Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Hi Everyone! My name is Catherine McCarthy and I’m now in my mid fifties. Aargh! How did that happen???
Fiona: Where are you from?
I’m from a little village in West Wales where people still behave as if it’s the 1950’s! Fantastic!
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I am originally from the Welsh Valleys where I taught in primary education for just under three decades. I loved my job but became more and more desperate to be able to spend time writing and doing my other hobbies. So . . . my husband and I put an action plan into gear to enable us to take early retirement to this beautiful, timeless part of Wales.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I have just published my second novel, Hope Cottage, the proceeds of which I’m donating to thebraintumourcharity.org in memory of my dear mother. I’m also soon to publish Door and Other Portal Stories – a collection of ‘dark’ short stories.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
As long ago as I can remember! When I was sorting through my mother’s ‘keepsakes’ I found an essay that I wrote age seven that had been praised by the headteacher. Seriously though, my first novel The Gatekeeper’s Apprentice, a fantasy for young adults, was published in 2015.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Similar to above really – I’ve just always enjoyed it: lists, recipes, letters – you name it and I write it! Personally I don’t think you have to publish or become famous to feel you are a writer.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
A walk along a riverbank where I photographed a tree which had been struck by lightning. It looked as though a hag had been burnt to a crisp whilst riding a great beast and during the rest of the walk my husband and I began to weave the story.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I wanted a strong, young female hero as a way of anti-stereotyping girls in literature and I wanted her to learn the secrets of her family’s ‘inheritance.’
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
When people read my books they say it ‘sounds like me,’ it has ‘voice.’ I naturally gravitate towards darker themes with a fantastical element, where characters strive to overcome adversity and challenges life throws at them. I think what I struggle with most at times is keeping the balance between the fantastical and real-life elements of the story – I want the stories to be believable even though they include the supernatural so to speak.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Hope Cottage is by far the most ‘realistic’ of the books I’ve written as even though it is a work of fiction, much of the anxiety and trauma suffered by my characters is personal as I wrote it as a cathartic way of coming to terms with my mother’s illness and subsequent death.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
Sometimes. Inspiration often comes when out amongst nature and I often have in mind a specific place when I write. My current W.I.P., The Lane, is set in my own garden and the ‘lane’ actually runs behind my house all the way to a farm and woodland. I also have an idea planned for my next novel which will be set in The Closes in Edinburgh so would like to visit beforehand.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I’m extremely fortunate in that my husband is an illustrator and animator and so not only does he design the covers but he also creates artefacts and animations for my books to add visual interest.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Always! I think that stems from being a teacher for all those years! There are many ‘hidden’ messages in the short story collection about the way we live our lives in the modern world!
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
I have many favourites but particularly love the work of Joanne Harris, Kate Mosse and Jess Kidd because of the way in which they blend fantasy and realism.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
That would have to be Jessie Cahalin and her wonderful ‘Books in my handbag’ blog. Before I met her at the Narberth book fair I was sorely lacking in the importance of using social media as a tool to engage readers. Thank you Jessie!
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Not really, especially not in a monetary sense anyway! It’s just so tough these days to make a living out of writing so I would say my ‘career’ was in teaching. Writing is very important to me however. I see it more as an intrinsic way of keeping mentally healthy.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Not really…I did consider the prospect of my protagonist forming a new relationship but decided it was too ‘soon’ for her – she had more crucial things to come to terms with first.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I learn all the time when I’m writing. The research that goes with it shows me just how little I actually know! Seriously though, in writing Hope Cottage I think what I learned most was how important it is to channel negative emotions into something creative and how that very process can ‘heal.’
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Ooh! That’s difficult! Possibly Cate Blanchett.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Just do it! Don’t be afraid – remember that it is always up to you how narrow or wide you make your audience. And another thing . . . Always read your work aloud to someone (even if it’s just a teddy!) when doing a final edit. We ‘hear’ errors in word choices, punctuation and grammar/sentence construction far easier than we ‘see’ them.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
If you have half as much pleasure out of reading my work as I did writing it then we’ll be fine! I appreciate the support of every one of you – truly!
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Kate Mosse -The Burning Chambers
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
My mother was a born story-teller. She taught me to love books and to read before I started school. I remember the very first day in what was then called ‘Infant’s School.’ My teacher discovered that I could already read so she took me to the library which was up a flight of very narrow stairs and next to the head-mistresses office to choose a book to take home. I can’t remember the title but it was about a farm. I can still ‘see’ the picture of the farmyard and the chickens!
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
A few years ago I would have said I was very sentimental and lots of things would make me cry. However, life’s hard times taught me to lose a lot of that sentimentality for my own sake. Laughter wise? I have a dark sense of humour as readers of Door will discover. I enjoy Ricky Gervais’ Derek for example.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
One of the people whom I most admire is David Attenborough. I love the way his life’s passion pours from every artery! Oh, and Dave Grohl for the same reasons!
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Yes…sewing, making vintage-style handbags, reading. I lift weight at the gym three times a week but unfortunately also love baking so it negates the benefits!
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Believe it or not, I do not have t.v. at home. I made that ‘lifestyle’ decision when I retired as I think we can spend too much precious time just ‘consuming’ it. I do occasionally watch d.v.d’s though. My all-time favourite films are Chocolat and A Good Year.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Foods – chocolate, cake and pizza.
Music – I have a wide and eclectic taste in music which includes everything from heavy metal to classical.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Go mad with a head full of thoughts!
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
In sheer panic – like a dog chasing its tail!
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
You only live once so make it a good one!
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Twitter – https://twitter.com/serialsemantic
Instagram and website coming soon!
By Catherine McCarthy – The Gatekeeper’s Apprentice – YA Fantasy https://www.amazon.com/Gatekeeper%60s-Apprentice-Catherine-McCarthy-ebook/dp/B00Y0OSI1A/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_2?keywords=The+Gatekeeper%E2%80%99s+Apprentice&qid=1556130855&s=gateway&sr=8-2-fkmrnull
Coming soon – Door and Other Portal Stories