Cork county archaeologist Catryn Power has drawn on her former career to create a new one as a short story writer, she tells Kieran O’Mahony
FROM digging in the dirt to the clean-living life of being a published author, Catryn Power’s Short Stories is a love letter to her career in archaeology.
The former Cork County Archaeologist whose work brought her all over the West Cork area now spends her spare time writing and blogging and hasn’t looked back since.
But she has managed to marry both her past and present careers to great effect.
‘This collection of short fiction is of course inspired by my career, and it’s about stuff that other people just don’t write about. You can only write about what you know,’ Catryn told The Southern Star.
‘It’s a hobby but I find it really entertaining. Obviously there is some stress before the final editing, but it’s been a wonderful year overall. Writing is a different lifestyle to my previous job – it’s really fun and I can mix up things. What’s great is that a writer can do anything they want.’
Originally from Youghal, but now living in Ballincollig, Catryn’s writing skills can be traced back to her younger days when, as a 12-year-old, she was writing her own detailed diaries. And she still has them.
‘I was talking to pupils in a primary school in Ballincollig recently who had produced their own book and I brought in the diary. I told them that they can write about anything they want, and that they don’t need to show it to anyone. I even had an athletics diary and hoped someday to be an Olympic champion.’
It wasn’t until she retired from her job that Catryn started her own blog, featuring over 60 academic articles, on everything from the analysis of human skeletal remains and prehistoric cremations, to medieval medicine and surgery.
Very quickly, her blog had attracted a wide audience from across the world.
‘I wanted a blog to show people the things that I have done and the articles that I had published. I update it regularly and I get some amazing feedback, with people from as far away as China and America emailing me. Some Mexican and Spanish forensic scientists are using one of my articles on cremation, which is great to hear. It was just word of mouth that people picked up on the blog and it took off from there.’
It was only when Catryn started to write short stories that she felt things were falling into place. She wrote a short story called ‘The Officer’s Son’, which was about her grandfather and it was shortlisted at the West Cork Literary Festival. She got great encouragement from the positive reaction.
‘The first story I wrote in 2011 and then one in 2012 and I started the five other ones in this collection this time last year. I wanted to raise funds for a charity I’m involved in – Cork Parkinson’s Support Group – so I said I’d put a book together. A friend of mine said I should approach publisher Roz Crowley, which I did, and Roz loved my writing and we went from there. She gave it to her editor and the book was completed in August.’
Anyone with an interest in archaeology will love these short stories written by Catryn. From the ghost of a French nurse to a forensic anthropologist solving a decades-old murder, intrigue and forensics fuse in these ethereal tales of history and the supernatural.
In the years before she found her literary voice, Catryn spent many days working around West Cork as county archaeologist. She has some very fond memories of that time.
Catryn would travel the region, not only surveying for the Council, but also offering help to organisations and other bodies needed expert help. She worked with local groups like the Coppeen Archaeological Historical and Cultural Society helping them with grant applications and other advice.
‘From Enniskeane to Dursey and Bere Island, I’ve been all over the area – I had the whole county to look after. During the busy Celtic Tiger years, at one stage we had 13,000 planning applications to look at, and I had to go out and inspect the planning applications to make sure none would be interfering with anything archaeological. I don’t think it will ever be like that again, though.’
Catryn Power’s ‘Short Stories’ is €10 and is now on sale from Waterstones, Cork and online at www.onstream.ie.