Cathy Cassidy visited Charles Thorp Comprehensive School in February, to the delight of her fans. She gave a talk about her experiences with writing, inspiring all of the young minds in the audience, before personally meeting each and every one of them.
Pupils from primary schools all over the area were also greeted by the author and each had her book Coco Caramel signed.
In this interview, Cathy speaks about how a fan can spark up an idea for a character in a book, which out of all her stories was her favourite to write, and how her teenage son uses her fame to get the girls!
Where do you get your ideas for your characters?
My favourite places for ideas are events like this one when I look around the hall and even tiny things like a cheeky grin or a flower in somebody’s hair or an unusual name, any bits and pieces while signing books which gives me a trigger to start developing characters. Then sometimes the plots can evolve as well. Daydreaming is how it mostly unfolds.
So who would you say your favourite author is?
There are so many favourites now. When I was 16 or 17 JD Salinger was my favourite author because that is the type of book I read at the time. He is an American author who wrote for older teens and this was the first time I had come across a book on what it was like to be a teenager really. There are just so many amazing people writing YA fiction these day such as John Green and Meg Rosoff is fantastic!
Do you have any regrets looking back on your career?
No, not at all because I like doing lots of things. I’m glad I’ve been a magazine journalist, I’m glad to have been an illustrator and even glad to have been an agony aunt. It has all been very rewarding and there might be other careers for me as well , after the writing there could be all sorts of things for me to do so you just never know, I’m just the sort of person who likes having a go at lots of different things. All of the things I have done kind of all come together, the book writing all make sense from the other things I’ve done as well. I suppose being a waitress—I was a pretty rubbish waitress—I do regret that but I found out that even though I was rubbish at it I still had fun!
So did you become involved with Jacqueline Wilson on the Jackie Magazine?
No not really, I have only met Jacqueline Wilson twice even though she also used to work on the Jackie magazine for a couple of years I think. I was there in the mid 80’s so she’d long been gone by that time and wasn’t on my radar at all. Since becoming an author I have met her twice and she is very sweet and lovely as you would expect her to be. I have never really thought of saying to her about working on the Jackie magazine as well but when she worked there right in the beginning it must have been a very interesting place to work.
Do you prefer being a journalist or an author?
I have like all of the things I have done, all of them have been fun but I like this best of all because at the moment it is the right thing for me to do and it means that I can do all of the other things as well. If I want to do some drawings they might go in a book and I can do a magazine and it can go on the website—all of those types of things.
Which was your favourite book to write?
I think probably the first one Dizzy mainly because it was the first time I’d managed to write a book with a full story, before that I’d always stopped after the second or third chapter. It was a bit of a buzz to write a full length story in the first place. The other thing which was good about it was that there were no deadlines or pressure from editors to deliver because at the time I had no clue whether anyone would even want to publish it and I was just able to write it for the fun of it! With subsequent books you always have a deadline you have to meet with your editor on the phone going is it ready so it was nice to have written a first one with no pressure.
What do your children think about your books?
Well they were young teenagers, or not even teenagers when it started about 10 years ago. They’ve grown up with it in a way and have enjoyed it and taken it for granted. My son when he was 14/15 used to use it a little bit as a way to get to know girls. So girls from other schools would chatting and pointing saying “That’s Cathy Cassidy” and he would say “Come and meet her!” which I thought was quite funny. No—they just take it for granted. Neither of them they are interested in becoming authors themselves but they write songs– they’re musicians—so they are doing a different version of the writing thing.
What do you see yourself doing in 5 years time?
Who knows? Could be the same thing or it could be something totally different, I really can’t predict as I am so unpredictable. If I get to the point where I was fed up with it then I would have to stop and do something totally different but at the moment I am very happy writing books. There is no shortage of ideas and readers are really keen to like what I write so it’s kind of going well but we’ll see how it goes!
What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
The main advice would be to write every spare minute you have spare because the more you write the more you learn and the better you get at it. My top tips for a writer is on my website cathycassidy.com. If you click on the You section you can look on Writer’s Workshop and find all of the tips there as well as the writing competitions.
This story was featured in our first print edition which is available now in schools and by contacting Yasmine@bringingwords.org