Catherine Bennetto’s laugh out loud romantic comedies deal with the “Bridget Jones” dilemmas of contemporary life – unexpected pregnancies, failed love affairs – have been praised by critics for their wit, charm and freshness.
Hello there, I’m your host Jenny Wheeler and today Catherine talks about the darker side of rom com, working on top TV shows, and marrying your best friend.
Six things you’ll learn from this Joys of Binge Reading episode:
- Why Catherine writes what she likes to read
- Getting started in TV
- In favour of marrying your best friend
- No pink fluff ! The darker side of romance
- The last book series she binge read
- On going to work in a bikini
Where to find Catherine Bennetto:
What follows is a “near as” transcript of our conversation, not word for word but pretty close to it, with links to important mentions.
Jenny: Was there a “Once Upon A Time’ moment when you decided you must write fiction or you would have somehow let yourself down, or not completed something you were meant to do? And if so what was the catalyst for it?
Catherine: No, I actually can’t remember a time when I didn’t write because I remember my first book, if you could call it a book that I wrote. I think I was about nine or ten and even though I’d always written, I’d written poems.
I’ve got scraps of paper that my grandma has kept, when I wrote things for her when I was six and seven and I just always knew I wanted to write a book. But I didn’t actually sit down to go ‘Now I’m going to write a novel’ until I wanted to be a bit older. So I went into television and did all of that, knowing that I would always write a book because I had always written.
I just wanted to be a bit more worldly and write with a bit more authority rather than completely make it up. So I started – I can’t remember how old I was, in my thirties – and that’s when I felt mature enough that I could actually write with authority on what I wanted to write on. But no, I was always, always going to write a book.
Rom Coms a natural choice
Jenny: You’ve published two well received rom coms aimed – dare I say it – fairly squarely at Gen Y and Gen X readers. Was it a case of writing what you like to read – more strategic? What made you decide on rom coms as your genre?
Catherine: No, it definitely wasn’t just strategic. If there are people out there who can do that, then they must be brilliant. But no, I write what I actually can write I think and also what I like to read.
I like to read everything but I lean towards things definitely with comedy. I think even when I write things with a dark subject matter they come out a bit flippant and I can’t seem to help myself. So now I write what I like and I never worried whether anybody was going to like it or read it. I wrote it squarely for myself and it’s just amazing that it got published.
Jenny: Your debut novel was How Not to Fall in Love Actually. A play on the much-loved movie Love Actually – and your heroine worked in TV. That was easy for you – because that’s what you did too, isn’t it?
Getting started in TV
Catherine: Yes, I’ve worked in TV since I was 22, I think, so in that book she’s got my exact job. Behind the scenes TV is so funny and so nuts and full of so many odd characters. You’ve got so many different people from different walks of life trying to make the same thing. I just had to write something that was sort of semi-based ‘behind the scenes’ because I had such a wonderful time working in television and everybody was quite nuts. So that was pretty fun.
Jenny: And the little mentions about getting the different extras that have to fill different roles, there’s a real comedy with all of that as well.
Catherine: Yes, I remember just having a moment one day when I rang up and I asked for three Asians, two men with missing arms, one short person with blond hair. I just had to ask for this weird concoction and I was just asking it like I was asking someone to go to the shop and get me two bottles of milk and a cucumber and some apples.
And I thought ‘God, my life is really weird’ and the person on the other end of the phone was like ‘ Yeah, okay. Three Asians, two people with missing arms, yes they’ve got the amputees and okay, bye’ What a weird conversation I just had, but it was so normal. That was my normal, so I had to put it in a book because it happens every single day on every single set.
Jenny: You’ve cringed about the way the plot line parallels the Bridget Jones Baby movie storyline – even though it was written before that movie came out . . . more evidence you’re very “wired” into popular culture.
Catherine: Yes, I think so. I have had my books likened to the Bridget Jones style of rom com and the thing is a book takes so long. You write it and then you send off your story that you’ve taken maybe a couple of years to write and formulate and whatever.
Then it might take another year for them to edit and back and forth. And they choose the title and they choose the cover and then it has got to go to print and that’s maybe another six months. So by the time your book is out, you’ve finished it ages ago and probably never want to read it ever in your life again because you’ve heard it so many times. And so when I watched that movie at home, my jaw was on the floor!
I just couldn’t believe it. I thought that maybe working in television has put me into that popular culture. Most likely, yes. But I also read a lot of that kind of stuff as well.
Love Actually ‘not my title’
Jenny: I’ve got to ask – do you watch Love Actually every Christmas like so many people do – and how do you “take your romance?” I saw somewhere you “don’t like it fluffy.” And like many rom coms, there’s not much sex on the page, is there?
Catherine: We did for a while. I think I’ve overdosed now, but for a while there, yes we did. And that actually isn’t my title. My title was something completely different. The editors chose that. But no, I’ve just stopped watching that every Christmas in the last couple of years.
Jenny: Well, I watched the DVD again last night just to remind myself, and that started off a flurry of looking at Colin Firth on Youtube.
Catherine: Well, we’re all probably guilty of that.
Jenny: He’s a very good interview subject, I must say. You say that you don’t like your romance too fluffy and like many romcoms, there is very little sex in your stories, that’s all more implied than actually graphic. How do you like to take your romance yourself?
Catherine: Probably just like the books. I like the little things. I really can’t bare flowers and chocolates and all that kind of declarations of adoration. I just can’t bear it. I think remembering tiny little things is way more romantic. And also joking around. I think you should marry your best friend. I think you should date your best friend. I think you should have a bit of fun with them. Flowers and ‘down on one knee’ makes me want to vomit.
On marrying your best friend
Jenny: Could I be so personal as to ask? Did you do that? Did you marry your best friend?
Catherine: I did. I did. We got married in a registry office and we decided to do it for a visa because I’ve got a British passport. And so we’re like, okay, let’s just go do it now. And then my husband- to-be thought ‘Oh I should probably propose’ because I was in the pool and he was beside the pool and I thought, you know ‘We could just get married and then I think you can come to England with me.’ And so then he goes ‘ I should propose’ and he pretended to get down on one knee and he had sushi in his teeth and I told him ‘Go away’. And then we picked the next day off we had from work – we both worked together on Shortland Street – and we just went off to the registry office.
I wore a denim skirt and my hair in pigtails and we got married and we just rang everybody. My husband rang everybody the night before and said ‘Hey, what are you doing tomorrow? Can you come to the pub? I’m getting married.’ And people were like, to who? I was meeting a lot of his friends at the pub and if they’d come up and go ‘Hey congratulations, where is she?’ And I’d turn around and go ‘It’s me! We’re married.’ We’ve been married 17 years now.
Jenny: Wow, that’s wonderful. That’s a great story.
Catherine: I think that’s romantic. I might be way off but I find it way more romantic than a big fluffy white dress.
Jenny: Your second novel Make Or Break tackled themes of family betrayal and anxiety. Your central character Jess is hyper-anxious – and sometimes not that easy to take because of it … So you’re pushing the rom com boundaries here. . . . What’s been the reaction?
Catherine: Well it’s interesting actually because people do find Jess irritating. But my youngest son suffers from anxiety – just in the last couple of years. And you know, it is intensely irritating sometimes. That sounds really callous, but not being able to do certain things or having all these little rules that they put around themselves.
So I think people have found her a bit annoying. But I find her realistic because I wanted someone who has the flaws that are prevalent at the moment. You know, there are so many people with anxiety. But there’s still comedy in it because there’s comedy and everything.
I get some reviews where people absolutely love it and they really like it, and then I get some reviews: ‘Look, I hate that lady. I have no problem with that. I think I have pushed the boundaries of the Rom-com there but that’s what I like to read – a bit of reality, a bit of darkness in a Rom-com because otherwise it doesn’t feel real to me.
Children – and dogs – important
Jenny: Yes. I must say I did think there was probably someone close to you who had anxiety because it does come across as incredibly real. It’s got a real ring of truth about it. And that partly helps you to accept it because you do have that feeling of empathy for someone who might feel like that. So it definitely works, I think. The children in Make Or Break play an integral part in the plot – and they are very real and refreshingly drawn. We can feel Jess’ affection for them on the page…some of your own experience as a mother leaking through here do you think?
Catherine: Yes, I love reading about family, so I love writing about family. I’m really close with my family. I put a lot of pressure on my sister in the first year that I moved to Queenstown and eight months later she lives on the same road as me. So we travelled the world and it doesn’t matter where I am, my mum turns up and stays for a month. And so writing about family is actually really important to me. I love the dynamics that you are forced together with these people that might not necessarily be your kind of person if you chose them, but also my children have gone everywhere with me.
We include them in everything. So I love putting children… I also like putting dogs… I always put children and dogs – say ‘always’ but the third one’s got children and dogs as well.
Jenny: We’ve already referred to your TV career – you’ve worked on shows like Coronation Street and The Bill and Death In Paradise in Britain, I gather – and of course New Zealand’s own long running soap Shortland Street – which is where I guess you got your start. What were you doing in TV?
Working for nothing to get a start
Catherine: Well, I just decided that I wanted to work in television. I thought I wanted to be a director and so I just rang a few people and started to work for free on anything. And I think I watched something like Survivor or Treasure Island.
And my first job was watching hours and hours of footage and then writing down what happens with the time code. I worked for free so that I could say: ‘There you go. I’ve done something in television’ and I remember I had to listen in stereo to a goat’s throat being cut. It was awful and I watched all the boring footage. You know, when you see all those Survivor films, you get to see the drama but man, there is hours of people just picking up rocks. It’s awful. So I did that.
And then somebody at Shortland Street told me that they’d turned down a job. It was still going and I just got the job. From Shortland Street, I met my husband and we moved overseas. I just applied for jobs that I wanted to work in and I generally got them actually. We also worked on Coronation Street. I wanted to go from Shortland street to Coronation Street. It was my aim and we did. I only did a few days, but I did it.
Jenny: And were you directing?
Catherine: No, assistant director. Or was, I don’t do it anymore. I was a second assistant director where you just organise in the background. Lots of organising.
Jenny: I confess to being intrigued by your time on Death in Paradise because I’ve just binge-watched the first two series … and its creator Robert Thorogood has done about four Death in Paradise novels. (I’d love to get him on the show).
Sitting at work in a bikini
I was mesmerised by the awkward relationship between Richard and Camille – I thought Ben Miller did such a good job of being an inept man confronted with a gorgeous woman – and I was gutted when he left the show … I gather it’s still going strong – so it obviously transitioned successfully …What series were you working on?
Catherine: Not those two seasons. I was on the third season. We were in the Caribbean for six months I think. My husband did the majority of it, but I did bits and pieces. I didn’t ever see the first two seasons, but I got to know Chris Marshall who was the main character on the third season, you might’ve done. But they do leave because it’s really hard work. They have to wear those suits. They always employ the gawky main character who’s British, so they’re wearing a suit and the heat! You wouldn’t believe the heat there.
One day I sat at work at my desk in a bikini. I went for it. It was another crazy kind of job. I went for a swim at lunchtime and then when I came back it was busy and I just sat down in my bikini, it was too hot and I spent the rest of the day in my bikini. What kind of job can you do that in? It was great. But the actors do move on quite quickly because it’s very hard work, especially wearing those suits. It’s a crazy life out there.
Jenny: And I suppose actually for any actor being stuck into a long running TV series limits the rest of their options, doesn’t it?
Catherine: My husband’s on a job that’s been obviously nine months and yeah, it does definitely take you out. But in ones like the Caribbean, you’re taken away from your family as well. Kris Marshall had one child while he was there and his wife came back and forth but he’s got two children now. So it starts to limit where you can go and how long you want to be away.
Jenny: Yes, I know that Ben Miller the first guy gave it up because his wife was expecting so that’s exactly it.
Jenny: You’ve spent quite a few years as an international nomad, but you’ve been back living in Queenstown in New Zealand for some time? You’re very much an international writer though and I gather your heart is still very much in London…how do you keep yourself inspired and wired?
An international life
Catherine: We still travel a lot, so yes, we live in Queenstown now, but it’s more of a base rather than what we used to do before, which we just had four suitcases and for four years we just moved from place to place to place and figured it all out as we went. So now we’re unpacked in one place, but we still travel a lot. I think because I haven’t lived anywhere for a really long time,
I’ve got friends all over the world. So my interactions are with friends who are doing exotic things. A lot of the time they’re in television, they’re always somewhere exotic, doing something weird with a whole bunch of other weird people. And that’s quite fun. Depending on where my husband gets his job is where we jump on the plane and we go there and we find new friends and the boys – my children – find new friends.
I bribe them actually, to make friends now. If I hear anybody speaking English, I say ‘I will get you that Spiderman toy if you go and talk to those people.’ And my children have started bargaining. They look at the kid and they’re like’ Nah, Spiderman toy and $10′. I’m so desperate for them to make friends when we are in these new places, so I go ‘Okay, it’s fine. $10 and an ice cream. Go, Go.’ So we’ve got some new buddies for a week. I don’t have a stationery life and that keeps me very inspired.
Jenny: That’s introducing networking at a very young age, isn’t it?
Catherine: They’re so hilarious where they just look the child up and down and think ‘Nah it’s not worth it.’ It’s terrible.
Jenny: How old are they now?
Catherine: I have one just about to turn 13 and just about to turn 10.
Jenny: They’re certainly at an age where they can cope with it, I think.
Catherine: Well, they don’t know any different actually. It’s their norm.
Jenny: As a former TV director, you’ve got the ideal experience and contacts to turn your novels into scripts – any ambition to do so?
Movie or TV possibilities
Catherine: On the first book I’ve had a movie offer and a TV series offer from contacts I’ve had in the industry, but my agent turned them down because they want more money I think. So I’m not sure whether I get much control over that. I haven’t quite read that contract, but what I intend to do is once I’ve written my third book – which I’m currently writing – I’m then out of contract with my publishers and I would really like to turn the first book into a screenplay.
I originally started it as a screenplay and found that I wanted to tell more emotion. I wanted more internal thought. So I changed it and wrote it as a book and now I think I’ll go and do the screenplay. Then I do have a lot of contacts and I’ve got a female director friend who is winning awards and she’s pretty amazing so I might approach her. We’ll see.
Jenny: You’d certainly have a feeling for how to do a screenplay after having worked in the industry for so long. It must be almost there in your blood.
Catherine: Yes. I think for so many years I’ve read scripts. I think when you first start reading scripts, it’s quite hard because you haven’t got description or anything like that. But then it just became where I could see an entire TV show visually while I read those scripts. So I think it’s pace and all that kind of stuff. I think would come quite naturally.
Finding a publisher
Jenny: You’ve scored a coup by being taken up by one of the marquee publishing brands in Simon and Schuster. Was it hard getting your first book accepted?
Catherine: Well, I did a writers’ course with Curtis Brown who were an agency in London. And they did an online writers’ course, the first online writers’ course. Which was brilliant because I can’t remember where I was living at the time – but I wasn’t in London – which meant I could do it from anywhere. It was all on this platform and there were 15 people from all over the world and it was absolutely brilliant. And at the end of it they said ‘please send us your manuscript as first right of refusal.’ And then after that you can go on to other people.
So I did that and I picked Alice from Curtis Brown. She’s absolutely brilliant and she’s crazy and I love her. And she took it on in a week and we worked on it for a couple of months with her brilliant insight. Then she approached publishers. That part is really hard because you think you’ve just nailed it when you’ve got an agent, but you don’t realise that then you’ve actually got to get a publisher to come on board. When the noes started coming in, I thought ‘oh, so long, I’ve worked so hard.’ And then Simon and Schuster came along and said ‘Yes’ and they gave me a one book deal. And then I think based on the feedback from that first book, they quickly got in contact and did another two-book deal straight away.
Jenny: Great. And how long ago was that?
Catherine: I think it was end of 2015 because ‘How Not to Fall in Love’ actually came out in January, 2016.
Jenny: Is there one thing you’ve done perhaps more than any other that’s the secret to your success?
Catherine: Well, I think during the course was humongous kick in the right direction. It really changed the writing. But I think what I do is – and I have to constantly keep reminding myself – is to not care what other people think and just write what I want to write every day. And I get constant doubts but I have to kick them out of my head and go ‘who cares how that would be received’.
If I like it, put it on the paper. And I think that’s it. Just keep going. Because so many people that say, Oh, I’ve started writing a book.’ I didn’t want to be one of those people that was going to – write – a – book – one – day. You can’t get perfection. If you wait for perfection, you won’t get anything. So just start writing.
The chick lit debate – pro’s and cons
Jenny: Have you got any opinions on the “chick lit” debate – and the feeling among some women writers that the label “dumbs down” women’s writing by forcing it into a “pink and fluffy” ghetto. Catherine Robertson and Nicky Pellegrino have both spoken about this.
Catherine: Yes, I have two opposing opinions. If somebody says to me, I love chicklit and they’re coming at it from a really positive, genuine point of view and they’re not trying to be offensive, then that doesn’t offend me. I’m not offended by somebody saying ‘ Oh, do you write chick lit? ‘ And they genuinely love it because it’s coming from a good place. And that’s sort of the label that has been around for such a long time. But generally, yes.
I don’t know how bad it is to say, but I don’t like the covers of my books because I find them very girly. I didn’t realise that you get no control over that. My one request was just ‘Please, no swirly letters or silhouette characters – and pink.’ And I think on the first book, which I’m looking at now, I can see it is silhouette characters, swirly letters and pink. I feel like it narrows your readers to women of a certain age. I don’t think the content of that book goes necessarily with the outside because I’ve had women of all ages read it.
I’ve had men read it and think it’s funny because it can be quite foul. The inside of my book is, you know, grubby. My sense of humour is often in the gutter and I don’t think that that reflects it. I have spoken to my editor and they’ve said ‘well, your rom coms are really quite different. ‘ And I said, so why are you packaging it exactly the same as every other chicklit that is out there? So I do get angry about that because a man writes a romantic comedy and everybody reads it.
A woman writes a romantic comedy and we package it for women. I also don’t like it being called women’s contemporary fiction. Can it not just be called contemporary fiction? We don’t call it men’s contemporary fiction. That really bothers me. I feel like we’re only marketing to half the world.
Jenny: Yes. It’s funny actually because even in the podcast, we have to use categories too and I’ve been dithering myself about whether something is romantic suspense or woman’s fiction. I don’t really like even the label of women’s fiction, but some books are really forced into that category because there isn’t anything else that just seems to quite fit the bill. I do understand what you’re saying.
Catherine: It’s like we’ve gone ‘Okay, here we go.’ Fiction written by males is fiction and then we have these little subcategories that will allow the women to write and we’ll put them in their little subcategories. That part really bothers me and I think that needs to come from the publishers. It’s not coming from (them), they need to start adjusting that. And I feel like it will, with the way that the world’s going at the moment. But at the moment it’s a battle that I don’t feel I have much control over because – it’s not even my title on my cover.
Jenny: No, that’s right. And those two things are such a large part of the marketing drive and I guess readers are also responding to the elbow reaction of just picking up something that they recognise. As in ‘I understand what this is and I’ve read that sort of thing before and I enjoy it.’ So you can understand it from their point of view as well really.
Catherine: Yes. Yes, I can. It doesn’t mean I like it.
Jenny: Are you inclined to overachieve and get stressed out – and how do you like to relax when you’re not working?
Catherine’s favourite reading
Catherine: I think I over plan to achieve and then get very upset when I don’t achieve my giant list of things that I want to do. But I’m pretty good at relaxing. I have a dog that is farm doggy type thing. We live very close to a lake and lots of hills and I just go on humongous walks. Then if I really, really, really can’t even do that because I need even more, I just shut my curtains and read a magazine.
Jenny: The series is called “The Joys of Binge Reading” because I see it as providing inspiration for people who like to do just that – binge read. So – turning to your taste in fiction, who do you “binge read”? Any recommendations for listeners?
Catherine: There is one that I’ve just gone back to the beginning of which is David Sedaris, if that’s how you pronounce his last name. But he’s not fiction. I really enjoy his books. The other one that I read frequently – I use it as a palate cleanser actually between genres – is Spike Milligan’s War Memoirs. I absolutely love them. So I might read a horrible thriller that keeps me up all night and has just been amazing but I’m really creeped out. I’ll have to go back to Spike Milligan for a couple of books before I move onto the next genre.
But the last fiction series that I actually remember bingeing on was Harry Potter. But I will read almost anything and everything. If I find a book like, Douglas Adams, I remember when I discovered him, I just wanted to keep reading every book I could. Or if I find a really great thriller and I find out that they’ve written a few. But Harry Potter is the last actual series I remember. It’s a while ago.
Jenny: What attracts you to David Sedaris?
Catherine: I love his sense of humour and I just love how he writes a lot about his family. I love that kind of stuff, just all the interactions and how he’s quite mean about his sisters. It’s quite funny.
Jenny: At this stage in your career, if you were doing it all over again, what would you change – if anything?
The perils of working from home
Catherine: Yes, I think I would learn to carve out my time and say no. Because when you’re at home and you’re working on your book, it’s very hard for people to recognise that you’re working. I think I would have been a bit more strict on saying ‘No, I’m working today’ rather than ‘could you just pick up my kids?’ Or ‘could you just anything?’
Oh yeah, well I can, I’m at home. I think I would have been a faster writer had I put a bit more framework and really seen it as sitting around doing a job. I might have maybe been a bit more forceful on what I wanted on a cover. I’m not sure if it would’ve changed anything, but I might’ve spoken up a bit more about that at the beginning because I certainly intend to do that with book three.
Jenny: What is next for Catherine the writer? Are you a big goal setter? Five books and a movie script in the next five years sort of thing? And what are you working on next?
Catherine: I definitely want to, I will always keep writing whether I’m being given book contracts or not. But the next one? It seems like I’m going a little darker each time actually. My editors were a little worried that I’d gone off genre and I sent a huge email saying ‘No, no, no, I haven’t, blah, blah, blah.’ And then probably chapter 15, it turns out that actually perhaps I have. But I’m still really enjoying it and there’s still a lot of comedy in it.
The romance has toned down a bit and I’ve got bullying and death in this one. So the first one was just the tragedy of pregnancy. The second one had betrayal and this one’s got bullying and death. They do seem to be getting darker and darker, but I’m really enjoying it. Set in England again and it’s around a woman who’s lost her husband and her daughter was being bullied and just how she gets herself out of that with the help of her family.
Jenny: Fantastic. And, and after that, you mentioned that this is the last book for your current contract. Have you looked ahead and thought what you might like to tackle next after you’re free to do whatever you want?
Work in progress
Catherine: I’d like to do the screenplay of the first book and then i have a fourth story starting to flow. It seems to happen. I feel like it’s your brain trying to distract yourself from the actual hard work of sitting down and writing. As soon as I sit there and I’m writing the third one or the segment, the next book’s going ‘Oh, hi, hi. Can you write about me?’ There’s all this and I have to have a whole other book notebook sitting with me on the desk for the ideas that come in for the next book that you’re not even supposed to be writing because I need to get them out. So there’s definitely a fourth book floating around at the moment. I can see the characters,
Jenny: All contemporary?
Catherine: Yes. All contemporary. I wouldn’t mind writing a really dark thriller which I also have an idea for as well. I want to see how dark I can go. I know I want to see <if I can – not put, not take, you know, take the piss out of it actually. I want to see if I can actually not try and put jokes in and actually be dark, but we’ll see. That could be my little test thing.
Jenny: And tell us a bit about your working day. Do you have a set routine, a number of words you try and get done every day? Or how do you approach the production side of it?
Catherine: No, I find I get anxious if I sit there and have a word count that I have to try and hit because I realise that as soon as I sit there, I’m forcing words that aren’t good. Or I mentally might stop when I could keep going. So I don’t have that pressure. I make sure that I go and do a big amount of exercise first, the big dog walk. That gets my brain clear and going and often I actually have to stop.
I’ve got a little rock that I sit on with the view of the lake and I’ve written an entire chapter up there on my phone, just sending myself little text messages because I get so many ideas walking. I try not to go with friends actually because they distract me. So I go, me and my dog and then I’ll get some ideas and then I come back to the desk and I write until it’s time to go and be a mum again.
Jenny: Great, so it very much is a full time job.
Catherine: Yeah – a little bit.
Jenny: Would you ever consider being indie published? Publishing yourself?
Catherine: I was intending to on the first one. I had no problems if a publisher didn’t pick it up, going on and publishing myself. I did meet another editor who wasn’t my own and I told her my experience of the sort of the lack of control over certain things and she said ‘ yeah, that’s actually what we do. The entire book is packaged – the cover and the title are all sorted. And we approach the author when that’s gone through every other department.’
So the idea of actually having full control and indie publishing sounds quite nice, but I’ll see what it’s like once I’m out of contract. A friend of mine did indie publish and she said it’s so hard actually getting it into the bookstores because as soon as you ring up and you say you’re indie published, it’s very hard for them to take your book.
Jenny: That’s exactly right. There’s a definite advantage to being with a publishing company at the level of Simon and Schuster. No doubt about it.
Jenny: Where can readers find you online and do you enjoy interacting with readers?
Where to find Catherine online
Catherine: I enjoy interacting, but I don’t enjoy saying stuff to the net as a whole. Like just sitting there putting my thoughts on Twitter. I find that – well, I haven’t got time for one, but if somebody contacts me I will always contact them back because I think that’s wonderful. So yes, I really enjoy interacting, but I don’t enjoy the one-sided notion of ‘Hi, this is my thought for right now.’ I hate it actually. I’m on Twitter but that’s only because I have to be that. But if people contact me, I love, love to hear and I love contact back. I’m also on Instagram and on that and then I have Facebook, but that’s just to find my friends around the world wherever they are. So that’s actually personal, right?
Jenny: Yes. That’s one thing about the indie. If you go indie, you really do need to do quite a lot more of the push-out kind of social media which most writers probably find quite hard to do.
Catherine: Some of them are brilliant at it and I look at them and I think ‘Why can’t I be like you?’ And my editor said ‘Just put your funny little observations that you have.’ And I think ‘well, I’m not wasting them on Twitter. I’m putting them in a book – not for free. So, it’s not sitting well with me. I’m sure my editor is very upset. But – can’t do it.
Jenny: Yes, but that’s the funny thing with trad publishing, they still want you to do a lot of your own marketing.
Catherine: I think they’re terribly disappointed in me but I just can’t do it.
Jenny: Catherine, it’s been wonderful talking. Thank you so much for your time and all the very best. What’s your deadline for number three? When do you have to have it finished?
Catherine: Well I’ve well past the first one because I broke my shoulder. That was July and I couldn’t write or sleep or anything. But now I think the next one is September, which is good.
Jenny: And how many thousand words do they work out at?
Catherine: I generally have a first draft of – it’s ridiculous – 130 to 140,000. And my editor, my agent wanted it to be down to 100,000, but actually I publish about 110 to 120,000. More of a Marian Keyes style book, they’re quite thick books aren’t they?
Jenny: Or Liane Moriarty. They’re probably about the same size as hers.
Catherine: I think I’m a chatty person so it comes out in my book. I talk too much. So it comes out in the book.
Jenny: It has been wonderful talking to you. I don’t think you talk too much at all. It’s flown off your tongue beautifully. Thank you so much for your time. Thank you very much. Bye now.
Catherine: Bye Jenny.
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