I’d like to thank Ian Skillicorn of Corozan Books for contributing this guest post about Irish-Australian romance novelist Catherine Gaskin, who died in 2009 and whose books have sold more than 40 million copies worldwide. Corazon Books has recently published The Property of a Gentleman, the first digital edition of a Catherine Gaskin novel, which tells the story of a young woman, Jo Roswell, who works at a grand London auction house. She is sent to the remote ancestral home of the Earl of Askew, in England’s Lake District and becomes involved in the lives of the residents and staff, discovering long-kept secrets and desires. You can find out more about Catherine Gaskin here.
Catherine Gaskin: A writer’s life
By IAN SKILLICORN
From an early age, it was always clear that Catherine Gaskin would lead a creative life. Her first ambition was to be a pianist, and she studied at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. But young Catherine felt she wasn’t good enough to have a career in music, and so she turned her attention to literature.
Aged just 15, she decided that she would write a novel. Perhaps the discipline of music practice helped her keep to a regular writing schedule. Each day she would write from 4am to 6am, before going to school. By the Christmas holidays the book was finished. This Other Eden was accepted by a publisher and sold 50,000 copies in its first two months of publication. At 17 years of age, Catherine was already a bestselling author.
After her second novel was published, Catherine moved with her mother and one of her sisters to London. Part of the reason for this was to find a doctor who could diagnose the unknown illness her sister, Pip, was suffering from. Catherine worked briefly in the library at Harrods, and continued writing novels, which allowed them to rent a centrally-heated apartment, to aid Pip’s health.
For the next few decades, Catherine wrote a novel every one or two years. Each was a great success, cementing her reputation as the “Queen of Storytellers” and “The Girl with the Golden Pen.” Her books were published around the world, and many were serialised in women’s magazines. One was made into a TV film, and another, Sara Dane, into a very popular TV mini-series.
But writing didn’t always come easy to her. Catherine admitted that she would “invent every sort of excuse not to go to the typewriter”. She would show drafts of her work to her husband, Sol, an American TV executive whom she met in London on a blind date. He would read her works in progress in chunks, and his feedback gave her the motivation to keep going.
As a schoolgirl, Catherine had done no research for her first novel. It was set in Britain and the USA, but at that time she had been to neither country. Thirty years later, and having lived in both London and New York, she rewrote the basic story as The Lynmara Legacy. Once again, Sol’s input was invaluable, as he had lived in the USA through the era in which the novel took place.
During their long marriage, Catherine and Sol also lived in the Virgin Islands, Ireland and the Isle of Man. She wrote her last novel in 1989, so that the couple could enjoy their retirement together. After Sol’s death, Catherine returned to Sydney, where she remained until she died, aged 80, in 2009. She bequeathed her literary estate to the Society of Authors in the UK; her writing remains a legacy for both today’s readers and authors.