I met Cathy for the first time at the Pan Macmillan Women In Fiction party in February 2015. We talked books and Twitter and I was really chuffed that she recognised me as Matinee Girl, (don’t think I’ll ever be able to get rid of my fringe.)
I’d previously read on The Bookseller website that she had written a memoir and was interested to read it. The Last Act Of Love is her story of her and her brother Mattie. He was knocked over by a car when he was 16 and left in a permanent vegetative state.
It is her story of life after the accident, of how she dealt with it , and how it affected her family.
A few months later, Cathy asked if I would cut her hair, which was obviously met with a resounding yes!
I was reading The Last Act Of Love on the tube the day she was booked in. It was an emotional read for me and I was close to tears (again) that I had to put it back in my bag. Walking from Baker Street station to the salon I had to keep telling myself to pull myself together as I had visions of her turning up for her appointment and me throwing my arms around her sobbing. Probably not a reassuring impression for a first haircut…..
I spent the most amazing 90 minutes with Cathy talking about The last Act Of Love , her life, my life, relationships, books, love, and hairdressing disasters, all whilst cutting her hair. She has ridiculously great hair to cut by the way.
I told her that her story had really resonated with me for personal reasons as I was extremely ill the same year that Mattie was knocked over. Like her family, my family had never really talked about what had happened or talked about how it had affected them. I felt encouraged to talk to my younger sister and find out how she’d actually felt throughout that whole time.
Without reading The Last Act Of Love we would never have had that conversation.
I bought copies for my Mum and sisters as a testament to how precious life is.
Cathy is an incredible woman and courageous to write and share her story. She is truly one of the most inspiring women I have met! I have the utmost respect for her. I feel that so many people will get something out of this book. It lingers with you for a long time…….
Now for the questions……
Where are you going on holiday?
I’ve just been to the South of France for a week to stay in a big farmhouse with my friend Sophie and lots of her other friends and family. It was wonderful, we played lots of games, swam in the lake and stayed up too late.
How many books for a week away?
I need more than a book a day for a holiday. I usually take an ereader full of manuscripts and then a few real books. I much prefer reading physical books but can’t manage to carry them all.
What shampoo do you use?
I change around a bit. I like anything that smells fruity. Occasionally I buy something muddy and sludgy from Lush.
Are you doing anything nice at the weekend?
I’m going to Edinburgh to do Literary Death Match – a terrifying prospect – and an event about the science of reading. My husband is coming with me so it feels a bit like a holiday. I don’t know Scotland at all well but am going there lots for the book and have fallen in love with Edinburgh – there are so many good bookshops there.
What book are you reading at the moment?
I’m a Costa Judge this year so have to be mysterious about what I’m reading. It’s causing me pain not to be be able to tweet about a good book when I find one. I’m also dipping back intoA Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara as I’m interviewing her soon. That’s a spectacular book.
If anyone alive or dead could tweet about your book who would you like it to be?
Haha. Actually, it’s sort of happened in that Henry Marsh, author of Do No Harm has written an amazing review for the New Statesman. He’s a neurosurgeon and a brilliant writer and I’m so pleased that he admires my book. I also have a huge crush on Sali Hughes and it was a great day when I woke up to see she’d tweeted about the book. She interviewed me and we went boozing afterwards and talked about everything ever.
One of the best things about writing the book is the tweets and emails I’ve had from strangers saying that the book has resonated with them and helped them to come to terms with a loss of their own. That makes it feel worthwhile.
Have you ever had a hair disaster?
So many! Even thinking of the sun-in years of the late eighties gives me the shivers. I was hairdresser phobic until I found you. I once ended up with a mullet that my mum fixed for me by cutting off more hair. For years my friend Sophie used to cut my hair when we were both drunk and it looked okay. Sometimes I tried to do it myself when inebriated with less good results. I once woke up with no fringe left…
I’ve been really fortunate to have seen Cathy at numerous book events including Damian Barr’s Literary Salon, In Conversation with Max Porter at Dulwich Books, and In Conversation with Matt Haig at Foyles.