Interview with Catherine Talbot – Author of A Good Father
Peter: Catherine, your book ‘A Good Father’ is a deep psychological family drama that really stirs the emotions. I would like to congratulate you on writing it and I am delighted that we have the opportunity to conduct this interview. Many thanks for making the time available.
Peter: What was the inspiration that drove you to write your first novel ‘A Good Father’?
Catherine: Delighted to be able to answer your questions, Peter and thanks very much for your support of the book.
I wanted to explore the concept of jealousy and how that can be enough of a motivation for a supposedly ‘normal’ man to the outside world to commit such a terrible crime. In Jenny’s case I wanted to show that it is possible to choose the completely wrong person to love.
Peter: With all the characters, who was the most difficult to write? What was the most important aspect of their personality to convey and which trait was the most challenging?
Catherine: I had an immediate sense of Des and what and how he was thinking and his voice guided me throughout the novel. So, in a sense writing him came very naturally to me. The most important part of his personality is his control. The only part where I struggled a little was to make Des charming enough in the early parts of the book in order that the reader would believe and understand why Jenny could fall for him in the first place.
Peter: The storyline around Jerome was very intriguing, from the first involvement in the mid-90s to the latter interaction in 2017. What were your thoughts around this development?
Catherine: Thank you. Jerome was in the picture from day one in my mind. While writing the book it was always clear to me that Jenny would never leave Des and go back to Jerome, her ex-boyfriend. I wanted to explore the very notion of jealousy, the fact that it is so irrational and I wanted to show how a man can become irrationally obsessed. I don’t believe that Jenny would ever seriously go back to Jerome because it is not as though her relationship with him was particularly fantastic either, but Des believes that it is possible. This coupled with other things that are going wrong with his life is enough to send him over the edge.
Peter: There must have been considerable research undertaken to appreciate the psychological states of mind and the damage inflicted, not only from the abuser, but with the spouse and children. What element of the research was the most alarming to discover?
Catherine: I discovered that it is not uncommon for men who have had no real history of violence to inflict such catastrophic damage on their spouses and/or families. That was the most alarming thing to discover. Although many of them are driven by obvious things such as depression, this is not true in all cases. Many abusers behave perfectly normally to the outside world in the time leading up to the actual event.
Peter: What do you hope readers take away from this book? How would you like it to be remembered?
Catherine: I want readers to be left uneasy. I would like it to be remembered as a gripping and thought-provoking novel.
Peter: In Ireland we seem to have an incredible record of producing great authors. What do you think it is in our culture, or families, or education that creates that capability?
Catherine: I think Irish people are avid readers and it probably follows quite naturally that some of those would think of writing themselves. There is still a semblance of respect for writing as a profession in Ireland, even though it isn’t exactly a lucrative one! I always greatly enjoy checking out what other people are reading when I’m on the DART, although it is harder to do with the advent of Kindles.
Peter: Do you use story boarding or mapping processes to develop your plots and interactions, or do you go with the flow and follow your instinct and gut feeling? Would you, therefore, describe yourself as a plotter, pantser or plantser?
Catherine: I go with the flow completely so I guess that makes me a pantser!
Peter: Do you use particular software applications or utilities to support your writing activity? For example, Scrivener or Grammarly?
Catherine: Nothing exciting like that!
Peter: What are the greatest benefits and restrictions to being a published Author? Do you get involved in finalising other aspects of the book, for example the cover design, narration and the promotion of the book?
Catherine: The greatest benefit is knowing that you have the support and acknowledgement for you work. This gives you great confidence to keep writing. In terms of finalising all aspects of the book from cover design, yes I am completely included, but my gut feeling is that the publishers are the experts so I am more than happy to leave that to them!
Peter: What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Catherine: I used to feel very guilty for spending so much time reading, particularly when my children were babies. Once they fell asleep I felt that I should probably try and do something constructive like make dinner or something but instead I kept reading. Now I am so grateful that I did that. My advice is that, read as much as you can.
Peter: How much time do you spend on writing compared to promoting your books?
Catherine: I am still very much in pre-promotion territory so at the moment I am spending most of my time writing.
Peter: What authors have you most admired and have had an influence on your writing?
Catherine: I think it is difficult to say what writers have particularly influenced my writing, but people have said that there are hints of Zoe Heller, Patricia Highsmith about it. Others have mentioned Nabokov and Dermot Healy. So the truth is I think you are influenced by everything you read. Writers that I admire are people like Paul Auster, Karl Ove Knausgaard, Siri Hustvedt, John Banville, Toni Morrison and Rachel Cusk.
Peter: What is your favourite book you’ve read over the last 12 months?
Catherine: I read quite a few books in lockdown. I went back to Philip Roth and read a couple that had been on my shelves for ages. Really enjoyed ‘Exit Ghost’, where Roth tells the tale of the late days of his character Nathan Zuckerman. The comments on fiction and fact mixing and merging is just the type of book that a writer loves. I also enjoyed ‘4321’ by Paul Auster. The size of it and the four different versions of Ferguson’s life was saga-like and that seemed to suit my mood.
Peter: If you had a dinner party and could invite 3 personalities from any period in history who would they be and why?
Catherine: I think perhaps David Bowie, Ernest Hemingway and Richard Yates might make for an interesting conversation!
Peter: Can you give us any insights into any future books or projects that you’re working on?
Catherine: I am in the process of typing up a second novel. And because I never make things easy, I’m handwriting another one.
Peter: How can readers learn more about you and your work?
Catherine: Readers can find me through the Penguin website https://www.penguin.co.uk/authors/141169/catherine-talbot.html and I am on twitter @caittalbot. I don’t tweet that much but I enjoy being part of the writing community. Working on your own all day long can be a bit lonely, it’s nice to see that you’re not the only one!
Peter: Catherine, I appreciate you taking the time for this interview. If there are other snippets of information you wish to provide, please feel free. I would like to congratulate you on this wonderful book and I wish you massive success in the future.
Thank you so much Peter for supporting ‘A Good Father’.