Author Cate Cullington’s debut novel, ‘The Stones’ is a crime thriller where family loyalty, mental fragility, secrets and trust collide. Lorraine Worsley Carter meets her.
In your ‘ Note from the Author’ you say that six months before you wrote the book, you could never imagine yourself as a writer. What changed your mind?
Cate: “I was and still am an extremely busy person and I think I imagined that it would take me years to write a book and that it would take too much time away from my other activities. I saw a competition that only wanted the first three chapters which seemed manageable, so I entered it and wrote three chapters. What surprised me was how easy I found it to write and the connection that I had developed to the characters in those three chapters. I felt that they deserved to have their story written”.
Did you type into your PC or are you a writer who prefers handwritten notes?
Cate: “I write with a pencil into a notebook. The strange thing about ‘The Stones’ was that I started on the first line of that notebook and finished on the last page!”
Why did you choose to write a crime novel?
Cate: “I have always been interested in crime, particularly true crime and what drives people to do terrible things to other people.”
Did any of the characters surprise you as your story began to unfold?
Cate: “Maybe Inspector Sabir – I hadn’t intended to make him so ‘human’ but his character seemed to develop its own depth”.
Is there a part of you in any of the female characters?
Cate: “I don’t think so. I made a deliberate effort to ‘anonymise’ this book. I don’t think anyone I know will recognise any of the characters”.
You live in rural Lincolnshire but chose Stonehenge in Wiltshire for the backdrop of your story, have you ever been to the solstice celebrations?
Cate: “I have been to Stonehenge a couple of times but never to the solstice celebrations. To be honest it’s the last sort of place that you would find me – I’m not that keen on noisy crowded places!”
Many families have a tapestry of light and shade, happiness and tragedy. How significant was it for you to reflect this in your book?
Cate: “It was something that I wanted to demonstrate. The family in the book are very close but there are still tensions, conflicts and turmoil even within a very small group”.
Teresa, your central character, is very much part of what is often referred to as ‘the sandwich generation’ where on one hand she is a part time carer for her elderly mother but at the same time is a single working mother of a young child. How important was it to show that Teresa still found the strength to support and fight for her family through such a trauma?
Cate: “It was very important to me to show her as a strong woman. I know so many amazing women who juggle all their responsibilities and are impossibly busy, but I don’t know any that would give up. I feel there is something in most women that makes them dig deep and rise up to meet a challenge. Rather than be overwhelmed by trauma they are strengthened by it”.
You attended the same primary and secondary school as Margaret Thatcher, though some years later, who are your heroes?
Cate: “My heroes aren’t really those public figures in life like Margaret Thatcher although I do have great admiration for people like her who have risen through the ranks from a commonplace background to become a force to be reckoned with. My real heroes are ‘ordinary’ people who do extraordinary things, and we’ve seen so many of them this year – all the NHS staff and those who are doing what they can to support them like Captain Sir Tom Moore”.
The Stones by Cate Cullington is published by Cranthorpe Millner Publishers priced £8.99. Cate has since written another two books, yet to be published. Her second book is also crime related, but from the perspective of the law makers and not the law breakers; and her third is a family-based drama