Today the lovely Cathy Ace talks about her start in writing, her garden and the Cait Morgan series
When did you start writing, and why?
I was one of those children to whom their teacher says, ‘I asked for an essay, not a book!’, so I think I’ve always enjoyed writing. Indeed, I’ve been fortunate to have an entire career built on it in advertising, public relations, and training. My criminal side took a while to emerge; the first short story with a criminal bent I ever wrote was called ‘Dear George’. It was written in a car park in 1987, in about an hour and a half.
Well, I’d been waiting to collect my sister at Gatwick airport, and her flight was delayed. I bought a magazine (I’d forgotten to carry a book – what an admission!) and the one I chose had a headline: ‘Murder, and be published!’. A couple of months later, in the middle of my workday as a sales person for a label-printing company, I left the HQ of one of my clients (Marks & Spencer) on Baker Street in London, and sat in my car in the multi-storey car park writing my short story entry to the magazine’s competition on a notepad. Fast forward a few months, and I was somewhat taken aback when I received a letter to say the story – DEAR GEORGE – would, indeed, be published in an anthology called MURDER AND COMPANY, alongside stories by ‘real’ authors. I was pleased, excited a little, but I’d just remortgaged my flat to be able to set up my own business, so it was a bit of a frisson rather than a ‘this could change my life’ moment. The same short story was then (in 1990) included in another anthology called THRILLERS, which was created for the GCSE English Language syllabus…which blew me away. By the time I was approached by Martin Jarvis and Rosalind Ayres in 2007 asking if they could produce the story for BBC Radio 4, I had sold my business, migrated to Canada, and had written nine marketing textbooks, which had been published around the world. DEAR GEORGE was first broadcast on July 9th 2007 – my family in Swansea listened to it there, while I listened in Canada…it was a special moment. Sadly, my father died soon afterwards, and I decided that if I was going to write fiction I’d better get on with it. So I Indie-published a collection of short stories, then a collection of novellas, and my first novel (The Corpse With The Silver Tongue) was traditionally published in March 2012.
Is there anything you wouldn’t write about?
Extreme violence, torture, detailed forensics, graphic sexual interactions, military-type activities, action scenes or chases: I don’t think I’d be good at writing about any of these, though I do read them. All that being said, I reserve the right to write about the threat of any/all of them, or the psychological/after-effects of any/all of them.
What do you like to do to relax when not writing?
Since March 2020 I’ve put a fair amount of time and effort into redecorating the house…I dare say I am not alone in this! However, my real passion is gardening. Having five acres to look after means I’m gardening on a scale I couldn’t have imagined earlier in my life, but I love it. Our home is half-way up a little mountain in south-western British Columbia, so our climate is virtually the same as it would be if I lived at the top of Kilvey Hill, in Swansea. Over the past twenty years we’ve planted dozens of roses, hundreds of rhododendrons, hydrangea, and hibiscus (hardy varieties only), as well as many other flowering plants you’d see in any Welsh garden. We’ve also planted a couple of hundred Japanese maples, of many different varieties, as well as other deciduous ornamentals (we’re fortunate to already have a fabulous variety of mature evergreens, many of which are a couple of hundred feet tall). Though it’s hard work, I find it incredibly relaxing (well, okay then, I find the gardening hard, but the sitting in the hot tub with a beer afterwards incredibly relaxing!).
Who is your favourite of your characters, why and in which books do they appear?
Whomever I am writing about at the time – and that happens to be Cait Morgan. I’m currently writing the tenth book in Cait Morgan Mysteries series; they’re all written in the first person, from the point of view of Cait Morgan who (like me) was born and raised in Swansea, went to Cardiff University but then (unlike me) went on to Cambridge to gain her Masters degree in criminal psychology. She’s transferred to the University of Vancouver (based on a synthesis of two universities in the area where I taught upon my own arrival in Canada) where she’s now a professor, specializing in research into victim profiling. She’s been to the same schools as me, enjoys the same food and drink that I do (and, trust me, if she eats or drinks something in a book, I have thoroughly researched said victuals myself!) and is short and overweight, like me. She has habits and abilities, however – and a dark background – that I do not personally possess, so she’s not ‘me’. But I like the way she’s bossy – but fragile, always right – until she’s wrong, and thinks quite snarky thoughts – but tries her best to edit her tongue. She first appeared in three short stories in Murder Keeps No Calendar, then in a novella in Murder Knows No Season, prior to these soon-to-be-ten novels (The Corpse With The Iron Will will be published in May 2021). A strange thing is happening at the moment: I’m having conversations about who will play Cait Morgan in the television movies that are going to be made of the books (by Free@LastTV, who make the Agatha Raisin series) – since she’s so similar to me it’s a bit like trying to cast myself! And, no, we’re not considering Meryl Streep – she can play almost anything, but I really, really want a Welsh woman to play Cait!
Who is your least favourite of your characters, why and in which books do they appear?
To be honest, every book I’ve written contains characters I’d prefer not to break bread with, but I think the one I grew to hate the most as I was writing him was Bob Thistlewaite, the ex-husband of one of the three women of the Jones family who run a pub called The Dragon’s Head in the village of Rhosddraig, in The Wrong Boy. This is a book of suspense, and every character has their secrets, so it’s difficult for me to say too much about the character here, because folks might not have read the book yet, and his role in it is small, but critical. Suffice to say, he richly deserves what happens to him. By the way, The Wrong Boy has also been optioned for TV, to be broadcast as a three-part miniseries in both Welsh and English, so I’ll be very curious to see who they cast for this character.
Tell us about your last book…
The Corpse With The Crystal Skull was published in June 2020, and I’m delighted with how well it’s been received. There hadn’t been a new Cait Morgan mystery since 2017, so I was a bit nervous about the long break between books (I’d been contracted to write the third and fourth books in my WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries, so Cait took a rest for a while) but I shouldn’t have worried, it seems. This ninth book in the series gave me a chance to take Cait and her husband Bud to Jamaica (each Cait Morgan Mystery is set in a different country) and I actually finished writing the book when I was in the Caribbean…in February and March 2020 when, as we all know now, the world was going to Hell in a handbasket! While editing the book, back in Canada in lockdown, I thoroughly enjoyed reliving the food, drink and HEAT I was missing (and still am). It led the Toronto Star to include this in its review, about me: ‘…more than adept at the Christie thing…’ and in The Jury Box (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine) they said ‘……a mystery involving pirates’ treasure, lust, and greed. Cait unravels the locked-tower mystery using her eidetic memory and her powers of deduction, which are worthy of Hercule Poirot…’ which thrilled me no end!
Here’s the back-cover blurb: Welsh Canadian globetrotting sleuth, and professor of criminal psychology, Cait Morgan, is supposed to be “celebrating” her fiftieth birthday in Jamaica with her ex-cop husband Bud Anderson. But when the body of the luxury estate’s owner is discovered locked inside an inaccessible tower, Cait and her fellow guests must work out who might have killed him – even if his murder seems impossible. Could the death of the man who hosted parties in the 1960s attended by Ian Fleming and Noël Coward be somehow linked to treasure the legendary Captain Henry Morgan might have buried at the estate? Or to the mission Bud and his secret service colleagues have been sent to the island to undertake?
What’s coming next…
The Corpse With The Iron Will, due to be published in May 2021. There’s no back-cover blurb yet (!!) but this time Cait and Bud find their next-door neighbour dead – so, whilst it is absolutely NOT a pandemic book, it does allow me to consider how a globe-trotting sleuth might feel about a murder/murders so close to home…and all of us have reassessed our perspectives of what ‘home’ means to us over the last year, I believe. Besides, I have to keep reminding myself that, as an author who’s enticed readers with the promise of armchair travel as well as a classic, closed-circle, puzzle-plot mystery to solve, I (and Cait!) live in an area many would like to travel to…the pristine wilderness of beautiful British Columbia, a rain forest with fascinating flora, fauna, foods, history, and art. If you want to be updated about my progress please follow me on
Facebook, here: https://www.facebook.com/Cathy-Ace-Author-318388861616661 or
Twitter, here: @AceCathy
Cathy Ace’s Welsh Canadian criminal psychologist sleuth Cait Morgan encounters traditional, closed-circle whodunits around the world, while her WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries feature a quartet of soft-boiled female PIs who solve more cozy cases from their office at a Welsh stately home. Her standalone suspense novel, The Wrong Boy, has been optioned for TV (as have her Cait Morgan Mysteries). Shortlisted for Canada’s Bony Blithe Award three times in four years, winning in 2015, she’s also won IPPY and IBA Awards, and has been shortlisted for an Arthur Ellis Award. Cathy lives in Canada, having migrated from Wales aged 40.
Thank you Cathy. The Wrong Boy was the first of Cathy’s books that I read and knowing the area in which it is set, I found it very evocative not just of the place, but the people too.
Tomorrow, we meet Evonne Wareham.