Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Confessions of a mystery Cathy Ace

“How we’ve arrived where we are in our writing career.”

It’s good to start the year with a bit of contemplation about where one is in life, and this blog’s going to give me a chance to do that in terms of my “writing career”. In fact, I’ve found it a useful thing to do, as I’m at something of a turning point in said “career”. 

I’ve always written – as many people have. I just didn’t write fiction. Not for a living in any case. I wrote for my clients. Yes, I’m one of those people who made their living in marketing, advertising and public relations, turning out articles about cable ladders and stationery, electrophoresis equipment and software programs. I wrote copy for ads about jewelry and oil rig builders, bus advertising systems and real estate developers. I was extremely fortunate that I had the chance to write for a living for twenty years. Always to deadlines, always on behalf of clients. My career was in the broadest range of marketing communications, and I even had nine post-graduate and management textbooks published on various topics in the field while I was running my own marketing and marketing communications management training company.

As for writing fiction…well, it's what I've always read. I’d entered a short story competition entitled “Murder and be published” for a British women’s magazine called “Company” back in 1988 and was fortunate to be one of the winners whose work was, indeed, published. That short story, “Dear George”, was then picked up to appear in another anthology entitled “Thrillers” edited by John Foster and containing other tales by well-known authors like Ruth Rendell, Margery Allingham and Peter Lovesey (I was the only writer in there I hadn’t heard of!). The book was put on the syllabus for all 16 year-old English Language students in the UK – I was gobsmacked and delighted. I had also just set up my own business (this was in 1989) so I’m afraid that was it for me as far as fiction was concerned – I had to be content to be a “one shot wonder”.

In 2007 I received an email out of the blue from the wonderful British actor, Martin Jarvis. I was delighted that he and his equally talented wife, Rosalind Ayres, had discovered said short story and wanted to produce it for a BBC Radio 4 series entitled “Murder She Thought”, featuring short stories by “new” female mystery authors. By this time I had migrated from the UK to Canada, had sold my business, and was “giving back” as a marketing lecturer at Simon Fraser University, having been imported to Canada by the University of British Columbia to teach marketing on their MBA course. One of the proudest moments of my life was listening to Alex Kingston (yes – Dr. Corday from ER or, as I prefer to think of her, River Song from Doctor Who) perform my short story on the radio; I sat in Canada listening, while my mum and my sister listened in Wales. It was epic. Tears were involved. 

My father’s death, and the realization we aren’t immortal, allowed the idea of writing fiction to worm its way into my bereaved brain. I already had one short story which began (in the form of a diary) on January 1st, why not take that and run with it? So I wrote eleven more tales of murder to build a book entitled “Murder: Month by Month” with each of the twelve stories pivoting on one month of the year. I self-published it. Mum was beyond proud. Then I stretched myself and produced a collection of four novella entitled (you guessed it) “Murder: Season by Season”. 

With two self-published volumes to my name, and some encouraging sales figures, I approached a Vancouver Island publisher with my two books and a ransom note, begging them to “release my characters”. They asked for a novel manuscript featuring Cait Morgan (one of the recurring characters in my two self-published volumes), and that was published (after a tortuous period of time when I learned how long things take in the world of publishing) in March 2012 as the first Cait Morgan Mystery, “The Corpse with the Silver Tongue”. 

Since then I’ve had seven more Cait books published, have found myself an agent, and now have had three books published in a second series – the WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries feature four soft-boiled female private investigators who run their business out of a Welsh stately home. Book four in this series is what I’m working on right now, and it’s due to my publisher by the end of February 2017.

After that? Well, you’ll have to wait and see…this blog post is supposed to be about how we got to where we are today, not to take the chance to gaze into a crystal ball…stay tuned.


Art Taylor said...

I so very much enjoyed reading this, Cathy--what great milestones here, and I laughed at your comment that yours was the only name you'd never heard of in the anthology (something brilliant about that phrasing). Great good wishes on your continued success—and congrats on how much you've accomplished and how far you've come.

Unknown said...

You're such a dynamo, Cathy! Of course I'm staying tuned! :)

Dietrich Kalteis said...

I love that, approaching a publisher with your two books and a ransom note, begging them to release your characters.

Cathy Ace said...

Hi Art, milestones sometimes need to be acknowledge but sometimes we can only really see them in the rear-view mirror :-)

Cathy Ace said...

That's me, Rachel - I'm like one of those bunnies that run on batteries, though sometimes I need help changing the batteries for fresh ones :-)

Cathy Ace said...

I know, Dietrich, I did everything you're supposed to NOT do when approaching a publisher...but, hey, if it works... :-)

catriona said...

Blimey - look at that contents page!

Danny Gardner said...

Lovely account! <3

Kathy Reel said...

Cathy, is Thrillers available anywhere? I am guessing it's out of print, since I couldn't find it, but it would be a great anthology to have. I enjoyed reading how you came to where you are.