AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Catherine Ryan Howard

catherine.jpgLast month we posted about Mousetrapped, Catherine Ryan Howard's new memoir about living the dream of working in Disneyland. Mousetrapped sounds like a brilliant read, so we interviewed Catherine about her move to Disneyland, self-publishing and of course, how it all started...

Please describe your book in 15 words or fewer.

Mousetrapped is a travel memoir about searching for happiness in the happiest place on earth. (I hope I get bonus points for it being exactly 15!) 

What inspired you to write Mousetrapped?
I'd always wanted to be a writer since a very young age, but I struggled with the time and discipline needed to write a novel. (I also, crucially, didn't have any good ideas for one!) Before I left for Florida one of my friends joked about how I could write a book about the experience and call it 'Mousetrapped', and when my Disney dream took a few wrong turns to begin with, I started writing it all down. Over time, Mousetrapped began to take shape. I never intended to write non-fiction in a million years, but now it's looking like it all might work out for the best.

Was moving to Disney World a lifelong dream, or was it a last-minute decision?
Somewhere in between. I wanted to do it for years but I didn't know how - citizens of the Irish Republic can't apply to Disney World's International program, whereas UK citizens (among others) can. I ended up applying for something called the American Cultural Resort program which could have landed me in a resort anywhere in the US, but luckily they happened to find me a position in Walt Disney World. I got the job in May 2006 and then had (what felt like) a long wait until I started that September. 

Where do you do most of your writing?

I was lucky enough to spend two months writing the first draft of my novel by myself in a lovely little holiday home by the sea, but that was most definitely an exception. While I, ahem, pursue my published writer dreams (my mum calls it 'being unemployed'), I'm back living with my parents in Ireland, so all my writing gets done at a desk in my tiny bedroom. (Imagine three phone boxes strung together.) It's not so bad, really. The rent's free and there's very few distractions! 

What is your favourite book?

I can't do better than a Top 10, but for the purposes of this interview I'll pick one at random... Okay. Let's go with One Day by David Nicholls. I wasn't expecting to love it but I did, and it's very rare a book actually makes me cry. The relationships in it were so honest and true-to-life; it wasn't a happy ever after story but typical of the twists and turns that real life takes.


What part of Mousetrapped was most fun to write?
You mean other than 'THE END'? That's the most fun part of any book to write, for me. (!) It was probably the two chapters that deal with my favourite subject, NASA and its manned exploration of space. The chapter 'Mission Space' is about my first visit to my favourite place in the world, Kennedy Space Centre, and 'Go for Launch' is about realising my lifelong dream of seeing a Space Shuttle launch up close. One of my goals in life is to make everyone else as astronuts as me and I think it's working - readers have told me that those are their favourite chapters. I hope one day to write a book solely about space. 

Do you have any tips for readers who are looking to become published authors?
I've always ignored the statistics. You know, those horrible ones that say less than one percent of one percent of one percent, etc. etc. of all books written get published. That's probably true, but it includes all the bad books, the confused synopses, the misspelled query letters and the people who don't even try to published in the first place. I'm sure the  published percentage of great books written by sane, determined people who know how to pursue publication professionally and persist at it is a lot greater and, at the end of the day, someone has to get published. Right? 

And what about those who dream of working in the Magic Kingdom?

It's easier to get there than you think, and it'll be the experience of a lifetime. Certain countries can apply to work directly for Disney via their International and College Programs (https://www.disneyinternationalprograms.com) and the regional recruiter for the UK and Ireland is the wonderfully helpful Yummy Jobs of London (http://www.yummyjobs.com). Prepare to smile a lot though - even when you don't feel like it - and see fireworks on your way home from work every night. It's sounds like a clich√©, but working there can be truly magical. (Sometimes!) 

What made you decide to self-publish Mousetrapped?
The realisation that no one else ever would. Mousetrapped did the rounds of a few agents and some Irish publishers, but they all said the same thing: they really liked it, but they didn't feel there was enough of a market for it. After about a year's worth of rejection letter's, I started to explore other options. I found that using a Print on Demand service (I used CreateSpace) was perfect for a book like Mousetrapped, and then I used outlets like blogging, Twitter and Facebook to promote it. 

What are you currently reading?
I'm having a crime spree at the moment, reading-wise. I discovered Karin Slaughter last week after picking up Genesis, so at the moment I'm working my way through her earlier books. I also read Evil at Heart by Chelsea Cain - which I probably shouldn't have, because it was the third in the series - which is the first novel I've ever read featuring a female serial killer. It was quite gory, but really good. 

On your blog, you mention that you've been snapped up by an agent for your novel. Can you tell us more about this?

It's a bit of a saga, but I'll try to keep it short! Basically I finished my novel - women's fiction, (I hope it's) funny - and sent it to an agent in the UK, an agent I'd been in contact with previously regarding Mousetrapped, actually. While I waited for an answer from her, I got busy self-publishing Mousetrapped and by chance, another agent heard about it via Twitter, ordered a copy, read it (presumably!) and got in touch to find out if I'd written anything else. I sent her the novel and a week later I signed with her. It was your typical agent/writer fairy tale for the social media age. The novel has, just in the last few days, gone out to visit the desk of its first editor, and I have taken to waiting near the phone in the foetal position.

Thanks, Catherine!

You can find out more about Catherine and Mousetrapped by visiting Catherine's website.

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