Interview with Catherine Kirby

Catherine Kirby

Interview Date: 6/29/2012


I've lived in many places up and down the UK. Likewise my working life has been varied - as a student - a summer job working in a mental health clinic. Then later an assistant teacher, shoe shop assistant, estate agent negotiator for commercial properties, secretary, couple counsellor and writer. A Jack of all trades and hopefully working towards some kind of mastery in writing. I love variety in people and places and I'm endlessly curious about them. I now live in Devon and I'm discovering and delighting in a fascinating place that in some ways harks back to the 1950's and beyond in its culture and manners. The scenery is inspiring, veering as it does from sheep-clad hills to rushing waterfalls and supermarkets. Annoyingly (although useful at times), at least 10 supermarkets have sprung up in a 10 mile radius from where I live.

When did you start writing, and was there a significant event that prompted you to do so?

I started writing as soon as I learnt how. My stories were pretty naive to begin with. You have to learn to take criticism pretty early on if you want to be a writer. I remember I had a red line scored through a detective story I'd written at school when I was very young. I'd put, 'They heard footprints coming towards them...' Thinking about it now, it was quite inventive! Nevertheless, the worlds enclosed between the covers of a book were a mouth-watering temptation of discovery that I wanted to recreate for myself. I just kept writing for my own enjoyment. I never thought of sharing it with anyone. I suppose I worried they might not like the sound of footprints coming towards them...

Kev's response: Actually, if a "footprint" were a type of creature in your world, then the "sound of footprints coming toward them" would be perfectly appropriate! =D

If you could have one superpower, what would it be? (Assuming said power would be reasonably "powerful.")

It has to be invisibility! The freedom it would provide would be awesome. I've used invisibility in my novel, See Through. What I didn't expect when doing that was the restrictions it would impose too. For instance, you'd have to be ever watchful when walking in a busy street or crossing a road, because it would be impossible for anyone to avoid crashing into you. On the plus side, you could go wherever you liked undetected, as long as you didn't demolish the place by accident - always a possibility for the invisible when avoiding obstacles!

Kev's response: I have a small creature with invisibility in my superhero world. He floats, so it's probably a bit easier for him to stay out of bumpage range.

Do you have a favorite superhero from novels, comics, or movies?

Peter Pan. His flying gift together with Tinkerbell's invisibility - now that would be freedom indeed.

Kev's response: Peter... Hmm, that's really stretching the boundaries of the "superhero" genre, but hey, I'll go with it!

Where do you get your inspiration for writing? What motivates you?

I find inspiration in quiet and reverie. I'm also influenced by people, events, and dilemmas in other people's lives and my own. And I love big spaces, huge skies, the sea, and acres of time to relax (if only!).

Kev's response: I have to poke fun here ... when is the sky not huge?

Do you pre-plan your stories, or are you a by-the-seat-of-the-pants style writer?

I do some planning, especially in working out characters. I like to keep some kind of record of their appearance, likes, dislike etc. For the story itself, I prefer to have a theme and a strong notion of its direction, but that's all. I tried planning a novel once. By the time I came to write it, I hated it. It was so boring and restrictive that I kept falling asleep. I want the story to come alive as I go, and to keep me on my toes.

Kev's response: Oh, my gosh. Try keeping track of characters over 10 novels, short stories and such! After six, I actually made an illustrated guide just to lock them down.

Do you have a favorite genre to write in? To read?

I like my stories, both for reading and writing, to be about relationships in the end, but not obviously so. I like to explore a variety of relationships and situations. My novel Sari Caste, set in Calcutta and Darjeeling, concerns a young Bengali woman, and her longing for future happiness despite her difficult and disturbing circumstances. See Through, my second novel, is less serious. It follows Fleur Purple, who's insecure in her marriage and family life. Her husband's beautiful ex just won't go away. Nothing Fleur does to improve things works out. Finally, she discovers that the trauma of it all has caused her to become invisible. The mayhem, the comedy, and the resolution of the story is all about the humorous, cunning and poignant interactions of the characters. The novel explores the characters' motives, both generous and selfish, in the visible and invisible worlds they inhabit. There are a lot of invisible people in this novel. I loved writing it.

What do you enjoy the most about writing?

I like the invention of characters, and putting them into situations where you have to be alongside them. It's a magical occupation that's demanding and frustrating, a kind of mental Olympics. One of these days it might even be on the Olympic agenda. Maybe when people can write by thought alone without anyone being able to read their minds. Now there's a book!

Kev's response: Ugh, I wouldn't enjoy a writing competition, although I imagine some would.

Is there any part of writing that you don't enjoy?

I find the starting of a story the hardest part. I loved the research for Sari Caste. It was truly engrossing and enjoyable, but because it was so time consuming and demanding, I would hesitate to do that again. I don't have the time these days. Research is a bit of a bugbear but necessary to some degree for every story.

Kev's response: Bugbears! Hairy beasties. Now they're into research?!

Can you tell me something odd about yourself?

Only if you promise not to tell! Let me see... I'm very short sighted. I tend to shout at anyone who tries to wake me up if I fall asleep during the day. My family draw lots when they have to wake me for some reason! Fortunately, it's not often, so they put up with me in view of my lack of height and lack of weapons.

Kev's response: Honest, my LIPS are sealed! Hmm, I'm thinking I would throw pillows at you. Just saying. (Or cat treats, if you have a cat.)

Do you write one story at a time, or do you have several novels in the works at one time?

I only write one thing at a time. I want to be fully immersed in it. I'm very much a multi-tasker in other ways though. I hate wasting time.

I'm looking to advertise for evil minions for my plot to take over the world, any suggestions?

Hen's eggs that hatch out super-strong chicks with hatchets. They'd be thought so cute, until they took aim and slayed before their opponents had a chance to defend themselves. It reminds me of something. Um, I know what - government agents.

Kev's response: Chickens with built-in hatchets? Sounds like a winner!

Where do you see the future as far as paper books versus digital e-books?

It's difficult to say. However, radio, television, cinema, and DVDs have existed side by side. I see no reason why printed books and e-books can't do the same. It's great to have an e-book, and to be able to carry a whole lot of books together in a single, small device. However, at present, it isn't easy to turn to a particular page in an e-book. Anyway, there's nothing quite like thumbing back and forth through a physical book.

What are your current projects?

I'm writing a novel about some wayward characters who get themselves into some sticky situations, and about their more staid and worried families. It explores how they each cope with the others. I don't want to say too much yet - I've too far to go - but I'm taking time out to get on with it.

Do you have any advice for others about self-publishing?

It's a big learning experience, so get all the support you can. It's well worth the effort, and once you've found your way, you'll love it. Keep writing, and make each book the very best it can be from the story to the cover.

Do you have any online sites where readers can find out more about you (and your books)?

My author page on Amazon
My website

Kev's response: Catherine, thanks for joining the Snark and I! I wish you the best on your books, may they NOT be invisible!

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