When I spent some time with the Belmont Belles – the Leicester RNA chapter – last October, I had the real pleasure to meet some of the loveliest ladies, all passionate about their writing. And it was a particular treat to be sitting near Cathy Mansell – an author I haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading, but I do plan to put that right when her next book is published. I can’t remember seeing Cathy and her books on a blog recently, so I’m particularly delighted that she agreed to join me for a chat today – and to allow me to share some details of her lovely books.
Cathy, it’s a real pleasure to welcome you to Being Anne today – would you like to introduce yourself?
Hello, Anne. Thank you for having me on your blog today. I’ve so looked forward to it. I’m married to Dennis, have three children and nine grandchildren. So I’m kept busy. Writing under my name, Cathy Mansell, sometimes gets confused with Jill Mansell, the top selling author, but I don’t mind one bit as Jill is an amazing writer whom I admire very much.
I write Romantic Suspense set in Ireland where I grew up and feel confident writing about a place I know. Five books are published with Tirgearr Publishing, a small independent publisher in Ireland. My sixth novel, An Irish Heartbeat is doing the rounds with my agent.
Tell me more about that Irish background to your books…
Born in Ireland, I went to school there and worked there for a short time. Ireland has a magical atmosphere with beautiful landscapes to inspire any writer. I come from a family of writers. My great aunt was a published poet/songwriter who lived in America during the Wall Street crash. She penned a poem for President Roosevelt and received a thank you letter she kept for posterity. Unfortunately, no one knows what happened to the letter after she died.
My father wrote plays but never tried to get them published. Three of my sisters write for pleasure. I spent my childhood and teenage years in Ireland, so, the Irish background is ideal for me to write about. Although my characters don’t always remain in Ireland throughout the story. They, like my Irish counterparts, like to travel to new places.
You don’t stick with one historical period – doesn’t that make things much more difficult, with more research needed?
Not for me, Anne. Although, I stick to a period I know about and research the rest. Where the Shamrocks Grow spans almost twenty years and covers Ireland’s troubled past including America’s historic depression of 1929. I enjoyed the research for this with the help of my great aunt’s letters she sent home to my father. Galway Girl set in 1900, Her Father’s Daughter the 50s: Shadow Across the Liffey and Dublin’s Fair City in different periods of the 60s, an interesting time in history.
An Irish Heartbeat, my sixth book, is with my agent. It’s set during WW2. Although Ireland remained neutral during the war, it imposed what was called “The Emergency” to protect themselves from stray bombs. My heroine, Eva having survived an orphanage fire, discovers her boss’s son – a deserter from the British army – hiding in the barn where she works and becomes implicated in his concealment. The research for this book unveiled for me surprising new insights into this period of history.
Who might enjoy your books? When you’re writing, do you have a reader in your mind? A certain background, or age group maybe? Are they exclusively female?
When I wrote my first book, I believed I was writing for women in their fifties and sixties. Women who might remember what it was like at the time I set my book. By the time my third book came out, I was surprised to find that some of my readers came from the younger generation whom I expect find the past fascinating. I also have a few ardent male readers but my readership is female.
I’d love to know more about how you write – and love the sound of your loft study. Do you have a routine?
I try to have a routine, Anne. Some days it works well and others life gets in the way. I think all writers have this problem. I write early in the morning when my brain functions best. By lunchtime I’m wilting. However, I get a spurt of energy toward the late evening and if the urge is strong to write a particular part of the plot, I have been known to work into the early hours.
I love my loft study. My husband calls it the “Crows Nest” However, access is by a pull-down ladder and I’m in the process of moving my office down to the spare bedroom. I still have the same view from the window, trees and fields dotted with sheep.
Planning, writing, editing, getting ready for launch, doing the publicity – what’s your favourite part of the whole process? And the most difficult?
I love it all, Anne. The planning of a new book, and creating characters that soon become real, is exciting. I even enjoy the editing. The most difficult part of the writing process for me is marketing and promotion. It can take up a lot of time and takes you away from the writing. The reason I now write first and promote last. My main promotion site is Twitter and my Facebook page. But I always feel I should do more. I have done a lot of paid promotions, and that becomes expensive. It works well when I have a new book coming out.
Does the writing get easier with each new novel, or does the pressure of expectation make it more difficult?
Yes, there is always pressure to make the next book better than the one before, and I’m still learning. I feel it is important to learn and change as you write. I believe the more you write the better you become. Consistency is the key.
Reading the reviews of your books, I came across the description “a born storyteller”. Is that one of the nicest tributes you’ve had, or is there another that you like even better?
Yes, being described as a “storyteller” is how I would describe myself. However the best tribute paid to me by a reader was when I was likened to the late Maeve Binchy. It is always a delight when a reader takes the time to leave a review. Reviews make an author’s day even better.
And what writers do you particularly admire? if someone said “your writing reminds me of…”, who would you like them to mention?
When I’m relaxing at night, I love reading saga writers, Nadine Dorries and Rita Bradshaw. I also like thriller writer Sybil Hodge, Noreen Wainwright’s Edith Horton mysteries, and Carmel Harrington whom I’ve discovered recently. But my all time favourite is Elaine Crowley. She writes about Dublin like nobody else I know. Vivid character and descriptions. They all create excellent plots with well drawn characters that jump off the page and keep me reading. I love that and for me a strong plot is the pivotal part of any story.
So, what’s next for you? Is there another book on the way?
Yes, I’m writing my seventh book, with a working title of All Her Tomorrows, a story set in 1950 in a run-down tenement in Dublin when the slum clearance was taking place. Jobs were few and people were being rehoused onto new council estates. Three sisters struggle to survive when their mother dies. Nell, the main character gives up her career in nursing and the man she loves to care for her siblings during great hardship and with little reward.
Cathy, thank you – so lovely to find out more about you and your books, and I’ll look forward to trying An Irish Heartbeat when it finds a home. Let’s take a closer look at Cathy’s books – click on the cover or the title for the Amazon link. You can find buying links for other e-book formats on Cathy’s website.
Life is hard for widow, Oona Quinn. She’s grief-stricken by the tragic deaths of her husband and five-year-old daughter. While struggling to survive, she meets charismatic Jack Walsh at the shipping office where she works.
Vinnie Kelly, her son’s biological father, just out of jail, sets out to destroy both Oona and all she holds dear. Haunted by her past, she has to fight for her future and the safety of her son, Sean. But Vinnie has revenge on his mind…
Set in 1950s Ireland, twenty-year-old Sarah Nolan leaves her Dublin home after a series of arguments. She’s taken a job in Cork City with The Gazette, a move her parents strongly oppose. With her limited budget, she is forced to take unsavory accommodations where the landlord can’t be trusted. Soon after she settles in, Sarah befriends sixteen-year-old Lucy who has been left abandoned and pregnant.
Dan Maddan is a charming and flirtatious journalist who wins Sarah’s heart. He promises to end his engagement with Ruth, but can Sarah trust him to keep his word?
It’s when her employer asks to see her birth certificate that Sarah discovers some long-hidden secrets. Her parents’ behaviour continue to baffle her and her problems with Dan and Lucy multiply.
Will Dan stand by Sarah in her time of need? Will Sarah be able to help Lucy keep her baby? Or will the secrets destroy Sarah and everything she dreams of for her future?
Feisty Irish gypsy girl, Tamara Redmond is just sixteen when she overhears her parents planning her wedding to the powerful and hated Jake Travis. In desperation, she leaves Galway, a place she loves, and stows away on a ship with disastrous consequences. On her release from a cell in Liverpool, she takes refuge in a travelling circus and falls in love with Kit Trevelyan, a trapeze artist.
Accused of stealing, she is thrown out. She sleeps rough in Covent Garden where her fear of Jake Travis finding her dominates her waking hours. When he kidnaps her and keeps her captive, her life spirals downwards. Then Tamara hears a truth, a truth that will change her life and her very existence forever.
Set in 1917 against the backdrop of the Irish civil war, young Jo Kingsley is transported from her turbulent childhood of domestic servitude, to the sophisticated life of the upper classes at the beautiful Chateau Colbert. Here she meets Jean-Pierre, the grandson of her employer, Madame Colbert, and visits Paris where she discovers the desires of men. But Jo’s destiny takes her to America where she experiences more than her dreams of becoming a music teacher.
During prohibition, in the mysterious haunts of Greenwich Village, she falls deeply in love with Mike Pasiński, a free-spirit; and a son of Polish emigrants. However, loneliness, loss and hardship follow during the Wall Street crash.
Will the beautiful Jo let go of her demons and learn to love again?
On her deathbed, Aileen’s mother reveals a secret she has kept for eighteen years, and pleads with her daughter to fulfill a last wish. Torn by grief, Aileen leaves Dublin, the Fair City, and Dermot, the man she has grown to love.
Lonely and vulnerable, she unwittingly befriends a salesman at the seed mill where she has found work. Suddenly, her life becomes entrenched with danger.
On a visit back to Dublin, Aileen discovers a devastating truth, but her mother’s last request is still shrouded in a mystery she is determined to unravel. When she finally decides to return to Dermot, and the family she loves, will the secret she too is now hiding tear her and Dermot apart?