I have the very great pleasure to invite an author I have personally enjoyed immensely to stop by and talk with us today. Cathie Dunn has published two wonderful and riveting historical novels to date, Highland Arms and Dark Deceit, both of which I've reviewed for this site. I can't begin to exclaim how wonderful it is to interview a writer I have such great esteem for. Welcome Cathie.
First of all, thank you so much for hosting me today. I'm delighted to be here.
Can you share a little about yourself and tell us when you first felt the urge to write? Readers would be interested to know how long you may have been writing before you got published. Have you seen writing as a career for yourself from the start?
I've wanted to create adventures since I was a child, when I devoured Enid Blyton's Famous Five and Adventure series. In my teenage years, my inspirations came from historical fiction authors such as M M Kaye, Victoria Holt, Anne Golon and Barbara Erskine. More lately, Sharon Penman and Elizabeth Chadwick., and I began to jot down ideas and tentative beginnings. During my 20s, I focused on work and moving from Germany to Britain, eventually settling in Aberdeen where I took up writing again. Several years - and house moves - later, I eventually took a Creative Writing course at Lancaster University. What emerged was my writing style - romantic fiction with an historical setting.
Have you always lived in Scotland? Were you born there as well?
I was born in Heidelberg, Germany, a city steeped in history. I grew up exploring castles and ruins. Ever since my teens, I've had an interest in Scotland. In the late 1990s, I lived in Aberdeen, on the doorstep to some fabulous scenery and historic places. After a brief stint in Wales, I'm now back in Scotland.
What's a typical day like for you when you're writing? Have you developed a 9am-5pm writing regime in an environment you may have set up exclusively for that purpose or do you write on and off throughout the day and perhaps more on the run? Do you take notes as you travel for historical perspective? [note: last question answered below.]
At the moment, I'm fortunate enough to work from home, both as a writer and editor. I divide my time into a fairly strict rota. I have set days for blog posts on a number of blogs, and spend much time editing and marketing. In between, I take out several days to write. I can't do the '2 hours a day' routine - when I write, I write in blocks of full days / evenings.
I am assuming that living in the U.K. is a plus for a historical writer in that it's easy to take a day off to visit a special location that might work into your plot. Is this something you have done?
Oh yes, many times! :-) I always carry a notepad, and even when hubby and I are on a day trip, I dictate my impressions to him when I'm driving. I love visiting ruins of castles and abbeys. The tranquility is hugely inspiring. Sitting down on an old stone, you breathe history. It's also relatively easy to get to the continent, and we loved exploring Normandy a few years ago. Such a fascinating place!
would imagine historical novels require a huge investment of time in preparation and research. How do you create an immersive experience for your readers? What do you read, what have you read, that gives you a strong feel for the ambiance of a forgotten time? You have an unerringly clear and true way of describing landscapes and, as I said in my review of Highland Arms, it was as if I could feel the gust of sleet on my cheeks on the Highlands or even the assaulting stench of the slums of Edinburgh. It's a rare talent that can write both so effectively and plausibly. How do you make it all so real?
Thank you very much. I'm thrilled my words have such an effect. It's the highest praise an author can get.
My bookshelves are creaking with history books. A few years ago, I've also taken courses in historical studies. They gave me a broad base from which to work further. I've also read up extensively about Norman history and the Angevins. I love browsing history books, and find accounts of people in different years and locations fascinating. Inscriptions on old gravestones are also interesting, as you can imagine all kinds of family histories. Visiting historical sites helps visualise the buildings, and depictions about castle life are very useful. I have actually felt the sting of sleet on my face in Glencoe, and a tour of the Edinburgh underground showed the cramped conditions people lived in until barely 100 years ago. You learn a lot by visiting places, taking tours, buying locally written historical guidebooks and exploring.
I'd love to know what gave you the history bug that has become so great a passion for you now. Where do you think that passion will take you next?
Being surrounded by castles and reading historical novels - romantic, mystery, adventures - have fuelled this passion. In my new release, Silent Deception, I delved into Victorian England, an era I hadn't re-visited since my first poor attempts at writing 25 years ago.
What inspired you to write your first book? How did you develop your plot and characters?
I had the idea for the setting of Dark Deceit several years ago when I visited rural Gloucestershire and, shortly afterwards, during a holiday to Normandy. Visiting sites where William the Conqueror, Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine once walked was tremendously fascinating. So the idea of a historical novel set both in England and Normandy developed. The plot has changed much since that first draft, and I only completed Dark Deceit last year, after writing and publishing Highland Arms (inspired by holidays in the Scottish Highlands) through The Wild Rose Press.
Would you tell us more about The Anarchy Trilogy? Dark Deceit is the first in your series but I would think the idea of this sort of trilogy was born many years ago. What took you so long to get it down in print?
Dark Deceit was indeed a long time in the making. Until I was two thirds through the new version, I considered it to be a stand alone novel. But with so many tempting historical twists and turns, and the chance to explore further the Normandy side of the novel, I decided to go for a trilogy. Plus, I love Geoffrey too much to let him go just yet. ;-)
Part II is going to see Geoffrey involved in the Normandy campaigns of the Count of Anjou. I also want him to travel with his liege lord, but the man's whereabouts are sketchy, so I might have to dig deeper. Part II also sees Geoffrey and Alleyne settle in Mortagne, while her home of Bellac remains in Will d'Arques' hands (who of course crops up as well). Part III sees Geoffrey and Alleyne's final attempt at regaining Bellac. Both parts stretch over several years during The Anarchy, which was a name given to the tumultous era by chroniclers.
Readers would love to know how you think. What would you say for yourself is the best part of being a writer? What is the worst?
The best part is to let your imagination run wild. In my case, I can expand plot ideas to include historical events. I've always had a healthy imagination, even when playing as a child. Writing allows me to create a story, characters I love, a setting I feel passionate about. I consider myself fortunate that readers enjoy my stories. It shows me I'm on the right track.
The worst part is when you have an idea - and no time to write. Real life intrudes into your imaginary world. Of course, I love my life here with hubby and cats, but when I'm on a roll, I disappear from the scene. Poor hubby!
What are your current projects?
I've just self-published Silent Deception, a Victorian romantic novella, and I'm halfway through a medieval Scottish novella entitled Captured by the Knight. From July onwards, I'm going to focus on part II of The Anarchy Trilogy and a contemporary romantic suspense. Busy days ahead...
Thank you so much, Cathie, for stopping by. I look forward to more compulsively great reading from you in the future!
You can follow Cathie via her blogspot or friend her on Facebook or Twitter. She also can be found on Goodreads.