Blog Tour: The Secret Letters - Guest Post by Catherine Law

Today is my stop on the Blog Tour for The Secret Letters by Catherine Law, author of Map of Stars. Catherine stops by to talk about her early influences, a very interesting guest post that I'm sure you'll enjoy: 

Fellow writers of a certain age will remember the 1980s children’s TV programme, Why Don't You Just Switch Off Your Television Set and Do Something Less Boring Instead? It was a great show, possibly a little low-key for today’s audiences, but in a roundabout way it led me to become first an avid reader, and then by natural evolution, an avid writer. Because, as a child, when I switched off my television set, I would dive headfirst into a book. 

I’d spend hours in my local library, browsing the shelves with a mixture of envy and adoration, wanting be immersed in the worlds that would open up for me as soon as I selected a book and took it to the counter to be stamped out. Who can remember those lovely old-fashioned library tickets? Lounging on my bed with a bar of Galaxy and a brand-new novel or big fat reference book was an absolute treat. And today, just wandering around a bookshop will conjure all sorts of ideas and nuggets that feed my imagination.

This long-standing love for books was ignited in my childhood by seeing my mother and older sister constantly reading. I was able to dip into novels beyond my ability (broadening my mind and so pleasing my teachers no end). There was nothing more comforting than seeing a stack of hardbacks from the library by my mother’s chair waiting to be explored. From Jackie Collins to Jean Plaidy, and Wilbur Smith and Mazo de la Roche, we would devour them, our reading list peppered with the odd classic here and there. And almost by a sort of intellectual osmosis, I found myself wanting to create my own stories, my own worlds just like the ones I had been drawn into. 

I began to make books, little examples of juvenilia, from folded up pieces of paper, stapled and scruffily illustrated. I progressed, as I reached my teens, by investing in a typewriter (manual of course, this was the 1980s!). It was at this point that I read the Brontes and knew that my course was set. I began tapping away at bodice rippers and dreadful gothic romances that would make me blush today if I hadn’t shredded the lot in the early 2000s. 

It was a long haul. My first book, A Season of Leaves, was published in 2008 (to be released as an e-book on 6 October 2016 with a new title The Secret Letters). Before this, I’d spent many years attempting to write what I thought were reasonably mature contemporary novels. These early works, I see now, were all part of the steep learning curve that writers must navigate. A kind of really hard apprenticeship, if you will. When confidence was high I’d trawl through the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook for names of suitable agents and publishers, send off submissions, enter ‘first novel’ competitions and then sit back to wait for the inevitable rejections to roll in. When confidence was low, I’d escape into the private world of other people’s books – my list of favourite authors includes Kate Atkinson, Barbara Kingsolver and Mary Wesley – become inspired by them and the cycle would start again. 

It was hard to face these setbacks. After A Season of Leaves was published, my two-book deal was cancelled. And it was a few years before my agent secured me another two-book deal (publishing my war-time romances, The September Garden in 2012 and The Flower Book in 2013). But I’ve come to realise that this is the nature of publishing and all you can do is keep writing. These experiences have made me more determined. 

I’m sure that most writers find it hard to pinpoint where the drive comes from. Why do we keep going? I guess we must live to write, not write to live, and tap into our creativity whenever and wherever we can. And, first and foremost, switch off that television set!

About the book: 

Title: The Secret Letters
Author: Catherine Law
Published: October 6th 2016 by Zaffre 

Blurb: Rose Pepper has kept her wartime past a secret for decades. Forty years ago, she fled communist Prague and left behind the love of her life. Now in her sixties and with two daughters, Rose discovers a bundle of unopened letters sent to her by her lost love, hidden beneath her home. Confronted with the possibility of facing up to her past, she decided it’s finally time to go back to where her story began and uncover the truth buried for so long in Prague… 

From the author of Map of Stars comes a heartbreaking story of love, hope, secrets and lies. Perfect for fans of Kathryn Hughes and Leah Fleming.
About the author: 

Catherine Law was born in Harrow, Middlesex in 1965 and has been a journalist for twenty-two years, having trained first as a secretary at the BBC and then attending the London College of Printing. She now works on a glossy interiors magazine and lives in Buckinghamshire.

twitter: @cathmarialaw


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