Our guest today is Cathy Mansell, writer of romantic suspense novels set mainly in the nineteenth century Ireland and England. Cathy was born and brought up in Ireland and now lives in Leicestershire. I met her at the Romantic Novelists’ Association winter party, and her bubbly enthusiasm for her writing made quite an impression on me so I invited her along to tell us more.
Welcome to our blog, Cathy. I believe you had written more than one book before you were published. Was that always the plan or did you approach publishers with your first book?
Yes, that is true. I had three books written and was writing my fourth before I got lucky. By this time, I was desperate to see my books published and hold one in my hand. I had done the rounds many times, for years, in fact, with the first two books, ‘Where the Shamrocks Grow’ and ‘Her Father’s Daughter’, without success. Strangely enough, it was my third book, ‘Shadow Across the Liffey’, that was picked up first.
I understand you were a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme until ‘Shadow Across the Liffey’ was published. What advice do you have for new writers joining the NWS now?
I love the RNA. The help and support I received over the years from the New Writers’ Scheme has been priceless. We’re so lucky to have this level of support for new writers. Encouragement and friendships have developed through being a member of this brilliant group.
How has your Irish heritage influenced your writing? Does setting your stories in Ireland mean you get to go back there often?
Yes, I think being Irish and writing Irish books is my advantage. When I was writing ‘Where the Shamrocks Grow’, I visited Ireland for research. ‘Her Father’s Daughter’, set mainly in Cork city, took me to Cork four times. It was lovely to get to know the city and the people. But I don’t need an excuse to take a flight across the sea. I’m very fond of Ireland in spite of having lived in Leicestershire for over forty years
How much do you research the historical settings of your novel?
The historical part of ‘Where the Shamrocks Grow’ came partly from family stories, history remembered from my school days and having once had a family member who lived in America. I do love the research part of writing and find I always learn something new that can be unexpected and exciting.
We’ve seen your books described both as romantic suspense and family sagas. Which of those do you think best applies to your books, or are they a mixture of both?
I see myself as a romantic suspense writer but sometimes the books are put into a niche that says they are sagas. Having said that, I think ‘Where the Shamrocks Grow’ could be classed as a saga, more so than my other three books. I’d like to be known as a romantic suspense writer because I always have an undesirable character lurking in there somewhere.
Some of us might like to try our hand at writing romantic suspense in the future. Can you give us any advice on writing in that genre?
I think the suspense part of the novel gives the romantic side of the story an added dimension, and I would always advise anyone writing romantic suspense to make sure they have a realistic sinister character. Important not to let them take over from your main heroine or hero.
Do you have favourite times of the day when you feel the most creative? How do you organise your writing time so that you achieve all your goals and deadlines?
Early morning is my time and again late at night. I get a lot of interruptions during the day. I’m on the internet morning and evening blogging and promoting my books. I’ve not had any major deadlines yet, but I usually try to give a certain amount of time to each project I’m doing, and keep going back to it until I’ve finished.
When you’re planning a new book, which comes first, the characters or the story?
The title comes into my head first, and then the character. I know, most authors don’t choose a title until the book is finished. I work the story and the characters around a working title. It keeps me on track
Could you tell what you’re working on at the moment and what your writing ambitions are for the coming year?
I’m writing a new romantic suspense set in Dublin and Birmingham around the 60s. I have a strong heroine who has troubles from the word go. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for another publication in late 2015, and have been contracted by Magna large print for all four books for library and audio in 2015. I’m a happy lady.
Thank you for asking me to feature on The Write Romantics’ blog. I’ve enjoyed answering your questions.
It’s been a pleasure, Cathy. Best of luck with your 60s book, and I’m looking forward to seeing you again at this year’s RNA events.
You can find out more about Cathy and get in touch with her through her website http://cathymansell.com/
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