Meet the Author

Catherine M. Byrne


About Catherine:

Catherine Byrne always wanted to be a writer. She began at the age of eight by drawing comic strips with added dialogue and later, as a teenager, graduated to poetry.  Her professional life however, took a very different path.  She first studied glass engraving with Caithness Glass where she worked for fourteen years. During that time she also worked as a foster parent.  After the birth of her youngest child she changed direction, studying and becoming a chiropodist with her own private practice.  At the same time she did all the administration work for her husband’s two businesses, and this continued until the death of her husband in 2005.  However she still maintained her love of writing, and has had several short stories published in women’s magazines.  Her main ambition was to write novels and she has now retired in order to write full time.

Born and brought up until the age of nine on the Island of Stroma, she heard many stories from her grandparents about the island life of a different generation. Her family moved to the mainland at a time when the island was being depopulated, although it took another ten years before the last family left.

An interest in geology, history and her strong ties to island life have influenced her choice of genre for her novels.

Since first attending the AGM of the Scottish Association of Writers in 1999, Catherine has won several  prizes, commendations and has been short-listed both for short stories and chapters of her novels. In 2009, she won second prize in the general novel category for ‘Follow The Dove’

In 2016 The Road to Nowhere  won second prize in the Barbara Hammond competition for Best Self Published novel. The follow up, Isa’s Daughter won 1st prize in the same competition the following year.

Although the books follow the fortunes of the same family, they are all stand-alone.

The fifth book in the Raumsey series is  Mary Rosie’s War.

Catherine Byrne lives in Wick, Caithness.

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Q&A with Catherine

What authors do you enjoy reading? Did any of these inspire your writing?

I read a wide variety of authors. I especially love Peter May and Anne Cleeves.  I can’t say they inspired my writing as they write murder mysteries, a different genre, although that was what I originally wanted to do. Maybe next time I’ll have a go.

Another couple of writers I am fond of are Ken Follett and Barbara Erskine.  Read all books by them. In between times I make a point of reading self-published authors, and I have found some gems there. I must admit to having a penchant for stories set on islands, and have read all the Isle of Bute mysteries by Myra Duffy.

Why did you choose the particularly period of history that you write about?

I always wanted to write a book set on my native Stroma. A factual book had already been done, so I decided to go for fiction. While I was rifling my brain for a story, an elderly Lady from Canada got in touch. She was doing her genealogy and she couldn’t find any trace of where her grandfather, who had lived on Stroma, died or where he was buried. I did my best to find out for her, but to no avail.

The saga begins in 1899 so obviously I’ve had to do a fair bit of research. However, I was lucky to, not only have been born there, but to have grown up hearing stories from my mother and grandmother of the different generations.

The Canadian lady did, however, give me inspiration for a story, and with her permission, I created two characters based on her grandparents. They got married in 1900, so that was where my series started.

Stroma is a very small Island so, as not to offend anyone, I set my story on a fictional island, Raumsey and used surnames that were never native to Stroma.

Book number one, Follow the Dove, proved to be more popular than I had anticipated, and my fans wanted to know more. Delighted by my relative success, I decided to write a trilogy. Once again, after book three, I was besieged with request to carry on. Subsequently I’ve written another two, Isa’s Daughter and Mary Rosie’s War.

I have also written a couple of other books, Song for an Eagle, a contemporary novella, and a non-fiction about modern day slavery, The Locket and a Five Taka Note.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, do you have particular playlists for particular characters?

No, I don’t. I know many of my writerly friends who do, but I find it distracting. I need quiet to get into my character’s heads. However, a recording of the sea and seabirds sounds like a good idea.

Do you have any tips for writers who are just starting out?

Join a writers’ circle. I have had so much help and support, I don’t think I would have finished my first novel without them. Authors are generally a very helpful bunch, so don’t be afraid to ask. Also be open to criticism, develop a thick skin and always strive for perfection. Most of all, read, read, read and keep writing. Don’t ever give up.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?

My other hobby is painting, although I’ve neglected that lately to concentrate on writing. I do always have a book to read at hand, and enjoy my garden.  Walking my two dogs gets me out into the fresh air!

I do volunteer work, one day a week in the local hospice shop, watch my granddaughter when needed, and have coffee with friends.


Blog Tour – Mary Rosie’s War

I am thrilled that today is my blog tour date for Mary Rosie’s War by Catherine M. Byrne. I was able to put a few questions to Catherine, and am delighted to share her responses with you here. You can also read my full review of the book here, but in the meantime, Catherine was kind enough to share an extract from the book with us. At this point in the book, WW2 has been declared and Mary Rosie’s brother has already been called up. Many of Mary’s friends have volunteered and she longs to be with them. However, her widowed mother does not want to let her go and since she is only seventeen she needs parental permission.

From the distance came the deep drone of a solitary plane.

‘Doesn’t sound like one of ours,’ said Ellie, pulling a moue of distaste. ‘Could that be Jerries?’

The girls looked at each other, smiles slipping, their hands clutching their cups. At dusk on 16th March an attack had been made on Scapa in Orkney by fifteen enemy bombers. Four officers were killed and several officers and ratings wounded. That event, though many miles to the north, made the war real.

‘I’m no sure…’ Rita’s voice was lost as the thunder of the plane became so loud it could have been right outside. The girls rose as one and crossed to the window. ‘Bloody hell, that’s close,’ said Sally.

Suddenly the world around them seemed to erupt. Cups rattled in saucers, the building trembled.

Customers leapt to their feet and ran out of the door into High Street, desperately looking for a place of safety. A pall of smoke belched from the direction of the harbour as another explosion rent the air and flashes of fire and thick black clouds rose from down-river.

‘Oh my God,’ someone screamed. ‘They’re bombing the town.’

A woman dropped her shopping basket and ran past the girls. ‘Ma bairns,’ she screamed, ‘I left them playing…’

Everything seemed to happen at once. The clanging of the fire engine’s bell, children crying, people running around like confused ants as the managers of shops and banks herded them into the relative safety of their cellars.

‘It’s personal now,’ screeched Sally. ‘Why are they bombing us?’

An old man stood with one hand against the wall, the other clutching his walking stick. ‘I knew it’d happen,’ he said, as he struggled to catch his breath. ‘I knew that airport would attract them. The devil’s work if you ask me. And all these servicemen. What are they doing here? They should be away fighting, not billeted in good folk’s houses…’ He stopped and coughed, phlegm rattling in his throat.

Mary didn’t pause to answer him, but made to go across the bridge towards River Street.

‘Get inside, in the basement,’ someone shouted, grabbing her arm as air raid sirens, woken from their reverie, shrieked too late. She shook the hand off. Many of the lads and lassies she knew worked at the harbour which was the obvious target. Her uncle Jimmy ran his own coopering business there.

Nevertheless, she followed her friends into the cellar of the Royal Bank which was by now crowded with shocked pedestrians.

The all-clear sounded as, having unleashed its deadly cargo, the plane turned up river, guns rat-a-tat-tatting until they faded into the distance. The shaken shoppers emerged into the acrid afternoon. Coughing, Mary inhaled air dense with smoke. The sea of bodies scattered erratically as two heavy horses thundered towards them, ears flat, eyes white and rolling in terror. Mary squashed herself against the wall as they passed.

Word bounced from person to person, desperate voices shouting the news, ‘They’ve hit Bank Row. They’ve hit Bank Row.’

There had been no warning, no siren, no previous bombs dropped anywhere on mainland Britain, no reason for folk to suspect that death and devastation would rain down from a sunny blue sky on a residential area. Bank Row was a busy place with several shops, kilns and a pub. It had been a toss-up whether the girls went to the tea rooms there or the cafe in High Street.

The air seemed to have been sucked from the day. All around her people were crying or standing motionless. An ashen-faced policeman with shocked eyes stepped in front of her holding out both arms, barring the way. ‘Sorry, girls, no one’s allowed down there. It’s dangerous.’

She stopped and took a backward step. ‘The harbour…?’ she asked, icy fingers clutching a heart that beat all the way up to her neck. Apart from Uncle Jimmy, many of her friends worked down there gutting the herring.

‘I’ve no idea. Now keep back. Please…just…keep back.’

Numb with shock, the girls watched until the first of the stretchers was carried towards the waiting ambulance. A small mound completely covered by a blanket. A child.

From the centre of town the clock struck the hour. ‘I…I have to get my bus.’ She didn’t want to leave, wanted to know the extent of the devastation, needed to know. She would have gladly stayed in town had there been any way of getting word to her mam, who would be worried sick and, also, there was no other means of transport home to John O’Groats that night.

I would like to say a massive thank you to Catherine M Byrne, and to Rachel’s Random Resources for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour, and for providing me with a copy of the book. If you would like to read more about this delightful book, have a look at the other blogs taking part in the tour.

Mary Rosie's War Full Tour Banner