(Note to reader: I’ve a SIGNED copy of ‘Mousetrapped’ to give away and all details can be found at the end of this post)
When Catherine Ryan Howard decides to swap the grey clouds of Ireland for the clear skies of the Sunshine State, she thinks all of her dreams – working in Walt Disney World, living in the United States, seeing a Space Shuttle launch – are about to come true.
Ahead of her she sees weekends at the beach, mornings by the pool and an inexplicably skinnier version of herself skipping around Magic Kingdom. But not long into her first day on Disney soil – and not long after a breakfast of Mickey-shaped pancakes – Catherine’s Disney bubble bursts and soon it seems that among Orlando’s baked highways, monotonous mall clusters and world famous theme-parks, pixie dust is hard to find and hair is downright impossible to straighten…”
‘Mousetrapped’ is the only memoir I’ve ever read about working in Walt Disney World. As a ‘Disney fan’ (I know, I know, I’ve mentioned that once or twice before), I do feel that I am the target audience for this self-published memoir but still this was a tale that had me travelling through a whole range of emotions.
‘Mousetrapped’ is an easy to read, likeable and sincere account of a young Irish lass who went off in search of a happily ever after. Funny yet genuine, well written and honest, I’m sure many others will enjoy ‘Mousetrapped’ too.
I ‘met’ Catherine Ryan Howard on twitter and she’s one of the many modern writers who have embraced social media and managed to reach a new audience as a result. Without twitter, our paths may never have crossed and I’d not be writing this blog post about her now. Social media works to build a writer’s platform, it’s as simple as that. I’d urge any unpublished or unagented writer to read the interview (below), just to see how Catherine has managed to attract all the right attention to herself, via twitter and through self-publishing ‘Mousetrapped’.
Hats off to Catherine and I, for one, wish her a happily ever after.
I hear (via Twitter) that self-publishing ‘Mousetrapped’ has led to you getting an agent? Congratulations! I LOVE happily ever afters! Can you tell me how it happened? Thank you so much – I love happily ever afters too! It’s a bit of a saga and I have to keep some details to myself for a bit while a few things are sorted out (she says mysteriously!), but in the smallest possible nutshell, this is what happened: I ‘met’ the agent on Twitter a few months back and we chatted back and forth, and she followed – like everyone else! – my crazy self-publishing adventures. She bought and read Mousetrapped and then heard somewhere along the line that I had just finished a novel. She asked me to send her the first few chapters, I did, she asked for the full manuscript and within a week I was signing on the dotted line. It all happened really fast but what’s great is that I’ve had the benefit of seeing this agent in action for the last few months, so I know how dedicated and enthusiastic she is. She’s also very excited about my novel which is, of course, wonderful, if yet to sink in!
What inspired you to write ‘Mousetrapped’? When I found out I was headed for Disney World, I was working for a company called Holidaybreak in the Netherlands. One of my colleagues there, John Dixon, made a joke about how I could write a book about working in Disney and call it Mousetrapped. He wasn’t at all serious (and I don’t think, even remembers saying it today!) but it stuck in my head. Then I got to Orlando and all kinds of crazy started happening, and the book kind of wrote itself. It was odd because never in my Published Writer Dreamscape was there ever an intention to write non-fiction but now it looks likes it’s all worked out for the best.
Why did you choose the self-publishing route? I published it because no one else would! Mousetrapped did the rounds, going to one agent and four or five publishing houses, and everyone said the same thing: they really enjoyed reading it but couldn’t considering publishing it as its potential readership was so small. (Well, except for one editor who called me and said, ‘If you’re going to try to be funny, you really need to be funny the whole way through.’ BURN.) In the end I couldn’t face leaving it in a drawer forever and I felt that although only a small number of people would be interested in reading a book about Disney, space and Florida, I knew where they all were. I’d find them. I did some research into Print on Demand (POD) and discovered it could be done pretty cheaply, so I decided I had nothing to lose and went for it. I blogged about my entire self-publishing (or self-printing!) experience and was completely honest about everything from the start. I’m not one of these people who pretend I self-published because I wanted ‘more control’ or something silly, and I can’t stand it when people start on about the Big, Bad World of Publishing and moan about how agents are in bed with editors, etc. etc. If anyone – and I do mean anyone - had agreed to traditionally publish Mousetrapped, I would have asked where do I sign. Self-publishing was never my first choice, but as it turns out it was a really good second one.
How did you prepare the book? Did you seek external help at all? I had a professional proofreader look over the manuscript and the finished PDF (the exterior is uploaded to CreateSpace, the POD service, as a PDF document) and got a graphic designer to help format the cover for submission. I was absolutely adamant that Mousetrapped wouldn’t look like a self-published book, at least as far as was possible, and did everything I could to make it so. I think something weird happens when authors go to self-publish, especially when they go to do it with a POD – despite reading, holding and gazing at books their entire lives, their make their own books look absolutely nothing like them. Traditionally published books are the best and most easily accessible resource of self-published authors; I just wish they’d study them more.
Who do you feel would be your ideal reader (apart from me, of course)? When I was writing Mousetrapped I thought it would have three main types of potential readers: Disney fans, NASA fans and people who were going to work in Walt Disney World, were thinking about it or had before. (Oh, and my friends and people I’m related to, of course!) But now that people have read it, it seems to appeal to a wider readership than that. I guess it’s a kind of universal story: dreamy slacker, twenty-something, hits the speedbump of adulthood and is faced with the possibility that all her fanciful teenage dreams may not come true. Plus lots of awful yet funny things happen to me, which I guess everyone can enjoy…!
What do you plan to write next? At the moment my focus is on readying the novel for submission so that’s the priority. It’s the first in a series of three so as soon as that’s done I’ll have to start work on the next one, which I’m dreading slightly… (A whole other book! Can it be done?) I’m also planning on writing what is essentially the sequel to Mousetrapped, the story of my Central America backpacking adventures which I’m going to call – wait for it – Backpacked. (Cute, eh?) Whether that will get ‘properly’ published or published by moi remains to be seen, but I think it’d be a shame not to write it – if you thought crazy stuff happened to me in Florida, wait until you hear what happened to me in Nicaragua!
And, finally, (with the skillful smoothness of the finest of interviewers) do you in any way know Simon Cowell? Unfortunately, no. If I did, I might have to keep his whereabouts to myself as I too have a thing for money, hard exterior/heart of gold, box-shaped hairstyles and excessive chest hair. Plus you’d get really good seats for American Idol…
And Catherine has agreed that I can give away a signed copy of ‘Mousetrapped’. All you have to do is leave a ‘please pick me’ comment by 3pm (GMT) April 30, then I’ll pop all names in a mug and ask a small child to select a winner. This competition is open to all.
About the author: Catherine Ryan Howard is an occasionally delusional twenty-something from Cork, Ireland. She’s trying to get somebody – ANYBODY! Anybody? – to publish her first novel and in the meantime has self-published MOUSETRAPPED, the tale of her Disney World adventures. As well as working in Walt Disney World, Catherine has administrated things in the Netherlands, cleaned tents on a French campsite and answered telephones in several different offices. She likes cheesecake and telling herself that, come Monday, she’ll get back on the treadmill. She wants to be a NASA astronaut when she grows up. Follow her on Twitter @cathryanhoward or visit her blog. ‘MOUSETRAPPED’ has a dedicated website.