Celebrating the release of her new book You Me Everything, author Catherine Isaac opens up in an exclusive piece for Female First, detailing 10 things she'd like her readers to know she learned whilst writing. Read on to find out what she had to reveal...
1. Taking risks makes you a better writer. I’d had a decade-long career writing romantic comedy as Jane Costello before I came up with the idea for You Me Everything. I dismissed it as being too ambitious at first, not in keeping with the light-hearted style I was known for. But the story took hold of me until I just had to start writing it. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
2. A diagnosis of Huntington’s disease devastates an entire family. Someone I know well discovered that his mum had the condition back in 2011 and it was his experience that sparked the idea for You Me Everything. It’s an incurable genetic disorder that causes the breakdown of nerve cells in the brain and progressively destroys a person’s ability to walk, think, speak and eat. Moreover, every child of a parent with HD has a 50/50 chance of carrying the faulty gene that causes it. This became central to my storyline.
3. There’s a reason why people fall in love with the south of France. The majority of the novel is set around a fictional chateau in the Dordogne. It’s there that single mother Jess takes her ten-year-old son William to rekindle his relationship with his father, her ex, who runs a hotel there. I’d visited the region many times before I wrote the novel and having the opportunity to depict that sweeping countryside, the historic villages, glorious food and drink was an utter joy.
4. The dream can actually happen. The chances of ever getting a movie deal had felt distinctly remote after I’d been grafting away un-noticed by Hollywood for so long. But, a year before You Me Everything was published, I got a phone call from my agent that left me uncharacteristically speechless. It had been optioned by Lionsgate and Temple Hill and the movie is in development now.
5. It’s not easy to choose your own name. When my agent read my first draft of You Me Everything she felt the new novel was so different from my previous work that I needed a new author name. Easy, I thought. But choosing your own name is very different from choosing a baby name (not least because I’m the wrong side of 40). It’s not simply about finding a name you like the sound of; it’s got to suit you, to feel right and, ideally, mean something. I plumped for Catherine – my middle name – and Isaac, the name of one of my three sons.
6. Richard and Judy made me a bit star struck. I met ‘TV’s favourite married couple’ for their WHSmith podcast after You Me Everything was selected for their book club. But they’re extraordinarily good at putting interviewees at ease, naturally very warm and I really thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent recording it. The thing that really shone through was the insight in their questions and their genuine passion for reading and for books.
7. I’d be a terrible casting agent. The first question I’m asked when people find out the book has been optioned is who I’d like to star in it. But that’s impossible to answer! I know some authors write books with a leading man and woman at the front of their mind. But I never did and, as it’s not something I’d get a say in anyway, I’ve reconciled myself with the idea of leaving it to someone else to choose. That said, after seeing A Star Is Born, if Bradley Cooper has nothing on in the next few months, I’m sure I could put in a good word . . .
8. It is possible to write a book about a devastating subject that’s full of optimism. It was partly working with the Huntington’s Disease Association that made me realise this, and partly the attitude of Tom, the young man whose mum’s diagnosis gave me the idea for my story. He decided right from the start that he was going to live life to the full and try to achieve as much as he possibly could in the next few years. I found that immensely brave and inspiring.
9. How to say ‘thank you’ in Norwegian. You Me Everything has been published in 21 languages, but it debuted in Norway in September 2017. It was a terrific start – I had a fabulous book tour over there and it resulted in my first ever number one bestselling novel. All I can say is: ‘Takk Norge!’
10. There is currently no cure for HD, but there is hope. In December 2017, a research team at University College London managed to correct the defect that causes HD in patients for the first time. Their experimental drug, injected into spinal fluid, safely lowered levels of toxic proteins. It has been described as one of the biggest breakthroughs in neurodegenerative diseases for fifty years.
You Me Everything by Catherine Isaac is out now (£8.99, Simon & Schuster).
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