The Chalet is this year's most talked about debut novel - a proper old-fashioned whodunnit set in the Alps. And look, here's Catherine proving that she knows a thing or two about snow. I caught up with her from her home in France (it's perfectly OK to be jealous, you'd be weird if you weren't)
The Chalet is good old-fashioned murder mystery set on the ski slopes of France. I’m guessing you know how to ski and have been to France?
Yep, I live in France and went on my first ski trip with the school aged 14 and totally loved it. We’ve been in France over 10 years now and being able to ski more was a big reason for coming here.
When did the idea for the book first enter your head? Did you know it was THE idea at the time, or did it take a while to figure it out? It was several things – I read a lot of thrillers and love skiing and had never found a book that combined the two (though there are at least two others out this winter!) There was a story in the papers about glaciers melting and revealing bodies which had been there a long time. Also I just love banging on about mountains and skiing.
Do you draw on the characteristics of people you know for your characters? Come on, I won’t tell
Most of them are a mix of characteristics borrowed from of a lot of people with some of their own thrown in. Which I guess is true of anyone really.
Catherine up a mountain doing her thing
What’s your writing process? How do you plan, where do you start?
Um… I don’t really have a process. I tend to just start with a setting and a few characters and largely see what happens. With The Chalet there was one point when I got a bit stuck and tried planning it out on a whiteboard with different coloured post its for different story threads. It looked quite nice but the story still turned out totally differently.
What time of day do you usually write? I’ve never met an author that doesn’t say ‘really early in the morning’ and I hate mornings, so I’m wondering if I’ll ever be able to write a book
I hate mornings too. I usually either go to gym or get on with admin and/or journalism work in the morning and then write in the afternoon. I quite often write at the weekends too but mainly because I want to rather than out of duty.
How did you celebrate when you got your book deal with Harper Collins? Get hammered on Champagne and fall out of a ski lift?
Sadly not – I was home alone at the time so it was just me, wine and crisps. I was really hoping for a big launch party but sadly lockdown meant that wasn’t to be. However, we did have champagne, a bonfire and fireworks, plus a massive cake between three of us as by then we weren’t allowed any guests.
Do you have another novel on the go or are you putting your feet up and eating baked Camembert for a bit?
Yep, The Chateau is written and I’m currently editing it. It’s due out with Harper Collins next September.
Ooh, fab. Now, if you were thrown in prison and could only take one book to read over and over again, which book would that be and why?
Just one? I very rarely re-read books so I’m not sure. I’m also terrible at remembering which books I liked. I’ll say Rebecca as I reread it recently and thought it was amazing. Or maybe something by PG Wodehouse because he’s so funny. Or I, Partridge – also hilarious.
What do you eat and drink while writing?
Depends on the time of day. Coffee at the moment – sometimes wine if I’m writing outside in the early evening in the summer. No eating – I don't want crumbs on the keyboard! Yuk.
Are you a collector of anything? Thimbles? Antique maps?
No – I can’t stand clutter. Although I guess I do have quite a lot of books.
The Chalet is out now in paperback (£7.99) and for Kindle (99p). Try to buy the paperback version so bookshops don't go out of business. I know I'm bossy, but do it anyway. If you don't have an independent bookshop nearby, at least give Waterstones a go. Buying real books is the nuts and you know it: