Five on Friday with Cathie Hartigan @cathiehartigan

Today I’m delighted to feature author Cathie Hartigan. Cathie’s debut novel Secret of the Song was shortlisted for the Dorchester Literary Festival Prize and her next book Notes from the Lost was shortlisted for the 2020 Selfies.

Over to Cathie:

I’m a Londoner by birth but moved to the Westcountry to study music many decades ago.

I have taught the piano for as long as I can remember, but several short story competition successes, including a story published in the Romantic Novelists’ Association anthology, Truly, Madly, Deeply, led to me to swapping keyboards and taking writing more seriously.

For several years I taught creative writing at Exeter College and that experience resulted in the Amazon best-selling The Creative Writing Student’s Handbook co-authored with Margaret James. In 2010, I founded CreativeWritingMatters.co.uk. The team offers author services and runs literary competitions, including the Exeter Novel Prize, now in its ninth year.

My debut published novel, Secret of the Song, is set in 16th Century Italy and contemporary Exeter. I was delighted when it reached No 35 overall in Kindle UK and was shortlisted for the Dorchester Literary Festival Prize in 2018. Notes from the Lost came next and seeing it shortlisted for the 2020 Selfies and reaching the finals of the Page Turner Awards was absolutely thrilling. It’s also set in Italy, but this time during WW2.

I live in Exeter, which is a wonderful city, but when I’m not gazing at a computer screen, the spectacular coast and countryside nearby are where I head.

Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?

I have to confess to being a music teacher for much of my life and choosing five out of so many was really tricky. I’ve plumped for a broad selection. It does seem criminal to leave out the classical heavyweights that I love, but it’s a cheerful list today. I’ve sung the last two which remind me of my musical friends and are both very close to my heart.

Serenade – Derek Bourgeois


Lovely Day – Bill Withers


Bad Day – Daniel Powter


Stabat Mater – Karl Jenkins


Blue Bird – Stanford


What 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.

My Nespresso machine – I thought this a very extravagant purchase, but I use it every day and have never regretted it

SPF 30 face cream – Red nose day for me comes with the first ray of sunshine

A view of the sky – I’m very lucky as I can watch the sun set from my upstairs sitting room

Socks and scarves for all seasons – enough said. I could open a shop

Lindt Excellence dark chocolate with a touch of sea salt – the yummiest

Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?

Don’t be afraid of having an opinion.

Writing – do it anyway

Don’t give up singing when you leave school

Keep playing tennis when you leave school

Tell yourself ‘you can’ rather than ‘you can’t’

Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you

I’m a mean card player

I’ve worked in a betting office

I’m the Creative Director of the ExeLitFest

My sole appearance on the television was to demonstrate how to wash a bird feeder.

I am a member of the Noddy Club

Tell us 5 things you’d like to do or achieve.

I’d like to go to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam,

Lose a stone then

take a selfie with Roger Federer,

Spend six months in Italy and

I’d like to get the next novel finished before Christmas

Many thanks for joining me today Cathie, it’s been a pleasure. Hope you don’t mind me choosing the Grimethorpe Colliery Band to represent your first music choice. As a good Yorkshire lass I’m partial to a brass band. Should you ever run out of scarves, I’m your woman – I could open a second shop! Must try that Lindt chocolate too – it sounds good. Tell yourself ‘you can’ is a great idea, I suspect we’re all guilty of opting for a default ‘I can’t’ at times. I’m sure I won’t be the only one who Googled The Noddy Club either. Good luck with that selfie with Roger Federer, especially as it means you’ve lost that stone. Six months in Italy sounds good right now too – not sure which I’d plump for first!

Cathie’s Books

(NB This post features Affiliate links from which I earn a small commission on qualifying purchases)

Notes from the Lost

In October 1943, when prisoners of war Alfie and Frank escape from a train taking them to Germany, their lives depend on the family of shepherds who shelter them. In constant jeopardy, the young men wait out the winter in the Italian mountains.In 2000, Ros Goudy inherits her music teacher’s home in Exeter and there she finds letters that reveal the soldiers’ fate. Only one made it back, but it wasn’t to a warm welcome and happy ever after. What had happened that turned heads and hearts against him? The trail she follows begins with an charming comic song composed before the war. What she discovers is that everyone, including herself, has something to hide.


Secret of the Song

When a song by the mad composer, Carlo Gesualdo, is discovered in Exeter Museum, trouble descends on the group asked to sing it. Lisa is full of enthusiasm at first, but she soon becomes convinced the song is cursed. Can Lisa find out what mystery lies behind the discordant harmonies? Will she solve the song’s secret before her relationship with Jon breaks for good and harm befalls them all?

In Renaissance Naples, young Silvia Albana is seamstress and close confidant of Don Gesualdo’s wife. When Donna Maria begins an affair, Silvia knows that death is the only outcome. But who exactly will die? And where is Silvia’s own lover? Why is he not there to help her?


Truly, Madly , Deeply : 35 stories

Fall Head-Over-Heels…

From wedding days to special anniversaries, steamy one-night encounters to everlasting loves, Truly, Madly, Deeply takes you on an unforgettable romantic adventure where love really is all you need.

This collection brings together all-new specially selected stories from star authors from the Romantic Novelists’ Association, including international bestsellers Adele Parks, Katie Fforde, Carole Matthews and Miranda Dickinson, and many, many more and is edited by Sue Moorcroft.

The perfect indulgence to curl up with, Truly, Madly, Deeply is the ultimate romantic treat!


The Creative Writing Students Handbook (with Margaret James)

This inspiring handbook takes students through the entire creative writing process.

You will find plenty of practical advice, helpful exercises, lots of tips and links to useful websites in this indispensable manual for new and seasoned writers alike.

Cathie Hartigan and Margaret James are highly motivated authors and creative writing tutors. Between them, they have over thirty years of successful teaching experience for Writers News Home Study Division, The London School of Journalism and Exeter College.

They are readers and judges for many international writing competitions and, with Sophie Duffy, are the founders and administrators of both The Exeter Novel Prize and The Exeter Story Prize – see http://www.creativewritingmatters.co.uk for more information about literary competitions and services to writers.


The Novelist’s Workbook (with Margaret James)

Do you want to write a novel, but aren’t sure where to begin? This authoritative guide will get you started, show you how to develop your story, and bring it to a satisfying conclusion.

Traditional, commercial or self-publishing: which will be the best route for your novel? We discuss the options.

Cathie Hartigan and Margaret James are highly motivated, successful novelists and creative writing tutors. Between them, they have over thirty years of teaching experience for Writers News Home Study Division, The London School of Journalism and Exeter College.

They are readers and judges for many international writing competitions and, with Sophie Duffy, are the founders and administrators of both The Exeter Novel Prize and The Exeter Story Prize – see http://www.creativewritingmatters.co.uk for more information about literary competitions and services to writers.


The Short Story Writer’s Workbook (with Margaret James)

Do you want to write short stories, but aren’t sure where to start? This authoritative guide will steer you through every stage of your writing journey.

We discuss competition, commercial-magazine, one-thousand-worder, flash and micro fiction, explaining how every kind of story works, what you need to consider, and how to achieve competition and publication success.

Cathie Hartigan and Margaret James are highly motivated authors and creative writing tutors. Between them, they have over thirty years of successful teaching experience for Writers News Home Study Division, The London School of Journalism and Exeter College.

They are readers and judges for many international writing competitions and, with Sophie Duffy, are the founders and administrators of both The Exeter Novel Prize and The Exeter Story Prize – see http://www.creativewritingmatters.co.uk for more information about literary competitions and services to writers.


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