Saturday, December 4, 2010

Author Catherine Chisnall releases "Descending"

Today I bring you an interview with author Catherine Chisnall who shares with us her newest release "Descending."

Welcome Catherine!  Tell us a little about you and your background.
I was born in the Midlands of England and now live with my husband and child in the South. I have had a varied career working in banks, libraries, charities and for the last 10 years, secondary and further education.

I am now a full time mum after trying for a few years to ‘job share’ with my husband (we both worked outside the home part time and looked after our daughter part time). That was exhausting, it turns out it is easier for one partner to be full time parent and one partner to be full time career worker. So I also have time to write while at home, which is wonderful.

For many years, I ignored the desire to write, thinking it wasn’t a valid career but can’t ignore it anymore. I have had several factual articles published and this has given me the confidence to publish some of my fiction.

My articles:

What is your story about?

My story is called Descending, it is about inappropriate relationships. I have realized over my life that relationships are never straightforward, they often do not fit into conventional categories. The synopsis is:

Emily is a lonely, disillusioned, teaching assistant at a college of Further Education (for over 16 year olds). Jamie is a neglected, unpredictable student. Trapped together in a falling lift, wherever will this lead? Told from Emily's point of view, this story explores the ambiguity of relationships between staff and students, and reflects on who is actually in control.

How did this story come to you?

It was a combination of things really: news stories, gossip, my own observations. Years ago, I watched documentary about a teacher and 15 year old boy- a black and white situation because she was obviously in the wrong. But I wondered what sort of person she was to get involved with him: she seemed lonely, misguided, unwise. It's an occupational hazard for female staff to be propositioned by boys: most just laugh it off, so why did she succumb?

What compelled you to write it?

There are loads of stories about teachers having relationships with students, but I wondered what about learning support assistants?

They are more likely to cross the boundary with students because they sit amongst them. It's their job to develop supportive relationships with them, so some are bound to go astray. Teachers are removed, in control at the head of the class, so I think they are less likely to get involved.

I've heard of learning support assistants having difficulty working with older boys because they're attracted to them. I've observed young learning support assistants being flattered by boys flirting with them. So a relationship could quite easily start. It's a very grey area. Especially if the boy was over 16, but under 18, which is why I made Jamie seventeen.

I wanted to explore what would really happen if this sort of relationship actually took place. It wouldn’t be all hearts and flowers and happily ever after, would it?

I also wanted to set the story in a post 16 environment. In schools, you can go to the head of year and they will tell the boys off if they act inappropriately. But in post 16 colleges there is less of a ‘chain of command’, so if staff are harassed, they could be unsure where to turn.

Who is your favorite character?

Probably Jamie because I can sympathise more with him. He has a terrible life, he just wants a break from it. I don’t condemn Emily really, she is a lost, misguided and lonely woman who in turn wants a break from that.

What was your favorite scene to write?

The scene where Emily and Jamie go to the gay club and get found out by some other college students. I found that scene quite funny as it shows how homophobic and immature Jamie is, plus there is the air of danger as now their affair is becoming public knowledge.

How long did it take you to write the story?

About one month. It was a dark, cold winter and I was feeling bleak and as if I had nothing to look forward to in life. So I wrote a bleak and cold story. Its not long, it’s a novella, so its not like I’m a high speed writer however.

What has the reaction been to the controversial aspects of your story?

I can honestly say I've had a different reaction from every reader, which is better than I‘d hoped for.

I've had:

'Emily is wrong, she should go to prison.'

'But who is abusing who here? Isn't it mutual?'

'What an unlikely, boring story.'

‘I was rooting for them all the way through.’

Some have said Jamie is smooth and knows exactly what he's doing.

Some have said Emily is a horrible person with no redeeming features.

I suppose the majority of readers have felt sorry for Emily, however, and related to her situation. I don't mean they want to have affairs with 17 year olds! But she seems to be a character that women, especially, can sympathise with. I didn't expect that. I thought everyone would say she was wrong and should go to prison.

When was it released?
July 2010.

How is it available?

Print and e-book.

Where can we find it?

Descending is available on Amazon, Smashwords (and all its distribution channels) and Createspace.

What was your publishing experience like?
 I sent a couple of query letters and emails to mainstream publishers but heard nothing. Then I decided to put Descending onto one of the online critiquing sites.

I chose Authonomy, and although I didn’t get to the Editors Desk, I got incredibly useful constructive criticism. I then put it on Slushpile Reader and Night Reading. Both sites promise that the most popular books will be published.

Night Reading is the social arm of the company Night Publishing and holds a monthly competition where the most popular books are voted on and the winner gets published.

I didn’t win the monthly competition, but luckily the Night Publishing editors also decide which books they would personally like to publish. And Descending was chosen!

So Night Publishing paid for publishing via Createspace.

Would I have done it differently? Well I haven’t had any money from the books yet, but I wouldn’t do it differently because I am so happy to have some published books and be a published author. I have had mainly good reviews, so that is very satisfying.

Where we can we find you online (my blog)

I am searchable as Catherinewrites on Twitter

Do you have upcoming publicity events you'd like to share?
The sequel to ‘Descending’ has just been published by Night Publishing. It is called ‘Surfacing’ and is the further adventures of Emily and Jamie, bringing their story to a conclusion. So many people said ‘aw, poor Emily, what happens to her next?’ that I wrote a sequel. I am amazed that she gained so much sympathy from readers, I didn’t expect it.

‘Surfacing’ is available in the same places as ‘Descending’ i.e. Amazon, Smashwords and all its distribution channels, Createspace.

My publisher also decided to put ‘Descending’ and ‘Surfacing’ in a compendium, conveniently called ‘Descending Surfacing’. This is also available from the same places.

Congratulations Catherine!  And thank you so much for stopping by Page Readers to share your story.


  1. An excellent read. Congrats to Catherine for her ongoing success!

  2. Thanks for the interview, Nanci, and the comment Lori :-)