To date North County Dubliner, Colette Caddle has written 11 bestselling novels, her latest is Always On My Mind. It is a story of cold feet, miscommunication and an important decision for Molly, the main character, when her heart is in conflict between old love and her fiancé.
Colette never thought of writing as a career when in school. With her, diversity is the name of the game; she had worked in many areas from computer programming to marketing insurance products when one day when she read “a bad book,” and thought “I can do better than that.”
Colette starts each story with a backdrop, then picks characters and writes their CV’s. Instead of a complex plot, Colette chooses a scenario and lets her character’s decide on the story. Always On My Mind is out now and her twelfth book will be available in autumn.
Getting the time to write is very tricky, according to wannabe writers. But Colette told me, “you can always think and observe, you must never forget that. I don’t have time is one prevarication we all use; yes, I’m as guilty at the next person. But, you know, there’s always a way. I remember something a good friend said once when we were discussing people who claimed that they had no time to exercise – she was an avid Corrie fan, never missed it, but while she watched, she did her sit-ups! In other words, there’s always a way!”
Colette got a three book publishing deal after sending off three chapters to Poolbeg. “When I got the contract I wasn’t actually working. Also, the first book wasn’t finished and I felt very paranoid and superstitious about it so I told no one until I was almost finished, and then only close family. By the time I told friends, I was very close to giving birth to my first child and that was much more exciting and believable! I found it hard to see myself as a legitimate author until I actually saw the book on the shelf.”
I was intrigued to know how she had learned her trade? “I didn’t actually ‘learn’ it. When I put pen to paper on that first story, ‘Too Little, Too Late’, it seemed a good idea to write about something I loved so I would keep writing no matter how tough it got.”
Colette starts with a backdrop for the story. “For ‘Too Little, Too Late’ I always thought I would love to run a restaurant and so I based that story around a restaurant. Since then I’ve tried to give each book a different but current feel. I will play around with various scenarios but, strangely, usually end up going with the one that occurred to me first. I start with a handful of characters but they rarely develop the way I think they will and, yes, sometimes, someone just drops in uninvited!”
As Colette told me, incorporating observations and current affairs in her books keeps her interested. “Sometimes something on the news, a mannerism observed, a current issue – it could be anything – will strike a chord and I will incorporate it. For example there’s a lot about the recession in The Secrets We Keep. The confusing subject of food labeling features in It’s All About Him and the female protagonist in The Betrayal of Grace Mulcahy is an interior designer simply because I was in the process of fitting out my new home at the time and was obsessed with the subject!”
When you are juggling work and writing, it is essential to make room for your personal life; this helps your writing and keeps you current. “I think it’s a natural thing; as I get older and my views change or develop, it affects my work. I see writing as an ongoing project and I hope that I am learning and growing all of the time. Also, I am sure that my writing is influenced by my own life experiences. For example when I first started out I had no children, then I went through the early years and now my eldest will soon be a teenager. As parent, I am very conscious of issues relating to education, health and child protection and so the fact that these issues are in my head, they are bound to creep into my storylines.”
Colette believes you should “grab your ideas from what you obsess about”. When she wrote Always on My Mind, she had been listening to a chat show on the radio and they were discussing brides and grooms who had been left at the altar. Colette was intrigued by the number of people calling in to say that they had done this or been the poor soul left standing…yet, they all came through it in the end; they all survived. That got her thinking…..
Colette says that she aims to write 2,000 words a day. “Okay, firstly I have to admit, I don’t stick to it – ask any of my pals on Twitter!! But I do find it a good target and it helps to keep me on the straight and narrow….most of the time. Also, I try very hard to have something ‘happen’ in each chapter; I feel that’s what keeps my books moving. If I read back and I am losing interest then I will edit or even scrap it. After all, if I can’t hold my own interest what hope do I have of holding my readers?”
“You know I learn new tips to improve my writing all the time, and I love that. The latest that I find the most helpful is the trick to keep writing regardless. In other words, if I am stuck on a part of my storyline I will now either go off or write a different chapter, probably around a different character or else I will put some work into creating back stories for each of my main characters. What are their pet hates? What are their hobbies, tastes, bad habits etc…? Apart from this being hugely useful as the book progresses, it also makes the characters more rounded and so easier to write about.”
“There is a part of me in all my characters. I sometimes look back on some of the nastier pieces of work I’ve created and wonder about that!”
Finally, I asked Colette if there was anything she would like to share with her readers? “Oh…let me think… well, I suppose firstly I’d like to say thank you for buying my books and reading them. Thank you especially to those who take the time and trouble to get in touch or put up a review on Amazon; that means so much and is of great comfort on the days when I am feeling uninspired. And to those who know me on Twitter or Facebook please do come and say hello.