Author Catherine Ryan Howard published her debut novel, Distress Signals, in 2016. It was a bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic and was shortlisted for the Irish Crime Novel of the Year and the CWA John Creasey/New Blood Dagger. With her second novel, The Liar’s Girl, Catherine became only the second Irish woman ever to be nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel, an accolade founded in 1954 by the Mystery Writers of America and previously bestowed upon writing greats such as Raymond Chandler, Ian Rankin and Stephen King. Catherine’s novels have been translated into a total of nine languages and Distress Signals is being developed for television as a mini-series. She has previously taught workshops for the Irish Writers Centre and Faber Academy, among others, and in 2018 she facilitated the Cork City Libraries Creative Writing Summer School.
1) First, I want to thank you Catherine for taking time out of your busy schedule to do this interview with me, it’s truly an honor! I am such a huge fan and have been following your blog for years, since your books Self-Printed, Moursetrapped, and Backpacked so I can not tell you how excited I am to do this. When was it that you knew writing was what you were meant to do with your life? What is it about being a writer that you love the most?
I’ve always known I wanted to be a writer – ever since I realized that people actually sat down and pulled the books I loved to read out of their imaginations. If that was a job, I wanted to have it. I’m very lucky now to be able to say that I do. My favorite thing to do is to lose a few hours to a great read, whether it’s on the couch or on a plane on lying on the beach, and I love it when readers tell me that they’ve done that with books of mine.
2) Can you tell our readers a little about you and your books and where they can find them? What inspires you to write the stories that you tell and create the characters that you’ve created? Do you think that your various travels are a part of what inspires you?
I started off self-publishing but my goal was always to write in the genre I love the most, crime fiction, and to get published. My first thriller, Distress Signals, came out in 2016 and was shortlisted for the Irish Crime Novel of the Year and the CWA’s John Creasey New Blood Dagger, and it’s being developed for television. My second, The Liar’s Girl, came out in 2018 and it’s currently nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel – I’m looking forward to attending to the ceremony in New York towards the end of April. Both novels are published on both sides of the Atlantic and they’ve been translated into (I think!) nine other languages now as well. I’ve definitely used my own life and experiences in my work – Distress Signals is partly set in France and I used my experience of working housekeeping in a Walt Disney World hotel to inform the scenes set in the housekeeping on a cruise ship.
3) What’s your writing routine look like? Do you have a schedule for when you write that helps you stay on track and stay productive? Do you outline your novels and do character sketches? How long does it generally take you to complete a novel? What projects are you currently working on?
I don’t have a routine, I’m not disciplined at all! Same for a schedule. I just know when my deadline is and then I hope for the best. I outline quite extensively; I like to plot out my books in advance. How long it takes varies from project to project. I’ve just finished the copyedits on my third thriller, Rewind, which will be out in September 2019 and I’m about to start outlining my fourth.
4) What’s the first book you ever read that really touched you emotionally and moved you? Who is your favorite author? What book are you currently reading?
I don’t remember but I know that when I read Jurassic Park, I was completely floored that such an adventure had come from nothing, from someone’s imagination. I don’t really have one favorite author, but I have read everything Michael Connelly has written and I’ve been reading him religiously since 1998. I’m currently reading a proof copy of On My Life by Angela Clarke, which is out later this year.
5) What has been your most significant achievement as a writer thus far? Where do you see yourself within your career in the next five years?
I think the Edgar nomination is the biggest thing that’s happened to me so far – I’m still trying to get over the shock of being nominated for an award previously won by the likes of Michael Crichton, Raymond Chandler and Stephen King. I hope in five years’ time I’m still writing books.
6) Have you had to deal with rejection so far in your writing career and if so how did you deal with it? What are your thoughts about how the publishing industry is changing in terms of traditional publishing and self-publishing? Since you have experience in both avenues which do you prefer?
I did deal with rejection but I totally understood it was par for the course. Everything about this business is so subjective. And I absolutely prefer traditional publishing. I knew I would before I signed my first deal, but I truly didn’t realize all the stuff that happens when you’re with a publisher that can’t or won’t when you self-publish. I prefer working with a team of people who know a lot more about publishing than me, and getting paid advances means I get write full-time. I enjoyed self-publishing and it was the ideal option for the titles I self-published, but for me it always just a means to an end.
7) Do you believe that there is ever a point in life where it’s too late for an aspiring writer to become successful in this industry? Do you feel a late start would hinder their chances?
Absolutely not. The only thing anyone really cares about is a great book. If you have that, you don’t need to worry about anything else.
8) So many writers say that they hate reading their own work? Do you ever find comfort in reading back your novels like you would read any other book?
No, definitely not. I don’t even like doing readings from them at events but you immediately see things you’d like to change. The editing never stops. It’s better never to look at them again.
9) What advice would you give to writers who are struggling with their road to getting published?
Don’t give up. You never know what’s around the corner.