Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Interview with Cathy Mansell

Today we welcome Cathy Mansell to the RNA Blog. Cathy’s began he writing career by entering competitions in national magazines with short stories and articles. She was Editor in Chief of the Leicestershire Anthology, ‘Taking Off’, a book promoted and supported by Arts Council UK. More recently she has turned to full-length novels set in Ireland and England. She was a recent contestant on the TV show Food Glorious Food, the nine part series to be broadcast from 27th February. Tell us about your first book and the excitement of getting that call. 

When I got the email from Tirgearr Publishing offering me a contract on SHADOW ACROSS THE LIFFEY, I sat staring at the screen for a good five minutes before it registered. I had just had a huge disappointment from a lovely publisher a few days before, and was feeling rather down. I read the email again, excitedly printed it off, and hurried to tell my husband. Unfortunately, he is very deaf so he had to find his hearing aid and adjust it, while I jumped up and down waiting for him to express his delight. The excitement continues even now.

Where did you find the inspiration for the characters?

The main characters, Oona and Jack just came into my mind. The theme and plot for the book sprung from incidences taken from my own life. The baddie Vinnie is total fiction and I have no idea where he came from. Vinnie and Sean, Oona’s son, were the characters I enjoyed writing about most.

Some writers need silence, others prefer the bustle of a coffee shop. What is your favourite mode of working?

Cathy's Work Space
I love the quiet solitude of my garret, an attic room created by my husband for his use when he retired as an architect, but I’m delighted to say that my obsession to write was greater than his was to draw. It has been mine ever since.

What is the best piece of craft advice you ever had?

We are all too close to our work. I recall when I had finished my first novel and sent it off to an agent. I felt as if I had let my baby go out into the big wide world. That book, I realised later was just a learning curve. The best piece of advice I can recall someone giving me was to print off your work and read it aloud. It is the only way you can hear your own mistakes, reading from the screen is not the same.

Do you think writers should follow the latest hot fashion or write what they love?

Personally, I could never do that. But, I know of writers’ who can, and do follow the trend. It changes all the time, so I would prefer to write about what I know and do best. What do you do when the going gets tough? I don’t think I have ever had writer's block, but I have got stuck in the middle of a novel. The best thing I find is to print off the previous few chapters and read them. I soon find the thread again. Another thing I do is have a break, a strong cup of coffee, talk to the dog, or go for a walk. They all work.

I know you have been short listed for the Hessayon Award, if you were fortunate enough to win, who would you wish to thank? 

When I joined the RNA nearly ten years ago as a new writer, I found the help I received invaluable. I would want to thank Margaret James and Melanie Hilton for all the work they put into the scheme and especially the dedicated readers. Other people I would want to thank connected with the RNA are Jean Chapman for her sincerity and belief in me. And Margaret Kaine for her friendship and support.

Are you ever driven to write by hand?

Not since the age of technology. Occasionally, when I’m out and an idea strikes I write it down in my notebook. At night I keep a pen and notebook handy as, more often than not, I’ll wake up with an idea that I think is wonderful and scribble it down while half-asleep. Come morning, I can’t read my own writing and find that I've written a load of rubbish.

What was your favourite book as a child?

We were not encouraged to read as children in spite of my father being an avid reader. I made up stories in my head all the time. We had a library close by and often took out books, nothing terribly exciting. Enid Blyton and Rupert Bear. My sister and I used to hide at the bottom of the garden to read. When I was a teenager, my sister bought me my first book. Wuthering Heights. It is still my favourite. I love the description of the moors, the contrast of dark and shadow throughout the story. The melancholy broody Heathcliffe and his pursuit of Cathy give the story a menacing quality. For me, it is a timeless classic.

If you could know the future, what would you wish for?

Now that I’ve had my debut novel SHADOW ACROSS THE LIFFEY published, my wish would be that I don’t have to wait another ten years to have my second book published.

A gripping story of how family secrets can wreak havoc on the present. 

In 60’s Ireland life is hard for widow, Oona Quinn, grief-stricken by the tragic deaths of her husband and five-year-old daughter. Struggling to survive, she meets charismatic Jack Walsh at the Shipping Office. 

Vinnie Kelly, her son's biological father, just out of jail, sets out to destroy Oona and all she holds dear. Haunted by her past, she has to fight for her future and the safety of her son, Sean. But Vinnie has revenge on his mind . . . 

http://www.cathymansell.com/cathymansell's blog

Thank you, Cathy, for sparing time to talk to us today. We wish you every success with your debut novel. 

Best wishes, Freda 

Interviews on the RNA Blog are for RNA members, although we do occasionally take guests. If you are interested in an interview, please contact me: freda@fredalightfoot.co.uk


Unknown said...

Freda, thank you for having me on the RNA blog today.

Kemberlee said...

Best of luck for the Hessayon Award. Shadow Across the Liffey is a stunning story, very emotive, and full of hope.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on being short listed!

Margaret Kaine said...

It's wonderful that you are now published Cathy. After the emotional first chapter of Shadow Across the Liffey, I was turning the pages to find out how Oona was going to cope with such a traumatic change in her life. And I love novels with an Irish background. Good luck with the short list, and also with sales.

Elizabeth Delisi said...

Congrats, Cathy! I know what you mean about those middle-of-the-night inspirations. They don't make much sense in the light of day.

Lizzie Lamb said...

Hi Cathy, so pleased to be reading this post on the RNA blog because it shows that all your hard work has paid off and you are now a published author. I love Shadow Across the Liffey and have heard it in all its stages of development. Will be the there are the Summer Party cheering on you (and all the other) Joan Hessayon nominees. The members of the Leiciester Chapter are having a great year :-)

Adrienne Vaughan said...

Hi there Cathy, loved your interview and am loving the book - well done and duly deserved! You've worked so hard, an honourable apprenticeship and a worthy accolade. You will go from strength to strength, I'll be rooting for you with the other Leicester Lasses - but whatever the outcome, you are a winner in our eyes! An colleen ban. xxx

Unknown said...

Congratulations Cathy, super interview and good luck with the JA award. I shall be there cheering you on with theLeicester Chapter. Keep writing and enjoy your success.

Carol Butler Crawley said...

Congrats, Cathy! I'll always remember the emotion in your voice when you read an excerpt on Dellani's radio show. We all walked away wanting more!
Again, congrats. Everyone at Tirgearr is wishing you great success!

Carol (Carley)

Rosie Hendry said...

Many congratulations on your book, Cathy.Interesting to read about your writing life.Good luck with the Joan Hessayon Award.

Anonymous said...

Great interview, Cathy. Fun to learn more about you and your book.

angela britnell said...

Interesting interview and there's nothing quite like the first book with your name on it!

Mags Cullingford said...

Finally made it to your blog, Cathy. Have heard Shadow of the Liffey at all of its stages at our Workshop. You've shown hard work and dedication pays off. Good luck with the Joan Hessayon.