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Former Watford Observer columnist wins book deal
Sharpening her wit and wisdom in the Watford Observer every week has paid off for former columnist Catherine Cain. Writing under her married name Kate Griffin, she has won a prestigious competition with London lifestyle bible Stylist magazine and her prize is a book deal with leading publicists Faber and Faber.
Eight months ago Kate entered the competition to find a new crime fiction writer and publish their first novel. Entrants were asked to pen 6,000 words of a crime novel featuring a female protagonist and Kate’s compelling story Kitty Peck And The Music Hall Murders was plucked from 364 manuscripts.
Kate, 49, grew up in Watford and attended Westfield School and then studied English at Royal Holloway College. She has lived in St Albans for the past six years.
She worked in the editorial department of the Watford Observer from 1989 to 1996 before joining Hertsmere Council as a press officer. She began her opinion column in 2004 but stopped writing it earlier this year to concentrate on creative writing.
“Doing that column every week was very good practice, having to come up with an idea from nothing and hone the way you write and find oblique ways into something. Now writing fiction I just relax into it as a form of escapism and I quite like being in control of a little world.“
Readers may remember Kate’s regular features on the history of Watford’s old buildings.
“I did a series to bring them to people’s attention. I always knew I wanted to work in the heritage area,“ says Kate, who now works as a press officer for the Society For The Protection of Ancient Buildings.
Kate tells me how her work has inspired her writing.
“My book is set in a Victorian music hall and Wilton’s Music Hall in the East End is within walking distance of my office. It’s a beautiful listed building and we conducted a heritage campaign to save it.
“The character of Kitty comes from my mum’s side of the family. They lived in Limehouse where the book is set and their surname was Beck and hers is Peck. She’s 17, uneducated but naturally bright and very sharp. She’s had tragedy in her life and she’s dealt with it and continues to deal with it. She’s not your usual run of the mill crime protagonist and comes from a time when most crime solvers were men or very depressed women.“
Among the judges for the competition was best-selling novelist Ruth Rendell. Kate went to meet the judges at Bloomsbury House.
“Ruth Rendell said my story was simply and well written, which really is quite a compliment. I think there’s nothing more irritating that reading two pages describing the wallpaper with only one line of dialogue. The judges said my idea was not what they’d expected to like but they could hear her voice and I can too.“
Reading the book excerpt online on Stylist’s website, Kate’s words have a filmic quality placing you right at the heart of the action. She is also very good at pacing the story, leaving readers wanting to find out more. The book is due to be published next March.
So was the idea for the book fully formed before she entered the competition?
“It was more of an exercise for a rainy weekend. I found a copy of the magazine on the bus and promptly stuck it under a pile of magazines. Then just before The Queen’s Jubilee it was pouring with rain and I was at a loose end, normally on a weekend like that I might buy a pair of shoes or sit down and write. The idea popped fully formed into my head. I knew where my lead character was going to in the end and that was a springboard to write about how she gets there.
“Between now and March I’ll be writing every weekend in my pyjamas and with my husband bringing me biscuits. I’ll have no social life but will be locked away with the computer on a pile of cushions typing, typing, typing.“
Details: To read an excerpt from Kate’s story go to www.stylist.co.uk