It’s Meet the Author Monday! Each week we meet a new author and get to know a little about them, their writing process, publishing experience, and tips for other writers. Today we’re talking to Catherine Evans, author of The Wrong’un.
About Catherine Evans:
Catherine Evans was born and brought up in Africa. She worked in Durban for two years after leaving school, then decamped to the UK and worked in the City for 20 years. She’s the founder and editor of www.fictionjunkies.com, a website which publishes short stories of all genres by authors around the world. Her first novel, The Wrong’un, was published by Unbound in 2018. Her second, All Grown Up, will be released in August. Cathy is a trustee of the Chipping Norton Literary Festival, and organises the annual CNLF Short Story competition. She lives in Oxfordshire with her husband and daughter. She also has three grown-up stepdaughters.
Meet the Newells, a big family of good lookers and hard grafters. From their sleepy working class backwater, the siblings break into Oxford academia, London’s high life, the glossy world of magazine publishing and the stratospheric riches of New York’s hedge funds.
Then there’s Paddy, the wrong’un in their midst, who prefers life’s dark underbelly. As things fall apart around his sister Bea, is Paddy to blame? And why does matriarch Edie turn a blind eye to her son’s malevolence? Will she stand by and watch while he wrecks the lives of her other children? Just how much is she willing to sacrifice to protect her son?
Author Interview with Catherine Evans:
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- What is your writing Kryptonite?
Voices. For me, character starts with an authentic voice. I love interesting accents, speech patterns, verbal tics, pet phrases, emphasis, slang, pauses… and of course what characters don’t say is often most interesting of all.
- What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
My best writing buddy is Bruno Noble, author of The Colletta Cassettes and A Thing of The Moment. He can be totally trusted with a red pen. The two of us are brutally honest about each other’s work, which is very liberating. Over the years, I’ve been a member of three writing groups, most recently the Collier Street Fiction Group. I’ve always found feedback from other writers to be incredibly useful, and I enjoy critiquing theirs in turn. In any group, it’s important to find your natural readers, and you’d be silly not to listen very closely to their advice.
- Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
So far, each book stands on its own. Currently, sequels are not on the cards, but in the future… who knows?
- If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Keep a diary, you lazy moo.
- What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
AJ Cronin’s The Judas Tree. It’s not fair to call it under-appreciated, as Cronin was very well-known when it was published in 1961, but it needs rediscovering by modern readers. It’s a beautifully written, bleak tale with an ending which is both surprising and inevitable. It’s about love, redemption, human frailty, and it’s a highly realistic depiction of how personal character dictates the course of our lives.
- How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?
I like my readers to join some of the dots themselves. I avoid spelling things out and don’t like to tie things up too neatly.
- What comes first, the plot or characters?
Always the characters. First I hear the voice, then the character takes shape, then off they go and inhabit the plot. The plot usually begins as a simple scenario, and develops from there.
- Have any of your books been made into audiobooks? If so, what are the challenges in producing an audiobook?
The Wrong’un is available as an audiobook. My first publisher, Unbound, sold the audio rights to a Dutch book group, who produced the audiobook to a high standard at Pinewood Studios. It’s narrated by the fabulous Martine Brown in a soft Northern accent. I’m currently auditioning for suitable voice artists for my second book, which is a little more challenging, as I have both middle-class characters as well as some from the Ends in South London.
- What were the key challenges you faced when writing this book?
Always, the key challenge is finding the time required to write. I’m part of the sandwich generation, looking after both young and old… my family is pretty high maintenance, believe me. I have a day job, which I love, I’m setting up a publishing company, I like to spend time with my friends, the poor pooch needs walking, I occasionally make feeble attempts to keep fit, and when left to its own devices, the house quickly descends into chaos and the laundry has a nasty habit of piling up… I honestly don’t understand writer’s block. I have writer’s flood, so very often, the only way I get to write is by staying up late to do it. I like to start work around 9pm after my daughter’s in bed, then I get so absorbed in a scene that I lose track of time, and when I come to my senses, it’s past midnight, the house is silent, my hands and feet are freezing and I’m completely knackered, but on the plus side, I have five thousand words in front of me. I have to make myself go to bed sometimes, knowing I must be up for the school run. I wouldn’t write if I didn’t love it. I never have to make myself do it.
- Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers about?
I’m launching a publishing company, Inkspot Publishing: www.inkspotpublishing.com. It will be the imprint for my own books, and will also publish the work of a handful of other authors. This decision is in direct response to the terrible lack of creative freedom in publishing at the moment. I lost a publishing contract for my second book, All Grown Up, because I refused to turn a mixed-race character white. I believe that all writers should have complete creative freedom, and should be able to write about whomsoever and whatsoever they please, provided they do it with empathy and understanding. This is not a very fashionable opinion right now.
- Do you listen to audiobooks? If so, are there any you’d recommend?
I listen to them all the time, especially when cooking or walking the dogs. I’d highly recommend Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove and the follow up, Streets of Laredo. His writing is astonishing, with pitch perfect characterisation. He’s not afraid of killing off favourite characters: the death of Josh Deets will stay with me forever. McMurtry died last year aged 84, before I had a chance to tell him how much I loved his books. He was survived by his wife, Norma, who was the widow of Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Now that’s a lady with literary taste, don’t you think?
I’m currently listening to Nelson Demille’s The Lion, the tale of a vengeful Libyan terrorist wreaking mayhem in post-9/11 America. It’s a grim topic, but it’s narrated with warmth and humour by the hard-boiled, highly sarcastic NYPD cop John Corey, voiced by the very talented Scott Brick. I know an American long-distance truck driver who has listened to Demille’s The Quest over twenty times! The Quest was good, but The Lion is better.
- What do you like to do when you are not writing?
More than anything, I like reading. Fiction, non-fiction, blogs, newspapers, magazines… it doesn’t really matter. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve read whatever I can lay my hands on.