Yesterday, on Harper Lee’s 88th birthday, she announced that To Kill A Mockingbird would be available as an ebook on July 8th. That’s a big deal! And while a little different (because that’s To Kill A Mockingbird, after all) in this era of digital re-publishing, she’s not the only author able to be introduced to readers again via ebook, and exactly what we’re talking about today on WFW (timing is everything, you know?).
Today in an different kind of guest post, Ian Skillicorn, introduces us to Catherine Gaskin, and the business of bringing out-of-print novels back to readers. Enjoy! (And I totally want my next author photo to look like Catherine Gaskin’s!)
When Old Books Are New Again: Introducing Catherine Gaskin
by Ian Skillicorn
When I started my fiction imprint, Corazon Books, I knew that bringing out-of-print novels back to the reading public’s attention would be an important part of my plans. The success of the first reissued titles (including an Amazon Top Ten in the UK) showed that readers were interested in digital editions of previously published books.
Of course, there is a lot of great new writing being published at the moment, but I wanted to focus initially on those works which had given pleasure to previous generations, yet were now largely forgotten. One author I was particularly interested in was Catherine Gaskin. She lived through most of the twentieth century, and had a fascinating life as well as a very successful writing career. Thanks to the advent of digital publishing it was now possible to introduce her to a new generation of readers. I found this a very exciting prospect.
Catherine Gaskin was born in Ireland, but raised in Australia. She became a bestselling writer at the age of just seventeen, having written her first novel in the mornings before going to school. Over five decades her books sold forty million copies worldwide, and she became known as the ‘Queen of Storytellers’. I remember my mother and grandmothers reading her novels, and later on I picked up the copies I came across at home and enjoyed them myself.
When she died in 2009, Catherine left the copyrights in her works to the Society of Authors in the UK. They licensed Corazon Books to publish the first digital edition of her work, The Property of a Gentleman. I set about researching Catherine’s life, so that I could tell readers more about the author behind the work.
Catherine was so successful that it wasn’t difficult to find newspaper and magazine cuttings about her. I spent many days at the Westminster Reference Library in central London, following her path from school-girl bestseller in Australia, to her arrival in England, where she met her future husband (a US television executive) on a blind date. Married life was spent in New York, then the Virgin Islands, Ireland, and the Isle of Man. She returned to Australia, as a widow, for the last ten years of her life. During my research, I was fascinated to learn how books and authors were promoted in years gone by ‒ some of Catherine’s books were serialised over many months in women’s magazines, something that doesn’t happen these days.
I also had the chance to listen to Catherine talking about her life and career. In 1980 she was interviewed for a popular BBC radio programme, Desert Island Discs, in which people of note choose eight pieces of music they would take with them if stranded on a desert island. The recording is available on the BBC’s website, and it was a fantastic opportunity to hear Catherine’s voice, and to discover more about her, in her own words.
Since publishing The Property of a Gentleman I have written articles and blog posts about the novel, and Catherine, and hope that my enthusiasm will encourage readers to try her work. One interesting challenge was how best to describe the book. The Property of a Gentleman is set in Thirlbeck, the remote ancestral home of an earl in England’s Lake District, and in a large auction house in London. It is the story of Jo Roswell, a young antiques expert, who becomes involved with the residents of Thirlbeck. She is also captivated by the tale of a Juana, a Spanish aristocrat who met an untimely end many centuries earlier. Over the course of the novel, Jo uncovers secrets from both the past and present. The book has many gothic elements, and it also includes a romance, but it is does not strictly fit into the gothic romance or romance genres. Events from the sixteenth century are key to the plot, but the book takes place in the 1970s, so it cannot be called historical fiction either. Some readers have likened it to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, and in truth I’m not sure there is a description that could give complete justice to the scope of the book. Let’s say that The Property of a Gentleman is essentially Jo’s journey of self-discovery.
The process of publishing and promoting The Property of a Gentleman has been very fulfilling and rewarding for me. I consider it a real privilege to be able to introduce new readers to Catherine Gaskin and her work.
Corazon Books continues to grow. This spring we are bringing out the first print editions of some titles, and we have been supporting new writing through a number of competitions, including one for previously unpublished authors over the age of fifty. We will also be publishing new editions of further out-of-print titles later this year. There are still many stories waiting for their moment to be reintroduced to readers.
You can find out more about Catherine Gaskin at www.catherinegaskin.com
Ian Skillicorn established the women’s fiction imprint, Corazon Books, in 2012. Its aim is simple – to bring readers great stories with heart. Recent successes include a Top 10 bestseller on Amazon, and Top 10s in the Women Writers & Fiction, Short Stories and Medical Fiction charts.
Corazon Books publishes new fiction and reissues of popular out-of-print works. The imprint also supports and encourages new writers with a number of writing competitions held throughout each year. Full details can be found at www.greatstorieswithheart.com
Ian is also an audio producer with two decades’ experience of producing CDs, audio programmes and podcasts. He is the founder of National Short Story Week in the UK, which is celebrated by libraries and schools nationwide, as well as by publishers, reading and writing organisations, and countless individual writers, readers and listeners.
The Property Gentleman by Catherine Gaskin
Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/The-Property-Gentleman-Catherine-Gaskin-ebook/dp/B00GM03K3G/
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Property-Gentleman-Catherine-Gaskin-ebook/dp/B00GM03K3G/