Hi everyone and thanks, Whitney, for inviting me on your blog. I’m delighted to be here.
I'd delighted to have you here. :) So Cathryn, first things first, tell us a little bit about yourself and your current release?
I was brought up in Mt Gambier, in South Australia’s rural south east, and was fortunate enough to have had an idyllic childhood dominated by horse mania. Post school I studied agriculture at Roseworthy College, followed by several years working in the pasture and turf seed industries in Victoria and NSW. These days I write rural-set romance for Penguin and have two books out – Promises, which released in September last year, and Heart of the Valley, which came out in May of this year. I’m currently working madly on the next, and all going well we should see that hit the shelves sometime around May next year.
Heart of the Valley is my tribute to the magnificent NSW Hunter Valley, a place I fell in love with during my pasture seed days when I worked in the area.
It tells the story of Brooke Kingston, a talented equestrienne whose world is turned upside-down after a terrible accident. When her well-meaning family, desperate to get her to Sydney so they can take care of her, hire a farm manager to take over her beloved property she digs in her spurs and refuses to leave. But Lachie Cambridge proves more than a match for Brooke...
Due to his job, my partner and I move around quite a bit, and this lifestyle has had a great affect on my concept of home. For me it’s wherever Jim is. For others home will always be a place. Heart of the Valley explores this theme. Is home a place or is it where your heart lies?
Wow. I just checked my book case because I thought I had 'Heart of The Valley' (Please understand, I don't have time to read at the moment) and guess what? You just sold a book hahah. It sounds fantastic. I'm a horse lover myself and this book sounds like my kind of book. Wishing you all the best with your new project, Cathryn.
Now tell me, how did you start out as a writer? Did you have a critic partner or an editor? Have you always written romance?
I’ve definitely always written romance – except for a period in my adolescence when I wrote a series of bizarre short stories involving cockroaches and all sorts of weird things. As for full length novels, I tried many times to complete one over the years but always struggled to make it past the 10,000 word mark. Between work, study and making sure my other half felt appreciated, I just couldn’t find the momentum to keep going. Only when my partner and I moved overseas and I had to give up work did I realise it was now or never. So I knuckled down and wrote a book. After that first book high there was no stopping me!
I’m fortunate to have critique partners and editors I can bounce ideas off. I’d be hopeless without my crit partners though. They’re amazing support and it’s wonderful to be able to share the highs and lows with people who understand what you’re going through.
It always happens with a push. :) Critique Partners are special people and sometimes it can take a while to find the right one. I'm glad you've found yours :)
What is your favourite part of creating 'the novel'?
The End! There is nothing quite like that ‘I’ve just finished a 100,000 word novel’ high. It’s seriously addictive.
I also love the opening three or four chapters. It’s an exciting time, full of possibility because you’re about to go on this wonderful journey. And I also adore black moments, when tragedy or disaster strikes. Bawling my eyes out while writing is weirdly satisfying!
So when was your first novel contracted? And can you tell us about 'the call'?
Promises was contracted by Penguin Australia just after the Romance Writers of Australia conference in 2010. I’d sent off three chapters of a different novel earlier in the year and, knowing how long these things take, carried on writing. Then in early August I received an email saying that manuscript wasn’t for them. Realising Promises might be more what they were after, I wrote back pitching that book. From that point on things moved pretty swiftly, with a partial being requested followed by the full manuscript almost immediately afterward. I then met editors Ali Watts and Belinda Byrne at the RWA conference and had a chat about my writing and publishing experiences. By the end of September I had an agent and a two book deal. It was, to put it mildly, an exciting, heart in the mouth ride!
Now the nitty gritty. What do you find hardest about the publishing experience (e.g. the editing process, the wait between receiving feedback etc)?
Waiting to hear back about a manuscript is a bit nail-biting. I might think the book is marvellous but whether my editor and her colleagues will think the same is another matter. I’d also rank waiting for edits pretty high on the list because I always imagine they’re going to be huuuuge and make me want to crouch sobbing in a corner with my arms wrapped around my head wishing they’d just disappear. They’re never that bad, of course. I simply imagine them that way!
Cathryn, what tips do you have for all us aspiring romance writer out there?
Write. Don’t fart around. Write. Because the more you write the better you get. You’ll be stunned at how much better your second and third books will be compared to the first.
Take the time to learn your craft. Writing isn’t easy – it’s very hard work and like any profession you need to hone your skills.
Always remember that everyone has a different process. There is no right or wrong way to do this. Some people are intricate plotters, nailing every tiny aspect of the book before they write a single word. Others are more organic and follow wherever their characters lead them. Some people write extremely rough first drafts then polish like crazy. Others – me included – can’t write another word until a chapter or scene is absolutely perfect. Whichever way you work, make sure you understand it because once you’re published you’ll have deadlines. So knowing your process - how long it takes to write and edit your work - is vital.
Find good critique partners. They are treasures you can’t do without. Not only for their feedback on your work, but for their understanding and support during the dark times. And believe me, there will be dark times.
Join the Romance Writers of Australia. This is an extraordinary organisation. With them you’ll find information, education and amazing support. And incredible friendships!