About the author
Cathy is an author, journalist and hopeless romantic who wrote her first book at the tender age of six. Entitled Tarka the Otter, it was a shameless rip-off of the Henry Williamson classic of the same name, and the manuscript was lost after she sent it to her pen-pal and never heard a jot from her since.
Fortunately reception to her writing became more favourable and she spent ten years working for a range of newspapers and magazines covering everything from general elections and celebrity scandals to cats stuck up trees and village fetes. She has been freelance since 2011 and written for The Telegraph, Red Online, Total Women’s Cycling and other lifestyle and cycling publications and websites.
She is the author of three non-fiction books and her debut and thankfully non-plagiarised novel Summer at Hollyhock House has been published by Sapere Books.Cathy lives on the leafy London/Surrey border with her husband, two children and a dog with only two facial expressions, hungry and guilty. Her hobbies include mountain biking, photography, wandering around outside getting lost, fantasising about getting her garden under control, reading, looking at pretty things on Instagram and drinking tea.
So, let's get started and find out a little more about Cathy and her writing.
Hello Cathy, thank you for joining us. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Yes I can! I’m Cathy and I’m the author of Summer at Hollyhock House, which is my first novel. I’m also the author of three non-fiction books and a journalist who has written for publications including The Telegraph. I work part-time as content editor for a creative non-profit called Girl Effect, and the rest of the time I write books, features and various other bits and pieces, and hang out with my two daughters and dog.
I’m a keen cyclist and love all forms and disciplines, from road racing to BMX. I’m also a total nature nerd and bookworm.
What inspires you to write?
I can honestly say I’m not so much inspired to write as compelled. I’ve been writing stories since I knew what writing was, and I was probably telling stories even before that much like my daughters tell me stories now. The written word has always been my most authentic form of communication – I’m a much more eloquent writer than I am conversationalist! In terms of the types of stories I like to tell, I draw inspiration from human relationships – how we connect, interact and communicate with one another – and the natural world.
What is a typical writing day for you?
I don’t yet write novels full-time so much of my writing days are spent writing for Girl Effect or for various publications or clients. In terms of novel-writing, a typical writing day could quite easily look like me sitting down to write at 8am and not getting up other than to make tea, eat or go to the toilet, until 2am the following morning. I could do that for days on end! If I’m really caught up in the story I’m telling I find it hard to do anything but write.
But nobody can sustain that form of creative flow long-term, and at other times it’s more about squeezing in an hour here and there around the day-job, or sitting down to write once the children are in bed.
Where is your favourite place to write?
At my kitchen table. I sit in the same chair, facing the room with the radiator at my back and the dog at my feet. From here I can see out of the French windows into our small and rather overgrown garden, and I can also see the unholy mess that is our kitchen most of the time but I choose to ignore it. The garden is a much nicer view!
Do you have any writing rituals or good luck charms?
Other than a preference for the kitchen table and a nonstop supply of tea, I actually don’t have any rituals or superstitions. I’m not the most organised person so I doubt I could even maintain a habit or ritual!
What authors, genres do you like to read?
By far my favourite genre is the genre I write – contemporary women’s fiction, or chick lit as many call it. I don’t really object to the label chick lit, I know it carries meaning and is generally meant as pejorative or dismissive, but to me it’s intelligent, emotionally literate fiction that accurately reflects the reality of women’s lives. There are heaps of sub-genres within chick lit but the books I favour have emotional depth and focus on everyday issues many women face, things like motherhood, addiction, depression, balancing work and family, health issues and so on. I absolutely adore Marion Keyes, to me she’s the perfect example of an incredibly intelligent and thoughtful writer who brings warmth and humour to very real issues that real women face.
I read a huge amount of non-fiction and find it so life-enhancing. I learned pretty much everything I know from books! Nature writing is a big favourite of mine and I hope to explore my own nature writing more in the future.
What are you currently reading?
I read very quickly and borderline compulsively – I don’t like to put a book down once I’ve started so if I were currently reading something I’d have finished it before I came to answer this question! Most recently I read Girlfriend, Interrupted by Patricia Caliskan, My Boxed-Shaped Heart by Rachael Lucas and Together by Julie Cohen, all of which I unreservedly recommend, and I have Somewhere Beyond the Sea by Miranda Dickinson, The Year of Surprising Acts of Kindness by Laura Kemp and Forgive Me Not by Samantha Tonge closest to me on the TBR. I also have a few non-fic on the go, the titles of which are rather compromising so I won’t elaborate, but recent non-fic I really enjoyed include Owl Sense by Miram Darlington, Sensation by Isabel Losada, and Sorted: The Active Women’s Guide to Health by Dr Juliet McGrattan.
I now have a great list of new authors to look into and more books that will be added to my TBR.
How did you come up with the idea for Summer at Hollyhock House?
I became really preoccupied with thinking about my teenage years. The people I knew, the places I went, the music I listened to, the things I did. I was going through a time of deep personal change and reflection and for various reasons my teenage years rose to the forefront as a significant time. I got really fixated on the choices I made back then and wondering what would have happened if I made different choices.
And from that place came Summer at Hollyhock House, which was essentially a question about how the connections we make during our formative years endure into adulthood.
I wondered what would happen if people we thought we’d left behind – or even chosen to leave behind – came back into our lives and what that would mean for us. How much of us is connected to those people whether we want to be or not. And out of this came a love story that made me so happy and filled me with so much poignant, bittersweet nostalgia and joy, that I knew it deserved to be share with the world.
Has romance always been your genre of choice?
For novel writing, yes. I used to write rip-roaring pony adventures in my early teens but they gravitated into romance from about the age of 14. I have always been fascinated by the human connection and romance is a pretty defining one.
What’s next for Cathy Bussey? Do you have a new WIP?
I think there are more stories to be told about Hollyhock House and the people within and around it. I also have a WIP that is set in Streatham in London and is very different and quite ambitious, but hopefully one day I will manage to find a way to pull it off. And I would also like to write more non-fiction and have a crack at nature writing. As I grow and change so too will the stories I tell – I hope to still be writing when I’m 90!
I will be looking forward to more Hollyhock House stories in the future.
Thank you for stopping by and spending some time with us on The Burgeoning Bookshelf.
One long summer changed Faith forever…
Faith Coombes should have been over the moon when her long-term boyfriend proposed to her. But instead, she broke up with him. Rob was safe, reliable, nice and … boring. Nothing like the only person who had ever broken her heart…
Unable to afford the rent on another flat and desperate for a new start, Faith takes the plunge and moves back to the village she grew up in, returning to the house that holds so many memories for her.
Hollyhock House, the family home of her best-friend Minel, also belongs to the boy who meant so much to her all those years ago…
As Faith falls back in love with the sprawling surroundings at Hollyhock she also finds herself falling all over again for the only person who has truly hurt her.
Can Faith come to terms with her past? Did she make the wrong decision in breaking up with Rob?
Or does her heart really lie at Hollyhock House?
Summer at Hollyhock House is a charming romantic comedy full of lost loves, missed opportunities and second chances. This summer read, perfect for the holidays, will have you laughing-out-loud in parts, close to tears in others, and above all, championing Faith as she searches for what is most important to her.
*Cathy's novel Summer at Hollyhock House is published by Sapere Books and can be purchased here
Check out the other posts and reviews on the Summer at Hollyhock House blog tour.