Home Book news Catherine Dunne for Lost in Fiction: an interview

Catherine Dunne for Lost in Fiction: an interview

by Louisa Klein

And here we are dear fiction- fans, that’s the first day of Lost in Romance! We start with best selling author Catherine Dunne, a great start indeed.
1. Do you read romance novels? What is your opinion about this genre both as a writer and as a reader?
No, I don’t read contemporary romance novels – which is not to say that I don’t enjoy reading about romantic relationships. I came across an article recently that listed ‘Pride and Prejudice’ among the top ‘romance novels’ of all time – and I suppose that all of Jane Austen’s fiction would therefore belong to the genre. I’ve read all of her novels, several times. My favourite is ‘Persuasion’ – a gentle, melancholy tale where true love triumphs in the end. Perfect Valentine’s Day reading!
I never fail to be enthralled by Jane Austen’s subtlety of characterization, the quality of her prose, and the rapier wit that is applied to all sorts of snobbery and social pretension.
I suppose I regard today’s romance novels as a lighter take on life and love – with an obligatory happy ending. I prefer my reading material a little darker and more complex. And I like not knowing what to expect.
2. Is there a romance author you prefer? If not, who is your role model in the literary world?
There are so many writers that I admire, but I suppose the earliest influences are the ones that writers remember best. When I was in my mid-twenties and writing madly, I spent some time in Canada where I came across the work of many Canadian women writers. Margaret Atwood’s books were a revelation to me. ‘Life Before Man’ was the first of her novels that I read and it has stayed with me down through the years. It was the first time I had come across a book about contemporary women’s lives that dealt with the ‘ordinary’ things that make up our universe. It was a tale of tangled, messy, often self-destructive relationships, domestic chaos and the need to earn a living. I re-read it recently after three decades and it had lost none of its sparkle, none of the clarity of its insights, none of its wicked observations. Perfect.
3. Please, tell us about your last book and, if you can, about your future projects.
My last book was called ‘Missing Julia’. It began life in my imagination with a highly visual scene of a woman walking away from her life. At the time, I didn’t know why my character needed to escape – I had to write the novel in order to find out.  It was clear to me that Julia had a secret – and a secret with implications that had reached down through the years to exert its power over her and everyone she cared about. Julia’s partner, William, was initially conceived by me as a minor character, but he had other ideas. In fact, he almost took over: and the novel is narrated by both him and Julia in alternating chapters (this often happens during the writing process – these imagined characters can be very bossy indeed).  William eventually uncovers Julia’s secret and he follows her across the world, determined to bring her home. It was exhilarating to write about a love affair between two mature people: too often love is regarded as being the preserve of the young! The novel I’m currently working on, which is my ninth, is called ‘The Things We Know Now’. The narrator, Patrick, looks back on the last two decades of his life and tries to discover why his family has been visited by such an awful tragedy as the suicide of his young son, Daniel. The story is told through Patrick’s eyes, from the point of view of his wife, Ella, and through other characters who all knew Daniel in different ways. The novel is also an exploration of the ways in which we often refuse to see painful things, and how we are too often wise after the event.
4. How was your writing journey? Was it difficult to find an agent and get published?
I have been writing ever since I was a child – stories, poems, notebooks full of observations. For many years, I didn’t know that there was a difference between reading and writing: to my mind, if you did one, you automatically did the other. I loved the whole process of writing, re-writing, honing my craft. It took me twelve years to finish my first novel and the sense of achievement was enormous. I was very fortunate to find a wonderful agent – and we are still working together, some seventeen years later – and my first novel ‘In the Beginning’ was published in 1997. It went on to be translated in several languages and became an international bestseller. I’ve been working very hard ever since!
5. What’s your opinion about this Ebook revolution? Would you consider the indie route?
I have developed a very good working relationship with my editor over the years, and enjoy the cut and thrust of the editorial process, which invariably makes the work better. Writing is such a solitary activity that I think I’d miss that creative conversation which takes place at different stages of each novel. The Ebook is a great development, in my view. I love being able to travel with dozens of volumes on my Ereader – and never have to pay excess baggage! I got used to it very quickly, too – and I regard it as a wonderful complement to the ‘real thing’. An Ebook will never take the place of the old-fashioned book for me: the scent of a new volume, the feel of the pages, the excitement of opening the covers. But it is an excellent companion, nevertheless.
6. Nowadays many publishers expect their authors to use social media a lot to promote their books. Many authors, on the other hand, would prefer to write only, without being distracted by digital trivialities: what are your thoughts?
I have a website www.catherinedunneauthor.com and a facebook page, on which I regularly post any bits and pieces of news that I feel might interest my readers. For me, coming to grips with this whole social media revolution is a work in progress. One of the problems I have, though, in common with many other writers, is that social media can indeed be very distracting. Blogging, or posting or even regularly updating websites can seriously erode writing time. Getting into the ‘zone’ where the writing is flowing takes a great deal of concentrated energy and focus. Engaging with social media can pull a writer away from the fundamentals. Right now, I treat it all with caution.
Info about the author:
Catherine Dunne wrote several works of fiction and non-fiction, and some musings on the nature of writing. She became a full-time writer in 1995, having already had a seventeen-year career as a teacher. She loved teaching and still very much enjoys the Creative Writing workshops that she often facilitate. Her first novel, ‘In the Beginning’, was published in 1997. It was well-received, both critically and popularly, and went on to be short listed for the ‘Bancarella’ – the Italian booksellers’ prize. ‘A Name for Himself’ followed a year later, and was short listed for the Kerry Fiction Prize. Between 2000 and today, March 2010, she has published five further novels: ‘The Walled Garden’, ‘Another Kind of Life’, ‘Something Like Love’, ‘At a Time Like This’ and ‘Set in Stone’. Her non-fiction book, ‘An Unconsidered People’ was published in 2003. Her eighth novel, ‘Missing Julia’ is available on Amazon, just click on the cover below:


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