Sunday, 20 July 2014

Writing Blog Tour

I’ve been handed the baton in this writing blog tour by Su Bristow of, so here goes.

1.     What am I working on?

I have two major projects on the go at the moment: a biography (My Hidden Mother) and a collaborative novel (The Driftwood Tree). The biography has already been shortlisted in the Earlyworks Press Biography Challenge, which is heartening. I chose to write about my mother because she might not be famous, but she is a survivor – a hidden child during the Holocaust – and her story needs telling. My other project, The Driftwood Tree is a collaborative novel with writer John Bennington, set in rural Ireland in the 1920s. As well as full length works, I also regularly write short literary fiction and poetry. I have a writing competition habit that needs feeding, and I make enough prize money to justify entering even more competitions. I am also about to start editing and writing the preface for poet Nigel Humphreys’ new translation of Daphnis and Chloe, to be published by Circaidy Gregory Press, and have recently finished the technical edit of a new edition of Michael Short’s seminal work, Holst: The Man And His Music, also Circaidy Gregory Press.

2.     How does my work differ from others in its genre?

My Hidden Mother is not just a Holocaust tale, and neither is it purely a mother and daughter memoir – it’s both, and it’s more. My mother was hidden through the war, and in many ways her background has been hidden from me, even though she was always happy to tell me about her background as I grew up. What she did not realise was that like many second generation holocaust survivors, I had an instinctive feeling that I needed to protect her from what had happened, so I never asked as much as I might have done for fear of bringing traumatic memories to the surface. Now, however, we have both realised that these things need to be told, so the book has been an exploration of what that means to both of us, as well as being a first hand account of what it was actually like to be growing up in such difficult times.

The Driftwood Tree is very different to other novels in its genre. For a start, it’s not just a novel – it is fully illustrated, and each chapter contains around half a dozen original poems. John Bennington is the ideas man. He’s in charge of the research, the setting, the plot and the characters throughout the main text – he is a natural storyteller – but I am the editor, the poet and the illustrator; the person in charge of tightening this huge sprawling text and turning it into a book. I suggest revisions as we go along, and he feeds me suggestions for illustrations and edits the poems. It’s a fascinating process, particularly as living a good 500 miles apart, we have never met – everything is done by email.

3.     Why do I write what I do?

I like to write about things that matter; that will have meaning for people. I am not interested in pure entertainment. I want my stories and poems to have resonance and to stay with the reader long after they have finished. In the past I haven’t been too bothered about genre – I have written magical realism, general fiction, science fiction, crime fiction – but now I am moving more and more into literary fiction. It’s what I read, and it’s what I want to write.

4.     How does my writing process go?

I rise early, switch on the computer, and leave it running most of the day so that it’s available for writing at any point. I never write by hand if I can help it as my writing is illegible and very slow, but typing is effortless and quick. My writing day will usually include either a poem or a piece of flash fiction, plus some work on the novel and the biography. I’m also currently studying the art of short story writing on Alex Keegan’s online ‘Bootcamp’ and have become a far better writer, editor and critic as a result, which has naturally had a knock-on effect on all my writing. I try to write as much as possible every day, whether it’s original works or critiques of other people’s work – and of course I read, and I think about what I’m reading.

Next stop on the tour is with Geoff Nelder, at


Su Bristow said...

Thanks, Cathy. Two very interesting projects. Good luck with them both! Writing with pictures seems to be a challenge in both print and virtual forms, in the one because of expense and in the other because of formatting issues. How does it convert for laptop, tablet, phone etc? Interested to see how you deal with that.

Su Bristow

Catherine Edmunds said...

Thanks Su! You're absolutely right that formatting illustrations for the various different devices is problematic. I get round this by handing it all over to my publisher's techie. I'd have no idea how to do it on my own. He did the formatting for the illustrated e-version of my poetry collection, 'wormwood, earth and honey' and as far as I can tell, it worked in all formats. As regards the paperback, yes, expense is always going to be a problem, so the illustrations have to be seen as a selling point in order to justify the added cost.

Su Bristow said...

Oh yes. There are predictions that the only 'real' books will be beautiful ones. It's a nice thought...