Today I am pleased to welcome Catherine Kirby, author of two very different novels, Sari Caste and See Through. She lives in the warm south-west of England, lucky lady, where I once lived too, before moving to the frozen north. So, on to the interview. Catherine, what’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
Not easy to choose an answer to this, mainly because I was brought up to think that if I was afraid of something that was the thing I must tackle. It sounds pretty noble put like that but it doesn’t always work out for the best. Some things are best left well alone. Thankfully, I’ve never thought about how afraid I might be of crocodiles, but then there aren’t many of those in sunny Devon.
To get to the point then, my latest big act of bravery was a joint one with my husband over six years ago. My husband, John had retired the previous year. We decided we’d give our house a make-over. Once it was completed we had an itch to move. We’d lived in that house for over 26 years and needed a change. We asked our local estate agent to value our house before really considering this step fully. He was there in a flash and before John could sneeze and I could say ‘bless you’ our house was on the market.
We were due to go on holiday a few days later. Before we’d even packed, a prospective buyer came to look at the house. The next day we’d sold it. It was done. We were homeless!
We went on our holiday to Devon, where we had intended a special time celebrating John’s retirement. We did that in a unique way – house hunting. The temperature was scorching and it was exhausting. We couldn’t find anything we liked. On the 5th day, after viewing scores of houses, we went to look at our final choice. We hated it. On the way to it we’d passed a couple of houses under construction. I secretly liked the look of them so on the way back begged my exhausted husband to ‘just take a little peek’. He sighed and capitulated too tired to argue.
These were clearly going to be beautiful homes. The workmen showed us around and patiently answered all our questions. We fell in love with one of the houses. It wasn’t yet completed. We lived hundreds of miles away. It cost far too much. We did what we do when afraid – we took up the challenge and bought it. We’d worry about the problems later.
It was scary. It was impossible and it was hard work. There were no cupboards in this lovely house. There was no kitchen. We had to order it, take the measurements and make sure it would be fitted. We had only a week left to do the paperwork and buy the kitchen and carpets, all to be fitted before we moved in. That is if the house was even finished on time.
It all somehow worked out in the end, but not before a number of serious hiccups ensued. We got through it all tired, with a lot of work ahead of us but full of plans. We now live in our dream house in the beautiful Devon countryside very close to the sea. This time the challenge was definitely worth it.
Lucky you! Fortune favored the brave, then. But what if everything were to go wrong, and you were shipwrecked on a desert island, and you could only salvage one precious object from the wreckage. What would that be?
The book I’d take to a desert island is a scrap book filled with photographs of important and happy events I’ve shared with the people I love. It would also have quotes from poems, stories and letters that have been important to me. This way I could reminisce while sunning myself under the palm trees and drinking homemade coconut and date wine.
Do you have any animal or object (other than your house) which is really special to you?
Yes. This is a picture of Spiral our much loved cat who passed away at the end of 2012. Spiral’s character was a paradoxical mix of the warm and cuddly pussy cat and the fiercely independent and curious feline. We all adored her. She loved to curl herself into the most awkward positions around a chair or table leg. Sometimes she’d lie half twisted in two directions wherever she decided to flop down, regardless of that being on a through route for the rest of us. Anything new, however small, that came into the house she’d be the first to find it and investigate its purpose. She was highly intelligent. She seemed often to understand or to try to communicate anything she felt we should know. It might be of negligible importance to us but that was no barrier for her to make sure we took notice. She never brought us mice or birds. It was always elastic bands the postman had dropped, rose petals or dead leaves. She was far too nervous of anything living that actually moved to go near it. The most ferocity she showed was to jump on a leaf blown about by the wind. She was our last cat. Both my husband and myself have chest complaints and furry friends are just not conducive to our well being any longer. In a way that’s fitting. There isn’t another cat who could capture our whole-hearted affections quite like Spiral did. She’ll remain in our memories and our hearts forever.
A beautiful animal. Next question. What is your favorite smell?
I have a very poor sense of smell and that’s a bit of a drawback for a writer. I sometimes catch a whiff of freshly cut grass on a summer’s day and that smells fresh and clean and makes me think of children rolling downhill and shrieking with laughter.
All right. Next question: you wake up in the middle of the night, it’s dark, there’s no electricity. What happens next?
I sit bolt upright. The light switch isn’t working. The fuse must have blown again but why and what woke me? There’s a torch in my bedside cabinet so I fish it out of the drawer as I listen for any odd noises. I’m not nervous by nature but you can’t be too careful. Something snaps out there on the other side of the bedroom door. My mouth is dry and I can’t move for a moment. Not another sound. Anger marches over my fear. I get up and grope about for something sturdy with which to defend myself. All that’s available is the bottle of mineral water I left on the dressing table the previous night.
At that moment a sickening screech rends the silence. It’s coming from downstairs. I feel cold and for some weird reason, itchy. My nightie feels insubstantial and ill-fitting. I need armour not this pathetic covering. I realise I’m procrastinating. Any moment now the murderer will come crashing through the door. Or, maybe he’s lurking out on there waiting to grab me and strangle me with a very thin cord. I move carefully over to the door as I struggle into my dressing gown. I turn the handle very, very slowly. I walk out gingerly onto the landing. Another screech drums through me so loud it almost knocks me off my feet. I scream in response. I can’t help it.
I raise the bottle of water above my head. ‘Who’s there?’ I cry. Even I think it’s a stupid question but I’m turning rigid with freezing cold fear.
‘Bloody stupid cat.’ Is the equally daft reply.
I feel my breath leave my lungs as though they’ll never inflate ever again. I sink to the floor.
The light comes on.
‘Mum, what are you doing?’ my son asks, trudging up the stairs. Our black and white cat jumps free of him and continues up the stairs in leaps.
‘Getting ready to defend us against the dangerous intruder, who woke me up screaming. You almost killed me with terror.’
‘Whatever! I went to mend the fuse.’ My teenage son shrugs as he continues munching a disgusting triple-layered sandwich. His disdainful stare makes me feel foolish. He stoops and with his free hand lifts our terrified cat as if rescuing it from a mad woman. ‘You should stick to fairy stories at bedtime, Mum.’
I’m mortified. ‘Have you read any of those? They are more frightening than anything you’ve ever read.’ I reply stupefied at his cheek. ‘And by the way, turn the light off and clean your teeth before you go to bed.’ I spit. So, that told him – didn’t it?
Hm. Not sure. I think you should dress up as a vampire and creep into his bedroom just before dawn, say 5.30 a.m. when you can be sure teenagers are asleep and adults are awake. He’ll never forget it – my mother the mad vampire lady!! So, Catherine, tell us about your novels. See Through is about an invisible person, isn’t it? Why did you create a character like that?
See Through was fun to write. The story is both funny and dramatic. Ideas had been growing and strengthening about it for some time before I sat down and began writing.
I’d been thinking about how at some point in many people’s lives they feel discontented. Life seems to have over-looked them and they end up feeling as if they might as well be invisible. It can happen to anyone. We don’t get the promotions we hoped and worked for; we don’t earn the money we’d expected; relationships turn out to be disappointing or something stops us attaining our goals. This is serious and there is too always a flip side of humour to that.
I found my main character Fleur in such a situation. She’s been married to Sean for some years but his glamorous ex, Mel, is still hanging around. Fleur feels inferior and unhappy. She tries everything to make changes but nothing seems to work. She’s desperate to get rid of Mel too. Eventually, Fleur has a bit of a breakdown and finds she’s become invisible. No one can see or hear her, except her small son and this gets him into all kinds of trouble. Fleur encounters other invisible people and discovers that she now has three months to sort her life out. After which, if she’s successful she’ll be able to return to visibility or will be forced to remain invisible forever, if she fails. Fleur’s interaction with her family, now she’s invisible, leads to complications, mishaps, and hilarity. The situation reaches breaking point. She realises she has to do something drastic. Her new found invisible friends become part of the solution. Her plans lead her in a radically new direction. Sean, who has found himself getting entangled with every available female since Fleur disappeared, is now forced to sit up and take notice. The ending is surprising and hopeful but drastic and funny. I don’t think anyone will see it coming.
UK link for See Through: http://amzn.to/yKzmhN
US link for See Through http://amzn.to/AxB7dC
Excellent cover. And what about Sari Caste?
In a very different genre Sari Caste is a dramatic story set in Calcutta and Darjeeling. It will break your heart but offer hope too. Life can be harsh. UK Link for Sari Caste: http://amzn.to/xC5GbF
US Link for Sari Caste: http://amzn.to/yIbEn8
Thanks so much much for answering my questions, Catherine. Good luck with the books!
Did you enjoy this interview? Subscribe to my blog and you won’t miss the next one! It’s easy: just enter your email address in the upper right hand corner of this page. And don’t worry – I’ll never sell, share or rent your contact information. That’s a promise!