The (Short) List on Catherine
Grew up in Sydney
Ran away to Paris at twenty-one to write
Ended up in Ghana running a bar
Life in Italy
Very good shoes
And a glorious mane of red hair
1. What’s the best part of what you’re working on right now?
I'm completing a new collection and several of the stories have done well so far. It's such a slow climb so these moments really fire you up to go ahead.
2. Any writing rituals that you find particularly helpful?
Reading great writers. A good night's sleep. Minimal human interaction before sitting down to write. Closed doors and a wander into the garden every two hours.
3. Describe your perfect writing day.
Silence. No one in the house. A good beginning. Then sitting on the edge of a cliff and looking down. Starting to fly. A thousands words or so and a couple of points for tomorrow. Bliss.
4. Writing schedule: whip-cracker or easy-does-it?
Whip-cracker. I can't sit there lolling about. If I don't have a tenable idea I'll run far away from my desk. If I do, you can't stop me.
5. Do you believe in Life after Writing?
Yes! Sometimes I dream of throwing in the towel and being more normal, less cut-off and freaky. I pretend so well. I did stop for five years but lived so intensely I probably still haven't recovered.
6. What would you love to do if you weren’t working in this area?
Manage something. An art gallery, a cafe. Or I could go back to photography. Photography is my alter ego, though in my dreams I am a backup singer in a band.
7. What is your least favourite part of the writing process?
Revising. Editing. Submissions. Rejection. Failure. Isolation.
8. Which of your characters would you like to meet? Who would you give a wide berth to and why?
Great question. There's a woman in one of my new stories who is flown out to Hong Kong by a lover who then disappoints her grandly. She devises a way to get back at him and I think I'd like to go out with her in the 'warm cauldron' of the city. In another story there is a family triangle - husband, wife, daughter. I would rather not meet the conceited journo father. This man has ostracised his daughter, who found success through a novel written about her ex-drug addict, self-absorbed parents.
9. Do you interview characters, create elaborate back stories or simply get on with it and see where it takes you?
No, the stories are just flushed out! I almost hear voices and it can be quite a rampage to get it down on the page. That said, I cut a lot out as I am writing because it is often information and clarification for myself. It's fundamental to remove that from what becomes the story. I also think it's vastly important to sit in two driver's seats most of the time - writer and reader too. The reader must be as excited as you are, and marginally less informed.
10. Why do you think what you do matters?
Who said I think it matters? I don't. Not at all. But publication is such a rush!
11. What’s the toughest criticism you ever received?
That my story sounds like a bad translation. I think the story was called Carl and the Many Helping Hands. Written when I was disillusioned with aid politics while living in pre-war Mogadishu. Lots of harping. Over twenty-years-old and never published. Thankfully!
12. Three words you love.
Designer handbag sale.
13. Three words you overuse.
Turn that down.
14. How do you switch off after a day’s work?
Go jogging on the bike track near a gorgeous villa not far from my place. After rain you can see the mountains.
15. If writing was a colour, what would it be?
Every story has a different colour. And humans are grey but landscape is green. I'm not really sure about an overall colour. Probably a metallic reflective blue-grey. Or petrol spools in a puddle of water.
16. Have you ever misplaced your writing Mojo?
Yes! That's when I go hiking or skiing and hang out with people who have nothing to do with the written word.
17. Are you a conscious or unconscious plotter?
Totally unconscious. I like the hit of a fresh idea. Although I do think about characters and plot turns when I drive or can't sleep. When I am deep in a story it's all I can think about - but I don't like to go too far ahead. Endings usually come up as an illicit surprise.
18. Are you a dress-up or dress-down writer?
Dress-down - I live in the country and we live near Venice so winters are foggy and damp. I dress like a sherpa inside my house.
19. A murder. Obsession. A bleak landscape. Intense loneliness. Your story ‘Magaly Park’, published in this year’s 'Gem Street: Collector’s Edition' is a powerful character study to say the least – what led you to write it?
Someone in my family told me a guy had been knifed in an empty apartment block in Sydney. I just borrowed the setting and went with that. I used to swim competitively and I can really feel the water, so that's where that came from. It's funny but when I go back to a place where I have set a story I can feel the characters around me. It's easy to live too much in your head!
20. It’s a few years down the road. What are you doing?
Running writing retreats in this house. Writing more and more stories. Travelling to see good friends and have a break from Italy. Much the same.
Thank you for having me Deborah and Labello Press.
‘Magaly Park’ won the ‘Ruby Award’ and was published in this year’s ‘Gem Street: Collector’s Edition’.
Find out more about Catherine here:
Facebook: Catherine McNamara