Interview with Catherine Meyrick

Catherine Meyrick Cover
Author Talk: Richard Lowe Interviews Catherine Meyrick

I am an Australian librarian with a love of history. I have an MA in history and am also a family history obsessive. Although I was born and grew up in country Victoria, I have lived all my adult life in Melbourne. I worked at a variety of jobs over the years before finding my niche in our local public library including nurse and tax assessor, I also trained as a teacher but never taught as I lacked the necessary ringmaster skills. I have always loved historical fiction particularly the sort that uses fictional characters within a well-researched historical background.

Catherine Meyrick is a writer of historical fiction with a particular interest in the Elizabethan period which she fell for while studying history at University. Her stories weave fictional characters into the gaps within the historical record – tales of ordinary people who are very much men and women of their time, yet in so many ways like us today with the same hopes and longings as we have to find both love and their own place in a troubled world.

Forsaking All Other is set in England in the 1580s and follows the struggles of a young widow and waiting woman, Bess Stoughton, who discovers that her father is arranging for her to marry an elderly neighbour. Normally obedient Bess rebels and manages to convince her father to allow her a year to find a husband with whom she has some hope of happiness. Bess’s domestic concerns are set against the background of simmering Catholic plots to unseat Queen Elizabeth, and the involvement of English forces under the Earl of Leicester in the Netherlands in support of Dutch resistance to Spanish rule. These larger matters are of little concern to Bess until she meets Edmund Wyard, a veteran of England’s campaign in Ireland, who is preparing to join the Earl of Leicester’s army; he too is trying to avoid his family’s marriage plans for him.

The major characters in the novel are fictional but the historical timeline and background are well researched and as accurate as possible. Forsaking All Other does not revolve around the Elizabethan Court but is essentially the story of ordinary people in a time of suspicion and war. By making her characters conventional, Catherine hopes to show something of the reality of lives in the past, the lack of freedom that women, and men too, had in determining their own lives and even their choice of spouse, and the difficulties that a could arise when they stepped outside the boundaries of a far more rigidly structured society than our own.

Catherine is currently revising a novel called ‘The Bridled Tongue’ set in England a couple of years later than Forsaking All Other with an entirely new set of characters. Once again, it deals with the making of marriages in this period, this time an arranged marriage that the young woman goes along with it, as so many did. Alys Bradley unenthusiastically enters into marriage with Thomas Granville, a privateer, not only because of pressure from her father but to escape a suitor she considers a worse prospect. In this novel, Catherine explores the way a relationship could develop where the partners to it are not ‘in love’. ‘The Bridled Tongue’ touches on other issues such as sibling rivalry and jealousy, the dangers of gossip, witchcraft accusations and the way the past can reach out and affect the present. The backdrop is the threat of imminent invasion by the Spanish in 1588 – the Spanish Armada.

Catherine works as a librarian at her local public library (the best job in the world on a good day) where she helps people find books and information on a wide range of fascinating things. She has written all her life with a number of short stories and poems published over the years. Forsaking All Other is her first published novel and came second in the Romance Writers of Australia Valerie Parv Award in 2014.

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Interview Transcript Catherine Meyrick

Richard Lowe  00:01

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Well, hello and welcome to author talk with Richard Lowe. I’m here with Katherine Merrick from Australia. She’s an Australian librarian with the love of history. She has an MA in history and as a family history obsessive. She was born and grew up in country Victoria, and has lived all of her adult life in Melbourne. She worked at a variety of jobs over the years before finding her niche in the local public library, including nurse and tax assessor. She also trained as a teacher, but never taught as she lacked the necessary ringmaster skills. She has always loved historical fiction, particularly the sort that uses fictional characters within a well researched historical background. Thank you for coming to the show.

Catherine Meyrick  00:44

Thank you for inviting me, Richard.

Richard Lowe  00:53

Again, welcome back. And thank you for coming to the show. Thank you. All right. What is your story?

Catherine Meyrick  01:00

Well, it’s some it’s historical fiction with strong romance elements. It’s it starts in 1515 85. And it follows the story of a young woman, a widow, whose discovers her father is going to marry her off to an elderly neighbor, she managed to get get his permission to have a year to find a husband for herself. And after some sort of false starts, she meets someone she really likes, but he’s beyond her rich, because it was a very structured society. She doesn’t have money, she doesn’t have connections. It’s, and he’s been, you know, he’s married, he’s got, he’s a little bit older family is pushing him to marry a well, well connected, wealthy woman. And, you know, like with most of these things, other things get in the way. It’s set against the backdrop of war in Europe, the role of Lester’s army fighting the Spanish in the Netherlands. And also around this time, there was Catholic plots to put Mary Queen of Scots on the throne. And those things sort of tie in to what gets in the way of the main character best, best thought and finding and Edmond wired the the young man who’s a soldier who has served in Ireland. Yeah. finding each other. Well, thank

Richard Lowe  02:29

you. Is this your first book?

Catherine Meyrick  02:31

It’s the first one I’ve published. I’ve, you know, I’ve been writing for years. But this is one that first one out there for other people to read.

Richard Lowe  02:40

Did you self publish it or traditional publisher?

Catherine Meyrick  02:42

Now I self published it, I did try the traditional publishing method. You know, the, the roller coaster of sending out submissions. I had an agent at one stage, she tried all the local, local publishers, I got as far as the acquisitions meeting at two of the major publishers. All that came out of that was a, an offer to two publishers in a book, which she didn’t think was satisfactory. She seemed to not know what to do from that point. And in the end, we went her own way. And I decided, well, I’ve got more life behind me than in front of me. But I’m sick of waiting around for other people to do it for me, I’ll do what my, my favorite book is a child with a little red hen. So I thought basically, very well, I will do it myself. And

Richard Lowe  03:36

how did that turn out for you?

Catherine Meyrick  03:38

I think it was really stressful, because, you know, trying to make sure that everything’s right, you know that it looks professional. I had, I paid for the cover to be made by historical fiction book covers, I think it’s called Jenny Q runs it on I think I have a beautiful cover. And that’s, that’s been very, very helpful. But I did the rest myself. And probably the most stressful thing was because I’m in Australia, setting up all the tech stuff for Amazon. And at least with the next one, I won’t have to do that. It’s all set up. And I’m quite happy. I am happy.

Richard Lowe  04:20

Good. Do you have a copy of your book with you?

Catherine Meyrick  04:24

Oh, here it is.

Richard Lowe  04:26

Hold it up so we can see.

Catherine Meyrick  04:28

Yes. I think it’s lovely.

Richard Lowe  04:31

Very lovely cover. I like it. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Excellent. So what possessed you to write a book?

Catherine Meyrick  04:42

Well, I’ve been writing since I was a little girl. And when I was in secondary school, one of the teachers have a writing group. And I was invited into that but you know, as you as you as life goes along, a lot of other things get in the way I’d always use little bits and pieces, but nothing went anywhere. It wasn’t until I stopped, paid work and had no children. I started when my daughter was born, when she had her afternoon naps, I started just writing things, mainly short stories and poetry, and about fifth, but then about 15 years ago, um, you know, when they were getting towards the end of primary school, I decided I’d try a novel. And I had a few false starts. And, but I’ve just, you know, taken few courses and things like that. And I’ve just developed it over the years. So I’m on a slow writer, and I review and review and revise and revise and revise. So it takes a long time to, to get to the point where you’ve got something you can show other people.

Richard Lowe  05:55

Okay, okay. Did you have fun? Did you have a lot of fun writing the book?

Catherine Meyrick  05:59

Um, yes, yeah, I think I think I did it, I really enjoyed the research. And that’s part of the problem, you get so bogged down in it, you know, like it, I’d spend a day trying to find the name of the port that the soldiers lift Ireland from to go back to England, and then you cut it out? Because that that scene no longer works? You know, so there was a lot of that. And, yeah, developing the characters. And I, I mean, I think sometimes the initial writing is not what, I find that really painful that getting it to the point where you’ve got a story that flows, but what I like is, is when you really get into the revision, and you’re adding depth to the characters, and the background, and you think about, you get to a point later in the story, and you think, oh, I should put that in there. And you go, and you go back, it’s that sort of building up. I think, I think of it almost like sculpting in clay. And you know, you get a new you do starts things in fine detail, and you think that doesn’t work and you you cut a chunk off and then put it molded somewhere else?

Richard Lowe  07:12

That’s an excellent analogy. Yeah, I think of it that way as well. Yeah. Okay. And what challenges did you run into writing a book?

Catherine Meyrick  07:26

I think that it’s sometimes not, the further back you go. The late like, we do know a lot about the Elizabethan period. But there are things you don’t know. And it’s whether you know, whether you can, you can make things up or if you put this I’m Look, I’m a bit of a pinned. And I’m always terrified that someone’s going to come along and say, This is rubbish, she got that wrong. But and so that’s it’s like that’s hypercritical my shoulder. And it’s that sort of thing. And also, one of the things I’ve tried really hard with is to make the language. I don’t want it to be Elizabeth in English, because that will be very hard for people to read. But I don’t want it to sound like people on the strict and going through and you have a word that is 20 century or even 20. Like a lot of words, we use a 20th century American like, like hangover. If you want to talk about someone having you can’t, well, the way I want, right? I couldn’t describe someone as saying, Oh, he had a hangover. You have to, you sometimes have to use more words, as in the after effects of yesterday’s wine or something like that. It’s I mean, it depends on the style of writing. Some people can do it in modern English, and it works really well. But for me, I wanted something that was easy to read, but just gave that, that taste of not being modern. And I’ve thrown in the odd word that we no longer use. Can’t remember any moment. But yeah, I found that a real challenge. And that’s the thing, you know, each time I’d read through, I’d find something else I’d need to change. And I think in that that final period leading up to publication when you’re proofreading and proofreading it. Yeah, it was this keeping that I kept finding things that were How did I miss that? And what do I replace it with?

Richard Lowe  09:35

Yeah, that’s the trouble with being a perfectionist as well as the author. Keep going back and writing until it’s perfect.

Catherine Meyrick  09:41

And then you publish it and someone says, like, my daughter read it about three months after it was published. And she said, there’s a page there where you call William Thomas. Now, there are copies out there that you know, not many, because I didn’t So many initially. So of course, I had to pull it all down and put it up again. But I don’t know how that slipped through, because it has been read by so many people so many times, and she was the first to pick up on it.

Richard Lowe  10:13

I’ve had the same phenomenon happen to me. And I’m writing a story about an African slave in 1857. In the US, and I’m running into the same thing, you know, the dialect different. Everything’s different back then.

Catherine Meyrick  10:27

Well, the other thing, sorry, go ahead. Oh, no, it’s just about, you can’t actually have people talk the way they did. Because you it would upset so many people you’ve got you will have real challenges writing dialogue and things like that.

Richard Lowe  10:44

Indeed, indeed. It’s been a challenge. It’s been a real challenge. Okay, good. So what is your, if you had to name one memory about the writing that was the best the whole thing from beginning to publishing and beyond? What would that be?

Catherine Meyrick  11:03

Well, it was, in the revision stage, I had a scene I was writing it, it was May 15, at six. And this meets Edmond again. And they talking to each other. And suddenly this character walked in, who I hadn’t planned, he was named George Rainsford. And he just, I don’t know where he came from. But he’s larger than life like a young Brian Blissett, and full of life, bushy beard and things like that. No. And he becomes, he became important to the story, but he was not part of the plan at all. And I just think that is the most brilliant thing when you’re writing when something you didn’t plan becomes central. And it works so well. And sometimes, when you stick really closely to the plan, it doesn’t work. But I love George,

Richard Lowe  12:00

do you find your characters take over your story? Sometimes?

Catherine Meyrick  12:03

Yes, yeah. And I think that’s partly what have you know, and sometimes when something’s not working, it’s because you’re trying to fit it into what you think it should be. You need to listen to what they want to do.

Richard Lowe  12:16

So your characters come alive, so to speak. Yeah. And they’re in

Catherine Meyrick  12:19

my head. And, you know, look, I had sometimes go for a morning walk. And I was walking along. And I’m thinking about what was something, you know, Edmond was thinking and how he would be feeling at this time. And I looked around, I thought, Where am I? And I walked straight past my strike didn’t even know if it’s where I was. And I was expected, because I was expecting certain things to be there. I was just another block further on, but often, am I getting outside? No, I’m just writing with my head in the clouds.

Richard Lowe  12:53

I know that feeling. Yeah. Okay, and why did you choose historical fiction over other genres?

Catherine Meyrick  13:01

Well, I grew up in a family with a love of history. Both my parents really liked it. They were, you know, of that generation. They didn’t go to school past 14. But they continued reading all their lives. Mum loved reading biographies and things like that, dad, dad read a lot of historical fiction, but you know, Alexander can’t and, you know, the more action stuff. And excuse me, with all with all but I think, you know, just this interest in history just came naturally to me. And that’s what I’ve mainly read all my life. I will read other things. And I think it’s, it’s important to read broadly, but if you know a comfort read will be historical fiction. Provided it’s not too too nasty. You know, how summit far too realistic and, and they don’t end well. I liked the story, something Well,

Richard Lowe  14:06

I like I like reading historical fiction from the Roman era. Okay. Yeah, I want to write a story based in Rome. I think that’d be fun.

Catherine Meyrick  14:17

And then you could go to Rome to visit the places your stories that said,

Richard Lowe  14:20

it’s true. It’s true. I doubt if they’re as good as they are up here, though.

Catherine Meyrick  14:26

Not Well, that’s, that’s always the case is, you know, it’s somehow getting what’s in there onto paper and finding the words and sometimes I think English is almost like a really blunt instrument for doing this because we need so many words that sometimes I believe there are single words for in other languages. But it’s all we’ve got.

Richard Lowe  14:48

It’s what we’ve got, right? We’ve got the tools we have. Yeah. How do you promote your book?

Catherine Meyrick  14:54

Well, not very well. This is the learning experience. I’ve tried, I started out with a blog tour, I’ve done promotion on, on paid promotion on Facebook, you know, get written interviews, and guest spots and things like that. And none of it’s because I’m a complete unknown. And I’m this I’m not terrific at social media. But I’ve recently over the last six weeks, I’ve tried just paid Amazon advertising. And that’s working. It’s not, admittedly, I’m not making much out of it. But that’s not the primary purpose. But a lot more. I’ve gone from 15 books a month, so two, to 120. And that for me, that’s good. No, and I Oh, and I’ve discovered it’s a very new niche area, but Amazon’s to the historical romance. You know, sort of category. I’ve got as high as number eight in it, sitting alongside and above some of Philippa Gregory and Ken Follett’s. And that’s, you know, I feel quite Oh, look where I am. But it drops back. But, you know, the most of the time I’ve been in there hundreds since I’ve started advertising. And what I think of it a bit, it’s this is long term, I’m working on another book. So this is as long as I’m not losing money. I’m doing all right. And when the next one comes out, all these people that have read it will want to read my next one, hopefully, well, 80% of them.

Richard Lowe  16:46

Well, that’s the winning strategy is to build up a fan base.

Catherine Meyrick  16:51

Yeah, and I mean, there’s a lot of advice about make sure you’ve got one book ready to come out, not long after and, you know, write a series, well, I can’t do that. I, you know, I would be waiting till I was 75, or something, to have enough to come out, one after the other. And I’ll just do it this way. And see what happens. Because it’s not my career. This is something I do that I love outside work. And you know, it really, it’s brilliant. The best thing is when someone says to you, I loved your book, because that’s what it’s there to know that you’ve taken someone out of their ordinary life for, you know, five or six hours. And they enjoy the experience.

Richard Lowe  17:38

I know what you mean by that. That’s that was love getting those emails from somebody who said your book changed my life or something like that.

Catherine Meyrick  17:46

I don’t think mine is going to change anyone’s life, but it might make them happy.

Richard Lowe  17:50

I understand. So how do you remain productive when you’re writing? What do you do about interruptions and things like that?

Catherine Meyrick  17:58

I have learned to write anywhere. I used to at one stage, I had two jobs, one at the local public library and one in the local primary school as a librarian, and I used to just write in my notebook standing up at tea time at tea time, or lunchtime. I get a lot of interruptions. A couple of years ago, my husband started working from home, which totally threw, you know, because I used to have the day to myself, to totally throw things. I do a lot of work at night. You know, after everyone’s gone to bed. I probably I don’t get anywhere near enough sleep. But you know, I’ve learned to cope with it over the years. It’s just an old regardless just an extension of having children, you know, when they’re little you don’t get enough sleep when they’re old you’re writing. So yeah, it’s just not thinking, you know, I know people have special desks and proper routines. As long as I’m doing, you know, sort of getting a couple of hours a day. I think I’m doing all right. And then there are days when I do nothing, but you know, I have to get up and make lunch tea, and the the only Brexit tack, and particularly when you’re heading towards a deadline, like publishing or maybe you’ve got to get something to the editor in time. Then everything else goes the housework goes. My mother said, don’t worry about housework. This is years ago, it’ll always be there tomorrow. And that’s true.

Richard Lowe  19:34

Do you get writer’s block? And if you do, what do you do about it?

Catherine Meyrick  19:38

I generally don’t get writer’s block because I’m not at it. You know, the whole time. If I find I’m having difficulty writing something, I just write a note about what I want. And then I start writing the bit I want to write and I’ll come back later and and sometimes I just write rubbish and because I’m just Getting something down. It doesn’t have to be perfect. There’ll be 15 Other revisions of it, and I’ll get there in the end. That’s just the way I look at it. It’s just, you know, it’ll work out. I think it’s when you start stressing over it that it becomes a big thing.

Richard Lowe  20:18

Yeah, I understand. Well, I do writing for a living, so I can’t afford writer’s block. And I have to write at a high pace, like 10,000 words a day sometimes. So that’s, I understand. Yeah, he’s just writer’s block. What’s that? You know?

Catherine Meyrick  20:36

Yeah. It’s, um, well, it’s almost like a luxury.

Richard Lowe  20:41

Yeah. I mean, if you were in a job and you got job block, would you stop? I mean, would your your boss say?

Catherine Meyrick  20:48

Yes, I can imagine that.

Richard Lowe  20:51

Today, boss, sorry. Oh, yes,

Catherine Meyrick  20:53

we have a few of them, people will start to take up what we call sick. He says sick days. Mental Health days is the day where you just don’t want to go to work. But I’ve never had them. No, no.

Richard Lowe  21:10

All right. What is your favorite thing about being an author?

Catherine Meyrick  21:16

Um, I think what, what I mentioned earlier, people telling me they’ve enjoyed what I’ve written. And I think there’s immense satisfaction to say, you know, look at something like, when you’ve got got a physical book, they think I did all that, you know, that somehow out of my head, I ended up with, with something physical that people could look at, and read, and it will take them somewhere else. I think, looking at the book, and having people tell me, they loved it. I had one woman state, her review started or ended with, you have to go out now and buy this book for yourself and for every person in your sphere of influence. And I thought you’re wonderful. Enjoyed it?

Richard Lowe  22:05

So you’ve published it in paperback? And on the Kindle?

Catherine Meyrick  22:07

Yes, yeah. I was originally intending only to do an ebook, because I thought that was all I was capable of. But then just looking around and going on forums and seeing what other people said, and it just didn’t seem that difficult to make that extra step. And you know, like, of course, the ebooks sell a lot more. But yeah, I sell a lot more ebooks. But the, you know, this is deadly number of people buying the paperback. It’s not I haven’t tried publishing it into selling it into physical book shops. It’s very difficult. And I haven’t quite had the time. I am aiming those who get it into as many local libraries as, as I can. We have this brilliant thing here called public lending, right. So if you’ve got your book in about 50 libraries, the government will actually pay you a small it’s equivalent of a single ebook royalty on all books that did renewal in libraries. And I think that’s great. So it’s already in about six. So we’re going off on holidays, and we’re not coming back. I’m going to I’m going to start working on that.

Richard Lowe  23:26

Have you thought about putting it in audiobook format?

Catherine Meyrick  23:31

Not yet. I thought about it, but it’s a bit much to one step at a time. Yeah, I didn’t think too about large print. But then, because I know I’m sure a lot of like working in a library, I’m sure it’s something a lot of older people, you know, older ladies would like. But a lot of them like the large print format, but that will require a bit of reformatting. And it will need a different, you know, different size cover. And at present I’ve been working really hard on on revising my next book. So that’s just fallen by the wayside at the moment. Okay.

Richard Lowe  24:14

Do you have any tips for our viewers about writing?

Catherine Meyrick  24:18

Well, I think the starting point is read. Just read everything. Read classics, read, rubbish. Read in your favorite genre, read outside, read the latest things. And then once you you know, and keep reading. It just astounds me people who don’t read much. Yeah, people who work with words who really don’t read because it does it you find things you see the way people do things. You learned so much about writing from reading, but it’s also important to take a few courses you don’t have to get a Masters of creative writing. But you know, most of those are run by People with some experience if you go to legitimate places, our council about adult education runs courses. And that’s where I did my initial ones, courses on crud on on publishing, I did those through the Romance Writers in Australia, they have these online courses. And that’s where I got the confidence to, to actually go ahead and publish as Nabal. I’ve found more about publishing as a paperback from, you know, forums and things like that. And I think also, it’s good too. You need a good editor, too. And sometimes you get and re BETA readers. But I think people will say two things about it that you don’t like, they’ll give you advice, like cut that first scene, it doesn’t do anything. That was something that was said to me about forsaking all other you know, nothing happens. And I will, I was arguing to myself, well, it’s, it’s no different from the first scene and Gone With the Wind, nothing happens in that I just sit around talking. When several people say, you know, there’s a problem. And so I cut it, and it’s much better for it. You know, it’s, you don’t have to do it as soon as you give him the advice, but always think about advice about criticism, when two or three people so there’s something there.

Richard Lowe  26:29

Okay, okay. Well, it’s been it’s been fun talking to you. Do you have any closing remarks?

Catherine Meyrick  26:34

Um, no, I just like to thank you for giving me this opportunity. And anyone that listens to this that’s bought my book, I’d like to thank you for buying it and I hope you really enjoyed it.

Richard Lowe  26:45

It’s been fun. I enjoyed doing these interviews, meeting other authors and things. Well, thank you. Okay, well, thank you for coming to the show. And for all the viewers out there. This is the this is a twice weekly interview. So if you want to subscribe, hit the button down below and you can subscribe to this video. Thank you for watching.

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Marie Ó Rourke

I so enjoyed the interview. I ordered the paperback edition of Forsaking All Others and it arrived the other day. I am looking forward to starting it this weekend.