Welcome, Cathy. Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from?
I was born and brought up in Dublin, southern Ireland before moving to Leicester. I now live in the Leicestershire countryside with my husband and family.What sparked your interest in writing?
The Irish are known storytellers. So, I suppose my interest in writing was sparked from a very early age by family stories of ghosts and legends as well as family tragedies told by my aunts. I grew up in a time of few toys or source of stimulus, so I had to settle for role play and my imagination when playing with the children who lived on our Avenue.A storyteller among storytellers. What components, in your opinion, makes a great story?
A good plot with interesting characters that the reader feels concern for, and might even fall in love with by the end of the book. I think that most books have an element of romance. That alone is not enough to make me want to read it. I need some aspect of suspense laced with mystery to keep me reading.How would you generally categorize the books/stories you write?
My debut novel Shadow Across the Liffey was at first thought to be a family saga and is now categorized as a romantic suspense novel that I have always thought it to be. Most of my books have a strong plot, romance with an element of suspense.Is there a message in your story you want readers to grasp?
Yes, I believe there is. We can all identify with people who have suffered unimaginable grief, so much so, that we often wonder how they ever come to terms with it. In Shadow Across the Liffey Oona Quinn is torn by grief and healed by love. We see how, in spite of her great loss, love came calling again when she least expected it to.Give us a mini-tour of your writing space.
The writer in the garret. I love it! Which authors do you feel have influenced your writing most?I love my writing space. It is where I feel most creative. When my husband retired, he lined and decorated the walls in our attic, fitted a green carpet and put in a Velux window. "This is going to be my study," he said. He furnished it with a desk and a drawing board.
But, I am glad to say that my passion to write books proved greater than his desire to draw, so, the "crow’s nest" as he likes to call it became mine. It has been mine now for the past 15 years.
The best thing about my writing space is that I don’t get too many interruptions. No one likes climbing the access ladder. It keeps the smaller grandchildren downstairs, but not so the older ones who love to clamber up the ladder to see what Nan is doing.
Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights was one of the first books to inspire me. I love the characters, especially the broody Heathcliffe, the shades of darkness that filter through the book. Irish writers like Joyce, Singe and Beckett, Beckett being my favorite, Mary Ryan, and Elaine Crowley have a great influence on my writing. And most recently, modern fiction authors like Jean Chapman, Cathy Kelly, Margaret Kaine, Deirdre Purcell, and Rosie Goodwin and lots of others too numerous to mention.Name a few titles I’d find if I browsed through your personal home library.
The complete works of William Shakespeare, John Bayley’s Good Companions, Betsy Tobin’s Crimson China, Dublin Voices, Huckleberry Finn, Noah Lukeman’s The First Five Pages, Oxford Dictionary, Oxford Guide to Style, Irish Heritage.All great choices. So, you’re marooned on a desert island. What’s the one book you’d want with you, and why?
The book I would take with me is John Bayley’s anthology Good Companions because whenever I read it, which is often, it never fails to inspire, amuse and console me.What’s next for you? Can we look forward to a new story in the near future?
As Shadow Across the Liffey is my debut novel, my wish is that it sells lots of copies and that readers’ will want more from me. It would be lovely if another of my books were to attract the attention of Tirgearr Publishing, if not, another publisher. Unfortunately, I do not have a crystal ball.Who supports your writing activities most?
I’m very lucky in that I belong to a number of writing groups who support my work and give me constructive feedback. This, I feel, is crucial to any serious writer who wants to be published. My family, who never monopolize my time when I’m writing, except in an emergency. Lastly, my author friends are always willing to give of their time to help with any given situation.Name a few of your favorite non-writing activities.
I love been around my lovely grandchildren. Two of them are now living in Australia and New Zealand. I miss them so much. Nevertheless, I am lucky that I still have grandchildren around me most weekends. The youngest is Alfie, 15 months and so cute. I read on my Kindle a lot and watch drama and quiz shows on TV.Thanks for bringing your grandchildren along to visit. I wish you and your family all the best. And now, let’s take a peek at Shadow Across the Liffey.
Set in 60’s Ireland - Life is hard for widow, Oona Quinn, grief-stricken by the tragic deaths of her husband and five-year-old daughter. Struggling to survive, she meets charismatic Jack Walsh at the Shipping Office.
Vinnie Kelly, her son's biological father, just out of jail, sets out to destroy Oona and all she holds dear. Haunted by her past, she has to fight for her future and the safety of her son, Sean. But Vinnie has revenge on his mind
The sun had just come out, and McNally cursed the task ahead of him. The child’s death had touched him deeply. At the station, he had seen tears in grown men’s eyes. This was, by far, the hardest thing he had ever had to do.
He parked the car outside the house with the shiny green door and well-maintained garden, and walked slowly up the path. He hesitated. From inside he heard laughter and music, and it pained him to be the bearer of such shocking news. A lump formed in his throat. He removed his hat and held it in front of him, before knocking on the door.
Oona stared at the uniformed man on her doorstep. ‘That . . . that’s me.’ She clutched the door. ‘Has . . . has something happened?’
‘I’m Sergeant McNally. There’s been an accident. May I come in?’
Connie joined her in the hall, the smile slipping from her face.
‘Are you a relative?’ he asked.
‘We’re sisters. What is it?’
He thought Oona was going to faint but her sister’s hand guided her towards the living room. A moment later, the two women sat on the sofa clutching hands.
‘May I sit down?’
Oona nodded. She was trembling. McNally could see a glimmer of hope in her big brown eyes.
‘I’m afraid your husband’s been in a serious accident, Mrs.. Quinn.’ He saw all her fears encapsulated in that one terrible moment as he delivered the news.
‘Please, tell me he’s not dead.’
He swallowed, barely able to answer, and then he nodded.
‘No. No. Please don’t tell me that. Dear God! Eamon can’t be dead. You’ve made some mistake. Are . . . are you . . . sure it’s my husband?’
‘We found his driving licence.’ He gripped his hat. How could he tell her about the little girl?
‘My little girl! What about Jacqueline?’ she cried out. ‘Where is she? She’ll be frightened. I must go to her.’
‘I’m afraid there was nothing we could do, Mrs.. Quinn. It all happened so fast.’
‘God! No! Not my little girl! Not Jacqueline!’ She was shaking hysterically.
‘Connie! Tell him; tell the Sergeant he’s got it wrong. Please, Connie.’
‘They’re not, not both of them,’ Connie pleaded, her face distraught.
‘Everything that could possibly be done was done at the scene. A drunk driver coming off the boat caused the crash. He’s dead, too. I’m afraid I was a witness. I’ve spoken to a number of other eye witnesses who saw the white van veering erratically before hitting your husband’s car.’ He swallowed again.
‘There was nothing your husband could have done, Mrs. Quinn. I’m so sorry. If it’s any consolation at all, they were both killed instantly.’
‘God Almighty! No! No!’ Oona rocked back and forth. Her breath was coming in huge spasmodic lurches as if her chest was about to explode. He had seen people grieving before, but to lose a child . . . He wished this was all a dream and that he hadn’t been a witness. He sat with his head bowed, turning his hat round and round in his hands.
Oona stood up, shaking uncontrollably. Before he could do anything, she collapsed onto the floor.
McNally rushed towards her. ‘If you have any brandy in the house, bring it,’ he told Connie.
When she came back, Oona was sitting up, supported by the Sergeant. Connie handed him the tumbler.
‘Try and sip this.’ He held the gold liquid to Oona’s lips. ‘You’ve had a terrible shock.’
She took a small amount and wrinkled her nose. It made her cough. She struggled to stand up. ‘I, I should . . . I should be with them. We must hurry.’
Connie’s face was full of concern. ‘We’re going now, Oona,’ Connie said, scribbling a note for their parents and sealing it in an envelope. The note simply said:
Mam and Dad,
There has been an accident. We’ve gone to the City Hospital. Please hurry, Dad! Don’t bring Sean.
McNally shook his head. ‘I’m so sorry, Mrs. Quinn. So sorry.’ He helped her into her coat. He could see she was in shock and his heart went out to her. How could anyone come to terms with such a loss? Tears streaming down her face, Connie placed a supportive arm around her distraught sister’s shoulders.
‘I should never have let Jacqueline go, Connie. How can life be so cruel? Eamon! Jacqueline!’ she wailed. ‘Oh, Jacqueline, my baby!’
McNally, his face grave, led both women to the car and drove off towards the city.
* * * * *About Cathy Mansell:
Cathy is an experienced writer of romantic fiction. Her early work was competition short stories and articles published in national magazines. She was Editor in Chief of the Leicestershire Anthology, ‘Taking Off’, a book promoted and supported by Arts Council UK.
In recent times, Cathy has turned to writing full-length novels that are set in Ireland/England. She was a recent contestant on the TV show Food Glorious Food to be broadcast on 27th February 2013.
Her affiliations include: Leicester Writers’ Club, Just Write workshop, Life President of Lutterworth Writers’ Group, Member NAWG, Member Romantic Novelist Association and past president of Riverside Speakers club.
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Shadow Across the Liffey / Available from