HI everyone, and this week I’d like to introduce you all to a great friend of mine, Cathy Lewis. This is Cathy’s first novel for children and forms the beginning of an exciting new trilogy, the Jamie Grey series.
What is one thing that no-one would usually know about you?
In the early 1980s, I trained as a fashion journalist at the London College of Fashion (My daughters still find this very hard to believe!). On the same course were two of the girls who later formed the pop group, Bananarama. After leaving college, I became a freelance fashion presenter for a Saturday morning show on Television South West in Plymouth. But as with many of the ‘creative’ things I’ve done, it was very poorly paid – I still had to work as a waitress to make enough money to live. My two worlds collided one day when Bananarama were guests on the same show as me. We chatted and they said how brilliant it was that I’d managed to make a career out of fashion (I nodded sheepishly). But that evening, when I was on my shift in the restaurant, guess who walked in…yes, the Bananarama girls!
What did the best review you ever had say about you and your work?
I was asked to read the first chapters of this novel to my daughter’s class at school. She was mortified that I was doing it, but worse still, she was convinced that a boy in her class called Ben would be really rude and upset me in front of everyone. ‘He makes all the teachers cry, Mum.’ On the day arrived, I spotted Ben in the front row – while my daughter and her friends were hiding at the back. With some trepidation, I read the first chapter, then the teacher asked if there were any questions. Ben’s hand shot up – and my daughter and her friends shot right under the desk. ‘Go ahead, Ben,’ said the teacher. Ben looked straight at me and said: ‘Please Miss, can you read some more…’.
What did the worst review you ever had say about you and your work?
I am waiting for it – and dreading it. It’s bad enough picking yourself up every time a publisher rejects your work…
How did you choose a title for your book?
This was the very hardest thing! In fact, the book was written, proofed and ready to go before I hit upon it! The problem was, I’d written the book as the final dissertation for my MA in Writing for Children. It always had the title, ‘The Last Lunatic’, because the book tells the story of Eddie, the last inmate of an asylum. But when I started looking for a publisher, people told me it wasn’t ‘politically correct’ – even though the book has a powerful message for children about how we treat people with mental illness. In fact, Eddie proves to be ‘The Last Hero’. But I realised I couldn’t afford to put potential publishers/buyers off. The final inspiration came randomly when a friend sent me a book she’d enjoyed – and it triggered an idea for the new title of my book. I’m really happy with it now – and love the way it works with the cover illustration.
Are there any occupational hazards to being an author?
Drifting off into my own world and writing stuff in my head. I often do this when swimming with my squad and I forget what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s not too bad in the pool, but when I’m in the sea in Swanage bay, it’s a bit more hazardous. One day I’ll zone back in and find I’m half way to the Isle of Wight – in the middle of the shipping lane!
Have you ever wished that you could be or do anything else instead of writing, and if so what?
Oh yes! Every time I watch a musical at the theatre, I desperately want to be on the stage. But as I can’t sing, can’t dance and can’t act, I’ve been rather thwarted in that ambition. I’ve booked those talents for next time round…
Have you ever written naked?
In the sea-swimming world, ‘naked’ means without a wetsuit. So, as I do lots of writing in my head when I’m swimming, the answer is yes…
Do you have any hints or tips for aspiring writers?
No matter how busy your life, set aside a time to write, even if just for an hour or so. Perfect the art of zoning out so you can write on trains, planes, in cafes or on a beach. Just scribble things down and get into a flow – don’t worry about spelling or grammar or form. You can edit later. (If people saw my early drafts they’d think I am totally illiterate!). And most importantly, in the words of my friend and mentor, Linda Parkinson-Hardman, ‘Just do it’.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Places, people – and their history. The inspiration for this novel came when I moved to Netley Abbey in Southampton and went for a walk in the local county park. I came across a high wall with shards of glass on the top. ‘Blimey, they wanted to keep people out of there,’ I thought, ‘…or maybe they wanted to keep people in’. I later discovered it was once a military asylum, and I began to research its history. I found that there had been accusations of mistreatment of patients, including a man who died of bleeding on the brain, yet he’d only been admitted with minor physical injuries. Investigations had proved inconclusive. Then, to top it all, there was a mysterious fire in the 1960s that destroyed all the hospital records. That was it – my imagination took off – and The Boy Who Hears Things was conceived.
What was the most important thing you learned at school?
That books are magic – they can take you through time, to different places or to other worlds. We had an English teacher called Mrs McDermott who adored books and her love of them was infectious. I can still see her now, reading My Family and Other Animals – and laughing so much she was crying! She was the first person who told me I had a gift for writing…
What is your favourite TV moment of all time?
Oh, can I have two please? Because both of these automatically sprang into my head and I can’t possibly choose between them! The first is towards the end of ET when the children are trying to get ET back to his spaceship. They are on bikes, peddling as fast as they can, but the baddies are closing in on them. Just as they are about to be caught, the bicycles rise up into the air, and ET is famously silhouetted against the moon. I have seen this about 20 times, but I still cheer and grin! The other is at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life – when the near-suicidal George Bailey discovers his life is worth living, and runs down the snowy street shouting ‘Merry Christmas everyone’. A must for the festive season…
WHERE CAN I FIND OUT MORE ABOUT Cathy and her BOOK?
You can find The Boy Who Hears Things in Paperback format here:
You can also catch up with Cathy on her website: www.cathylewis.com
WHY ‘THE THURSDAY THRONG’?
These posts are called The Thursday Throng in honour of the throng that waits eagerly outside the book store when a new author is doing a book signing event or appearance. On this website it takes the form of a ‘Meet the Author‘ online event with some information about our author’s latest book and an interview. If you would like to take part in the Thursday Throng then why not visit Thursday Throng Author Interview Guidelines to find out more.