Hi. Another week, another interview
Today I’m very lucky to be speaking to Catherine M Byrne, author of the Raumsey Series.
Hi Catherine. Thank you for giving up your time for us. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
1. When did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer?
I have always wanted to write. When I was six, my teacher asked us to take a little poem we liked to school so that we could recite it at the Christmas treat. I found something, and I also wrote something. I guess mine wasn’t very good, but the teacher was very tactful. ‘They’re both lovely,’ she said, ‘but we’ll only have time for one each. I think we’ll have this one.’ As you can guess, she did not choose the one I had written! When I was eight, I started drawing cartoon strips and my characters had balloons coming from their mouths, with their words. In my teens I wrote songs lyrics and poems. None that were ever performed, I might add. Then life got in the way, and I became an artist in my spare time. I have only been writing seriously for the last ten years. I have had a few shorts published in women’s magazines, but I really want to write novel.
2. What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I would really like to become better known further afield. My books sell well locally and are well reviewed, but as I self-publish, I need to up my marketing technique.
3. Which writers inspire you?
That’s very hard to say, I read such varied work and my preferences change with the years. I used to like horrors – not any more. Then murder mysteries. I’ve kinda gone off them now. However, I still love Peter May and Anne Cleeves. The funny thing is, I seldom read family sagas, yet that’s the category I seem to have been slotted into with my own work.
4. So, what have you written?
Apart from my short stories, I wrote a murder mystery, Gone in the Morning, (but you won’t find it anywhere, because it still lies in a drawer in my house). As I was writing, I realised just how little I knew about police procedure, so I gave up on that.
I was the last baby born on the now deserted island of Stroma, just of the north coast of Scotland. The members of my writing circle constantly tried to persuade me to write something about the island. Someone had already written a factual book, and anyway, I wanted to write fiction. Okay, I had the place, now for the plot.
Then the story fell into my lap. A woman from Canada got in touch with me on the net. She was doing her genealogy and her grandparents came from Stroma. However, as far as she knew, her grandfather did not emigrate to Canada with his wife and children. So what happened to him, when did he die, where was he buried? Unfortunately we were never able to find out. She did tell me the story of her grandparents as far as she knew, and with her permission, I used them for the basis of my novel. No one seems to know what really happened to the character on whom Davie Reid is based, but I hope he’d be happy with the life I gave him.
It was a help that I also had the many stories of island life and shenanigans passed down to me by my mother and grandmother, and the book, Follow the Dove, was an instant success locally. There followed number two, The Broken Horizon, three, The Road to Nowhere, and four, Isa’s Daughter, will be published later this year.
I have a blog, which I get to occasionally, I have written some poems, and a book of shorts, Gone with the Tide.
I have sold stories to My Weekly magazine.
I have written a novella, contemporary woman’s fiction, set in the mountains of Berridale, not far from where I live.
5. What are you working on at the minute?
I have just finished ‘Isa’s Daughter.’ Now I would like to write a psychological thriller, so I’m twirling ideas round in my brain.
6. Why do you write?
Because I have to, otherwise I’ll explode.
7. Where do your ideas come from?
Everywhere. Dramas are being acted out all around us all the time. All I have to do is take one, tease it out, ask the question, what if? Eventually a story is there just begging to be written.
8. Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
I have a vague idea of a plot, but everything changes. I had an ending in mind for Isa’s Daughter, but my characters refused to bend to my will, and took me in a completely different direction. I love it when that happens
9. How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I’ve certainly evolved since my first attempts at writing. I go by the belief that writing is a constant learning curve. I still attend workshops and seminars, and go to hear established writers talk where possible. (I live in a rather remote area) My work needs much less editing now than previously, and I am happy to help others along the way.
Since first attending the AGM of the Scottish Association of Writers in 1999, I have won several prizes, commendations and have been short listed both for short stories and chapters of my novels.
In 2009, I won second prize in the general novel category for ‘Follow The Dove’ and have since written two more novels in the series, ‘The Broken Horizon’ and ‘The Road to Nowhere’. I have attended an Arvon Foundation course and a Hi-Arts writing program, receiving positive feedback on my work from both.
Last year I came second equal for the best self published novel in a competition run by the Scottish Association of Writers.
10. What is the hardest and easiest things about writing?
Marketing, at least for me. But if we’re speaking about the process of writing, it must be plotting. Once I have the plot, however, I let my characters take over and lead me where they will. The easiest thing is umm, listening to praise for my work! I find that real easy!
11. Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors?
I always have a book on the go, although I do most of my reading in bed at night. As already stated, I love Peter May, especially his Hebridean series. Ken Follett is another favourite of mine, and Jodi Picoult. I read a lot of Ian Rankin and John Grisham. I also try to support indie authors by reading someone new at least twice a month, and if I enjoy a book, I will look for that author again.
12. What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?
The main advantage is having total control of your books. If you want to change anything, you can. Apart from that, you don’t have to tailor your work to fit in with any particular genre. Initially I was turned down by traditional publishers because my books are not strictly family sagas, neither are they romantic historicals. I believe they are so much more. What are they? Publishers need you to be definite, to almost write to a template, and to write what’s in vogue at the moment. I’m not happy doing that, I want to write what flows from my mind.
The main disadvantage is not having access to adequate marketing.
13. Do you have any advice for other budding authors?
Read good books, and keep writing. Develop a thick skin and listen to whatever advice you’re given. Remember, if one person says something, it’s a personal opinion, but if two or more say the same thing, then take it on board. And, above all, never give up.
14. How do you relax?
I walk my two dogs or have a glass of wine with my friends.
15. What is your favourite book and why?
I’ll have to say, Gone with the Wind. Maybe because it’s the first book that left a lasting impression on me.
Many thanks Catherine for a look into your world and works. It’s been a pleasure talking to you. Be sure to check out Catherine’s link below: