Nominated for a top award for her debut novel, Catherine Robinson, talks about the trials and tribulations of being an author. Photography: Phil Garlington

Ribble Valley author Catherine Robinson has been nominated for a national writing award ‘Comedy Women in Print’ for her debut novel.

Catherine’s book, Forging On, is a comedy fiction about an apprentice farrier’s first year of training in Yorkshire and is one of 12 nominated novels selected from an abundance of submissions. These include respected authors such as Gail Honeyman writer of the best-selling Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, AJ Pierce author of Dear Mrs Bird and Gill Sims who wrote the smash hit Why Mummy Swears.

Rising star Catherine, who teaches part time at Stonyhurst College, says: “I’m among some very respected names in writing so I’m thoroughly delighted to be nominated. I was taken completely by surprise!”

All of the books nominated have been recognised for the way each author has embraced a rich and varied backdrop to write wit and comedy.

Catherine’s debut book has been described as ‘wonderfully warm and funny’ and as the ‘perfect holiday poolside read’.

She has taught English and drama in schools and colleges for three decades, and lives in Waddington with her husband. When not teaching or writing, Catherine has farmed a flock of Derbyshire Gritstone sheep, bred horses and raised a son Joe – on whom the novel is loosely based: “Joe has been brought up with horses. In fact he can’t remember not being able to ride. As soon as he could sit upright I bought him a little Shetland pony and I would lead his pony off my horse, who was completely safe. A couple of years later we got him an instructor – his life has revolved around horses.”

When he left school, Joe went on to train as a farrier: “He completed the first year of his apprenticeship in Yorkshire. People think horses are for posh people, but he was shoeing horses for gypsy travellers as well as landed gentry – a huge social range. As a young man I think he found it difficult, he was out of his comfort zone but he soon learnt to adapt. He used to come home after a day’s work and tell us these really funny stories, which I used to write down.”

In 2013 when Catherine took early retirement, she decided it was the right time to start her first novel.

Speaking about Forging On, which is published by Orion, she adds: “It’s really is a coming of age story about a young middle class boy who arrives in this completely different world of a working environment and how he adjusts to it and becomes socially capable and able to deal with people from all walks of life.

“I think when you are writing a novel that is funny, you have to be acutely aware and observant as not everyone finds the same things amusing. Some of the characters in the book are tough hard Yorkshiremen, so if you don’t like strong language this book isn’t for you!”

The novel took two years to write and once complete, Catherine set about getting an agent, which was not an easy task: “I sent it off to around 20 different agents and didn’t really expect to hear anything but Victoria Hobbs, from A M Heath Literary Agents, responded inviting me down to London.

“She didn’t say anything about the book, so I went down to meet her and we got on so well. We share the same sense of humour. She became my agent and is now a very good friend. It’s easy to lose faith in one’s self as a writer so she is just what I need. You have to be very determined and not give up.”

“When I started creating the characters in Forging On it was almost like they took on a life of their own, they took over, that’s how it felt.”

Catherine, who is currently in the final stages of the sequel to Forging On, adds: “The second book has been considerably harder than the first. You can do a coming of age story once, as an introduction to the characters, but a sequel has to have a much richer plot.”



Tedd Walmsley

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