For me, it was always about the books. I am a true bibliophile. Described as an anti-social little girl, I’m always the last to guess that childhood theme tune. I didn’t watch TV – my nose was constantly buried in the pages of the latest world I had dived into. I love books. Writing came later – much later.
Getting the elusive book deal was a joy for me. Although I am a huge fan of modern technology and social media, the romantic in me balked at the notion of self-publishing and craved an agent behind a mahogany desk discussing my manuscript with a publisher at an even bigger desk in a big old dusty office.
Writing has always been there – whether it was in the form of stories I wrote as a child or angst-riddled diaries as a teenager. When you have a natural flair for something, a gift if you like, you are generally the last to know. It will surface. Eventually I realised what my brain was trying to tell me – I wanted to write novels. Friends and family encouraged me to write. I knew I had stories to tell but I had no idea how to do it. The first step was a creative writing course – to see whether or not I had the talent and to learn the craft of and approach to writing a book. I did the course in June 2014 and my story began.
I was dipping in and out of the novel, trying to raise two small boys and work part-time in the hospitality industry – something had to give. I had a compulsion to write and it was all I could think about.
The epiphany came in October at the Festival of Opera. I was in a Spiegel Tent at the launch of Blood Red Turns Dollar Green, the third novel in a series, written by Wexford author and playwright, Paul O’Brien. Among the panelists were Eoin Colfer, Billy Roche and, all the way from LA, screenwriter Paul Guay. Wexford is renowned for its writers on an international scale. Roche, Colfer, Peter Murphy, John Banville and Colm Toíbín. All men. And then it hit me – I wanted to be at that table. I wanted to write and I wanted a book deal. The “boys’ club” told me they would keep a seat for me and have been unwavering in their support since.
A month later, I quit my job and took up writing in earnest. To pay the bills, I write content.
When I started writing They All Fall Down – long before I thought about publishers or agents, I thought about the book cover. As a nod to my late father, all I wanted was a lighthouse on the cover. Hence the location for the novel – a fictitious fishing village in Wexford. My father, Pat, worked all his life at sea. He started out in the Merchant Navy and in 1964 joined the Commissioners of Irish Lights where he worked aboard the Granuaile, until his sudden death in 2001. The sailor’s blood in me finds inspiration in the sea, the stars and lighthouses.
I finished the first draft of They All Fall Down at the end of June 2015. I had an agent by August and in November, Poolbeg were the first of five publishers to come back and offer me a two-book deal. I had done it. I had my lighthouse after all. To me, it was fate, and perhaps Dad giving me the nod back from the big yonder.
Shortly after that, I contacted Robert in Irish Lights headquarters to pitch an idea to him. My hope was to use the lighthouses my Dad had spent so many years maintaining as a type of writer’s retreat.
Everything had gone full circle. I had grown up with lighthouses, I visualised a lighthouse on the cover of my first book, my publisher’s logo is a lighthouse and now we are in talks to do a whistlestop tour of all the beautiful lighthouses of Ireland where I will write my second, and with a bit of luck, my third book. One day, I will write an epic adventure about sailors on the high seas, but for now, I’m going to continue to chase the lighthouses and the dreams that come with them.
They All Fall Down is a cocktail of emotional rollercoaster and psychological thriller – exploring the depths of flawed human nature, the thin line between love and obsession and the destructive nature of addiction. I thought I would be the next Marian Keyes – my subconscious had other plans. The genre found me.
From my years in the hospitality industry I have always been fascinated with people. I’m a people watcher. I like to make up stories about who they are, what they do, and what they are capable of- this helps in my trade.
The downside of getting the book deal so quickly is this – I have another novel to write, for September. Once I got the agent, I was hopeful about getting a publisher – eventually. The cogs turn slowly in the industry and I thought I was in for a wait. My strategy was to write a second novel and possibly a third before I was picked up. In an ideal world that would have been the plan.
It’s a skill to know which of the three hats to wear at any given time when trying to balance the two books – creative, marketing or business. A wise man once said to me: “All you need is this, Cat- talent, a little bit of luck, and the ability to hang in there.” So far, so good!
Cat lives in Wexford, with her musician partner Dave, two sons Joey and Arthur, and tomcat Jim Hawkins. Her debut novel is released by Poolbeg Press on July 6th and is available in bookshops nationwide or on Amazon for Kindle edition. She can be contacted for interviews/ signings on Twitter @kittycathogan or through Poolbeg Press