Friday 6 December 2013

Conditional Love

I first met Cathy Bramley on the Writers' Workshop Self Editing Course run by the wonderful Debi Alper and Emma Darwin. Over the six week course we students and tutors chortled our way through snippets of Tell Me What You Want, Cathy's second novel, a comedy about three women who meet at a funeral. It's a setting for a comedy which had me tittering from the off but I liked its more serious undercurrent, too.

Cathy and a telephone box of Conditional Love
So when I heard that Cathy had published her first novel, Conditional Love, as an eBook, well, what could I do? I had to crack open the iPad and launch myself into my first ever electronic read of a novel. Remember that bit about me not being at the front of the queue with technology? Suffice it to say, Conditional Love which I read on my (stationary) bike in the kitchen instead of the bath, has inspired me to download further fiction. But it's in addition to 
tradition books – don't tell my bank account – she adds quickly.
I thought I'd catch up with Cathy to ask here about Conditional Love and being published.

And where did she get those cakes?

1.      Conditional Love feels to me like a Bridget Jones sprinkled with Marian Keyes overtones. Is this how you see it?

A herd of butterflies went on the rampage in my intestines when I read this question, I can’t tell you! Bridget Jones’ Diary is such a clever book and I love the humour in it. I adore the films even more. And as for Marian Keyes, well, you couldn’t have paid me a bigger compliment if you’d tried. I read Mystery at Mercy Close shortly before writing the final draft of Conditional Love and Sophie Stone, who’s a Nottingham lass, kept lapsing into a Dublin accent in my head as I was writing her.

2.      Conditional Love is self-published. What made you decide to self-publish?

I’m incredibly impatient. I wanted to start my writing career THIS year, not wait for a year to get picked up by an agent, then wait another year for a publishing deal, then another to see my book in print. Also I was a teeny bit scared that despite the feedback I had had on the book, everyone would point their fingers and laugh and no agent would show any interest in me.

I’m severely lacking in experience in the publishing world, however, I DO believe that if your book is good enough, there is no right or wrong way to do it.

I do want to be traditionally published. I have chosen to go about my quest for publication this way, aiming to build a profile, get good reviews and prove to prospective agents and publishers that I can write and I will work hard to promote my books.

3.      Would you recommend self-publishing?

It seems to be working for me. So far my efforts are meeting the aims that I set out to do. I’m sure it’s not for everyone. I hadn’t really appreciated how much work it would entail. I’m re-writing my second novel and would ideally like to be able to devote more time to it. But being publisher, marketer and editor can be very time-consuming!

4.      Conditional Love had a wonderful launch with a Conditional Love cake, a telephone box full of your books and a visit from the local mayor. You've also had BBC interviews and were recently signing books in Waterstones – how have you managed to set all this up on your own?

I’ve worked in marketing all my working life and I have my own small marketing and PR agency. That said, I’ve never promoted a book, or myself before. But it was easy for me to get hold of the right contacts in the media, to write my own press releases and call up the Mayor (who incidentally I met on Twitter!)

In my head, I knew what I wanted my book launch to look like. I wanted a community event, a tongue-in-cheek poke at the champagne-fuelled, stuffy literary affairs that you see in the press. Conditional Love is a comedy set in a Nottinghamshire village; the Lambley phone box was the perfect venue for my party. I did everything on a shoe string – we borrowed the tables form the church hall and got the cake from Asda. I even used our blunt kitchen scissors for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. It took the poor Mayor ages to saw through that ribbon!

The book signing event was surprisingly easy to organise. I emailed the store, they checked the book out and gave it the thumbs up, nine days later I was in!

5.      Do you enjoy the promotion?

Yes. I love it.

6.      Your male characters are either despicable (I so wanted to punch Marc) or a little wet (if quite appealing) around the ears. Did you enjoy writing them? Are they based on truth (she asks mischievously)?

Marc was initially based on a blend of Jason Statham and Jamie Oliver! I intended him to be a bit more cheeky chappie than he turned out, but he seemed to insist on it. Nick was totally fictional. That’s a complete lie, but it’s all I’m going to say.

7.      Bridget Jones-esque Sophie is frustratingly naïve and gullible for the first half of the novel -albeit very amusing – was she difficult to write?

If I was Sophie’s friend I’d have sat her down and given her a damn good talking to. For Heaven’s sake, she’s thirty two! But I did really like her, all the same. Sometimes people get in a rut and it takes something major to shake them out of it… Sometimes I have to remind myself that she was a figment of my imagination and I really should stop worrying about her. To answer your question, no she wasn’t difficult, just a bit frustrating to work with at times.

8.      There's lots of interesting detail about design and architecture, did you know much about this or have you been doing your research?

Property is one of my passions. I could waste hours on Right Move (in fact I have) Tony, my husband and I built our own house and much of my knowledge comes from that.

9.      The title is perfect! Was it difficult to come up with?

That book had more titles than I’ve had black boots, nearly. Home is where the heart is, No place like home, Hard hat and heels… Then one day Conditional Love popped into my head and I breathed a sigh of relief. The sequel is called Your Place or Mine. No, I haven’t started it yet, before you ask.

10.   You're currently writing Tell Me What You Want, a book about three women who meet at a funeral and the spontaneous pact they make there, can you tell us a bit more about this?

Well, I say it’s called Tell Me What You Want, of course, that might change…

It’s a comedy (I hope) about three very different women who meet at a funeral and in a Carpe Diem moment decide to help each other’s wishes come true within six months. Sarah is a new mum with an antic-bacterial gel habit, struggling to combine motherhood with her wish to become the firms youngest partner, Carrie has a past she would rather forget and a burning desire to wear a bikini and Jo is a commitment-phobic workaholic with a hidden romantic side and a failing shoe business. The clock is ticking for them to achieve their dreams, but first they must be brave enough to admit what it is they really really want…

Find out more about Cathy's writing over here. here


  1. 'Bridget Jones sprinkled with Marian Keyes' is good enough for me - the book sounds great :o) Interesting to read about someone who actually loves the promotional side of things; something I struggle with, but is essential for self-publishers. Congratulations to Cathy, I'm looking forward to reading more!

    1. Glad you like the sound of it, Karen. I hope you'll get to read Conditional Love, sounds like it's right up your street, and good luck with your own promotional work. Thanks for reading :)

  2. Hi Karen, thank you for leaving a comment. I do love the promotion side of it, although I struggle to find time to do as much as I would like. In the run up to the launch of Conditional Love, it was much easier to focus on promotion and to stick to a plan. Now that the initial launch activity is over, it's more difficult to find time to do it, particularly as I've been trying to finish 'Tell Me What You Want' before Christmas!
    best wishes

    1. And I happen to know that you have finished Tell Me What You Want before Christmas! Brilliant news, Cathy and best of luck with the next stage.

    2. Thanks Jackie, I met Miranda Dickinson at her book signing on Friday - really inspirational and she gave me lots of tips on what to do next. x

    3. I met her at York. She's lovely!


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