I’m pleased to be joined by today’s #TenThings guest, Steve Catto. Steve has visited the blog before when he wrote a guest post about the importance of setting in his novel, Snowflakes. Read on to find out more about him.
Ten things about Steve Catto
- My real name is Steve Douglas but I write as Steve Catto. It’s my wife’s family name. When we were married I was in favour of adopting Catto, but Yvonne wanted to be a Douglas. Once I started to do more creative work I did a few searches online and discovered there were lots of people called ’Steve Douglas’ so it was the perfect opportunity to create an author identity. I’ve never made any secret about it.
There really aren’t many people called Steve Catto, and if you search online for it almost everything you get is me.
- I come from the North of England, but I grew up in Australia. In the 1960’s my parents decided, for reasons that are unlikely to become clear ever again, to emigrate. I think that the vision of a New World and the promise of a Land of Opportunity was something that my father was unable to resist. That would have been fine if he’d been a businessman but he wasn’t. I’m sure there were great possibilities there but he simply got a string of boring jobs like the ones he’d had back in England. Perhaps that’s how I learned to seize opportunities when I’m presented with them. It was never ‘home’ for me and I came back to the UK when I was twenty. My parents came with me – which wasn’t what I’d wanted because I’d been hoping to get away from them. The feelings surrounding ‘home’ and what it really means are a frequent topic in my writing and there are some Australian influences in the next book.
- I always take on too much. I’m very eager to say ‘yes’ to things and then not have the time to do them properly. I really must learn to say ‘no’, but I like a new challenge.
- From an early age I’ve played the guitar, and I learned the piano in my twenties. I used to tour the folk circuits and open-mic nights in the south playing whatever I could. Yvonne has always played the fiddle, so we’ve been trying to get a little band off the ground for years to play variations of Scottish traditional tunes and songs, which are starting to get lost. The audience for them is dying. Literally. Without doing something new with them they’ll never appeal to the younger age group.
- Most things I do last about five or six years. I learned scuba diving and had some good times. I became a diver rescue specialist. After about five years there was nothing new to do or and not much new to learn. I started an independent record company. After about five or six years I was bored with it. I learned to fly gliders, and had a lot of fun. Although I went on to work in the aerospace industry dealing with aircraft flight recorders and therefore flew loads of different aeroplanes to get the flight data, the gliding lasted about six years. I don’t know about “The Seven Year Itch” but it seems that I have a five year one.
- We’re renovating an old camper van which I bought new in 1989. We drove it to the London Olympics in 2012 and then decided to fix the rust and refurbish it. We thought it might take three or four months. That was six years ago. We finished up having to take it all to bits, replace twelve panels, respray it, and completely redesign and rebuild the interior, with only one day each weekend to spend on it, in the good weather when the workshop isn’t freezing. It has no wheels and no roof, no instrument panel and the brakes don’t work, but it’s nearly finished. Honest.
- I’m ok with people but I’m also happy with my own company. If I go away on business and have time to spare before my train I can happily sit and look at the river for two hours, or watch the traffic. Some people get bored when they’ve got nothing to do. I always have something to do because I can sit and think.
- When I left school in Australia I started to study electronics and my idea was to get a part time job when I returned to the UK and finish that studying. While at school I was allowed time on the local university computer to learn programming and I was able to use those skills, mixed with what I knew about electronics, to build a career. I got a job in the computer department of an Oxford publisher, and never finished the degree in electronics. I think that was a useful exercise for me when my children were thinking about careers. My daughter applied for places at several universities and got offers, but decided in the end to take a job with an insurance broker and build a career in that industry. She’s doing very well. My son went on to do various studies and degrees in art but never managed to get a job using those skills. I know lots of people who have good degrees but flip burgers or sweep floors. These days everyone has a degree. It’s not outstanding any more.
- When I first started writing I seriously underestimated the marketing effort that would be required. From working for the infamous Oxford publisher I’ve always understood the mechanical side of the publishing industry, but the marketing side of it has been the difficult thing for me. I now realise that it’s hard to make any headway with one book. Nothing much happens until you have two or three. This is the difference between ‘someone who writes books’ and ‘someone who’s written a book’.
I’m working on the sequel to Snowflakes and in the meantime writing short stories and flash to build my reader base. I still don’t regret going independent for my publishing. There seems to be a misconception that a publisher will do everything for you but in fact most publishers don’t do the marketing anyway.
- On my return to the UK from Australia we finished up in the south of the country because my mother had a sister who lived there. I married a girl from Oxford and lived there for twenty-five years. During that time I learned a lot about life. In particular I learned that you can’t promise to love someone for ever. It’s a premise that’s fundamentally flawed. Everyone changes over the course of their lives as they grow. The idea behind a marriage is that you grow together, but sometimes you grow apart. After our two children had left home I remember we sat down one evening and said that we weren’t having much fun anymore and perhaps we ought to go our separate ways. So we did. It had been something that I’d thought about for a long time. “You only live twice Mister Bond.” One life for yourself, and one for your dreams. This is my second life. I’ve moved back to the north, married a Scottish girl and we live near the sea with two little dogs in one of the most beautiful regions of the country. I have my own business, I write in my spare time, Yvonne has her own career and, after nearly twelve years here, I’m still very much enjoying being ‘Steve Catto’.
The world didn’t end violently, the way everyone thought it would.
It just started working differently.
Carrie had wavy dark brown hair. She also had an attitude that was older and wiser than her years, maybe even critical at times. But orphans can be a bit like that, especially when they’ve grown up in a settlement full of strangers in a world that wasn’t their own.
Yet, Carrie lived an ordinary life there. Until the day Sam arrived.
Sam was a a rugged and handsome traveller, a hunter with a wry sense of humour. He was different from other men she had experienced. Carrie liked him and he even seemed to like her, so it was not long before they were sharing those feelings gazing up at a blanket of stars. It was then that she started feeling rare contentment. Unfortunately, the world had other plans.
As Carrie and Sam head back to their settlement, things are not as they were. It wasn’t where it should have been. Instead, they discovered an isolated stone cottage near the river that would make a ready-made home for them.
The small home was already occupied by Tilly. She was a new adult with straight blonde hair that tickled her waist. She was youthful, intelligent, and had a sharing attitude that would eventually niggle Carrie. She had grown up alone in the cottage – another lost soul from a different world.
Life as a threesome worked. Sometimes a difficult task in a world with few people, but it worked. A simple life, a life of hard work, but it had its rewards. Then, one cold winter night, another mysterious child-like girl turned up.
She didn’t speak or sleep much, but she drew – a lot. Her long dark hair, big dark eyes, and trim but small body was cat-like. The mysterious girl seemed to have her own life and disappeared most nights; often when Sam was away hunting.
Nobody knew who she was or where she went. Or even what she wanted.
You can buy a Kindle copy of Snowflakes here.
Find out more about Steve Catto