Catriona McPherson is here today to answer questions about mottos and spelling to celebrate her new book, Quiet Neighbors. I had the honor of interviewing Catriona on-stage at Left Coast Crime back in February where she was the Toastmistress. It was so much fun, that we based this Q&A on our favorite questions from that day. And don't forget to enter to win the goodie bag signed by Catriona at the end of the post. Just comment and tell us the friend you've known the longest. US residents only.
I’ve loved every Left Coast Crime I’ve ever attended, which is five now. But I’ve got to say - being the Toastmaster at Phoenix this year was an extra blast of joy. And being interviewed by Deb Lacy was the highlight of the weekend.
So when Deb suggested that, for this guest blog, I could maybe revisit my favourite questions of my favourite bit of the best time I’ve ever had at a convention . . . Oh well, all right then,
Deb: So, Catriona, why’s your name spelled so funny?
And that is why I love her. This was the first question in a big, serious, miked-up interview in a room full of mystery fans. I hope I didn’t deafen anyone cackling through the sound system.
The answer is: Catriona is the Scots spelling of English Catherine/Russian Katerina/Spanish Catalina/Irish Caitlin/Welsh Catrin. Don’t pick on me!
When I lived in Scotland and said my full name over the phone the only question I was ever asked was “Mick or Mack?”. Now I sometimes have people argue with me about whether I’m getting it right. The funniest one was when a guy in LA said, quite triumphantly: “But what about Robert Louis Stevenson’s Catriona ? That’s pronounced Kat-tree-OWN-a!” What could I say? - “Maybe in LA it is. Not in Edinburgh where I – and Robert Louis Stevenson – were both born.” Life’s too short. And, if I’m honest, I don’t mind how anyone pronounces my name. You should have heard my first attempt at Ximana.
Deb: Do you have a writing motto?
Just before our Phoenix interview I was asked this in a Q&A at a different event and I didn’t have an answer. So I said to Deb to ask me and I made a mental note to think about it. Then, of course, I forgot and on the day I once again didn’t have an answer. And here we are for a third time. So I’m going to turn the question a bit and ask “Why don’t I have a writing motto?”
The answer? My oldest friend, Catherine (never gets asked how to pronounce it) Lepreux (not so lucky) is an interior designer. Her stuff is gorgeous – look here if you don’t believe me. When I’m stressed by deadlines, or she’s stressed by orders, we say to each other: “It’s curtains and stories. It’s not clean water, or polio vaccines, or a burning building. It’s stories and curtains. No one will die.”
This isn’t to say I don’t think my work matters. I believe stories do matter and so does beauty. (Really – they’re great curtains.) But my mottoes are all for life in general. Love is the answer, whatever the question. And We’re monkeys, not tigers. And Cut to the but, because everything before the but is bull.
Deb: Tell me about the bookshop.
Oh yes! I’ve got a book coming out. QUIET NEIGHBORS is set in a fictitious bookshop in a real town full of them. Wigtown in south-west Scotland is the national booktown and hosts a literary festival every September. Just about where Sean and Jessica’s real shop sits, I’ve squeezed in an imaginary establishment run by an imaginary bookseller, filled it with everything I love, and made it totally disorganised and very dirty so that Jude, my cataloguing-librarian protagonist, gets all the fun of setting it to rights.
I don’t think I could have enjoyed myself anymore unless I had actually been there with a bucket of soapy water and Spontex cloth, and my soft pencil for marking prices inside the back covers. The plot of this book was more troublesome than usual and I shed a tear or two before I got it to work out, but the setting – Lowland Glen Books, the equally dishevelled Jamaica House where the bookseller lives, the natty Kirk Cottage (pictured on the jacket) where Jude finds a home . . . that was all bliss. I hope everyone who visits is happy they came by.
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