The Story behind the story
By Catherine T Wilson and Catherine A Wilson
In 2003 two women with the same name, living 900 kilometres apart, met by accident online. What happened next was simply amazing!
Catherine T Wilson:
I came home to find my email inbox inundated with correspondence from the RWA (Romantic Writers Association of Aust) but immediately singled out one response.
Catherine A Wilson:
A new inductee to RWA had decided to introduce herself to all the other members via what she assumed was a chat room-style forum. Unfortunately, she had instead emailed everyone! Sadly, I can’t recall her name now, but it was certainly eye-catching and I told her so, comparing my rather boring and plain moniker to hers. I then received a rather terse (tongue-in-cheek) reply from a different woman admonishing me for being so rude about a perfectly beautiful name—Catherine Wilson. Our friendship was born at that very moment.
Both women had a dream to write.
I know it’s been said a million times, ‘I always knew I would be a writer,’ and in my case it is certainly true but I had to work extremely hard to reach that goal. As a child I struggled to learn to read and write and I battled my way through school, enduring tedious remedial classes and endless testing. I may not have been able to record my thoughts, but it certainly didn’t stop my imagination from running wild. I spent my time dreaming of the Knights of the Round Table, Camelot, chivalry, maidens on horseback and deadly jousts!
Finally, at age 15, I managed to read a complete novel and began recording my own stories, promising myself that one day I would see my name on the cover. Of course, it took longer than expected. A career in nursing and the RAAF held me up for a while and marriage and children took a lot of my time, but in 2003, with everyone at work or school, I was drawn back to the keyboard.
I was always quite good at writing essays in school but it was a science teacher that I remember reading my work to the class. It was a test answer in which we had to describe how white blood cells attack foreign invaders in the body. I had made mine sound like a pitched medieval battle with the heroic cells nobly dying for the honour of preserving the kingdom’s health. The teacher was highly amused. That was high school before my family moved to Queensland and when my schooling resumed, rather than complete my academic course, I found myself enrolled in commercial classes so that I could become ‘workforce-ready.’ My ambition to become a teacher or a pathologist were to be put aside. Such dreams were simply not affordable in a one-parent family. Instead, I had lessons of book-keeping but working with numbers was not exactly to my taste (or my forte), and I hated shorthand. It was like some extraneous language of hieroglyphs, but at least I did learn to type.
Years passed and marriage and family entered the scene, and though happy, I still felt in some way incomplete. I was a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ but ‘master of none’ when all around me people would shine in their own special talent. I wanted to find that one thing that was singular to me, the one thing that maybe I could be good at for myself. Then one day, while I was folding kid’s clothes with the tv on, I watched an interview with a writer and I knew what I was missing. I had the passion but it needed the pages!
I entered a writing competition in a now extinct Genealogy magazine and was simply amazed when I won first prize. It was exactly the boost I needed. I then joined RWA and the universe (or something as powerful and mysterious) allowed Cathy T and I to find each other.
I began a short-story writing course, but it was novel-writing that really interested me. I was in for the long haul, not the short version. By the time the children were in high school, I’d written my first novel and entered it into a writing competition. It won an encouragement award along with a $1,000.00 cheque. Then disaster struck, and I lost two close members of my family; one to an horrific car accident and only eight weeks later, my mother to illness. Unprepared for such grief, I could barely lift a pen for weeks, let alone type passion at a keyboard until that fateful day when a certain email landed in my inbox. Serendipity – fortunate discoveries by accident or simply destiny?
The two Catherines discovered uncanny resemblances, not only geographically, but even down to immediate family members and names of husbands and children. Forming a strong relationship online, they wrote to each for some 18 months, helping one another and providing support when difficulties struck.
Serendipity! I have heard that so often. A fortunate stroke of luck! But was it? Cathy T and I share so many similarities—not just with our backgrounds and birth places or the structure of our families, but also in circumstance. We have shared so much, even though we are restricted by distance.
Then in 2005, Cathy T had an idea. She was musing on how two women, living so far apart, could readily offer comfort and support to one another when times were tough and, since they both loved medieval history, Cathy T began to wonder what it would have been like for two such women in medieval times. How would they have communicated? Could they have communicated? What sort of support would they be able to provide to each other? How well do really know someone just through letters?
And thus, Lions and Lilies—the story of two women living in the tumultuous times of The Hundred Years War—was born.
Cécile d’Armagnac—wistful, wayward and passionate—led the indulgent life of a French noble, never suspecting the family she adored was not her own.
Catherine Pembroke, a naive novice, abandoned at the Waif’s gate of a nunnery in England, had never known anything more than life behind the convent walls until she received a letter from a woman in France proclaiming to be her sister.
And just as these two women began to write to one another in the 14th century, in the modern world, Cathy A Wilson and Cathy T Wilson kept their relationship confined to emails only. They decided to not speak or meet until their characters did!
We used that tool to enhance the manner in which we wrote. Catherine and Cécile communicate within ‘The Lily and the Lion,’ by way of letters. Cathy T and I did likewise, speaking only via email. I did not even know the sound of her voice! We were exactly as our characters were, all of us discovering, learning, and building a relationship with each other simply by way of the written word.
And it worked beautifully.
They wrote on for two and half books over a period of two years until eventually the occasion arose when it became necessary to discuss an offer on their first book. Unlike their troublesome counterparts who were thwarted at every turn to meet, Cathy A was able to pick up the phone and dial direct to Cathy T. Even though their sacred covenant had been broken, the first few minutes of conversation consisted of joyous laughter. Poor Catherine Pembroke and Cécile d’Armagnac would have to wait a bit longer.
In 2007 the women decided to finally meet and at the same time a Sydney video producer heard of their story. He decided to film this special meeting, capturing all the insecurities and excitement on film.
You may view the video here:-
And then, when a potential publisher suggested a change, Cathy A and Cathy T realised their 14th century counterparts should also be allowed the same joy of meeting one another.
The ‘Wilson women’ worked on, finally realising their dream of publication in 2012.
Rewrites and editing became daily chores and their characters definitely provided plenty of practise! The medieval sisters were hard to contain and often in perilous situations.
But by now ‘this team’ had a regime that operated like clockwork, always allowing for the interference of ‘Madame Fate,’ which was often! Children were growing up, work schedules were changing and then changing again.
On Cathy T’s visits to New South Wales, she and Cathy A began to set up their own stall at medieval fairs where the books were warmly received.
The release of ‘The Lily and the Lion’ – Ironfest 2012
Blacktown Medieval Faire in 2016
And over the years, they always made some time for fun!
It was in 2013 that The Lily and the Lion won its first prize in Chanticleer’s ‘Chatelaine’ Award for Historical Romance. This was followed the next year by their second book, The Order of the Lily, winning the same category and then their third book, The Gilded Crown taking another first place in 2016.
Earlier this year, The Traitor’s Noose won not only first prize in Chanticleer’s ‘Chaucer’ Award for ‘Historical Fiction’ but it took out the grand prize also.
They travelled to the US to receive their awards and attend a writing workshop weekend in Bellingham, north of Seattle, stopping in LA on the way home to visit the Hollywood Walk of Fame, have a coffee with ‘Friends,’ pose with some other friends, pick up an Oscar, and get their kicks on Route 66!
Hollywood Walk of Fame
Central Perk Café from the hit show ‘Friends’
Cathy A made friends with some super heroes
And they accepted their Oscar!
Get your kicks on Route 66! (Rolling Stones song)
Of course, they had to visit Medieval Times …
The two writers have since enjoyed many visits to each other, often accompanied by some marketing event or medieval faire,
and the readership for Lions and Lilies continues to grow steadily.
I have been told that in co-authoring, anything is fraught with danger; that writers are emotional beings who like to do things their own way. That might be the case for some, but it certainly is not for Cathy T and me.
Our biggest downfall? We talk too much! To each other, on the phone. Such is the strength of our relationship that I know I would not be the writer I am, if not for Cathy T.
The secret to our relationship and success – Honesty, Integrity, and Trust.
Cathy A and Cathy T are currently working on their fifth book, ‘Roar of the Lion,’ in the Lions and Lilies series. They hope it will be ready for release by December 2019.
Narrative by Catherine T Wilson
The Lily and the Lion – Book One
In the war between England and France a medieval adventure begins with a letter. Two sisters, Cécile and Catherine, enter a world of passion and intrigue, separated as infants, rediscovered by chance. Can they unravel a mystery and be re-united?
The Order of the Lily – Book Two
A tale of powerful alliances, deadly plots and royal secrets. In an age when women held no power, Cécile and Catherine must rely on the courage of the knights who are assigned to protect them.
The Gilded Crown – Book Three
A dangerous power play between kingdoms, each must risk their life to foil a plot that could end the reign of one king and send another to war. In the darkest of hours, courage must be found.
The Traitor’s Noose – Book Four
What is worse than an unexpected betrayal? Discovering your darkest enemy lies within. When honour demands the ultimate sacrifice – loyalty, trust, love but you know, in the end, justice will be a traitor’s noose.
LINKS TO WHERE BOOKS CAN BE PURCHASED