I’m excited to have Cathy Ace as my first interview for this website. Cathy Ace currently writes two cozy mystery series, one is The Cait Morgan Mysteries (TouchWood Editions) and The WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries (Severn House Publishers). I listed her as one of the authors that I thought should have a greater readership.
Share a little bit about your background.
I was born and raised in Wales, moved to London where I worked for almost twenty years, and migrated to Canada in 2000. I live just outside Vancouver, BC with my husband and two chocolate Labradors.
When did you decide to become a writer and when did you start writing?
After I graduated in psychology from university I worked in marketing and marketing communications, so I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had an entire life of being paid to write! Of course I was writing about all manner of things for many types of clients, so it wasn’t as though I was writing the sort of thing I read (which has been crime fiction for as long as I can recall) but at least I knew how to deliver against a deadline, as was proud to have nine textbooks published over the years.
I started to apply myself to writing fiction when a short story I’d had published back in the 1980s was produced for BBC Radio 4 in 2005; my father’s death in 2006 was another catalyst. I self-published two collections of short stories and novella by 2009, approached TouchWood Editions with those, and was invited to write a novel using the Cait Morgan character I’d introduced in those books. I was teaching at university when I wrote my first two Cait Morgan Mysteries, then decided to retire from that, my second career, so now I’m onto my third!
Tell us a little bit about both series.
The Cait Morgan Mysteries came first, and Cait’s pretty close to my heart. She shares a good deal of my background and, like me, she’s a Welsh Canadian psychologist. Unlike me, she applied her psychological training to criminology. She tackles traditional, closed-circle mysteries set in a different country in each book. She’s not exactly an amateur, but she sleuths in the books, rather than assisting the authorities. These books give me a chance to travel the world – again! I take Cait to places where I’ve either lived or worked for long periods of time…but this time I don’t have to pack (and neither do my readers!).
With the WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries I’ve been able to tackle a different “shape” of mystery and develop the setting which is a stately home in Wales and the nearby village of Anwen-by-Wye; these books feature a team of professional private investigators, all women – one is Welsh, one Irish, one Scottish and one English…hence “WISE” – but, because they are professionals, they are able to tackle cases that are brought to their door, rather than “happening” upon them, as in the Cait books.
Give us an insight into your main characters. How do you relate to them? What is special about them?
Cait is female, as are all the WISE Women. Of course there are male characters in each of the books – indeed, Cait wouldn’t be the person she is without the love and support of Bud Anderson – but I find it interesting to write female characters who are sharp, witty and insightful, as well as diligent and intelligent. I also enjoy writing about the different ways men and women interact and how relationships between men and women can be good, or otherwise, just as they can between women.
When it comes to what frames the personalities of my main characters, of course Cait is just one person, so she has to follow a certain life-path, and lives within a single psychological profile. She was forty-, happily single and proudly independent in the first book (she’s just facing fifty in book #8) but my WISE Women allow me to throw a group of women together who differ from each other quite markedly.
The WISE books allow me to consider how a team works – an all-female one at that: Carol Hill is in her mid-thirties, Welsh, happily married and pregnant – she’s come from a background working in the City of London where her marvelous technological skills have been put to good use heading up the computing services for a major multi-national company; Christine Wilson-Smythe is in her late twenties, fearless, gorgeous, has shown her brilliance as an Lloyds Underwriter and is the daughter of a land-rich, cash-poor Irish viscount; Mavis MacDonald is in her mid-sixties, a widowed, retired army nurse who’d worked her way up to become a matron and whose sons live with their families in her native Scotland; Annie Parker is sweating her way through her fifties – born in London she’s a true Cockney, the daughter of St. Lucian immigrants, who built a career as a receptionist in the City and reckons anywhere that’s not London isn’t a place worth being. They’ve been joined by the almost-octogenarian dowager duchess of Chellingworth, Althea Twyst, who’s invited them to enjoy the luxury of peppercorn rents for their homes and business premises on her family’s estate in Wales. They work so well as a team – they each have wisdom, patience and, yes, weaknesses. For me, seeing women work together is a wonderful thing.
I relate to each one of them in a different way – possibly Cait is closest to “me”, but the others all allow parts of me, and parts of women I’ve known throughout my personal and professional life, to shine through. Though I won’t tell a soul which ones!
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?
Oh heck, this is a tough one. I’m keenly aware that readers like to do this for themselves, so I try to not do it, because then I write with that person in my head. But I’ll tell you one thing…if I could cast Althea Twyst she’d either be Dame Judi Dench, or Pauline Collins.
Your characters travel to various places in The Cait Morgan Mystery series. You have traveled quite a bit too, what are your favorite places to visit?
Another tough one! Everywhere I’ve been has left a trace in my heart. The longer I’m away from Wales, the more I miss it…so would it be odd to say the place I miss most is the place I still, in my heart, call “Home”?
Which writers inspire you?
Too many to list, for too many reasons, and I’d leave some important ones out, so I daren’t begin. Overall, Agatha Christie and Sue Grafton. And Shakespeare! There – I’ll keep it simple.
What is your favorite book and why?
You’re going to hate me for this – I don’t have a favorite book, I have many. My mood, what sort of a read I want (make me cry, make me think, make me smile, scare me), where I am, what I’m doing…all these things make a certain type of book appeal to me at a certain time. I have books on my shelves that I’ve owned since I was a small child. They are my friends. They are all my favorites!
What book/s are you reading at present?
Ah – easier! I’m off to Bouchercon in September and I’m on a super panel…so I’m reading books by all my fellow panel members who are Martin Edwards, Claire Booth, Charlaine Harris, Ragnar Jonasson and GM Malliet. I’m a reader who prefers to have just one book on the go at one time, but sometimes life doesn’t allow for that, so I have two or three at different stages right now.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Reading, and knowing what type of book you enjoy, is, I believe, the best way to know what sort of book you’re most likely to be best at writing. If you don’t know, understand, and love a genre, I don’t think you’ll write well within it. Of course, there are genre-busting books, but the exceptions prove the rule, and readers who enjoy a genre will have their expectations when they come to a certain sort of book, and you can only disappoint those expectations if you overwhelm the reader with an extraordinary experience.
When it comes to the process of writing, and squeezing out those words, for some, joining a writing group will help, for others this doesn’t work. I honestly don’t think there’s a “right way” to develop as a writer, other than to write…so do whatever forces or allows you to do that.
What is your favorite social media site?
I like Facebook – it gives the chance to see, hear, watch, catch up with and comment. I find it takes me ages to write a Tweet…and I HATE editing!
Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
Cait Morgan Mystery #8 THE CORPSE WITH THE RUBY LIPS (set in Budapest) will be launched in paperback and e-book in Canada on October 17th, in the USA on November 1st.
THE CASE OF THE MISSING MORRIS DANCER, The WISE Enquiries Agency’s 2nd case, will be published at the end of August in trade paperback in the UK, available in the USA and Canada in November.
THE CURIOUS COOK, the third case for The WISE Enquiries Agency, will be launched in hardcover on November 1st in the UK, coming to the USA and Canada in March 2017.
How can readers discover more about you and your work?
Blog: 7 Criminal Minds (alternate Wednesdays) http://7criminalminds.blogspot.caand Killer Characters (22nd of each month) http://www.killercharacters.com/
Pinterest: Cathy Ace’s Mystery Board
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Cathy-Ace/e/B001HCYOWU/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1471876357&sr=8-1
Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.
My absolute delight – honoured to have been asked…yes, with the extra U!!!!!! Cathy x