Previously in this series: Agent | Ghostwriter | UK Editor | Library Assistant | Publicity Assistant | Typesetter | Cover Designer | Foreign Rights Manager |Blogger |Scout |Translators | Book charity | Copyeditor | Journalist | US Editor | Scholastic Book Fair Product Manager
I am resurrecting an old blog series where I interview different people involved in the publishing industry, behind the scenes of the books. One of my oldest writing friends,
Catherine Doyle, has a new book out. Cat and I met because we have the same agent, and got our book deals around the same time – me for The Next Together, and Cat for Vendetta, the first book in her Mafia-based YA romance trilogy.
We were both newbies in the publishing industry, and it was so incredibly reassuring having someone in the same position to me to talk to. I can honestly say I wouldn’t be the author I am today without Cat. She’s one of my first and most trusted beta readers.
Cat’s next book The Storm Keeper’s Island is the first in a Middle Grade series, and I am absolutely fascinated by the difference in crossing over to a new audience in a different genre – so I’m bring back this series just so I can be really nosy and ask her lots of questions.
To start, can you tell us a little bit about your books, both YA and MG?
The YA Blood for Blood trilogy (Vendetta, Inferno and Mafiosa) is about a seventeen-year-old girl from the Chicago suburbs called Sophie Gracewell, who ends up at the centre of a blood war deep in the Sicilian underworld. When she falls for a mysterious boy in her neighbourhood, she tumbles head first into a dangerous society that holds the untold secrets of both her family’s past and her true identity. It’s a mix of romance, danger and intrigue, with a strong female friendship at its core.
The Storm Keeper’s Island is the story of eleven-year-old Fionn Boyle, who is sent to stay on the remote island of Arranmore with a grandfather he’s never met, when his mother falls ill one summer. When Fionn sets foot on the island, an ancient magic begins to stir, and he soon finds himself at the heart of a race to become the island’s next champion – a Storm Keeper who can wield the elements of earth, wind, water and fire. But the island isn’t the only one who has been waiting for Fionn. Deep beneath the jagged cliffs or Arranmore, an ancient enemy has been waiting too. It is up to him to ensure she doesn’t rise again and wreak havoc on the world. It’s a story about adventure and family, memory and magic, and a wild, untameable sea.
Was writing a middle grade novel different from writing a Young Adult novel? Which was easier? Which do you prefer?
I didn’t find the process of writing these stories all that different – I was still focusing on character development and plot progression and trying to keep the chapters as pacey as possible. I think I prefer writing Fionn’s story because it is replete with possibility. As an author, there is just something undeniably fun about creating your own system of wild magic, and letting your imagination run riot with it.
Do you think there are any topics that are ‘off limits’ for MG? Is there anything that younger readers can’t handle?
Children are intelligent and curious and empathetic. They live in the same world that we do, and see and hear much more than we might think. I would say very few topics are ‘off limits’ provided they are handled with care and sensitivity, and an awareness of the age of the reader.
Do you think there is a trend for magical MG at the moment? What is so special about this type of book? What do you hope to see happen in Children’s publishing in the future?
Magical middle grade novels have always been popular, and I can certainly see why. There’s something very freeing and exciting about stories that leap into the unknown, that stretch your imagination to its limits and look at the world through a slightly sparklier lens. They’ve always been my favourite kinds of stories.
I would love to see even more stories that have been inspired by different cultures, and in particular, magical stories that play on the myths and legends of the countries in which they’re set. Rick Riordan’s new publishing imprint seems to be focusing on this – and I can’t wait to read the books he’s championing this year. My next read is Aru Sha and The End Of Time.
Where do you see your writing going in the future? Do you want to carry on writing MG?
For now, my heart is definitely in Middle Grade Fiction. In fact, it’s still on Fionn’s island – and it will be there for another three books at least!
What are some of your favourite children’s books now and from your childhood?
As a child, I loved the Chronicles of Narnia, Artemis Fowl and Harry Potter – anything with a sweeping adventure and a whole lot of magic!
My favourite recent children’s books include Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell, the Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend, and the Knights of the Borrowed Dark series by Dave Rudden. I’ve also just read and loved both The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson and Hello Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly.
What are you proudest of in your career?
Selling the book of my heart to Bloomsbury and watching it set sail into the world.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to get into publishing?
Be brave, be resilient and remember – the true magic is in the editing, not the first draft!
As someone who has written YA books set in the US, your MG shifts to an island off the coast of Ireland. Was this intentional?
I had been wanting to write a book closer to home for some time, but it took a while for the right story to materialise. The Storm Keeper’s Island is set on Arranmore, the island where my grandparents were born, grew up and fell in love. It’s inspired by Irish myths and legends as well as the real-life daring sea rescues of my great grandfather, so it is grounded in an authentic personal and cultural background, which makes it feel particularly special to me.
Cat and me as members of One Direction with Alice Oseman, Melinda Salisbury and Sara Barnard, as drawn by Alice.
Catherine Doyle grew up in the West of Ireland. She holds a first-class BA in Psychology and a first-class MA in Publishing. She is the author of the Young Adult Blood for Blood trilogy (Vendetta, Inferno and Mafiosa), which is often described as Romeo and Juliet meets the Godfather. It was inspired by her love of modern cinema. Her debut Middle Grade novel, The Storm Keeper’s Island (Bloomsbury, 2018), is an adventure story about family, bravery and self-discovery. It is set on the magical island of Arranmore, where her grandparents grew up, and is inspired by her ancestors’ real life daring sea rescues.
Aside from more conventional interests in movies, running and travelling, Catherine also enjoys writing about herself in the third-person