It would be nice if I had moved into a three storey house. The top floor would be a light
and airy office with a brilliant view over the sea. If I write it, it will come…
Final fun question. If you had to choose: are you a Houdini or an Edison? This is for the official NP tally.
Inventor or magician? Hm… I would say probably more of an Edison.
THANK YOU SO MUCH sweet Catherine!!
Want to get in touch with Catherine or purchase her books?