This week, we’re featuring Cathy Donald, author of The Reluctant Cuckoo and Miles to Go, both published by Kwarts. Cathy made time in between her busy day job as a medical doctor to answer a few questions about her writing and other passions.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Sorry to be boring, but the truth is that it would probably be right where I am now! Somerset West is God’s own country, and from my breakfast nook, I have a view of the whole of False Bay – from the Cape Point lighthouse to Cape Hangklip. Behind us are the mountains and the vineyards surround us. Add into the mix meaningful friendships that have formed and blossomed over the past twenty plus years, and everything that the Cape has to offer (even water now that we have had good winter rains!) and I guess I’m not going anywhere!
What do you do when you aren’t writing?
I’m a medical doctor and have my own practice, so that keeps me pretty busy. Apart from that, I am active in my church, I write and play music (keyboard and drums) and sing as well. I love travelling and have a special love for the Eastern Cape coast and the Mpumalanga Lowveld. We are keen bird watchers and game viewers. My family and friends are important to me, and I love spending time with them.
How would you define a successful writer?
To me, a successful writer is one who is able to communicate what is in his or her heart in a way that resonates with the reader. Nothing thrills me more than when something I have written touches someone in a meaningful way or helps them on their life journey in some way.
What is the first book that made an impression on you?
To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee. It was a school set workbook. I remember feeling that I could identify strongly as a White pre-transformation South African with the issues that Scout (the main character) raised – the division and injustice within her community and the courage it often takes to right the wrongs. She was a child telling her story, and Harper Lee let her do so in a way which was easily understandable and totally relatable. I loved her descriptions and her dramas. I felt immersed in the story.
What is the most difficult thing about writing characters of the opposite sex?
I have done a fair amount of acting in my life, and when I write, I do what I would do when I was given an acting role – I try to crawl into the person’s skin and see and feel things exactly as they would. The problem is this – do we really know what someone of the opposite sex is feeling? We can ask and research, but will we ever know completely? So far, my main characters are women because it is easier for me to know how their minds are working!
Where is your favourite place to write?
I write at home in my study with my dogs around the heater at my feet. I wear comfortable clothes and drink masses of coffee.
How does writing change a writer?
I think it makes me more aware – aware of my environment as I now look at things around me and think how I could best describe them; aware of other people and their feelings and what makes them tick (they are potential characters after all!) and aware of my own feelings as sometimes a character will give an opinion and, if I don’t agree with that opinion, I have to debate the subject in my head so that the character sounds convincing.
Is being a writer a blessing or a curse?
It is, without a doubt, a blessing. I didn’t have to think about that one before I answered! I have always wanted to write but was held back by a lack of time, but also by doubts about my ability. I am so thankful that there are readers who enjoy my writing, so for me, it is a win-win situation as I love writing. I am only too aware though that I have only been writing seriously for three years. I know that there may be times when writing is difficult, and the inspiration just isn’t flowing. But for now, I’m still in the honeymoon phase.
If your name was a verb, what would it mean?
It would probably mean “travelling through the world at 200km an hour to fit in all the things that I would like to do (and still managing to be slightly late!)”
What work have you done with Kwarts Publishers?
I have published two books with Kwarts, The Reluctant Cuckoo in 2016 and Miles to Go in 2018. Publishing through Kwarts has been an awesome experience for a new and very green indie author! Anita talked me through all the steps so well and was always there to guide and encourage me.
For more information about Cathy and her books, visit www.cathydonald.co.za