Monday, 10 August 2015

It is very emotional writing the children’s stories as I’m so involved...

Interview with Cathy Glass
by Agnes A. Rose

Cathy Glass is a British author, freelance writer and foster carer. She writes books which are strongly identified with both the True Life Stories and Inspirational Memoirs genres. Her first book, Damaged, was published in 2007. This novel was number one in the Sunday Times best-sellers charts in hardback and paperback. In March 2008 Cathy Glass released her second book entitled Hidden. She has been a foster carer for many years, during which time she has fostered more than a hundred children. The name “Cathy Glass” is a pseudonym. She writes under it because of the sensitive nature of her source material. The names of the children she writes about are likewise altered. In Poland we can read about fourteen of her novels, for example: When the Angels Come, Please Don't Take My Baby, Mummy Told Me Not to Tell, The Saddest Girl in the World, Another Forgotten Child and many others.

Agnes A. Rose: Cathy, thank you very much for your agreeing to participate in this interview. You are very popular in Poland and you have a lot of readers in my country. Could you tell us why did you decided to write books about such moving problems like children deprived of parental care and their family homes?

Photo by Amit Lennon 
Cathy Glass: I have always been a writer of sorts – from when I was at school, with poems in the school magazine. In my teens I progressed to short stories and articles etc. I find writing cathartic – as do many – so it was the medium I turned to when I was trying to come to terms with the dreadful experiences of some of the children I’d fostered. Also, I wanted to raise public awareness – that many children suffer and that sometimes they are let down by the system that should have protected them. Writing a gripping book – a real page-turner- achieves this and is an enjoyable experience for the reader.

Agnes A. Rose: Was it difficult or easy to find a publisher for your first book? Do publishers willingly release books about such a difficult theme? 

Cathy Glass: It was relatively easy. I approached two literary agents, the second one signed me up, and then he found a publisher within a month. It was the right book at the right time to the right agent.

Agnes A. Rose: How much emotionally do you go through each of these stories? Have you ever thought that you will not finish a book?

Cathy Glass: It is very emotional writing the children’s stories as I’m so involved. But they are stories of hope. I sometimes cry while writing as I relive the journey we went through together, then I smile when there is a happy ending. I choose the stories I write very carefully but so far I’ve always finished once I have started.

Agnes A. Rose: As I mentioned above you are a foster carer. What motivated you to undertake this kind of work? In my opinion this must be a very hard job.

This is the Polish cover of "Damaged"
Published by Hachette Polska (2009)
Translated by Magdalena Osip-Pokrywka
Cathy Glass:  I saw an advertisement in the local newspaper saying that foster families were desperately needed, and I wondered if I had what it took. I went to an introductory evening and never looked back. This is covered in more detail in my book Cut. Yes it can be difficult at times, but not because of the children. It is the ‘system’ I have to deal with which causes me most frustration. The time things seem to take and the meetings instead of action. Sometimes I feel I am the only person in the child care system battling for what the child needs. I know many other foster carers feel the same. The whole child protection system needs looking at and revising. There are too few social workers with too large caseloads.

Agnes A. Rose: Could you describe us a typical day of your work as a foster carer?

Cathy Glass: No two days are the same in fostering which is why I like it. But I usually rise early before the children, so I can write, then if the child I’m fostering goes to school I will take them. There maybe meetings to go to, or training, as well as shopping, cooking and cleaning and running the house. I think my books give a pretty good picture of what life is like as a foster carer.

Agnes A. Rose: Do you have any advice for people who want to become foster parents? What kind of problems should they take into account to be good foster parents?

Cathy Glass: There is always a shortage of foster carers so if you are interested in fostering I suggest you contact your local fostering service and ask for more information. Different countries vary in their procedure for recruiting foster carers, but there will be an introductory evening where you will learn more about fostering and you will be able to ask questions and share your concerns. The application and assessment process to become a foster carer is long and in depth so you will have plenty of time to think about your commitment. Fostering doesn’t suit all families but if you go ahead and foster you will find the rewards – of seeing a child improve and be happy – are never ending. Applicants will have to want to work with children and young people and have room in their home. They will need empathy for the child and an understanding of the circumstances that has brought that child into care. They will have to have patience, a calm manner particularity in a crisis, common sense and a good support network.  It’s important to know when to voice an opinion and when to stay quiet and not to be judgmental. A foster parent has to be a good listener, be well organized, and have a sense of humour. We mustn’t be afraid to say 'No' to the child sometimes for all children need boundaries. It is also important to play with the children as well as making time for your own family.

This is the Polish cover of
"Please Don't Take My Baby"
Published by MUZA S.A. (2015)
Translated by Anna Rajca-Salata
Agnes A. Rose: What would you like to convey to your readers writing your books?

Cathy Glass: Readers tell me they have a feeling of well-being – of being part of a loving family, which is great. They say they feel as though they are in the room with me and share in my experiences. I hope that readers enjoy the books because that is what reading should be about. I also hope it makes people think about the issues I have raised.

Agnes A. Rose: What are the major challenges that you have faced?

Cathy Glass: Each child I foster brings with them their own challenges (and rewards) and you can only do your best. On personal note I found it very difficult when my husband left me, and also when my father died a few years ago.

Agnes A. Rose: If you had not been a writer and foster carer what do you think you would have been?

Cathy Glass: This is a difficult one because my life revolves around fostering and writing and all that entails. They are all-encompassing and life-changing. It would certainly have been a different life and I suspect a far less rewarding one. I think I am very lucky being able to foster and to write.

Agnes A. Rose: What is your next project? Could you tell us a little bit about it?

Cathy Glass: Girl Alone is my next book and tells the story of Joss, aged 13, who was angry and out of control when she came to live with me. Two previous foster carers and an aunt had tried but failed to help her. I had doubts I would do any better and I knew I was her last chance. Her next move would be to a secure unit for her own protection. In prison at the age of thirteen! Joss smoked cannabis, drank alcohol, went missing overnight and was in trouble with the police and at school. I worried about the effect her behaviour was having on my teenage children, especially when I wasn't able to make a difference and her behaviour continued to deteriorate. Yet I could understand why Joss was so angry, confused and upset. Four years previously, aged only 9, Joss had arrived home from school to find her father's lifeless body hanging in the garage. He had committed suicide.

Agnes A. Rose: Cathy, thank you very much for this interview. I wish you all the best for your further work and I hope that someday we will meet in Poland.

Cathy Glass: Thank you. I love hearing from my readers in Poland x

If you want to read this interview in Polish, please click here