Results Not Typical Tour: Guest Post from Catherine Ryan Howard

The energetic and talented Catherine Ryan Howard has released three wonderful non-fiction titles: Mousetrapped, Backpacked and Self-Printed all hallmarked with her wry and engaging writing style. She’s now releasing Results not Typical – her first novel. I’m delighted to welcome her here today on her Result’s not Typical blog tour with a guest post on writing with some great tips. And don’t forget to check out her novel!


I get plenty of ideas. I have lists of fantastic book titles, and pages of scribbled notes about the themes and settings that could potentially tell the stories that go with them. I’m great with beginnings and ends and they pop into being so fully-formed that I can play them in my head like little movies. I can even see the finished covers in the my mind’s eye, and the outfit I’ll wear to the glittering book launch, down to the outrageously expensive shoes and knees-to-armpits industrial strength magic underwear…

But anyway. I digress.

That’s all good – great, even. But I never, ever know what goes in the middle. I always have to drag that, kicking and screaming, out of the ether (read: the darkest recesses of my brain), and it never comes easily.

That pesky middle. It spoils all my fun.

The problem is determining just what is the middle? How are you supposed to get from A to B without resorting to pointless filler, like a suspiciously detailed shopping trip, dinner preparation or a three-page inventory of your character’s CD collection? What are your imaginary friends supposed to do with themselves for eighty thousand words without sending both writer and reader into an involuntary slump?

That was the biggest hurdle between me and my writerly daydreams and me and a somewhat finished book. I had what I thought was a great idea for a novel (a corporate satire about a slimming company), a great opening (each of my three main characters getting ready to start what would turn out to be the worst day of their lives for at least one of them), a great inciting incident (the formula for their newest product goes missing) and a killer ending with a big twist (which I won’t reveal because I’m hoping after reading this blog post you will feel suddenly and inexplicably compelled to pop over to Amazon and buy the Kindle edition of Results Not Typical, priced at just $2.99.)

But I hadn’t the foggiest about what would happen in between, or why something should. My reference shelf of “How To…” writing books banged on and on about character and setting and point of view and syntax and adverbs and word counts and formatting your manuscript and the kitchen sink, but none of them told me what I need to know: how – exactly – to plot a novel.

But then – phew! – I found one that did: Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need by the late great Hollywood screenwriter Blake Snyder.

Yes, it’s about screenwriting. But it has helped me no end when it comes to plotting fiction.

Using a three-act structure, a fifteen point “beat sheet” and your imagination, it’ll give you a plot in no time at all. And, if your plot is missing anything – if, for example, between chapter two and chapter eight there’s a black hole so big your entire book could slip into it – this method will make it blink on and off rapidly and sound an alarm. You’ll know about it. For instance, did you know that a good plot needs a midpoint? This, I doubt you’ll be surprised to learn, comes half way through your book (or script). Generally the midpoint will either be a fake high (e.g. the character thinks they’ve solved their problem and is victorious but in a few pages will be brought back down to earth again) or a fake low (e.g. the character thinks all is lost and starts to cry into the their Cornflakes, not knowing that just around the corner things are going to look a lot better). These events will also lead to a significant “stakes raise” where the consequences of the protagonist failing at whatever they’re trying to do suddenly becomes a lot more serious. The midpoint has a bookend later on in the plot, at the lowest point which Snyder calls “All is Lost.” As a general rule, he says “it’s never as good as it seems at the midpoint and it’s never as bad at it seems at the low point” (or vice versa). You may not even realize it but the most satisfying stories contain these and other “Snyder” elements, even if the author didn’t consciously include them.

Save The Cat says this needs to happen, and then that needs to happen, and then this needs to happen too, and it’ll tell you why, and then suddenly the leap between the action and how that action will look in your story with your characters, ideas and fictional world doesn’t feel like such an abyss, and that headache starts to subside.

So if you’re having plotting problems, buy Save the Cat. If you want to read a book that exists because of it, read Results Not Typical. If you’re still having plotting headaches, I’d suggest two aspirin, a dark room and a lie down.

Or we could just stop writing books, and make do with just reading them instead. I’m guessing that would be a lot easier


Results Not Typical on

Results Not Typical on

Goodreads Giveaway:

If your readers visit they can enter a giveaway to win one of five paperback copies of Results Not Typical. Open for entries from September 30th-October 31st. Open to all countries.

About Catherine:

Catherine Ryan Howard is a 29-year-old writer, blogger and enthusiastic coffee-drinker. She currently lives in Cork, Ireland, where she divides her time between her desk and the sofa. She blogs at

About Results Not Typical:

The Devil Wears Prada meets Weightwatchers and chick-lit meets corporate satire in the debut novel from Catherine Ryan Howard, author of the bestselling memoir Mousetrapped: A Year and A Bit in Orlando, Florida. Through their Ultimate Weight Loss Diet Solution Zone System, Slimmit International Global Incorporated claim they’re making the world a more attractive place one fatty at a time. Their slogans “Where You’re Fat and We Know It!” and “Where the Fat IS Your Fault!” are recognised around the globe, the counter in the lobby says five million slimmed and their share price is as high as their energy levels. But today the theft of their latest revolutionary product, Lipid Loser, will threaten to expose the real secret behind Slimmit’s success…The race is on to retrieve Lipid Loser and save Slimmit from total disaster. If their secrets get out, their competitors will put them out of business. If the government finds out, they’ll all go to jail. And if their clients find out… Well, as Slimmit’s Slimming Specialists know all too well, there’s only one thing worse than a hungry, sugar-crazed, carb addict – and that’s an angry one. Will the secret behind Slimmit’s success survive the day, or will their long-suffering slimmers finally discover the truth? Available now in paperback and e-book editions.

THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!

The Tuesday Interview: With Catherine Ryan Howard (author of Self-Printed)

Catherine Ryan Howard

Catherine Ryan Howard lives in Cork, Ireland. She has very successfully published a memoir about working in Disney, called Mousetrapped. She has documented the story of her self-printing experience and success in her blog Catherine, Caffinated and just lately released Self-Printed in which she shares the knowledge and expertise she gained from her self-printing experience. 

Having read Self-Printed, the quality and depth of the information shared is astounding. Catherine covers all the specifics on self-printing your manuscript, from cover design and formatting to uploading to the different platforms and troubleshooting. She also tackles the wider areas such as whether to self-publish or not, preparation and design, building a platform, selling and using data and tags to improve sales. Overall it’s a generous, clear, comprehensive book and written in Catherine’s lively and no-nonsense style, it’s a joy to read! Definitely the book to read for anyone considering self-printing.  Catherine’s here today for an interview on Head above Water so let’s find out more about Catherine and Self-Printed.

Let me begin by asking you the most important question of all. How many cups of coffee do you drink in a day?

If I’m at home and working, I stumble to the kitchen in a zombie-like state as soon as I wake up to put the machine on. That makes about three cups, “cup” being the ceramic bucket I bought at Starbucks. (So probably about six cups, technically speaking.) I usually have that drank by lunchtime and it’s a rare day I’d drink any more coffee after that, because the only thing I like more than caffeine is sleep and I need to stop then in order to get any later.

And what’s so good about Cork anyway? (I hail from Cork’s arch rival county Kerry).

I doubt anyone would be able to recall me ever saying anything nice about Cork  – I only like sunny places which pretty much rules out the whole country of Ireland. (The tourist board won’t be hiring me anytime soon…) Cork is a lovely city on a sunny weekend, which hopefully we’ll get here sometime between now and the end of days.  We do have a staggering array of cafés and a big Waterstone’s, which helps. And we’re definitely better than anywhere in Kerry… [Runs and hides]

You’ve become a bit of a (perhaps unintentionally) self-printing guru. Did you plan this or did it fall upon you like Newton’s apple?

I think the whole orchard fell on me. I knew absolutely nothing about self-publishing when I started this whole thing, other than it costing a lot of money and it being only an option for deluded losers (I thought). I still might not know anything about it today if it wasn’t for a friend sending me a link to saying, “I think you might be interested in this.” I’m only a guru if “guru” means “person who can use Google to find the answers to questions as they arise.” So no, this wasn’t planned – this was the opposite of planned!

Are you super rich now?

Oh, yes – disgustingly so. As Chandler Bing would say my wallet’s too small for my fifties and my diamond shoes are too tight…

Eh, no. I am making enough money from self-publishing to not have to do anything else, but I live (for now) with my parents. This year I’ve really starting treating self-publishing like a business I’m starting up, so I’d expect (or hope!) that by the end of next year, I’ll be making a comfortable living from it. And that I won’t be thirty years old and still living with my parental units…

Tell me how you started. Why did you decide to write your first book and then to self-print it?

I’d always wanted to make a living as a novelist. Growing up I thought this might be on the side of something else – I did want to work with the Ebola virus for a while – but eventually I realised that the only way my life could be exactly as I wanted it to be (i.e. dreamed of it being) is if I did it full-time. But then when I was 22 I started working abroad and that lifestyle just didn’t bode well for novel-writing. I forgot about it for a while until I went to Orlando to work in Walt Disney World, and started scribbling down my thoughts on all the rubbish stuff that was happening to me. I got an agent interested in a book about my experience – Mousetrapped – and when, ultimately, I couldn’t get an agent or a publisher to take it or me on, I decided to stop wasting time submitting it and get started on my original goal – writing a novel – instead. Then a friend sent me that link to Lulu and I thought, “Hmm. Wait a minute. Maybe I should throw Mousetrapped up there and see if I can sell a few copies…”

How did you learn about self-printing, it’s methods, pitfalls etc?

Google! I read all the instructions and forum posts and stuff on the websites involved, and if I had a question I couldn’t find the answer to, I googled it. I also found other self-publisher’s blogs and websites helpful and a lot of it was learned through trial and error. It’s no coincidence that I went through five proof copies of Mousetrapped before I could put it on sale, but for Backpacked – the one out next month – there’ll only be two. (Maybe one day I’ll get it down to one…) Self-publishing is just like using computers: you learn by doing. It’s the best way.

Things took off for you. Tell me a bit about the sales of Mousetrapped and when things really got going?

I released Mousetrapped in March 2010, and for the first six months sales were just a trickle. I think I sold just over 500 copies in that period which was great, because that had been my goal (100 copies in first month, 500 copies in six months, 1,000 copies in first year). But between editing costs, cover design, review copies, etc. I hadn’t even broke even. But in December 2010/January 2011, things took off – thanks to the Christmastime boom in e-books, I think. Then in February the Sunday Times here in Ireland did a story on me, and that’s when things went a bit mental. So having sold 500 copies in the first six months of the book’s life, I’m on track to have sold more than 7,000 copies in the twelve months after that.

It’s been a whirlwind couple of years for you in terms of publicity for your book and for you as a self-printing writer, what were the highlights?

Seeing my paperbacks for the first time (when they arrive from CreateSpace) is probably the most exciting thing, which is hilarious considering I could do that without ever selling a single book! I’m ordering proofs of my next two books this week including my first self-published (or anyway published!) novel and I cannot wait to see them. I just LOVE that moment, because I love physical books so much and see mine on Kindle doesn’t have the same effect. I also have to say that getting a security pass with my name and the BBC logo on it when I did a radio interview for BBC Radio Ulster in Belfast was pretty darn cool.

You’ve recently published ‘Self-Printed’ and cleverly also delivered it in bite sized chunks. It’s a very generous book. Why didn’t you want to keep all your secrets to yourself?

Because I’m so nice, of course! (Don’t say anything…) Well for starters, they’re not secrets. I don’t do anything special or claim to have any miraculous knowledge about how to sell books. I think 99% of what I do is just basic common sense and the rest is imagination. The other reason is that I thought there was a gap in the market for a self-publishing guide aimed at the non-deluded. Other guides seem to bloke smoke up the reader’s rear, tell them they’re amazing and encourage them to fire-bomb the offices of traditional publishing houses, whereas I just see self-publishing as a good Plan B. Plus the more people who self-publish well, the better it is for me and all other self-published writers, because as the general impression of self-publishing improves, more people will be willing to buy my self-published book. So if I can stop even a handful of poopy titles making it out into the world – unedited and in Bradley Hand ITC pt18 – my job is done.

With the way publishing is changing, should everyone publish an e-book?

I think e-books are fantastic for giving writers – especially those who are still pursuing traditional publication – a source of income, but no, I don’t think everyone should do it. Once you put something out there you can’t take it back, and sometimes the ignorant bliss of believing that everyone wants to read something you’ve written is better than the stark reality of you having writing out there that no one can be bothered with. It may not sound like it if you’re outside looking in, but selling e-books is hard work. If you have a manuscript that almost made it – maybe a publisher read the full manuscript, liked it but ultimately decided it wasn’t for them, or maybe you had a book published a few years back then didn’t make a splash and is now out of print – then by all means, get it out there. But don’t do it for the sake of it. Do it because you have begun work on your dream of becoming a full-time writer and you are sure the e-book is supposed to be part of the plan.

Why don’t you like people calling publishers ‘gatekeepers?’ What have you got to say about purple unicorns?

I don’t like the whole “gatekeepers” thing because it implies that publishing is an exclusive club that exists to keep people from joining it, as if every editor and agent meets up in a dark, secret room once a month to drink pig’s blood and laugh about how silly the little people are. Everyone in publishing loves books, and they want to publish them. That’s how they keep their business going – and business is the key word. If your book gets rejected, it’s because it wasn’t a product that was going to bring in as much as it was going to cost to put it out there, or bring in enough to make it worthwhile. It’s unromantic, but that’s reality. And it’s not personal. Claiming that it’s all a big conspiracy against unpublished, non-blogging, non-vampire-creating writers who aren’t called James Patterson is just pathetic. And don’t even mention purple unicorns…!

How did you feel about the last Atlantis flight? (Catherine gives a wonderful account of witnessing a space shuttle launch in her book Mousetrapped).

Very, very sad. I always believed the Shuttle was an overly complex machine that was drinking up NASA’s budget at an astonishing rate and they should’ve retired it years ago, but I wanted something else to come in its place. Now we’ve retired the most visible spaceship we had and we’ve nothing to put in its place, and so how are we going to keep children and teenagers interested in space exploration without it? Not to mention the thousands of people in the US space industry who have now lost their jobs. Also, I am going to be forever grateful that I got to see a launch up close, especially now that the world has a finite number of people who can say that.

What are the 3 most important things people need to get right in self-printing?

Your book has to be good, and I don’t mean in your opinion or in your mother’s/husband’s/best friend’s. I mean a professional publishing type – an editor or a manuscript critique service, for example – has to say, “This is a good book.” If you don’t have that, whatever else you do is irrelevant and a complete waste of your time.

Next: the cover. Don’t do it yourself unless you’re a professional book designer and DO NOT use the free “cover creation” software on sites like Lulu and CreateSpace. If your book even whispers “self-published”, you’ve failed  – and you haven’t even started trying to sell it yet.

Finally, pick the right price. Realise that the price-tag is not reflective of how much work, time and talent you put into writing your book. If that was the case, Jonathan Franzen would be charging hundreds for his titles and Katie Price would be paying us to read hers. If you don’t have an established readership, you need to price your book to sell. Readers are more important than money.

What are you up to next? Am I right in saying that Backpacked is just out?

Backpacked: A Reluctant Trip Across Central America is my second travel memoir and a sequel of sorts to Mousetrapped. That’ll was just released in paperback and e-book on September 5th. Then despite me saying on numerous occasions that I’d never self-publish a novel, I’m self-publishing a novel – Results Not Typical – in October. I call it chick-lit meets corporate satire and The Devil Wears Prada meets WeightWatchers. Then I’m going to finish a novel I’m working on that I hope will end up being traditionally published one day, and then I’m going on a very long holiday…

Are you going to have another cup of coffee now?

I’m drinking while I type.

We’re going to catch up with Catherine when she releases Results not Typical. In the meantime check out her publications so far!


Catherine, Caffinated



  Results Not Typical

Bits and pieces and congrats

Just heard the fantastic news that Maria Duffy, my first mother interviewee has signed a two book deal with Hachette Ireland. The first book, “Any Dream Will Do”, will be published in November 2011. Huge congrats to Maria! Delightful to hear such news. Maria, like me is the mother of four and if you haven’t already, you can read all about her writing and family juggle here.

In other news Catherine Ryan Howard who had a self-publishing success story with Mousetrapped has just released a step by step comprehensive guide to Self-Printing and every thing that goes along with it. Her blog is already a mine of information but this book collates that information and adds to it and includes tips on things you didn’t know you had to know. Read about it here.

And finally I attended a conference last week on digital media. What really came across is that whatever the digital media, the format  or the type of information that is being shared, the key element is always narrative, the ways in which we want to tell our own stories. Read more on my latest blogpost on The Stories we will tell ourselves into the future.

Mousetrapped by Catherine Ryan Howard

Review of Mousetrapped (beware, spoiler alert!)

I’ve just finished reading ‘Mousetrapped’ by Catherine Ryan Howard. It’s a captivating account of a year and a half spent working in a hotel at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, from the stark reality of settling in, to the magic and the mayhem of a girl from Cork, Ireland working and playing in this out of the ordinary setting.

Along with the story we are treated to interesting details about the Disney park, Orlando life and Catherine’s passion the space flight, shuttle launches and the Kennedy Space Centre.

What sets this book apart from other memoirs that I have read is the quality of the voice and the sense of personality that comes through. I’ve met Catherine in person just once but even if I hadn’t the book’s strength is it’s ability to make you really care what happens next and to feel a great affinity with Catherine as she tells her story.

From the practical details of accommodation and driving in the US to the emotional roller coaster of her quest to witness a space launch first hand, the book becomes compulsive reading, you’ve just got to know how it all pans out. And when it came to the final pages, I found myself wishing that we could follow her to her next adventure  (a trip to Central America).

Although it’s mostly a story about Disney magic, what I found very special in this book were Catherine’s poignant but also magical moments of emotional clarity, viewing the space launch but also on a bus listening to John Mayer’s ‘Stop that train’ as the reality of her situation hit home. Catherine’s book makes you think about the choices we make in life, about taking risks and following dreams. Combined with Catherine’s lovely personality all these elements make Mousetrapped a fabulous read.

You can buy Mousetrapped in paperback (US) or paperback (UK) or download for Kindle (US) or Kindle (UK). It’s absolutely worth it.

If you want to read more about Catherine Ryan Howard, Mousetrapped and Mousetrapped’s fascinating publication process, check out her blog Catherine Caffinated.

All the options: One Stop Self-Publishing Conference

I attended the One Stop Self Publishing Conference on Sat Oct 17th at the Fitzpatrick Killiney hotel Dublin. It was organised and facilitated by Vanessa O’ Loughlin of Inkwell and Eoin Purcell of Green Lamp Media. As a fiction writer I was interested in interested in exploring the self-publishing option as one of the many possible avenues in the currently transforming publishing industry. The conference was well attended by people with both a fiction and non-fiction writing background as well as general industry interest.

What was particularly evident in this jam-packed but well sequenced and executed conference, was the calibre of the speakers. The information delivered was relevant, concrete, practical and well presented.

Informative and engaging were John Manning’s overview of Gill and McMillan’s distribution service and David Jones on his books to print business. Freelance designer Claire McVeigh’s talk on cover design and typesetting was eye-opening and useful as was Adrian White on what book sellers want. Benjii Bennett, a self-publisher of children’s picture books was inspiring with regard to motivation. Sarah Franklin and Patricia O’ Reilly gave important insights into the process of editing and self-publishing.

There were several highlights for me. AJ Healy‘s not-to-be-missed talk on how he brought his children’s book Tommy Storm to publication was remarkable and practically comprehensive, from the initial decision to diverge from his agent to self-publish his story out to the business like manner in which he approached publicity and distribution. Sarah Franklin’s excellent case study of a marketing and publicity campaign she undertook with one of her authors on his Joyce inspired novel emphasized how self publishing writers need to plan and time their media engagements and have a clear idea of their own story as well as their book’s key message. Catherine Ryan Howard’s presentation on Social Media and Online Marketing was well delivered and revelationary for much of the audience. Ryan Howard self-published her non-fiction book Mousetrapped using the online service CreateSpace. She has successfully used online media and strategies such as contests and Amazon Associates to generate sales and revenue. Her e-book version has been highly successful. Of particular interest to me and great practical value was Eoin Purcell’s presentation on Digital self-publishing. He discussed digital formats, digital publishing options like Amazon’s Digital Text Publishing and Smashwords and useful digital publishing tools such as Storyist.

As a writer looking to inform herself of the various publishing options available this excellent conference far exceeded my expectations. For those with a particular self-publishing project in mind it was invaluable. If you are serious about writing and publishing, put next year’s conference in your diary now.