Interview: Homecoming Author Cathy Kelly

| 20 December , 2010 | 1 Reply

Kristy McCormick

Cathy Kelly is the bestselling author of 12 novels and, I must admit, one of my favourite female writers. So needless to say, I was feeling just a little starstruck when I was given the opportunity to sit down with her for a chat last month.

Cathy was in Australia to promote her newest novel, Homecoming, and she jetted into Adelaide just a couple of hours before I sat down to talk to her about her new book, writing and life in general. And it was an absolute pleasure to meet her.

As the mother of twin boys, Cathy manages to fit an incredibly successful writing career in around two busy kids, three equally demanding dogs, a penchant for art and, at the moment, a little leaning to try her hand at crochet. In between all of that though she found a bit of time to answer some questions…

Where did your inspiration for Golden Square come from?

Well, actually Golden Square came, interestingly, from my art class that I do on a Wednesday, we were doing some outdoor drawing one day and we went to this square in Dublin, we\’d just sit there and sketch and it was just absolutely wonderful and a beautiful day and I just thought how lovely the idea of a square, with the railings all around it and the houses looking onto it. So, you know I thought I\’d make up my own square, because it\’s far too restrictive to have to rely on an actual real square.

Who did the story of Homecoming start with?

The original idea for the story came from Eleanor and the idea of wisdom, she\’s very wise and yet, still at a difficult point in her life. Despite all that wisdom she has because she\’s the psychoanalyst she\’s still in pain. You know, wisdom or not, you can still suffer pain. And so, I wanted her to go home, to sit in Golden Square and watch everyone else. Her life has changed and it\’s hard, and these people that she\’s helped have gone, and for another reason which we can\’t go into because it will ruin the story, she feels very much on her own. And she\’s come back to Ireland and we\’re not really sure what she\’s searching for.

And then I went on to Megan. I thought it was interesting to have someone who\’s grown up with adulation, this beautiful, talented and gifted creature living in a slightly unreal world. Where they are given $600 handbags for free and then magazines tell us to go out and buy them. And I really wanted to see what happened when all of a sudden the real world crashes in.

Rae and Connie are the other main characters. Lovely, kind Rae who appears to have it all sorted, but needs to make peace with her past. And Connie – delightful, she was just so much fun, I loved Connie.

When you created the characters, I loved how the women were all of different ages but still had a connection. Did you set out to create characters of different generations?

I always have had women of different generations in my books, and when I started writing I hated this idea that if you were 27 you wrote about 27 year olds in your book, because sometimes I feel so many different ages in my head. The wisdom of older women… it\’s so wonderful. My mum has friend who\’s 94 and a nun and she reads my books.\’

The other thing that really resonated with me in Homecoming is that real sense of community, even though Golden Square wasn\’t necessarily their ‘home\’ – they, especially Eleanor, felt at home in that community.

Yes. I loved writing about that. You know I\’m very lucky, where I live, a place called Wicklow, a village, with lots of hills and houses around it. I know everyone and that\’s actually lovely, and you know most of us have lost that. It can be claustrophobic at one level and yet, comforting. I think that\’s why people like the soaps, because there\’s some comfort to people knowing you and I like writing about that.

I know you\’ve got twin sons, and you got married earlier this year – how on earth do you fit it all in?

Well, Homecoming was finished 2 days before we got married. Normally I don\’t know when I finish a book, but I know that, because I had two days before when I finally sent it off

When the children were very small it was difficult and I was lucky I had help that did come in – you want to be with the children, like every time you heard a noise you were up, I\’m surprised I managed to write any books at all really, it\’s phenomenal.

But now, it\’s easier they\’ve started at the big school. You know, I bring them in the morning, I come home and then of course you do the thing you do when you work from home – put the washing on, make the beds, put the bins out, pay the bills, check my emails and finally, you sit down and say right, now write! And that\’s when I get my best work done.

Your progression from journalist to novelist, was that a natural progression?

I like to think that I was a writer who became a journalist, rather than the other way around. When I became a journalist, I sort of went in because I didn\’t know how else to use writing, I didn\’t think of being a writer as a job then.

Did you think you needed that experience behind you?

I didn\’t even have that good a plan, I just thought I love writing, let\’s do this thing. You know I always loved the idea of writing, but I just wouldn\’t have had the confidence to even think about writing a book. So, I did journalism, got a job, and I loved it.  News was a bit hard for me but I loved journalism, I loved the writing, meeting people, coaxing the story out of them. I loved all that but, still I wanted to write.

So, finally when I was about 27 I sat down and thought – now do it. There were a couple of abortive attempts which are long convoluted stories, but I said you know I\’m going to write the sort of book I want to read and it just came from the heart. People ask how you choose what you are going to write, but you don\’t, it chooses you.

What are your tips for writers?

Discipline. I think if you\’re a writer and you\’re thinking of going down that road then you need to be disciplined. There are people who don\’t write professionally who think that you just sit there and wait for some form of divine inspiration. However, writing is actually an enormous amount of perspiration and effort and editing and maybe a smidgen of brilliance flies in every one in a while and dusts over the book. But there\’s alot of hard work as well.

But you know, the tips are – write what is inside you, edit yourself alot, don\’t bother getting someone who loves you to read your work, get someone who reads that genre who will be honest and truthful and nice. But even if you come across someone who rips your work to shreds keep going. And edit, edit, edit.

You can read our book review for Cathy’s latest book Homecoming here.

Available now: HarperCollins RRP$32.99

Kristy

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