How I Write: Cat Hogan

Cat Hogan was born into a home of bookworms and within spitting distance of the sea. Her father, Pat, a lightship man, instilled in her a love of the sea and the stars. Her mother, Mag, taught her how to read before she could walk. Writing, storytelling and a wild imagination is part of her DNA. She lives in Co. Wexford with her musician partner Dave, sons Joey and Arthur, and her tomcat Jim Hawkins.

At what age did you realise writing was going to mean something in your life?
Writing for me has always meant something. Whether that came in the form of stories I wrote as a child or keeping an angst riddled diary as a teenager- it’s always been there. I think it was when I did the Law Degree, I realised how powerful words can be. One word, or the interpretation of that word can see very different consequences. But for me, the reading came first-  I was born a bookworm, into a family of bookworms! I can’t get enough of books, and unfortunately for my family here in the house, I can’t part with them. They are everywhere.

Is writing an addiction?
Yes, absolutely! If I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing. If I’m not thinking about it, I’m reading about writing. The compulsion to constantly improve is always there too.

What is your writing routine? Do you write every day?
I write every day, but not at the laptop. I write all my notes long hand and if I am writing a scene for a novel, I start it long hand. I let it ferment in my brain for a while and then sit down in front of the screen. I try to stick to a word count rather than a specific time every day. With two children in the house, it’s not easy to have routine. I can dip in and out of it several times during the day- in the hope of hitting that word count before bed! I’m also a real night owl- I have, on occasion, sat down at midnight to start a day’s work! I also have the greatest of intentions of getting up at 5.30am each morning and working for a few hours before the school run. It happened once! My family think I’m bonkers!

Your back ground is in hospitality. How has this lent itself to your writing?
I trained in Hotel Management and spent many years working in restaurants and kitchens. Working in hospitality is similar to having a degree in Psychology. You become very adept at reading people: their body language, the tone of their voice, and at times the stereotype into which they fit in. Hospitality staff (the lifers at least, in particular the chefs, are a breed unto themselves. Some of my greatest friends are still in that industry. To answer your question, it’s absolute fodder for writing novels!)

Tell us about how you signed with your literary agency – I heard you were spotted at an event?
The plan was to be spotted at an open mic night last year in Wexford at the Literary festival. I had booked my slot at the event as there was going to be two agents there. I practiced the piece the night before and was all set! My heart began to sink as the evening wore on and both agents left. It got even worse when every act before me was beautiful poetry and light hearted prose. My writing is dark and I had picked a pretty explosive piece to read… the opening line went something like this : ‘If you keep whining you little brat, I’m going to gut you like a f***ing fish.’ That said, it went down well and I was certainly remembered for it. I did speak briefly with Tracy Brennan on the day, I was introduced to her by a committee member from Wexford Literary Festival. A couple of weeks later I emailed her, enquiring if she was open for submissions- she was and I sent in my submission. She came back looking for the rest of the manuscript and signed me at the end of August.

Tell us about your novel and how it came to be published?
The novel is called They All Fall Down and in a nutshell it’s a psychological thriller which explores the depth of flawed human nature, the thin line between love and obsession and the destructive nature of addiction. It’s set in a fictional fishing village in Co. Wexford. When Tracy took me on in August of last year and sent the book out to submission, five of the major publishing houses were interested. Poolbeg were the first to come back and offer me a two book deal, in November. This all happened within five months of me finishing the first draft. I chose Poolbeg because of their logo- a lighthouse- but that’s a story for another day! I signed the contract with them on the same night the Irish Book Awards were happening in Dublin. I was at home, following it all on Twitter. Book two is a work in progress as they say, and will be released early next year. Another lovely tale of death, destruction and misery!

How did you find the editing process?
I was dreading the process, and had visions of an editor in a garret with a big red pen, slashing my work to bits. That wasn’t the case. I actually enjoyed it- my editor is a genius and we worked really well together. I didn’t lose any of my characters, not a plot hole to be found and the monster I had built it up to be in my head, never showed its face. I have a few bad habits that she is trying to knock out of me and let’s not mention the war; commas.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?
Not yet. I am a procrastinator at times and avoid writing. My excuse is I work well under pressure!

What projects are you working on at the moment?
I’m in the middle of writing book two at the moment. Publication day for They All Fall Down is July 6th and the PR for that is also keeping me busy. I have a couple of other projects on the go and I’m constantly being harassed by plot bunnies who come out of nowhere. I see stories everywhere!

Will you still be keeping up your freelance writing work and how does fit with your novel writing?
I’ll keep up the freelance work as much as I can, it’s what pays the bills. It keeps me balanced too- there’s such a contrast between writing a business plan and conjuring up madmen. This contrast gives both sides of the brain a work out.

What do you like to read?
I love all books- once it’s a good story and well written the genre doesn’t really matter. If I had to choose right now I would go with Ian McEwan, Wally Lamb and Harlen Coben. I also love Marian Keyes and Patricia Cornwell. They are the books on my shelf right now!

Where do you write?
Mostly at my kitchen table, at night. If I need to get out of the house, I will head to the beach with a take away coffee and my notepad.

Cat Hogan
Find out about more about Cat Hogan on her website at www.catherinahogan.com
or follow her on Twitter: @kittycathogan

cat hogan book

They All Fall Down is published by Poolbeg and launches in July 2016

LadyNicci comment: I discovered Cat through Twitter and had seen her name pop up a few times – she’d been cited as an up and coming writer and I was drawn by her story of being spotted at a writing festival. It goes to show that networking and literary events do work! I was also drawn by our conversation where we discussed having musicians for husbands. I guess writers and musicians can mix very well and I wanted to know more about a writer who is making her way with another creative in the house. I feel Cat is very in tune with her homeland and the sea, and she has used the environment as a backdrop to her debut novel, something I have done also. I like that she says openly that she has a dark side and that she is putting it out there. Even though she is obviously an upbeat and positive person, she has chosen to write in a way that people might not expect. Finally we share a hotel background, a rich ground of character formation. I’m looking forward to finally meeting her (we’ve promised it’ll happen this year) and of course, reading her book.

H0w I write

How I write is a blog post series published on Sundays on www.ladynicci.com. The posts aim to give a voice to writers, published, unpublished and everywhere in between, to help and encourage other writers. If you would like to take part email nicola.press@gmail.com with How I Write in the subject line.

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