Colette Caddle lives in north county Dublin with her husband and two sons aged twelve and seven. She came to writing later in life after careers in computer programming and marketing insurance products. Colette sent out her first manuscript in 1997 and is now the bestselling and hugely popular author of eleven novels which have been translated into six languages. She has just finished her twelfth book which will be available in the autumn. Her latest book, Always on my mind is published by Simon and Schuster Ltd. She balances the solitary life of writing by engaging with others and chatting on Twitter and Facebook.
Tell us how and when you started your writing career Colette, did it happen alongside the children?
I started writing about 15 years ago when I was disillusioned with office life but I didn’t stick with it. I finally sent off a few chapters to Poolbeg in 1997 and on the basis of those secured a 3 book contract. My first book, Too little, Too Late was published in Ireland on Mother’s Day, 1999 when my eldest son was 3 months old. I am a morning person so would normally write all morning but with pregnancy and then a new baby, I worked when I had the energy!
What impact has having children had on your writing career?
Ha, they’ve taught me there is no such thing as being in control when you’re a parent! They’ve taught me that when there is a moment, I must grab it. They’ve also made me realize that I should get as much done while they’re at school as possible and enjoy their childhood and company while I can.
Where do you do your writing?
It used to be anywhere from the kitchen table, to in front of the TV, to a coffee shop to bed. Now that the boys are older – and louder! – I write more and more in my little office but until the deadline is looming, I still mostly work during school hours.
Are you successful in maintaining a balance between your family and writing projects?
I am very disorganised and easily distracted and no, I don’t have the balance right at all. With each book I promise myself that I will become more disciplined but 12 books later, I don’t seem to have managed that.
How do the children react to your writing?
They are very understanding really and also so involved in their own lives that I don’t think it impacts on them that much. I nearly always do the school runs, help with homework and do all the cooking so I am physically ‘there’ even if mentally I may be in a fictional world. They are also quite proud of me, give their opinions freely on my covers or titles, like to see their names in the acknowledgments and love it when I come into their school to give talks on creative writing.
What do you find most challenging, practically, emotionally and mentally in juggling your role as a mother and writer?
Practically? Simply being disciplined
Emotionally? Trying to keep a steady nerve – panicking and writing do not go well together!
Mentally? When there are family worries or distractions I find it harder to leave practical problems aside and immerse myself in my storyline which can be frustrating and upsetting.
You’ve become a hugely popular and bestselling novelist, at what stage of family life did your success occur?
My initial breakthrough into the writing world happened before children came along so staying focused was much easier. I have to say that seeing my first book on the shelf was a hugely emotional experience and making number one on the bestseller list made me feel very proud….but then the moment both my sons were placed in my arms for the first time still probably rate as my proudest, happiest moments.
Do you think women face particular challenges in career/family life balance or is it something that both men and women face in equal measure?
I think it is harder for women from a purely biological sense in that fathers have the ability to temporarily ‘switch off’ their parental button to work whereas mothers don’t seem have been equipped with that particular button – at least, this one hasn’t!
Something has to give when wearing many hats, what is it for you?
Ah, now that depends on the circumstances. If all is well with the children and my deadline is looming, then they are left more to their own devices than I think they should be. If, however, they need me, the book is forgotten. Again, for me, balance is simply not always possible and I try to just accept that there are times when either my work or my family will suffer; I am only human.
What suggestions do you have for mothers or indeed parents who want to write or further a writing career?
To all would be writers: Simply to write every day, even if it’s only a little. I set myself target word counts that vary depending on the stage I’m at and that helps. I also, when I am finding it hard going, promise myself treats: a cuppa after 500 words; 10 minutes on Twitter or FaceBook after 1,000 etc. Another trick that works very well for me is that I try to finish each day in the middle of paragraph so there is no new blank page to be faced the next morning.
To parents: There may be times when you can’t write because your children are sick or you’ve been up all night and can barely focus BU you can always think and observe….never forget that!
Huge thanks to Colette for taking the time to answer these questions, especially as she has been so hard at work on her latest novel. To find out more about Colette and her books, visit her website. She would also love to hear from you on Twitter and Facebook.
Colette’s latest book ‘Always on my Mind’ is available on Amazon and don’t forget to keep an eye out for her next book in the Autumn.
If you enjoyed this interview, read more mother writer interviews here.