CATHERINE DOYLE brings ‘huge magic, huge adventure’ to young (and old) readers

When Galway-based author Catherine Doyle agreed to an interview ahead of the release of her latest book, The Lost Tide Warriors, I had a small fan-girl moment. I devoured her debut Blood for Blood trilogy from its initial release in 2015, which offered a fun (read: bloody) romp through the mafia underground in modern Chicago. But it was the first book in The Secret Keeper’s Island series, released by Bloomsbury in 2018, which really captured my imagination.

It’s shelved for middle-grade readers, children between the ages of eight and twelve — but this, I’m sure, is a conspiracy designed to keep everything fun and special and wholesome out of the hands of adults.

The Secret Keeper’s Island takes place on the island of Arranmore off the coast of Donegal, where young Fionn and his sister have arrived to spend the summer with their grandfather. The book grapples with big topics: the death of a parent, memory loss, regret, grief. But it’s also filled to the brim with humour, love, magic and adventure. For me, reading it felt like rediscovering a childhood love of reading — the kind that made you want to stay up all night, reading with a torch under the covers. The Lost Tide Warriors promises to continue that adventure, whisking readers away in a whirlwind of ocean air and candle-smoke.

After writing her debut series, The Storm Keeper’s Island was a pivot in a different direction. “Writing about Arranmore engaged a different part of me,” Catherine tells me, when I ring her at her home in Galway on a Friday afternoon. “The Storm Keeper’s Island is really the book of my heart, inspired by my ancestors, my family history, the island where my grandparents grew up and all the books I loved as a child: adventure stories, magical stories. It came from a different place. It was more natural.
 
Catherine. Doyle

“I came back from a week on Arranmore and I was so inspired. I sat down and wrote for about a week. The story just poured out of me. It was like magic,” Catherine says. “It had never happened before and it’s never happened since.”

Four chapters later, she sent it to her agent who agreed at that point to sell the novel. After that, the book was finished under the watchful eye of an editor. Writing The Lost Tide Warriors has, in a way, been easier; there is already a setting and a story, fully inhabited by characters, ready to go.

“It’s just about making the magic bigger, and the adventure more exciting.” When asked, she tells me her favourite scene from The Lost Tide Warriors: “My favourite moment is a scene where Fionn burns a candle, and is swept into a pirate memory, which is very perilous and exciting and possibly foolish… Really exciting to write and even now, it’s part of the book I love reading over.”

While visiting Arranmore inspired the first book in the series, Catherine says that she often turns to the cinema to find inspiration. “I get stuck when I spend days and days and days just writing and writing. I lose myself in the book, and that’s not always a good thing. It’s important for me to step back, and my fall-back is always movies. Sometimes I’ll go for a walk on the Salthill Prom, or read a book — but usually, it’s movies.”

Always the kind of person to read the last page first, I ask what she can tell me about the rest of the series, which will be a four-book quartet. “I cannot reveal,” she says dramatically, “…because I do not know! The only thing I’m working towards right now is huge magic, huge adventure and huge heart. I just want to scale every book, and make sure those elements are still there.”
 
Catherine. Doyle

Once this series is completed, she plans to continue writing middle-grade and young adult fiction… “If it doesn’t kill me first!”

For our final lightning-round questions, she gave me three book recommendations: Last Ones Left Alive, by Sarah Davis-Goff, “a sort of feminist zombie book set in Ireland”; Meat Market by Juno Dawson; and Rumble Star by Abi Elphinstone.

Favourite places in Galway include Coole Park, “to unwind and get ideas”, and Connemara or “anything out west; the farther west you go, the prettier Galway becomes.”

The Lost Tide Warriors is the second book in The Secret Keeper’s Island series, and will be available on 11 July from anywhere that sells books! Support your local authors and booksellers, grab yourself a copy and a cuppa, and feel no shame about enjoying children’s fiction. We’ll see you on Arranmore, lighting candles and looking for magic.

For more on Catherine Doyle, find her online at catherinedoylebooks.com or @cat_doyle0

Photos by Julia Dunin / @juliadunin
Words by Caitlin Foley / @caitrfoley