Something very exciting is happening at Alexander Park Raceway next Friday 28 June! Auckland author Cath Mayo is launching her new book – Murder at Mykenai.
Cath is a virtual writing friend of mine. Virtual because we met during an online course on writing for children, and have stayed in touch ever since. I am so excited for her because I know how much work she has put into the book, and how she has persevered in finding the right publisher for it.
Cath is an inspiration for all writers; living proof that if you believe in your work, make it as good as it can be, and keep sending it out, then sooner or later it will find a home. She is also a very interesting person, as when she is not being a writer, she is a luthier. Know what that is? No, I didn't either. It’s a violin restorer, which sounds pretty exciting to me; almost as exciting as being an author.
When Cath agreed to let me do this post, I sent her some questions. She’s done such a good job of answering them, that I’m going to treat this as a virtual interview of my virtual writer friend and let her answer for herself.
But first, here’s what Cath’s publishers (Walker Books Australia) say about Murder at Mykenai…
MURDER AT MYKENAI by Catherine Mayo
A voice slid like a knife into his ear. “You vermin,” it said. “In a moment you’ll be nothing, no more than a lump of dead meat. That will silence our little secret, won’t it?”
Friendship vs. Treachery in Ancient Greece, a decade before the Trojan War. Menelaos, teenage son of the assassinated High King of Greece, is skidding ever deeper into danger. Odysseus, his best friend, tries to help – but Odysseus’s great ideas have a tendency to backfire …
This exciting debut from new talent Catherine Mayo will delight fans of ancient Greece and mythology.
Sounds good, hey? Now onto the virtual interview:
Me: When did you start writing Murder at Mykenai?
Cath: Some time in 2004, so it’s had a long half-life!
Me: How long did it take?
Cath: By late 2005 I had a very flawed first draft. I gave it to a writer friend, who was so flabbergasted by my lack of an ending, she went hunting under the dining room furniture for the missing pages. Unfortunately she couldn’t find them – that would have saved me a lot of trouble!
After winning the Heartlands competition in 2006, I gave my second draft to the judge, William Taylor, who took me under his wing and mentored me and the book for much of 2007. I entered the third draft into the Tom Fitzgibbon award and was shortlisted in 2008. So I had a publishable book by then.
Over the next five years I rewrote it in fits and starts while working on other things. The ending was proving elusive and that took most of my attention. After trying and failing to find a publisher I was awarded a New Zealand Society of Authors assessment, rewrote the ending again (not for the last time) and collected some more rejection slips. They were always very positive rejections, and contained detailed, insightful and helpful feedback.
Then, in 2012, it was accepted. My editor at Walker Books, Nicola Robinson, is fantastic, and under her beady eye I managed finally to nail the ending!
Me: What was your inspiration for the story?
Cath: My mum read us Barbara Leonie Picard’s The Odyssey when I was really small, and I’ve been telling myself stories about Odysseus ever since. Or has he been telling me? I’m not sure anymore. I knew I wanted to write books about him for a long time now, and I realised there were some great snippets of stories embedded in The Odyssey about his teenage years.
Me: How did you feel when Walker Books accepted the manuscript?
Me: What do you do when you’re not writing?
Cath: In my other life, I’m a violin restorer. I’ve had a workshop, where I work with other luthiers (that’s the official name for what I do), for years and years now.
I also play violin and, until I started writing, I played professionally in a number of bands, did session work for recordings and lots of TV. Music tends to happen late at night, and my best time for writing is early in the morning, so it’s good that I never tried to make them overlap. I need my eight hours sleep a night, otherwise I get crabby.
When I’m not writing or luthiering, I read, garden, walk, swim, listen to music and go fishing.
Me: What’s next on your writing agenda?
Cath: I’m polishing my second book, and I’m halfway through my third. They’re both about Odysseus too. I have lots of other ideas and half-finished projects, but these books are where my heart lies and I want to focus on them.
Murder at Mykenai is in the shops now (Walker Books Australia, 2013, ISBN 9781922077943). It’s a young adult book: Cath says it’s for readers aged 12 to 15 years. But I’ve read an early draft and I think older readers will enjoy it too, especially fans of historical fiction. I can’t wait to go to the launch, not only to get my hands on my very own copy, but because I’ll also finally get to meet my virtual friend in person.
Well done Cath! Here’s to many more successful launches to come.