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My First Time...with Catherine Barter

Catherine Barter grew up in Warwickshire, and then lived in Norwich for ten years, where she worked in a library, a bookshop, and for an organisation campaigning for the rights of garment workers. After gaining a PhD in American literature, she ditched academia for the lucrative world of independent bookselling (our hero!). Currently she lives in East London and co-manages Housmans, a radical independent bookshop in King's Cross.

Here's the blurb for 'Troublemakers'... Fifteen-year-old Alena never really knew her political activist mother, who died when she was a baby. She has grown up with her older half-brother Danny and his boyfriend Nick in the east end of London. Now the area is threatened by a bomber who has been leaving explosive devices in supermarkets. It is only a matter of time before a bomb goes off.

Against this increasingly fearful backdrop, Alena seeks to discover more about her past, while Danny takes a job working for a controversial politician. As her family life implodes, and the threat to Londoners mounts, Alena starts getting into trouble. Then she does something truly rebellious.

Describe the exact moment you decided to write your book.

I can’t remember the exact moment, but it’s likely it was around two o’ clock in the afternoon and I was still in bed. I’d just finished a PhD and I was in a post-academia limbo and re-reading some of my favourite children’s books.

What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before starting to write it?

I’d like to have known what the book was actually going to be about. As it was I had to rewrite it about ten times before working that out.

What’s your go-to procrastination method?

Plants vs. Zombies. I’ve survived 42 zombie waves in Endless mode, but it starts to get really hard after that.

What was the biggest tantrum you had while writing your book?

I was close to a tantrum when someone told me I needed to change the book from present tense to past tense, but instead I just ignored the advice.

Best thing about writing your book?

The times when I was right in the zone and writing pages and pages without stopping to think.

And the worst?

Being asked, ‘So what’s your book about?’

Go-to writing snacks?

I’m not much of a snack person. I usually just drink a lot of coffee and hope that eventually someone will make dinner for me.

Who or what inspires you to write?

Reading writers who are much better than me.

The book that changed you?

Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume

Your pump up song?

Wrecking Ball by Bruce Springsteen.

If you could share a bottle of wine with one writer dead or alive, who would it be?

Sherman Alexie. Although I think he’s teetotal, so the wine would all be for me.

One piece of advice you’d give first time writers hoping to get a book published?

Don’t worry about trying to get a book published until you’ve written a book you love. When you’ve written a book you love, enter it into a competition (or lots of competitions, if necessary) – getting shortlisted for an award was what found me an agent. Sorry, that’s two pieces of advice.

You can snap up your copy of Troublemakers here, and follow Catherine on Twitter.

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