I'm thrilled to welcome Cathy Mansell to the blog today. It's always a pleasure to talk to this delightful lady.
I’ve not long finished reading ‘Where the Shamrocks Grow’. You covered a huge amount of history in this wonderfully inspiring book. Can you tell our readers something about your research?
Although Where the Shamrocks Grow is a work of fiction, some aspects are loosely based on my mother's life, my great aunt and my experience of New York.
I love research and when I was writing Where the Shamrocks Grow it was a great excuse to go back to my roots. I walked the streets of Dublin that I remembered as a child, visited Dublin's National Library where I researched the upstairs/downstairs of the period. Scrolled down many Dublin newspapers printed in the 1920s and 30s. The history of the Irish Civil War I recalled from my school days and researched what I wasn't sure of.
American history had always fascinated me because of my great aunt who lived in the Bronx before, and during the great depression. We never met, but I tried to imagine how she might have felt when she lost her savings in the 1929 crash.
It would seem that all your books are set in Ireland. You’ve lived in England for many years. What prompted you to set your work in the land of your birth?
I've asked myself this question many times, Natalie, having lived so long in Leicester. For some reason, I've never been inspired to set one of my books here. Maybe one day. Ireland to me is inspirational, the people, the landscape, the history. Besides I was brought up there, worked and went to school there at a time when I was an impressionable young teenager. I seem to have an affinity with Ireland, Dublin in particular. Inspiration to write comes easily when I'm there.
You haven’t always written novels. What did you do before and when and why did you change?
When my first husband died from leukemia in the 70s, I found comfort in writing short verse. I then progressed to writing articles on bereavement to give consolation to others going through the same thing. To my surprise these articles were published in National magazines. I found healing in writing so I then wrote my life story for my children. It went for a second read at Arts Council England, and I was encouraged to carry on writing.
This, in turn, gave me confidence to have a go at writing a full-length novel. Then in 2003 when I had finished writing and editing Where the Shamrocks Grow, novelist, Jean Chapman encouraged me to join the Romantic Novelists Association's (RNA) New Writer's Scheme. It proved to be one of the best decisions I've ever made. With support from the RNA, and other supportive groups, I am now a published author writing my fifth novel.
Can you tell us about your working day?
My working day has changed over the years. When I started writing first, I had lots of time to write. Usually from nine in the morning and on and off throughout the day, sometimes working well into the night. I thought time was my own.
But that is never the case when you have family and grandchildren. I adore spending time with them, and they are all supportive of my work. When I have time off, I find myself working later and later into the evening. I start at nine but rarely get to my writing until the afternoon. Promotion and networking take up half of my writing time. Most authors will identify with this, but as we want to sell books, it becomes part of the working day and night.
Where is your favourite place to write – and why?
I am fortunate to have a fantastic working place. My husband, Dennis, calls it the crow's nest. It's a small attic room in the roof of the house that he converted some years ago. It overlooks fields and trees. I can be completely alone up here with my characters.
I love it because no one likes climbing the ladder, and it keeps the grandchildren away from my computer. I've been working up here in my special place for years now and have become quite good at climbing the ladder. Some days it is the only exercise I get.
Do you have any favourite hobbies outside of your writing (not that writing can be called a hobby)
I used to like gardening and decorating, but that fell by the wayside. I love reading and read most genres apart from science fiction. I have a passion for good drama, live or otherwise. Can’t get enough of it.
Your most recently published book, ‘Where the Shamrocks Grow’, has received excellent reviews. Is there another in the pipeline?
Yes, I'm currently writing another romantic suspense set in Dublin and Birmingham in 6os. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that my publisher, Tirgearr Publishing, will like it. It's always a bit nerve racking when you start a new book, wondering if the story will engage readers.
Your publishers, Tirgearr Publishing, are based in Ireland. Is this a coincidence?
Yes, in a way. When the situation arose to submit work to them, I thought they might be the right publisher for me as my work was set there. As it turned out, my publisher is from California and her husband is a Cork man. I love this combination. It was a right decision.
Cathy is an experienced writer of romantic fiction. Her early work was stories and articles published in national magazines. She organized an anthology of works funded by Arts Council England, appeared on the TV show Food Glorious Food 2012
Nowadays, Cathy writes novels set in Ireland, depicting the lifestyle and hardships of families in those days. Some of her characters become wound up in intricate criminal plots.
She lives in Leicestershire with her husband, where she writes daily in her ‘Loft Study’
Thank you so much for sharing, Cathy.