I’m really delighted today that my turn has finally come to join the September leg of the blog tour for Cat Hogan’s debut novel, They All Fall Down. Published by Poolbeg Press on 1st July, it’s available via Amazon in the UK and US, in paperback and for kindle – and it’s a really excellent thriller. My review follows below, but first I’m thrilled to welcome Cat to Being Anne with the most gorgeous – and very touching – guest post. Over to you, Cat…
My first experience of the publishing industry was very different to what I expected. The eternal romantic in me balked at self-publishing – too modern and efficient. My wild imagination conjured up images of people in tweed, sitting behind antique desks with a pen and a keen eye for a good story. I wanted the traditional route and I was prepared to wait. I just needed patience, and buckets of it.
I’m patient. I have two children. A half man, Joey – 11 – and a toddler, Arthur who was three in August. A mother’s default setting is patience – how else would we survive to tell the tale and raise loving humans while hearing ‘Mam’ thirty thousand times a day? If patience was the qualification, I was going to nail this book deal business. Luckily for me, I can also write. But reading came first. I am a self-professed book addict. I read every day, without fail.
I also write every day and always on paper. The laptop comes last. Drafts are written long hand, and I always keep a notebook
The love of stories and the wild imagination came from my own parents. Born into a home of bibliophiles and within spitting distance of the sea, my father instilled in me a love of the sea and the stars. My mother, Mag, taught me to read before I could walk.
My own childhood hero is Dad. Pat, started out in the Merchant Navy, and in 1964, joined the Commissioners of Irish Lights (CIL) where he worked aboard the Graunaile, maintaining lighthouses and keeping the waterways that surround our beautiful coast safe for all seafarers. He died suddenly in December, 2001.
Some of my earliest memories are of sitting outside at night, with an old brass compass, identifying star constellations and listening to stories of high seas and swashbuckling adventure. In my little blonde head, I wanted the life of adventure, and that romantic view of the world. The sailors’ blood in me finds inspiration in the sea, the stars and lighthouses.
My first novel, They All Fall Down, was set in a fictional fishing village in Co. Wexford. Before I thought about the tweed clad agents and cavernous publisher’s offices, all I wanted on the cover of the book was a lighthouse – a nod to Dad. The story is dark, which surprised me – the genre had found me. It’s a psychological thriller exploring the depths of flawed human nature, the thin line between love and obsession and the destructive nature of addiction. I started They All Fall Down in October of 2014 and finished the first draft in June 2015.
Now all I needed was patience, right? I sent the novel out to agents and hunkered down to wait. In the mean time I would continue to write novels and to raise the half man and the baby. I decided if, after 18 months, I hadn’t secured an agent or a publisher, I would consider self-publishing or more likely, my novel would go in the bin. I didn’t have to be patient for long. In August, I had an agent. Two months later, I had a two book deal with Poolbeg. I had my lighthouse after all.
I started to panic. This wasn’t supposed to happen, I had practiced my patient face and the line I would use on those who enquired about my progress. Now I was a soon to be published author and I had deadlines. Book 2 deadlines. Editing deadlines, promo, interviews, launches, signings. Things were happening, and fast. I was terrified.
Shortly after that, I contacted Robert – my dad’s friend and fellow shipmate in CIL headquarters to pitch an idea to him. Everything had gone full circle. I had grown up with lighthouses, I visualised a lighthouse on the cover, my publisher’s logo is a lighthouse and now we are in talks to do a tour of all the lighthouses of Ireland where I will write my second, and possibly, my third book. The romantic in me wants to do this winter. Hook Head isn’t too far away from me and it’s there I will go with my notebook in the meantime.
One day, I will write an epic adventure about sailors on the high seas, but for now, I’m going to continue to chase the lighthouses and the dreams that come with them!
Thank you Cat – I’m so delighted for you, and wish you every success. Let’s have a closer look at that book…
Jen Harper likes to play it safe. She is settling into life on the outskirts of a sleepy fishing village with her little boy, Danny. Life by the sea – just how she wanted it.
When she meets Andy, she feels the time has come to put her baggage and the scars of the past behind her. Then she is introduced to Scott, Andy’s best friend, and is stung by his obvious disdain for her. Why is Scott so protective of his best friend? What is the dark secret that threatens all of them?
In her attempt to find answers, Jen must confront her demons and push her relationships to their limits. By digging up the past, she puts Danny and herself in danger. Will she succeed in uncovering the truth before they all fall down?
I never read other reviews before writing my own, and I must admit this book came as a real surprise. No, I’ll go further than that – in a nice way of course, but it came as a total shock. With the author coming from the sunny southeast of Ireland and the talk of sleepy fishing villages, coupled with the fact that this one is published by Poolbeg, I was rather expecting it to be a gentle tale of country folk, maybe with a bit of sea-going and the odd bit of wisdom from the elders. And for the first third, I guess that’s largely what it was – Jen and young son Danny are introduced (and I immediately liked them both), there’s the awkwardness of having a lodger in their new home (but I liked Andy too, a bit of a hunk but gentle and caring – romance ahead, I thought, a bit of a set-up by dear departed Aunty Pat) and we meet Jen’s friends. Tess who runs the pub and Doc her musician husband, gigging round the country to help make ends meet, are having real problems with their relationship – then there’s Jen, the artist, obviously a good mate to have. Everything’s very conversation based, and maybe a tad slower than I like things – it was a bit like eavesdropping, Tess and Doc seemed to become more central to the story than Jen, and I wondered quite where it was all going.
In the midst of all the establishing of the characters we also meet Scott – suave, smooth, charming (or is he? sometimes not…), bit of an unconventional home life (closer to the retired gardener in a nursing home than to his ex-opera singer and party hostess mother), and a liking for drugs and the high life. Oh no, he doesn’t really fit in at all – but he’s a friend of Andy’s, and he’s pretty level-headed, so maybe Jen’s wrong in not taking to him. But then things turn – when it looks as if everything’s heading for a happy ending for some and a fresh start for others, Scott starts to show his true colours. The book becomes very much darker, the pace picks up dramatically, and we enter a whole different world of evil, secrets, betrayal, violence, addiction, obsession… goodness, I really wasn’t expecting that! It’s a tremendous page-turner as Jen becomes more and more isolated, apparently the only one who can see the evil in their midst – relationships fracture as the characters find their strings being pulled by a master manipulator, and the book hurtles towards a heart-in-mouth climax that had me unable to put it down until I’d finished reading.
The book’s not without its faults – I did feel the pace sometimes flagged a little too much with some of the dialogue, which did serve well in giving insight into the characters, but sometimes had me skip-reading a little (then flipping back when I realised I’d missed something important). That said, the dialogue is very well written, and I enjoyed the little quirks of Irishness that gave it more colour. The escalation in the second half was extremely well done though – Jen’s increasing alienation and the threat hanging over her, the terrifying personification of evil, the climactic scene vividly real, and the ending quite perfect. A strong first novel, and I enjoyed it – I look forward to seeing what Cat Hogan does next.
Meet the author
Cat lives in Wexford, with her musician partner Dave, two sons Joey and Arthur, and tomcat Jim Hawkins. There they live a life of storytelling, song and adventure. The other love of Cat’s life is food. A self-professed foodie, there is nothing she loves more than feeding a houseful of friends round her kitchen table.
When she is not conjuring up imaginary friends, she can be found supporting local musicians and writers of which there is an abundance in her home town.