Welcome, Catherine, and huge congratulations on winning the RNA’s 2021 Goldsboro Books Historical Romantic Novel Award!
When did a love of books turn into a desire to actually write them?
It was probably when I realised that Georgette Heyer should have written at least another hundred books, and I started to play around with story ideas. I don’t claim to have even a smidgen of her wit, but it was her books that made me fall in love with the whole world of Regency Romance. My very first idea was of a character that was like The Grand Sophy, but different. Like Sophy, she was moving to relatives in London having been raised abroad by an easygoing father. Unlike Sophy though, she was introverted, and her new relatives were less than welcoming. Those initial jottings became Waltzing with the Earl, my first novel.
When did you get your first break into publishing?
I had no idea about the publishing industry. I didn’t know about competitions, or the RNA, or agents, or writers’ groups none of it. Once I had the manuscript into reasonable form, I simply sent off query letters to four publishers, including Harlequin Mills & Boon.
Three came back with a ‘no’, but the lovely Julia Williams at Mills and Boon picked up my book from the slush pile and, after some edits, offered me a two-book contract! Waltzing then went on to win the prestigious Rita® Award in the USA. It was a finalist in two categories – ‘Best Historical’ and ‘Best First Book’ and it won the historical section, where it was up against some wonderful books by very experienced writers. I went to the US for the awards ceremony, and afterwards Tessa Dare asked for a selfie with me! It still seems like a dream.
What does being a member of the RNA mean to you?
I love the sense of community and mutual support. There’s never a feeling of competition not even on the night of the RoNA Awards! Some of the women in the RNA Irish Chapter are good friends of mine now, and we’ve been encouraging each other to keep writing during the pandemic. I’d like to thank Ruth Long and Suzanne Hull, our chapter coordinators, for doing such a great job.
Why did you choose Regency as your preferred era?
It kind of chose me! I’ve been reading romance since I was a teenager, but I’ve always been drawn to historical settings. Between Georgette Heyer and the BBC Pride & Prejudice, I succumbed, and have been a Regencyite ever since.
What do you want your readers to have gained from reading a Catherine Tinley novel?
I want them to be carried away by a story, feel all the feels, then feel good uplifted and hopeful by the end. Surely that’s not too much to ask lol? I generally write ‘quiet’ stories set among families and tight-knit communities, rather than action adventures or comedies. Yes, sometimes there are passages or events that are dramatic or funny, but mostly I try to make the world and the people very real to readers.
Your work has been described as ‘unputdownable’ and you have won awards, including this year’s RoNA Award for Best Historical Romance, so what are your future writing ambitions?
I just want to keep writing, and I’d like readers to keep enjoying my books. Everything else is a bonus. I was genuinely shocked when I won the RoNA recently for Rags-to-Riches Wife, as there were nine great finalists. However I do know that many readers particularly enjoyed that book. I deal with class issues, bereavement, and recovery from previous trauma, so I somehow managed to pack a lot in there. Jane, my heroine, is a lady’s maid who visits wealthy relatives and suddenly finds herself sitting in drawing-rooms rather than kitchens. No-one ever asked Cinderella if she was uncomfortable adapting to her new status and surroundings. Jane has a lot of challenges to face before she gets her happy-ever-after!
What advice would you give your younger, unpublished self?
Just keep writing, I guess. I was never particularly hung up on the idea of being published, although of course I hoped for it. For me, the pleasure is always in the writing itself.
How have you coped/worked through lockdown?
I work full-time in the NHS, so the past year has been challenging in many ways. My colleagues are amazing, but we’re all bone-weary at this point. I manage a large maternity service and neonatal unit, and those babies just kept coming, pandemic or no pandemic! We’ve adapted to PPE, social distancing, covid testing, and a million other things, and we’ve tried to be flexible and responsive to women’s (and partners’) needs.
When not writing what do you do to relax?
Writing is my relaxing. I’m usually too tired to write in the evenings after work, so my writing is done on weekends and days off. I find it totally relaxing to return to my created world and my beloved characters. It’s mindfulness on stilts! I also love walking with my family (and our wee dog, Carey) in local beauty spots, including the Fairy Glen and Kilbroney, CS Lewis’s inspiration for Narnia, apparently.
What is next for Catherine?
My next book, Captivating the Cynical Earl, will be out in July, plus I’m half-way through writing the one after. It’s set in the Hebrides in 1810 so lots of research involved. I’m going to keep writing, for as long as readers want to read my books. Simple as!
My sincere thanks to you and your amazing NHS colleagues who have worked so hard to look after us throughout the pandemic.
I wish you every continued success!