Oct. 10, 2020

Q&A

Catherine Ryan Howard

Readers from both sides of the Atlantic (and around the world) adore Catherine Ryan Howard’s crime novels, which have been lauded with praise, won major awards, and reached heady heights of the bestseller list. Alongside bestselling authors Carmel Harrington and Hazel Gaynor, Catherine is a founding member of The Inspiration Project.

Q. The Liar’s Girl was nominated for an Edgar Award, Distress Signals was shortlisted for Irish Crime Novel of the Year, and The Nothing Man hit the #1 spot on the Irish bestseller list. Why do you think readers keep coming back to your work?

Catherine: I just try to make every novel something new and different. The best advice I ever received was ‘write the book you want to read but can’t find on the shelf.’ This sounds simple but if you follow it, you’ll write in the genre you adore and you’ll write something that isn’t just more of the same of what’s out there already. As a fan of crime/thrillers, that’s what I’m always looking for: something that is absolutely within the genre, but stands out for doing something a bit different. When I sit down to start a new book, that’s always my aim.

Q. If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you do?

Catherine: Despair! But also probably work in publishing or bookselling. Something where I could be close to books anyway. Once upon a time, I wanted to be a virologist – or, very specifically, an Ebola specialist working in the BSL4 labs at USAMRIID in Marylandbut in light of current world events, I’m glad that didn’t happen…

Q. You’re one of the founding members of The Inspiration Project. Can you tell me more about that? 

Catherine: Ireland has a great literary tradition and there has always been a deep respect in this country for writers, poets, playwrights, etc. But I think we also fetishize the poverty-stricken writer, the one starving for their art in the garrett, and we love telling aspiring writers that they have very little chance of making their dreams come true. The Inspiration Project was an attempt to redress the balance. Hazel Gaynor, Carmel Harrington and I wanted to inject some positivity back into ‘how to get published’ workshops and seminars. Our philosophy is all three of us made our writing dreams happen, so there’s no reason why you can’t too.

Q. You’ve said elsewhere that you love binge-watching Netflix. What are some of your favorite shows? 

Catherine: There’s so much great stuff on Netflix, it’s hard to get any work done! I loved Mindhunter and UnbelievableUnbelievable, in particular, was exquisitely well done and a template for how we should tell true crime stories through drama in the future, I think. Not sure if these are on US Netflix but there’s a raft of British crime shows that I was obsessed with including The Fall, Line of Duty and Bodyguard. Criminal UK also has some amazing episodes.

Netflix is the place to watch all of Schitts Creek here in Ireland, which I just do on repeat. If ever there was an antidote to 2020… And I’ve watched comedian James Acaster’s 4-part special Repertoire so many times, I fear I’m on the cusp of setting off some welfare-check alarm at Netflix HQ. But his stand-up has the complexity of an intricately plotted novel and I just find it fascinating to watch it unfold. Plus it’s hilarious.

Q. What are you working on next?

Catherine: A novel set in Dublin during lockdown, during the period when we could only leave our houses to shop for food within 2km of home or to exercise, and mixing between households was forbidden. In other words, a great situation for a crime writer!

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