Cathie Hartigan

Cathie Hartigan-

Cathie Hartigan-

Cathie Hartigan was a pianist and a music teacher until she swapped keyboards and became a writer and teacher of creative writing. She talks to us today about the novel that has impacted her the most… 

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

The sheer size of Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy creates an impact. Its fat spine takes up four books-worth of space on the shelf. I took this monster thirteen hundred page novel with me on holiday twenty years ago and although I was in Italy, for much of the time I was transported to India.

But it wasn’t the foreign travel that provided the book’s greatest hook for me. At the heart of the novel is a simple question. A question that is central to so many great romances: Who will Lata (the heroine) marry? There are three contenders and they’re each so strong that I wished they could all be successful! But only one is really suitable – Lata knows this and amidst the upheavals of family, religious and political division she eventually makes her choice.

The realisation for me, that a single idea should provide the backbone of such a vast and complex novel made a huge impact on me. How often had I begun writing without much thought about where I was headed? I imagined myself minus a spine. All my insides floating about in a bag with nothing to hold them together. Eeek! Now, I have to know the big question that my story will seek to answer before I begin to write. Sometimes I know the answer, but not always.

Vikram Seth is a wonderful writer. The characters were friends and family that I cared about even when they behaved badly. His style isn’t dense and difficult (although I was very grateful for the family trees at the beginning) but conversational and often humorous. Lucky new readers can get it on Kindle. Dropping a print copy on your foot is another way it would make quite an impact.  


Cathie Hartigan is a prize-winning writer and the founder of CreativeWritingMatters, an on-line writing resource. She is also an organiser and reader for The Exeter Novel Prize.

Twitter: @cathiehartigan


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I’m Laura. I started Novel Kicks in 2009. I wanted a place to post my writing as well as give other writers like me the opportunity to do the same. There is also a monthly book club, a writing room which features writing prompts, book reviews, competitions, author interviews and guest posts.

I grew up by the sea (my favourite place in the world) and I currently live in Hampshire. I am married to Chris, have a cat named Buddy and I would love to be a writer. I’m trying to write the novel I’ve talked so much about writing if only I could stop pressing delete. I’ve loved writing since creative writing classes in primary school. I have always wanted to see my teacher Miss Sayers again and thank her for the encouragement. When not trying to write the novel or writing snippets of stories on anything I can get my hands on, I love reading, dancing like a loon and singing to myself very badly. My current obsession is Once Upon a Time and I would be happy to live with magic in the enchanted forest surrounded by all those wonderful stories provided that world also included Harry Potter. I love reading chick lit. contemporary fiction and novels with mystery.

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