A vet-turned-author, Cathy Woodman specialises in gentle romantic fiction and the Book People has a great-value 6-book collection from this most talented of writers available for just £7.99. In this interview, she discusses her inspirations, how she writes and her future plans.
Whilst working as a vet, what inspired you to start writing novels?
I’ve always loved animals and making up stories. When I was on night duty as a small animal vet, I used to read during the quiet times and dream of becoming a published author. After my children were born, I worked part-time in practice and started writing alongside, inspired by my clients and their pets. The saying, ‘you couldn’t make it up’ really does apply to being a vet. The stories I write are fictional – no one would believe some of the incidents that really happen in practice. In Follow Me Home, the latest book in the Talyton St George series, I’ve written about Zara, the local midwife. As always, there are plenty of animals that feature in the story, including an abandoned puppy and some cute newborn lambs.
What is your method for planning a new storyline?
When I’m planning a new storyline, I think of the heroine first. Who is she? What does she do as a career? What are the obstacles she has to overcome to find love? When I have a good idea of her character, I go on to create the perfect man for her. I put them together on the page to get them talking and the story evolves from there.
Having written a few scenes of a book, I make a timeline from index cards so I can check that the story moves on in a logical way, that I don’t have any characters on track for an entry in the Guinness Book of Records for the longest pregnancy ever, and that any mention of daffodils in bloom relates to the spring not Christmas or New Year. I can also see if there are any gaps in the plot that I need to fill, or unnecessary scenes that I need to cut out. Sometimes, you have to be quite brutal, but I always save ideas that I don’t use for the next book.
Do you have to do a lot of research for your books?
I enjoy doing research for my books, particularly the trips to Devon where I find inspiration walking along the beach and sampling cream teas. I’ve learned so many fascinating facts from the internet and talking to people. For Follow Me Home, I interviewed a friend who’s a midwife, and I used my experiences of delivering lambs from when I was training to be a vet to give me some insight of what it’s like to work as a shepherd.
Which of your books took you the longest time to write and why?
It usually takes me six to twelve months to write a book. Trust Me, I’m a Vet, the first book in the Talyton St George series, took me over a year because I was creating the characters and the vet practice in which it is set from scratch. I enjoyed designing the market town of Talyton St George, planning the street plan with the houses and shops, using the real town of Ottery St Mary in Devon as inspiration.
What do you find most challenging about writing novels?
For me, the most challenging part of writing a novel is getting the first draft down. Once I have the first 60 to 70 000 words on the laptop, I can relax and enjoy rewriting it. I love editing, putting in the hooks that keep the reader engaged with the story, and the great feeling of those ‘lightbulb’ moments when inspiration strikes, giving me the perfect scene or interaction between characters to make the book better.
What do you use to write? (Typewriter/computer/dictate)
When I’m writing, I like to start off with a pen and paper. The pen has to be one of those with the four different colours of ink and the paper has to be lined and preferably narrow feint. I’m not sure why, but it does seem to help with the creative process. When I have an outline of a scene I transfer it onto my laptop, expanding my ideas as I type. If I get stuck, I return to the trusty pen and paper. I’ve tried dictating notes onto my mobile when I’m out walking the dogs, but I hate hearing the sound of my voice when I play them back – and they’re often interrupted by the sound of barking.
What are you currently working on?
When I was writing Follow Me Home, I realised that every family Zara comes into contact with is different and each has their own tale to tell, so I’ve been writing a novella about one couple’s story to show what happened after their baby was born, revisiting Tessa and Jack who met in The Village Vet. I’ve already started writing the next book in the Talyton St George series which has a veterinary theme.