CD: You’re welcome, there’s nothing better than a good chat.
BCC: Your upcoming novel, Friends Like Us, is to be released 3rd September this year. Can you tell my readers a bit about it?
CD: Well it’s about four women who have been friends since primary school, but who have all gone their separate ways. When they meet up again in their 30s, one of the women, Bel, has become a snapper (a press photographer for a tabloid newspaper) and is trying to make it in the macho world of the paparazzi. I wanted to write about friendship, but also about privacy and the cult of celebrity. It’s Bel’s job that brings the women’s relationship to crisis point. Actually I wanted to call the book ‘Snapper’ but I was told this sounded more like a book about a fish.
BCC: What are you working on now?
CD: A fictionalized account of two Edwardian baby farmers, who were the first women to be hung at Holloway Prison, in 1903. Baby farmers were women who looked after or adopted ‘illegitimate’ babies, usually finding their customers by putting adverts in newspaper miscellaneous columns. My heroine is a young music hall star who turns to the baby farmers for help. It’s a bit of a ghost story too, and about a modern day woman’s search for her roots.
BCC: You regularly write for The Independent. Is it difficult to switch from writing as a journalist to writing as a novelist?
CD: Oh, yes, good question. There are days when I switch from one to the other and back again in the space of an hour. Sometimes I pick up the phone and can’t remember which world I’m in. As a journalist it’s all about trying to get things right – so it’s a relief to write fiction and be able to make things up. Although, you have to get things right in fiction too of course.
BCC: As well as your novels, Black Mulberries and Friends Like Us, you also wrote your memoirs about your time in Africa, Place of Reeds. Which did you find easier to write, the non-fiction, which came from real experiences or the fiction which came from imagination?
CD: Fiction is easier, definitely. You would think that with a memoir it would be easy as you’re just writing about things that have already, and actually, happened. But half way through I went to the doctor and asked to be referred for cognitive behavioural therapy. Never underestimate the power of writing…
BCC: What do you enjoy most about writing?
CD: The beginning, I think, when I have an idea and I can just write what I like and see what happens and haven’t started worrying it might all be a load of rubbish.
BCC: How do you balance motherhood and writing?
CD: They fit together well now. And my own mum seemed to balance the two easily, and she had three kids. I work school hours; my daughter sees I love what I do, although she gets impatient when she doesn’t have my full attention. When she was a baby, and as a single parent, it was much harder. I had the mad idea that I could breastfeed her and type at the same time. Which I couldn’t.
BCC: Which authors do you like to read?
CD: There aren’t many really, I just pick up a book that looks interesting for some reason, it doesn’t matter who has written it. Books I really remember still years later are The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath, The Edible Woman, Margaret Atwood, A Small Place, Jamaica Kincaid, My Place, Sally Morgan, and Hell Hath No Fury, Ingrid Noll.
BCC: What are you reading at the moment?
CD: I got half way through The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson, before it reduced me to tears because it was so nasty. I really trusted Larsson until that point, and I really believed that he was trying to create a strong woman character.
I give up on books a lot. But I’ve just enjoyed Girl in the Blue Dress, Gaynor Arnold. Also I just finished From Your Daddy, Ann Franklin Bowes, the memoir of a woman who tries to trace the father who deserted her, and Bye Bye Baby, the story of the children the GIs left behind, by Pamela Winfield. Actually that’s pretty upsetting as well, but for totally different reasons.
BCC: Thanks Caitlin! It has been a pleasure to have you here on Book Chick City.
CD: It’s been a pleasure too.
If you wish to buy any of the books mentioned then please click the images above and they will take you straight to Amazon UK.