It is always tricky to pinpoint the exact inspiration for a piece of writing, especially in hindsight. I think that the main starting point for me in writing A Good Father was that I wanted to explore the concept of jealousy and how that can be enough of a motivation for a supposedly ‘normal’ man to commit a terrible crime. In Jenny’s (Des’s wife) case I wanted to show that it is possible to choose the completely wrong person to love.
At the outset I had an immediate sense of Des, of what and how he was thinking and his voice guided me throughout the novel. So, in a sense, writing him came very naturally to me. The most important part of his personality is his control. I wanted to explore the essence of jealousy, the fact that it can be so irrational, and I wanted to show how a man can become irrationally obsessed. What I found challenging was to make Des charming enough in the early parts of the book in order that the reader would believe and understand why Jenny could fall for him in the first place. While writing the book it was always clear to me that Jenny would never leave Des and go back to Jerome, her ex-boyfriend, as her relationship with him was far from perfect.
Another thing that inspired me was where I live in Ballybrack village, a ten minute walk to Killiney beach. I have always been a sea junkie, having grown up by the sea in Greystones, Co Wicklow. Killiney beach has become my new adult playground, swimming every day since we moved here fifteen years ago. The beach, with its peace and the sheer magnitude of the sea seemed like the perfect backdrop to the opening paragraphs of A Good Father–
Once there, I’ll see Dalkey Island set majestically, frozen to my left, and the long sweep of Killiney beach on my right. I’ll squint and make out the shaft of light that marks the beginning of the tunnel through Bray Head to Greystones. And wonder, as I always do why I have never set foot on Dalkey Island, despite its proximity.
When I think about it, I realise that living my day to day family life is always in the background of what I write about and how I imagine how things could turn out badly for any of us. Most of my best characters tend to be male and I enjoy imagining and exploring domestic space and how men can think and dominate that space. This can be sadly quite reflective of contemporary family tragedy. The lives of our children are so tender and they put all of their trust in us. What happens when that trust is misplaced?
The path to publication has been an adventure to say the least, delayed as a result of the pandemic. A Good Father was originally scheduled for last April 2020, so you can only imagine how excited I am that it will finally reach readers this coming February.
I have always loved English and earned a Modular degree in English and Philosophy at UCD twenty years ago while working in the arts and cultural industry in Dublin city centre. Having spent a number of years bringing up my young children, I worked part-time in The Village Bookshop, Greystones. Five years ago I went back to do an MPhil in Creative Writing under the supervision of Ian Sansom, Carlo Gébler and Deirdre Madden in Trinity. During my time there I became the Literary Fiction Editor of College Green Literary Journal.
I have subsequently been longlisted and shortlisted for a number of writing competitions including the UK Short Fiction Prize, the Fish Prize and the Colm Tóibín Short Story Award. I have had work published in Banshee and more recently in the No Alibis Anthology Still Worlds Turning.
The path to publication of my debut novel I guess is pretty similar to other writers. It is a long and, at times, lonely one. There is, however, a great supportive literary scene in Ireland and I feel very privileged to be a part of it. I have had huge support from my mentors at Trinity and other writers such as Chris Binchy. So far A Good Father has garnered interest, with endorsements and support from writers such as John Banville, Jo Spain, Jane Casey, Carlo Gébler and Joe Duffy. One thing though that I have learned in this process is that you have to be very patient and hard-working and self-belief in your work is of paramount importance. I have learnt to hold my nerve.
My publishers at Penguin Ireland/Sandycove have been brilliant. From the moment my editor read the initial draft she was deeply invested and successfully guided it through acquisitions. I feel very lucky to be published by such a supportive and lovely team.
(c) Catherine Talbot
About A Good Father:
Des is a good husband, a good father – a good man.
He encourages his wife’s artistic endeavours, reads bedtime stories to his children every night, and holds down a well-paid, if unfulfilling, job.
But appearances can be deceptive. Lately, his wife seems to be forgetting that her art is for his eyes only. And rumours at work are threatening his reputation as a devoted family man. And he can’t help but feel that his kids don’t seem to need him as much as they once did.
Des is afraid.
Afraid of the world encroaching on his home.
Afraid of past mistakes catching up on him.
So afraid of losing control over his family that he is contemplating the unthinkable.
A Good Father is a dark and gripping psychological suspense novel that will take you into the twisted mind of a man on the edge.
‘Exceptional … Deeply chilling’ Jane Casey
‘This intricately made novel marks the debut of a writer from whom, and of whom, we shall be hearing much in coming times’ John Banville
‘Powerful, assured and a devastating new voice in Irish fiction … Magnificent’ Joe Duffy
Order your copy online here.