Please welcome, Catharine Webb, as we prepare for the release of her forthcoming title, 'Buffy & Huffy's Search For a Pond,' the first book in her series that follows the adventures of Buffy & Huffy.
Canadian-born Catharine has been scrawling short stories since she could first read and write – as her folders of early attempts, aged three and through primary school, testify. Encouraged by her favourite English teacher (her dad!) to devour dictionaries, lap up language and run with her imagination, she discovered the joy in reading and creative writing early. Her dad was lucky enough to have been tutored by C S Lewis for a year at Cambridge, which Catharine was astonished to only learn as a teenager, in casual conversation on a walk with him. (Fabulous to be surprised by our parents and learn about the life they had before we came along!) Thankfully, Catharine’s love for writing never left, and a series of serendipitous events eventually led to Buffy & Huffy wanting to share their jaunts – subsequent outings follow, in further books in the series.
Always happy when pens and paper are to hand, and preferably a mug of tea and bag of chocolate buttons (little reminder of her mum). If time allows … fluffy pancakes with Maple Syrup, her favourite brunch treat, a taste acquired in those early years - along with a love for Dr Seuss, Richard Scarry & Spike Milligan. Whilst writing, the icing on any cake (though this would always preferably be a chocolate one), is to have her adorable moggy contentedly curled up nearby, dreaming in her own fluffy world.
Book Design and Illustrations by Happydesigner
You can connect with Catharine Webb here:
A self-portrait by Catharine Webb, when she was 3 years old.
What inspired you to start writing?
When I first was writing silly stories, I was so young it was just from having a head full of thoughts and an active imagination. My dad was an English teacher, so at home we were surrounded by books and, fortunately, people who loved to bring them to life, reading to me and my brother. Encouraging me to learn to read when I was very young, I discovered how brilliant it was to be able to lose myself in imaginary worlds and get to know all sorts of characters. I’d say my inspiration started early and this was it – the joy of reading and in being read to.
How long have you been writing?
I have folders full of short stories which my dad kept from when I first learned to write, around the age of three to four, which it seems I loved to do! More serious ‘writing’ is a much more recent thing – but something I always held as an idea. I am very happy to have got around to pursuing it.
What does success mean to you? What is the definition of success?
In the bigger picture, I personally would say it’s less to do with fame and fortune or popularity, but ideally - finding your peace of mind, being comfortable in your own skin, knowing what truly brings you joy and to be content living within your means.
What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your books?
As there are more in the series, the discovery is ongoing … and it’s how much I smile while writing them! They seem to develop a life of their own and take me along on their journey, as opposed to me taking them. It’s always been a treat to tuck myself away somewhere quiet and comfortable with a book, and great to find I am equally as absorbed whilst writing!
Where do you get your inspiration?
Generally, from everyday life things we all do and things which I enjoy – sometimes the smallest of things which can be easily missed, or dismissed as insignificant, are the most colourful highlights. Weave these into my story and they’re going to make me smile. If they make me smile, I can hope others too. More specifically? - my ‘Self-portrait, aged three’ (as shown) - which hangs on the wall in my study. She gives me inspiration too. She just wrote wherever her imagination and growing vocabulary took her, and child-like wonder is a fabulous thing! - we never should lose that. Fortunately, Catharine put down her paintbrushes, or Buffy & Huffy might have looked rather different.
Which of your books were the most enjoyable to write?
They’re all enjoyable to write – each is a new adventure, wherever it takes me, and I have the pleasure to sit down with them to ‘take the notes’. Though I think that Book 3 in the series (will be available next year) was especially fun to write!
Does one of the main characters hold a special place in your heart? If so, why?
I would say Huffy – I have a big heart for animals after all. (I’m often trying to see the world through my cat’s eyes and have fabulous conversations with her!) But Huffy is a little naïve, a little clumsy, always has good intentions and is the best friend of all to Buffy, and I find that very endearing.
What was the inspiration for your story?
A conversation with a great friend … Messaging her one day in the first lockdown and feeling rather lethargic, I described myself as a lumbering hippo. Laughing at my imagery, she said she felt much the same but was going to have to take herself off on her daily afternoon walk and drag her hippo behind her. Both living in the countryside and having been on walks with her, around where she lives, the scene was easy to picture. I found myself daydreaming and the first of the stories was written that day, with others following soon after.
What do you hope your readers take away from this book?
A smile! Not only from the words but also the fun and lively illustrations of Sarah-Leigh Wills – the amazingly talented children’s book illustrator whom I was over the moon to find.
Who is your favourite author and why?
It’s hard to pick a singular favourite, but one would most definitely be Charles Dickens. His colourful observations and descriptions of place and character paint such a rich scene, that you not only picture them but can almost see, hear and smell the details too. His characters’ names are a delight all of their own.
What books or authors have most influenced your own writing?
The fabulously silly Dr Seuss has been an absolute favourite always. I love his bizarre imaginary characters and the energy of his stories, with rhythm and pace measured brilliantly in rhyming verse. An utter genius, with unique, never-ending appeal – to all ages! Spike Milligan’s eccentric poems for children also made a huge impression when I was little, and I love them the same now. Ridiculous verse and poems which make me laugh out loud such as ‘On the Ning Nang Nong’, ‘The Land of the Bumbley Boo’… cleverly thought out ‘The ABC’, and very cute ‘Today I saw a little worm’ – (that’s right up my street!). I’m so glad these authors wrote down the absurd and hilarious thoughts that were in their heads, for all the entertainment they’ve given so far and will continue to give for decades to come.
How many bookshelves are in your home?
Not enough! Currently trying to make space for more. What a luxury it would be to have a whole room at home as a library.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
(Prior to the last couple of years with the pandemic) … I used to enjoy the excitement in visiting new cities or countryside areas abroad – different language, food, smells, sounds – or within the UK, more easily discovered. I love a nice walk, but am also very happy to be at home, particularly in the kitchen, reading the slightly too many cookery books I own - drooling over potential bakes - or hands in flour and butter, knocking up a batch of scones, buns or a sumptuous cake.
If you could choose three people to invite for a dinner party, who would they be and why?
If this allowed for anyone - dead or alive - this is easy… my grandma, a favourite uncle and my mum, all of whom I’ve lost over the last eighteen years. My grandma because she was the wisest, strongest, most amazing lady, with a brilliant sense of humour (who also inspired me to bake), and I would love to enjoy chatting some more to her (and ask for several of her recipes!). My uncle, because he was always a joy to have around, I can’t once recall him in a bad mood, he could identify pretty much any wildflower or birdsong, bought me brilliant books as a child – and I only fully appreciated how awesome he was once he had gone. My mum? – where do I start? Alongside also inspiring me to bake, and to be happy to be me – which of us (apart from a few natural exceptions), wouldn’t always want to have had a little more, or a lot more, time with their mums?
Share something your readers wouldn’t know about you.
I have uncommonly small feet and have to buy children’s socks, as women’s generally start from Size 4. (Not always easy unless glittery unicorns or fairies on your feet are your thing). As cousins and nieces became able to, at first, swap footwear, then overtake me, maybe this has played a part in writing for children – being still able to walk in their shoes!