Belfast children's author Catherine Bond on why she doesn't want to be famous
After growing up in Belfast, Catherine Bond trained as a physiotherapist and ran a bed and breakfast - but now she's fulfilling a long held dream of being an author. The 69-year-old explains to Stephanie Bell that her kids' adventure tales are largely autobiographical - and why she doesn't want to be famous
Catherine Bond is one of those rare beings who does not want to be famous for her work. The 69-year-old children's author, who only discovered in the last few years that she has a talent for writing, describes herself as too shy to cope with the attention fame would bring.
That's not to say that she doesn't want her work to be widely read and appreciated for its quality, which is why she has gone down the long road of self publishing her first two books.
The response so far to her adventure stories, Moonmirror and Moonglimmer, which are aimed at older children, has been fantastic, and Catherine is delighted by feedback from adults who love her books as well.
Her own life story has some fascinating twists. She grew up one of three children to English parents during the Troubles in a mixed, middle class area of north Belfast.
She met her English husband when he was stationed here with the Royal Navy during the Troubles and followed him to England where they married and settled in Dartmouth in Devon.
Catherine has lived in the same chocolate box cottage surrounded by National Trust woodland for 40 years, where she raised her two children, and it is this idyllic setting which provided inspiration for the adventures in her books.
Her mother, Mary Worrall, is 100 years old and lives in Ballymena and her late father Peter was a respected businessman in the city who ran the Belfast branch of a London-based drapery store.
Catherine's husband David (70) now works as a marine antique dealer and they have two children, Charles (42) and Suzanne (41), and three grandchildren, Lewis (16), Indi (11) and Rumer (14).
Catherine worked as a physiotherapist and then ran a bed and breakfast from her home for many years.
She grew up on the Antrim Road in the shadow of Belfast Castle and attended Belfast Royal Academy before training as a physiotherapist at the Royal Victoria Hospital.
And Catherine feels fortunate that she was largely shielded from the worst of the Troubles.
"The Troubles didn't affect me personally, apart from road blocks and having your bag searched going into shops," she says.
"We lived in a mixed, middle class area where the neighbours were all very polite.
"I did hear gunfire sometimes and I remember one guy being blown up while doing a message for his mum which was very sad.
"My parents were both English who came over to Belfast after the war and perhaps that is why we had no religious prejudice and my father was very much admired in Northern Ireland.
"My mum is 100 years old and still lives on her own and is still as sharp as a needle, although she is quite frail and can't get about as much as she would like to. My sister lives near her and I fly home every six weeks to see them."
Catherine was just 19 and training to be a physiotherapist when she met her husband David at a dance at the Boat Club in Belfast.
David was stationed here with HMS Maidstone. When he was transferred to North Wales three months after they met the young couple wrote to each other every day.
Six months later, Catherine left Northern Ireland to join David in England and the couple married two years later in 1972.
They bought a cottage in Dartmouth 40 years ago which they still live in today.
Catherine ran it as a bed and breakfast business for 11 years and, in what proved to be a strange twist of fate, her business provided a much needed boost when it came to navigating the minefield that is self publishing.
She explains: "I had a lot of foreign visitors over the years and in all that time no one left without paying and there was only one couple I asked to leave.
"They were a young couple here for a wedding and the room they were staying in had just been decorated and they made a mess of it.
"As luck would have it and in an amazing turn of fate I had a couple from Bolivia staying with me. Two years ago they rang me asking to book in and they were absolutely devastated when I told them the house was no longer a B&B.
"But I then invited them to come and stay as friends free of charge.
"It turned out she is a book designer and he is a film animator.
"They read my books and liked them so much that they offered to help.
"She has become a great friend and he did the drawings in my books.
"He works for governments making superb short anti-racist films. His name is Jesus Perez and he is very well known.
"He has won awards for his work and yet he stooped to help little old me. They did fantastic work on my book and if I had not invited them to stay and extended the hand of friendship it would never have happened."
After becoming bored by her B&B business, Catherine wanted a new challenge. She decided she would like to try and write a book, but at first had no idea what to write about.
A friend suggested that she should write about what she knows and she took inspiration from her own life rearing her children in such an idyllic setting.
She says: "The book is set in our cottage where I spent a lot of time with my children alone while my husband was in the Navy. We are surrounded by National Trust woodlands and have a little beach 200 yards away at the end of a creek and for years we have walked there and had our own adventures.
"The children in the book are based on my children and the house is our house so it is a bit autobiographical.
"I wrote my first book in 2000 and was so pleased with myself for finishing it and since then I have written six books.
"I couldn't get anyone to publish it. At that time JK Rowling's had got very big and publishers were swamped. Then, two years ago, my son and daughter said if I didn't publish them myself they would never get published and so I started the long journey of self-publishing."
Moonmirror is about three children who invent a light powered by the moon and at a lunar eclipse find they have tumbled back in time.
They befriend a one-legged seagull, a robin and two mice, and unearth the bones of an old pirate.
Moonglimmer, which is just published, continues the story but does stand alone with a different adventure. A visitor from the dark side of the moon visits Earth, enticed by Eddie's Moonmirror light.
He is just in time to prevent the threat of a cold war, as two Russian submarines have gone missing and the Navy are on alert. The children are the ones who discover what is going on in the ocean and have some unusual experiences with the Moonglimmer.
Catherine's first book is now available on Kindle and the second is soon to follow.
Keen to get her books into Northern Ireland, the grandmother sent a few boxes to the library in Lisburn.
"They have done quite well and my challenge now is to let people know they are available," she says.
"Because I am from Northern Ireland I desperately wanted to get them there and Valerie Christie of the children's library has been so kind and nice to me and has distributed them throughout the libraries.
"I have also been asked by Ballymena library to do a reading sometime to their young readers. I am thrilled that my books have gone to Northern Ireland.
"I've had great feedback and I'm delighted that they are doing quite well. I am a firm believer that if the books have legs, they will walk."
Catherine faces the challenge of trying to get her book into the shops and currently they are available on Amazon.
She writes purely for the love of it and not for fame or fortune.
On this she is adamant: "I don't ever want to be famous, I can't think of anything worse than being famous. I am shy and I don't like talking in public.
"I am well educated and, I like to think, intelligent. Fifty Shades of Grey sold on notoriety and that's not what I'm about, but I would however like the books to be a success and to be recognised as having some literary merit.
"I loved writing the books and I've had so many compliments from people who said the books took them away from Brexit and all the other everyday pressures and I'm totally thrilled by that.
"I find as you get older you realise that if you have food in your fridge and a roof over your head and health for your family then that's all you need in life.
"There are so many rich people who are miserable and I think sometimes people miss what is really important in life."
She adds: "I would love my books to be stocked in bookshops but I don't know how to get them there so hopefully people will go on to Amazon and have a look."
Catherine's books Moonmirror and Moonglimmer are available in paperback, priced £6.99, via Amazon and at www.catherine-bond.co.uk. Moonmirror is also available in Kindle Edition, £1.99