Cathy Kelly, author of The Honey Queen
Tell us about your latest creation…
It’s my fifteenth novel and it’s called The Honey Queen. They say that to make the perfect pitch, you have to be able to describe your story in twenty-two words and I can’t…so let’s start: I’ve got about five main characters and the first to appear is Melbourne lady, Lillie, who is mourning her husband’s death when her grown-up sons suggest her visiting Ireland, from where she was adopted sixty-five years previously. Lillie doesn’t really want to go but she does, and travelling to Redstone and meeting the people there, brings her into a whole new life… There are bees, a man who’s been redundant, a woman hitting the menopause at full force and the wisest fifteen-year-old tomboy you’ll ever met.
I’m Irish, born in Belfast, brought up in Dublin and now I live in county Wicklow in a quirky house with lots of odd-shaped windows and a fabulous view down to the sea.
When you were a kid, what did you want to become? An author?
I wanted to marry the guy from Hawaii 50 (kid’s crush), briefly I wanted to be a jockey as I am very small but truthfully I have always been in love with the world of books. I told everyone stories so it was inevitable I’d end up doing this.
What do you consider to be your best work? Why?
Eek… Impossible question. I’m always proudest of the last book, so right now, it’s the Honey Queen.
Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?
Ho hum… I like a little chaos. Or I don’t like it but I somehow make it! I recently heard that genius lives in clutter and if so, then I am onto a winner! I have two work spaces. One is an office I share with my husband where I do my admin/communications type work. Then upstairs I have a study where I write but I don’t have Internet access in case I get too distracted. The upstairs office is full of books, pictures of and by my sons, paintings, bits of embroidery, rocks… mad stuff, basically.
When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?
I love reading so much that I tend to dip into lots of different genres. I am a mad thriller/crime thriller reader and have been on a big Skandi crime binge. I like biography and historical biographies. I’ve just finished The Twelve Tribes of Hattie – brilliant.
What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?
I can recall perfectly reading Alexandre Dumas Three Musketeers when I was about thirteen and off sick from school. I’d had the wit to go into school, head to the library, get some books, and then be sick and have to go home. Good plan, huh? It was an old edition and those filmy pages took me into another world. I loved it and went on a French writers’ binge.
If you were a literary character, who would you be?
When I was young, I thought I was – like so many others – Jo in Little Women. I loved her courage and wit. Now… I don’t want to be anyone else. Too complicated a vision. It’s hard enough being yourself, isn’t it, without being someone else too.
Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?
I love films, yoga, knitting and attempting to tidy the books in the house.
What is your favourite food and favourite drink?
Nice sweet, strong coffee in the morning with spelt toast and homemade marmalade. Yum.
Who is your hero? Why?
My husband. Because he’s a good man and I love him for so many reasons.
Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?
How did you know I have a crystal ball…? It’s a hard time for booksellers because of the e-readers and I hope readers realize that bookshops offer a fabulous way to browse shelves in a way it’s hard to on an e-book but I also think the actual book has plenty of life left in it.