My Bookshelf

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Author Interview - Meet Catherine Byrne

A huge welcome to Catherine Byrne, it has been an exciting time swapping author interviews.  Anyway back to Catherine and our chat.

Hi Catherine, could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I've always enjoyed writing and painting. My professional life however, took a very different path.  I first studied Glass engraving with Caithness Glass where I worked for fourteen years.  During that time I also worked as a foster parent.  After the birth of my youngest child, I changed direction, studying and becoming a Chiropodist with my own private practice.  At the same time I did all administration work for my husband's two businesses, and this continued  until his death in 2005.  However I still maintained my love of writing, and have had several short stories published in woman's magazines.  My main ambition is to write novels, and I have now retired in order to write full time.

I have three children all grown up now.  I belong to two writers' groups and attend  a writing class. Well, there's always some thing new to learn isn't there?

What brought you to the world of writing?
I have always wanted to be a writer, and began at the age of eight by drawing comic strips with added dialogue, and later as a teenager graduated to poetry. 

What is your first book and what do you think of it now?
My very first book was a murder mystery, great idea but is full of mistakes and is still languishing in a drawer.

My first publishable novel was "Follow The Dove." Since I was born on the now deserted island of Stroma, my fellow writers encouraged me to write something about my homeland.  It was a message from a lady in Canada who was doing her genealogy that gave me the idea. She told me the sad tale of her grandparents who had emigrated from that island, and I had my characters

What type of books do you write and do they fulfil your reader’s needs? 
My main interest was crime, yet my desire to write something incorporating the history of my homeland prompted a trilogy. I have built up a base of loyal fans who constantly demand another.  It took me a long time to write my first novel, there may be things I'd change now, but I still love it!

Would you like to feature a book, if so which one? Tell us about it? 
Starting with "Follow the Dove," yes. Most of the things that happen to Isa and Davie are based on factual stories passed down from my grandparents, of course I make them all happen in the space of five years!

Fifteen years of age, Isa Muirison loves her life working for the floating shops of Orkney at the turn of the 20th century. But her happy family life is thrown into turmoil by her father’s decision to immigrate to Canada, her sister’s illness and her own love for Davie, a penniless whisky runner.
Despite her family’s opposition, she follows Davie to his tiny island home where she is met by the fierce hostility of his mother and his childhood sweetheart, Chrissie.
Alone among strangers, Isa’s unrelenting determination gains acceptance and popularity in the close knit community. 
But no one could have foreseen the tragedy that rips the heart out of that community and shatters Isa’s security. 
Meanwhile, Chrissie has found solace in the arms of Davie’s violent brother Jack, only to discover a darkness in his soul she could never have imagined.  Events are set in motion over which the two women have no control.
Will either of them ever find peace?  And in whose arms will Davie find solace?

"Follow the Dove," won second prize in the Association of Scottish Writers general novel competition in 2009

How long does it take you to write your first draft?

I tend to edit as I go along, so my first draft takes about nine months. I am growing quicker with every novel.

Do you plot or not, if so why?

I tend to know the beginning and the end. Getting from one to the other and keeping the momentum is the hard part. I don't write a forward plan, but allow my characters to do the work.

Do you write in 1st or 3rd person, or have you do both?

Up until now I've written only in the third person.

How do you edit your work? Do you leave your draft alone for a while or edit as you write?

I edit as I write. I have tried to just write in order to get the bones of the story, but I can't help myself and edit each chapter as I go. That way I eventually get to the end.

What type of people/readers do you market your books to?

I write what I feel.  I have never thought out a market plan, but I assumed women who like family sagas would be my main readers. However, I have been pleasantly surprised by the amount of young people and even men who have become fans.

Do you self-publish or have you worked with an Agent/Publisher

With "Follow the Dove," I received very positive reactions from agents and publishers, however, although they showed some interest, they mostly spoke with one voice, 'this genre is not in vogue at the moment.'

Wanting my mother to see my book in print, I went ahead and self-published with Matador. Sadly my mother did not live to see the finished book. Since then I have always self-published. I like being totally in control of my own work. The only problem is the marketing side.

How do you promote your writing? 
This is where I have problems. I advertise my paperbacks and do book signings in my local area, find outlets and offer sale or return and I have sold a lot that way. For ebooks I use the internet.

Where can we buy your books?

For paperbacks, any bookstore, online or high street, will order them for you, Alternatively go straight to

Who are your favourite authors? 
There are so many. Ken Follett, Barbara Erskine, Mary Higgins-Clark I could go on forever. I also support Indie authors by buying books that appeal to me. I have a kindle full of titles yet to be read.


Do you have any more information you’d like to share with us?

I am at present working on a contemporary novel set in the Scottish Highlands and inspired by a photograph of my granddaughter and an eagle. Haven't yet got a title, but I would like to dip my toe in the supernatural. Thank you very much for agreeing to interview me.

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