Bestselling author Colette Caddle has fallen for Derry’s charms.
During a brief stopover to visit Eason in Foyleside on Wednesday she said she believed Derry had come into its own in the last 10 years and that great things lay ahead for our city.
“Of course I brought the sun up from Dublin with me,” the 12 times bestseller joked. “Derry is like Dublin in a lot of ways. It has reinvented itself in the last decade and things look great for the future.”
Colette has undergone her own reinvention in the last 15 years - she has gone from working in a series of office jobs which she found ultimately unfulfilling to, in her own words “living the dream”.
“I was bored,” she said. “I was at that age where I wondered if this was it. I was browned off with office politics so I just lost myself in books - every day I read. It didn’t matter what it was - if you put it in front of me I read it.”
It was after a particularly uninspiring reading experience that she decided to put pen to paper. “I finished a book - it wasn’t one I particularly enjoyed - and thought to myself ‘I could do better than that’ so I started to scribble down the first few chapters of a novel.”
However life got in the way and the novel fell by the wayside until Colette found her tattered manuscript in her office drawer when she decided to strike out on her own as a computer programmer.
“I happened to tell a friend about the book, and she happened to be friends with Patricia Scanlan - and she told me that Patricia had sent off her first book on a whim and that I should do the same.”
Bolstered by her friend’s confidence she sent her first novel to Poolbeg Press - who published the likes of Patricia Scanlan, Marian Keyes and Sheila O’Flanagan at that time and was shocked beyond words when, just three days later, an offer of a three book contract arrived at her door.
Her book Too Little Too Late - timed to come out on Mother’s Day 1999 - when Colette’s own firstborn was just three months old - entered the Irish bestseller charts in the top five. At that time she said, “Irish authors were big business. Publishing houses wanted an Irish author on their books.”
She admits timing played a big factor in her instant success. “If the book had landed on the desk of a different editor - if others hadn’t come before me and opened the doors...it could have been different,” she said.
But as it stood, Colette soon found herself in the centre of a bidding war with UK publishers eager to find the next big name. “It was very surreal,” she said. “My son was teething at the time and I was trying to get on with that while taking calls from my agent in London and seeing how things went there.”
Soon she had secured a deal with Simon and Schuester who along with Poolbeg helped establish her as one of Ireland’s top selling and bestloved authors.
A book a year has followed - and Colette is confident that the genre of women’s fiction (so often labelled chick lit) is here to stay. “Things will change. Fads come and go. But no, women’s fiction isn’t dead. There is just so much creativity out there waiting to be tapped into.
“Our books (women’s fiction) may not have the car chases or the blood and guts but what they do have is the human story. And every big story has a human angle - someone’s personal life, their family problems, what they live with each day. That’s life and our books are about life.
“But I fully believe that there is room for everyone - there is room for us all.”
While Colette admits this was the first time she has visited Derry in her memory she has already vowed to come back and is excited to hear about the plans for next year’s City of Culture celebrations.
“How amazing will that be?” she said, vowing to do all she can to support our big year in 2013.
Colette was in Derry promoting her latest novel ‘Everytime We Say Goodbye’ which is available now in bookshops and online.