I’m welcoming Catherine McCullagh to my author spotlight today. Secrets and Showgirls is her second historical fiction novel and is set in a cabaret in wartime Paris. There are some fabulous pictures of the launch of the book on her Facebook page – do have a look!
First of all, would you tell my blog readers a little about yourself?
My name is Catherine McCullagh and I live in Canberra — the capital city of Australia that no-one has ever heard of. I grew up in the idyllic state of Tasmania and have been surrounded by books and writing since I was a child. My father was an English teacher who then went on to publish four books on Tasmanian history, while my mother was a voracious reader and twice mayor of my hometown. I completed my university in Canberra and then joined the Army before leaving to become a full-time military history editor. I have largely given up editing and now just write which is utterly blissful!
What inspired you to start writing?
My time at university studying literature and as an editor nurtured a great love of the English language, particularly in its written form. I spent close to twenty years editing military history and discovered a wealth of extraordinary stories — and people — during that time. Many of these stories aroused my curiosity and spurred me into writing my own tales set against an historical backdrop.
Tell me about your journey to publication
I edit for my publisher, so I consider myself rather fortunate in already having publishing contacts through my work. But my publisher was initially far from interested in historical fiction — until his Principal Reader decided that they should publish my first book. She told him it was ‘faction’ — a cross between fact and fiction and that there was a healthy market for this genre. That did the trick and I have just sent my third novel to the printer.
In a nutshell, what is your book about?
Secrets and Showgirls is the tale of a little cabaret in occupied Paris whose increasingly harried manager and colourful cast of characters survive, literally, on their wits.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
The original title was The Secret Showgirl, but my clever Publishing Manager thought Secrets and Showgirls was a better fit. She was right!
How did you celebrate publication day?
We held a gala launch that featured the local cabaret and cancan dancers It was an absolute hit! You can see some footage on my Facebook page on:
Do you have a work in progress just now?
I have a confession to make: I have three books in progress at the moment. It sounds terribly frenetic, but I think that’s just the way my mind works. When an idea grabs me, I tend to follow it. I also ghost write and I have one title with a publisher while I am working on another … just to make life that little bit more interesting …
What one book would you recommend to a friend and why?
Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. The plot is tightly structured but whimsical and it has a gentle poignancy that is utterly compelling.
What are you reading just now?
I’m currently reading Simon Parkin’s wonderful A Game of Birds and Wolves: the Secret Game that Won the War. I tend to flit between fiction and non-fiction and this is a superbly researched book that is also extremely well written.
If you were on Desert Island Discs, what one book would you take with you?
Goodness, how to choose?? I’d probably try to smuggle a kindle with me as I could take all my favourites! But, if I had to choose just one book, then it would probably be Rumer Godden’s In This House of Brede, which I read many years ago and which has stayed with me.
Is there a book you’d love to see made into a film?
Actually, Secrets and Showgirls would make a wonderful film!
[I rather think it would!]
How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?
Through my Facebook page on:
And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?
I would be Count Alexander Rostov in A Gentleman in Moscow — educated, sophisticated, cultured and quietly clever. I thought about all the women in books I have enjoyed, but they all frustrated me for one reason or another. Perhaps that’s another reason for my love of writing — I have the ability to shape my own characters.
From the back of the book
Le Prix d’Amour, a vibrant Paris cabaret, is caught in the crossfire of the occupation. Everyone is being watched, and some of Le Prix’s colourful performers are hiding dangerous secrets. Monsieur Maurice manages Le Prix d’Amour, a successful Parisian cabaret, which boasts glitzy performers and sassy showgirls. But with the German occupation in June 1940, Maurice treads a fine line between his German patrons, the French police and the Gestapo as he hides the dark secrets of his performers. Two of his lively showgirls, Lily and Poppy, soon join Maurice in the hunt for an informer who threatens to betray them. With the Allied landings, the tension builds and Maurice is pushed to his limits as his performers finally take the fight to the invader in their own flamboyant way. Secrets and Showgirls portrays an occupied Paris in which exotic cabarets existed uneasily under the heel of the invader. It follows the antics of Maurice, Lily and a glittering array of characters, but never loses sight of the battle to survive that characterised the life of the everyday Parisian.
About the Author
Catherine McCullagh completed a Bachelor of Arts (Asian Studies) at the Australian National University in Canberra and taught English, History and languages at secondary and pre-tertiary level. She then embarked on a military career spending twenty years as an officer in the Australian Army as a teacher and linguist. On leaving the Army she established herself as a freelance editor, working primarily with military history volumes published by the Australian Army History Unit. She has two published non-fiction works to her name, Willingly into the Fray, a narrative history of Australian Army nursing which she compiled and edited, and War Child, the poignant memoir of a woman who grew up in pre-war Germany, which she ghost-wrote for Annette Janic, whose mother is the subject of the story. Catherine’s first novel, Dancing with Deception, a historical fiction novel based in World War II, was published in 2017. Secrets and Showgirls is her second historical fiction novel and is also based in World War II, exploring the world of the cabaret in occupied Paris.