Today in the Library I am delighted to host Irish historical fiction author Catherine Kullmann, who has dropped in to say hello and to share some insights into her life as an author.
You are very welcome, Catherine and congratulations on the publication this week of your book, The Murmur of Masks.
Hello and thank you for inviting me to the Library. I was born and brought up in Dublin. Following my marriage I moved to Germany where I lived for over twenty-five years. My husband and I returned to Ireland in 1999 and celebrated our ruby wedding in 2013. We have three adult sons and two grandchildren. I have worked in the Irish and New Zealand public services and in the private sector. I took early retirement some years ago and was finally able to follow my life-long dream of writing fiction
Did you read much as a child?
As a child I always had my nose in a book. I had tickets for the public library and the children’s section of the RDS library and visited both several times a week. The librarian of the public library allowed me join the adult library early as I had read everything in the children’s library.
Are you an avid reader now?
Yes. I have to read every day. I buy a lot of new books, but also love second-hand bookshops, book fairs and charity shops as you never know what you might find.
Do you prefer books in your own genre or are you happy to explore others?
I generally read fiction for pleasure and non-fiction for research. I love historical fiction and detective stories set in all periods, but also read nineteenth and twentieth century fiction, contemporary fiction, paranormal and fantasy.
Are you self-published or traditionally published?
Which genre do you write in and why?
According to traditional publishers, my books fall between two stools—historical romance and historical fiction. I describe them as ‘historical fiction for the heart and for the head’. They are set during the extended Regency period, an era that has always fascinated me. It started with Jane Austen, I suppose, but as I came to know more about the period, I realised it was the one which shaped both the United Kingdom which came into being with the Act of Union in 1800 and modern Europe through the Napoleonic wars and their aftermath. Although a time of revolution, reform and transition, it was still a rigid, patriarchal, class-ridden society. I enjoy the challenge of creating characters who behave authentically in their period while making their actions and decisions plausible and sympathetic to a modern reader.
Who has been the biggest influence on your writing?
I would have to start with my English teachers and the essays I wrote every week, then my professional training in drafting accurately and, as far as possible, elegantly. Novelists who influenced me include Jane Austen, Anthony Trollope, Georgette Heyer to whom all ‘regency writers’ owe so much, and Dorothy Sayers. In Gaudy Night, when her heroine is faced with writing a very tricky letter, she has her ask herself, “Why can’t I write a straightforward piece of English on a set subject?” This question makes her identify the real reason for her difficulties. Once she realises what the problem is, she is able to deal with it.
Has your country of origin/culture influenced your writing?
Yes. In many ways the Ireland I grew up in was more similar to Regency society than to modern twenty-first century society. Attitudes to sex and sexuality were very different. Contraception was illegal, as was divorce. Pre-marital sex was frowned upon and it was almost unheard of for an unmarried mother to keep her baby. It was not usual for married women to work outside the home and many employers, including the civil service, refused to continue a woman’s employment once she married.
At the time I moved to Germany, air-travel and international phone calls were very expensive and there was, of course, neither internet, Skype, Facebook, texting nor anything of that sort, so I know what it is like to be isolated in a new environment and dependent on letters to maintain relationships and friendships.
Some people have asked me why I don’t set my books in Ireland but it would be impossible to do that and ignore the political and social situation in Ireland at that time. That would result in a different, bleaker book that I don’t want to write.
What part of the writing process do you find most difficult? How do you overcome it?
Because my books are pure fiction, I do not start with a real storyline or characters. It is usually something quite small that triggers a book—a ‘what if?’ or ’what then?’ In the case of The Murmur of Masks, it was a small throwaway line in another book Perception & Illusion which, although it was written first, will not be published until next year. The most difficult thing is fleshing out that little idea. First I create the characters and then work on an outline of the plot, although that will change considerably as I write the first draft.
Do you have a favourite time of day to write?
I prefer the mornings but write in the afternoon as well.
What is the best thing about being an author? And the flipside – what is the worst?
The best is when a book takes flight, when your characters suddenly determine the route of their journey. The worst is when they stubbornly refuse to budge.
Is social media an essential chore or something you enjoy? Which forum do you prefer?
As you know, I came very late to social media and regard it more as a chore than an essential part of my life. To my surprise, I find I enjoy Facebook, especially the interaction with other writers. I also blog about historical facts and trivia relating to the extended Regency
If you weren’t an author, what would you be up to?
That is a hard one. I am retired and have no wish to return to the day job. I think I would have to find something else creative to do, but am not sure what.
It’s the last day and the earth is facing oblivion – what book would you read?
I wouldn’t read; I would listen to Bach’s St Matthew Passion and Handel’s Messiah
Please tell us about your latest published work.
My debut novel, The Murmur of Masks, is now available on Amazon as an e-book and paperback. It is a story of loss, love and second chances set against a background of the Napoleonic wars, culminating in the Battle of Waterloo. It is available worldwide on Amazon.
If you would like to know more about Catherine and her work please check out the social media links below:
or you can send messages to my Page at