Curl up with Colette
An Interview with Colette Caddle
Every so often one of my friends or family rolls their eyes and says something like, "you aren't banging on about twitter again, are you?"
I can't help it. Here I am, buried in the depths of wildest Yorkshire with very little opportunity to get out and meet bestselling writers, let alone take the time to convince them that really, they want to be interviewed for The Literary Project, and never mind if they haven't heard of it. It rocks. Then someone convinces me to give Twitter a go, and wham! I'm suddenly chatting away to all these brilliant writers from all these different genres, who are not only happy to be interviewed but, you know, actively want to help those us chasing publication.
It's through twitter that I met Colette Caddle. With over ten novels under her belt, this bestselling Irish writer is talented, funny, and downright lovely. Her first novel was published in what can only be called a fairy tale fashion, but this is a writer whose subsequent novels have continued to prove her talent and ability as a writer. Lucky for us, Colette didn't mind getting one of my "hi, do you want to be interviewed?" tweets, and found the time to answer a couple of questions about her career as a writer.
Hi Colette! Have you always wanted to write? What got you to finally put pen to paper and go after publication?
In my schooldays I always enjoyed writing but it never occurred to me that I could do it as a 'real job'.
I was in my 30's and disillusioned with my career when I started my first novel. I had taken to escaping into books at lunch times etc and one day after finishing a particularly bad one, I decided to give it a go. I only wrote a few chapters and then put it away and forgot about it. I had left that job and was 'considering my options' when I rediscovered it. A friend persuaded me to submit it to Poolbeg Publishing and within a couple of months I had a 3-book-contract. The book, Too Little, Too Late, was published mother's day weekend, 1999 (to commemorate birth of my first son) and it went straight into top 5 and then spent 3 weeks at no. 1….now that felt good!
What type of writer are you?
Because for the first few years I had small children, I used to write in the mornings when they were in childcare and then school. Now, I write when and if the mood takes me though I am still a morning person and I do like to get the lion's share of work done when they are out of the house so I can make the most of our evenings together. I do use a word count to try and impose some self discipline. I try to do 2000 words a day and more as I near a deadline.
Can you talk us through your path to publication, from the completion of your first novel to seeing it on the shelves?
I'm afraid I did it backwards as you can see from my first answer…and no, I wouldn't recommend it. It worked for me because a) I was lucky and b) it was over 10 years ago, the market has changed since then.
As I said, I only submitted a few chapters and that was what the contract was based on. After the initial euphoria wore off, panic set in, now I had to finish it! I was blessed in that I had a wonderful editor, Kate Cruise Obrien who held my hand through the tough times but times got tougher when she died of a brain hemorrhage and my father was killed in a road accident within days of each other. I felt like giving up then but figured I owed it to both of them to carry on.
Do you have an agent? If so, what are the main advantages? If not, why not?
It was after that initial success in Ireland that my good pal, Cathy Kelly pointed out that I really should have an agent and so I was signed up by hers. Because the book had gone to no.1 there was some excitement in UK about it and I ended up with 8 publishing houses bidding for rights …amazing!
So, going direct to publisher worked for me but, as I said, it was a long time ago, there were only five of us writing in contemporary women's fiction in Ireland back then and we were much in demand. Now, I think it is imperative that you find an agent first and the right one at that. You should look for someone that concentrates on your genre and someone who 'gets' you and genuinely likes your work. They will take care of the business end leaving you free to create and that relieves a lot of stress, trust me. They are the people who act as buffers between you and the difficulties of the publishing; they are the ones always in your corner. A good, supportive agent is worth their weight in gold.
How did it feel the first time you saw a finished copy of your novel? What about when you hit the bestseller lists?
The first time I saw it on a shelf, well, that was surreal, it's very hard to describe the sense of achievement. Then doing signings and having nice reviews, seeing it appear in bestseller lists …magical!!
Has anything about the publishing industry surprised you? If you could go back and do it all again, is there anything that you would change?
I suppose in the last couple of years it is how success is sometimes more to do with the marketing budget and less about the quality of the book which is a bit sad. Having said that, publishing is a business like any other.
I wouldn't change a thing, ups or downs; it's all experience and that all helps the writing process. I have been inordinately luck and I feel privileged to have my books on the shelf next to authors I admire and respect.
Do you write full time?
I write as full-time as is possible with two vibrant, active sons! It's like any other job, you do what you have to do; you make it work.
What are you working on right now?
I am starting on novel no. 12 which will span the last 30 years, be set in Dublin and have a very distinct nostalgic feel to it based on my own life growing up in this wonderful city.
What is your ultimate goal in the literary sector?
Oh, what a question! I suppose to reach out to more readers. I also quite like the idea of getting into writing screenplays at some stage.
And finally, if you could sum up a key piece of advice for aspiring writers in one sentence?
Don't prevaricate, just do it!
So if you are already a member of Twitter Addicts (and if not then seriously, you should give it a go) you can follow Colette here. Peruse and purchase her many novels here, and don't forget to check out her webpage. Tell her I sent you J