Up-and-coming author Catherine Doyle is 24 years old and from the West of Ireland, and her debut novel Vendetta is the first installment of the Blood for Blood trilogy. This YA thriller came out in late February, and it already has a lot of people talking and anxiously awaiting the next installment. When Catherine Doyle agreed to an interview, I couldn’t wait to ask her about her writing process, her bad boy lead, and her next book!
Short synopsis of Vendetta as found on Catherine Doyle’s website:
When it comes to revenge, love is a dangerous complication. With a fierce rivalry raging between two warring families, falling in love is the deadliest thing Sophie could do. An epic debut set outside modern-day Chicago.
When five brothers move into the abandoned mansion in her neighbourhood, Sophie Gracewell’s life changes forever. Irresistibly drawn to bad boy Nicoli, Sophie finds herself falling into a criminal underworld governed by powerful families. As the boys’ dark secrets begin to come to light, Sophie is confronted with stinging truths about her own family, too. She must choose between two warring dynasties — the one she was born into, and the one she is falling in love with. When she does, blood will spill and hearts will break.
The storyline of Vendetta is definitely intriguing, filled with romance, action, and mystery. What made you want to write this particular story in the first place?
I’ve always been interested in movies about the criminal underworld, and some of my all-time favorites are about the mafia: The Godfather, Goodfellas, The Departed, Casino. But I’m also a die-hard fan of everything Disney and epic romance in general. I wanted to marry the two ideas in a new way for a teenage audience. Then one night as I was trying to fall asleep, an image popped into my head. It was five boys doused in shadow, standing side-by-side in front of an old crumbling mansion. I was looking at them through the eyes of someone else — a girl, who was wondering who they were and where they had come from. They were the exact characters I needed, I realized, and they were ready to tell their story. I started writing Vendetta that night.
In regards to your character Nicoli, how do you balance his bad-boy tendencies with his sweet personality (does the good in him outweigh the bad)? Should Sophie be staying far away from him, or is he worthy of the love she feels for him?
Nicoli has goodness in him. He cares for Sophie. He is attracted to her outlook on life, her plucky attitude, and her quiet vulnerability. He can recognize the good in her, and naturally he wants to protect that. Those are the parts of Nic that are easy to warm to. However, he’s also a product of his environment. He was raised in a world where morality is black and white, and his ancestors, who were responsible for considerable violence, were always openly praised in his house. I don’t think he does bad things to intentionally hurt people or to be destructive to society. He truly believes his life choices are positive ones.
Nic doesn’t necessarily have the answers; he just has his own answers (the ones that help him sleep at night), and that’s one of the things Sophie has to reconcile as she realizes just how twisted his world really is.
Should Sophie stay away from him? Oh, of course. But then what kind of story what that be?! 😉
Are you able to give us any information about the plot of the sequel?
Well, the boys will be back! There will be romance, danger, friendship, and humor, and the stakes will definitely be higher.
Some readers are predicting a possible love triangle between Sophie, Nic, and Luca. Is this a possibility we might see in the future?
At this point in the story, I’d say that anything is possible!
When writing a story, where do you generally start? Do you pick the characters first, the overall plot, or the story’s moral/theme, etc?
I’m quite a visual writer, so my stories usually begin with an image — a single snapshot of a scene — and then the rest emerges from that starting point. With Vendetta, the story began with that single, vivid image of five boys in front of a crumbling mansion. Sophie’s voice emerged quite soon after that.
Does your writing process change at all when writing a mystery and a thriller? For instance, do you have to plan out every detail of your story in advance, or do you just have a good idea of where it’s going?
I wish I was more of a plotter, but usually I have a good idea rather than a strict layout. Typically, new characters and plot points will emerge as I write, so I give myself enough leeway to fit them into the story as I go along.
Do you have a favorite quote about writing?
“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart” – William Wordsworth.
Do you have any advice for young writers hoping to make a career out of it?
Read as much as you can, especially the genre that you are writing in! It’s so important to familiarize yourself with what’s out there. I firmly believe that every time you read a book, you become a tiny bit more attuned to your own writing. You’ll pick up better writing structure, plotting points, dialogue flow, world-building techniques, characterization tips. And best of all, you’ll be inspired and excited to delve into your own stories and take them to that next level.