As part of my blog tour today, I got the opportunity to ask Cathryn some questions about her new books, her reading choices and even the guilty pleasures. Cathryns books Sex, Lies & Cruising follows Ellie on her time finding herself a cruise ship worker. Full of laughs and romance it’s a book everyone should be heading to the shops to buy.
For anyone wanting to know a little bit about your book, can you give me a quick summary of what it’s about?
My novel, ‘Sex, Lies, and Cruising’ is the first in a series about a 20-something year old British woman named Ellie Green, who goes on an exciting and emotional journey after being cheated on by her fiancé. He told her she was frumpy and boring, and not attractive anymore… so this motivates her future choices when it comes to men! In this first book she lands a fabulously exciting job on a cruise ship in the Caribbean, and it isn’t long before she is swept up in this fast-moving, dramatic, salacious, and often moral-free world… It’s written in a light, chick lit style, but Ellie does go on an emotional rollercoaster – she’s trying to come to grips with the effect her heartbreak had, and how it’s impacting her subsequent relationships and decisions about men. There’s a few sexy scenes in there, but the overall feel is chick lit, rather than erotica.
What inspired you to become a writer in the first place?
I’ve always enjoyed writing (and reading), and I suppose I always found it came rather naturally. When I was at school, my English teacher and I had a false start (I was 12) when she didn’t believe I’d written the sensual poem I showed her (I literally had no experience with boys)… Two years later, she declared I was the most talented writer she’d ever taught (she was possibly prone to exaggeration, haha), and encouraged me to become an author. “You could write for Mills & Boon right now,” she said. That was funny – firstly, there was no internet in those days, so I didn’t even know how to contact them… plus at the age of 14, I had still never even so much as kissed a boy, let alone gained the knowledge and experience to write a romance novel!
So I pushed that idea to the side and spent the next twenty or so years doing a variety of other things. I left my ‘sensible’ career in marketing/PR a number of times, each time declaring, “I’ll never work in an office again!” travelling the world and pursuing singing, dancing, acting, teaching, studying French full-time in Paris, working on cruise ships, and even starting my own spray-tan business… before eventually ending up broke each time and working back in an office again.
But I always had a creative fire which needed to be fuelled, and it took until I fell pregnant a few years ago for me to finally say to my husband, “I’m ready to write a book now.” People had often suggested I write a book about my life, but a memoir hadn’t felt right. I knew I was a fiction author. I’ve always been a voracious reader, and throughout the years, when I’d had jobs which required writing of different types, I’d had a number of comments about my writing ability… so I set out to write my first novel.
If there was one thing you would change about the process you went through with writing this book, what would it be?
In the beginning, although I spent two or three months preparing my ideas and the outline of the book (not three months full-time, it was sporadic while taking care of my newborn)… I would have spent more time mapping out my characters. I ended up having to go back and do that after I’d finished, because during the editing process, my editor said that some of my characters’ reactions were shallow and not believable, probably because I didn’t know them well enough, and hadn’t come to grips with WHY they’d behave or react the way they do. In addition to character maps, I also read a great book called “Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets A Novelist Can Learn From Actors”.
Because my readers love to find new books to read, who are some of your favourite authors to read?
Besides chick lit, I really enjoy historical romance. The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres are two of my favourite books of all time. I also love easy reading thriller/suspense type novels, especially with an espionage element – so writers like John Grisham, Robert Ludlum and Frederick Forsyth are also favourites.
What was your inspiration for Sex, Lies & Cruising? Was it something that just came to you or did it come over time?
I worked briefly on cruise ships in my 20s and again in my 30s (different cruise lines, different jobs), and saw a lot of really interesting, crazy things going on. When I was deciding on the first novel storyline, it seemed like an obvious choice. Since I am new to writing, I felt it would be easier to write about a world I had personally experienced – even though the story itself is fiction, I think having been on ships helped lend colour and realism to the book.
Any tips for those of us out there who’d love to be authors but aren’t sure where to start?
For me, I couldn’t have written this book without my mentor, James (Jim) Parsons. I knew I wanted to write a book, and felt I had the ability, but I really didn’t know where to start. So at first I looked for university and TAFE courses (TAFE is like a tertiary level college which offers certificates and diplomas, rather than degrees) about novel writing. Most courses were all-encompassing, so you’d do journalism, online writing, and all these other modules in addition to novel writing. In other countries/cities, these dedicated courses do exist, so I’d suggest doing one of those. It’s great to connect with other people going through the same experience as you.
So I looked for online courses until I found Jim’s course (http://www.novel-writing-course.com/) and by coincidence, he happened to live in the same city as me – although we’ve never actually met! I started with the set course modules, but I felt like I’d work better with a direct mentor relationship, and I was right. It was great to have someone to bounce ideas off, help me set up the book from scratch, and read each chapter as I finished it. Jim is very open minded and fun to work with, but in the end, when we started working on the sequel, he suggested that I find someone to work with who was more in line with my target audience, or at least, more familiar with the chick lit genre. As an ex-erotica writer, he’s not shy about the sex scenes, but we did tend to disagree on what readers would and wouldn’t put up with when it came to Ellie’s behaviour and decision making.
I would also recommend working on the structure and plot lines to create the dramatic tension at the end of each (or at least most) of your chapters. Even with chick lit, I think it’s important to write each chapter as a mini story of its own, with its own climax. All my beta readers and the reviewers I’ve spoken to so far, have told me that once they started reading, they couldn’t stop, as they needed to know what happened next. That makes me really happy, because it was important to me to get that ‘must keep reading’ factor, where it’s 10pm and you’re tired, but you just want to read one more chapter!
What are you reading right now?
All I read lately are textbooks about writing! According to my kindle, the last fiction book I read (sometime earlier this year) was Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin, which I absolutely loved. I can see why it got made into a great Hollywood movie! That’s the dream, right there 🙂
Any book guilty pleasures?
I don’t know that I have any book guilty pleasures, but gazing across at my bookshelf at all the paperbacks I’ve kept while moving around the world, they’re almost all autobiographies written by women who have moved to France or Italy to start a new life and end up renovating a house/vineyard/B&B/restaurant. I’ve long held the dream of living in countryside France, and although I did live in Paris for a while, it didn’t satisfy that particular dream… so the books are always there as a reminder!
Thank you for reading this blog post, and I’m looking forward to hearing from you about your thoughts, what you love so much about reading or why you want to write your own book. You can find me over on Twitter all day at: @CharBennett_ or over on my Facebook page that has been a little bit neglected recently (oops!).
You can find Cathryn here:
Have a great day!