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Dreams turn to reality as Cat prepares for TV adaptation

In part two of a special series, Cat Hogan discusses her serendipitous relationship with Aidan Gillen, her TV deal and her third novel


Wexford author Cat Hogan

Wexford author Cat Hogan

Wexford author Cat Hogan

Speak to any author and they'll tell you they've already picked a full cast of actors for the movie adaptation should Hollywood ever come calling.

Their book may have been released years ago, may have faded from the memories of all but the most hardened fans, but the author will still know their prospective cast by heart.

Rarely, if ever, do those fantasies come true, do those dreams of DiCaprio, Winslet and Samuel L materialise into screen productions. But every so often the stars align, the day is seized and dreams are realised.

Wexford woman Cat Hogan was approximately 25,000 words into her first book, They All Fall Down, when she decided who she would like to play the role of Scott; the suave, sophisticated, and psychotic male protagonist.

'I said to my friend it's imperative we write a cast list. And I said I wanted Aidan Gillen to play the role of Scott. From day one he was pegged as my bad guy,' Cat recalls.

So far, so fanciful. But Cat moves in wide circles, and some of those circles include not just acquaintances of Mr Gillen, but friends of the Game of Thrones actor. 'I went to Fusion Cafe one night, Peter Murphy was launching a new spoken word project, all the usual heads were there, and there in the middle of them all was Aidan Gillen sat on a couch,' Cat says.

'I went over and met him and got chatting about my book - I was writing the second one at the time. Then afterwards I asked Billy Roche to contact him and ask if Aidan would read my second book and provide a quote for the cover if he liked it.'

But Billy was on holidays, he didn't see Cat's email, didn't forward it on to Mr Gillen. Not that it mattered, because fate was to intervene on Cat's behalf. On her way to a book launch in Dublin, hurrying down Grafton St, maybe not looking where she was going, Cat quite literally bumped into someone walking the other way.

An embarrassing incident at the best of times, the identity of the person in question made it that little bit more awkward.

'It was Aidan Gillen, I literally ran into him, what were the odds?' she says.

Although flustered and somewhat starstruck, Cat procured the actor's email address and a promise that he would read her book during a flight he was to take in the coming days.

'My hands were shaking trying to put his email address in my phone. He said he was flying to Los Angeles for the Season Six premiere of Game of Thrones and he would read the book on the way over - it's mad to think he might have been talking about my book with the cast - and said if he liked it he would give me a quote, if he didn't he wouldn't.'

Naturally Aidan loved her book and shortly thereafter he emailed Cat with the quote which now adorns the cover of There Was A Crooked Man:

'A coruscating journey from the dark alleys of Marrakech, through Berlin and back to where it all began. Hogan writes vividly and unflinchingly. Scott Carluccio Randall is an anti-hero to reckon with.'

At the time, Cat, in her own inimitable way, jokingly informed Aidan that if her books were ever to made into a television programme she would 'come after him'. But it was while helping a fellow writer to progress his career that the second part of Cat's fantasy became reality.

'I had a bit of luck in how I got my TV deal,' she says. 'I was approached by someone else to help them submit a script to a TV company. It was a steampunk sci-fi story, we submitted it to Zanzibar Films and I spoke to some of the people there.

'Meanwhile, I had written a script for a crime story and decided to submit that to them too, thinking I'd rather get a no than leave it lying there forever. They came back to me and said they weren't interested in the script but they might like to do something with my two books and could I tell them more about them. That was a big plot twist, I wasn't expecting that.'

That twist reached its conclusion on December 30 of last year when Cat received an email from Zanzibar Films confirming they would like to turn her work into a television programme.

Ordinarily this is where an author's involvement in a TV project comes to an end, the executives taking control of the novel and reshaping it for a television audience.

'Usually when a writer sends a novel to a company they have limited input, the TV people would take over. And it's kind of like handing over your baby. But I'm writing the screenplay for it,' Cat says.

'We met in Dublin in February for it and I sold myself to them and they agreed to let me do it, so I'm fully involved. It's been slightly delayed because of Covid but that gives me time to tweak it a bit.'

Like everything else, the project is currently in a state of flux, but Cat is hopeful the pilot episode will be ready to air in October of this year. And with Zanzibar having a partner group in the US she is hopeful that it will receive a global audience as well as a local one.

'At the moment we're working on putting the pilot together, pitching actors, it's a slow process,' Cat says. 'I have some ideas for who might play the characters, but they're a bit outlandish, I can't go too mad, there is a budget after all. I genuinely don't know what's going to happen with the filming of it but if anyone can drag a film crew to Kilmore Quay it's me,' she laughs.

While the character of Scott looms large in both of Cat's novels, it is the women who invariably pull the strings, who emerge triumphant when the cards have all been laid on the table. Was this a conscious decision on her part? Did she set out to write a feminist novel?

'All the women I know are strong and independent, they have a lot of inherent strength - Jen (the books' female lead) had to have it as a single mother. I think Liv (Scott's mother) is the strongest of them all, I'm more interested in her than any of them, how she became like the Don Corleone of the Irish drug world.

'But people have asked me if this is a feminist book? No, it's fiction, it was never meant to be a feminist book.'

Cat's work also examines class divides, the concept of having it all, the cars, the clothes, the money, and still being rotten inside. And this social conscience has led her to her next big undertaking, a PhD at the University of Limerick (UL).

'I was part of the UL Winter School in their Creative Writing Department; we spent a full week in Doolin, it was a very immersive experience. Then I went back for the second year as a mentor.

'I'm hoping to do a PhD there in Creative Writing; how it works is you a write a novel but with a sociological commentary attached to it. I want to look at the educational system in Ireland, particularly at second level. There's a lot of people falling through the cracks there, I see it in my other line of work in Adult Education, so how do we go about changing that? The school system is really broken.'

As if working on a television pilot and pursuing a doctorate from one of the country's best Universities wasn't enough, Cat has recently submitted her third novel to her agent.

'It's the usual lovely tale of revenge, vigilantism and justice,' she jokes. 'It centres on two characters; Wanda and Emily, and is told from a dual perspective; they are inextricably linked.

'The first line is "The bodies have been there for weeks. The children do not know that but the older boy has the good sense to pick up his little brother and run."

'We know who the killer is by the end of the first chapter. This book is more of a whydoneit than a whodunnit. I've sent it to a few of my readers and they enjoyed it. It starts out in Wicklow, then goes to London, Arkansas, Arizona, Italy and then back to Ireland.'

And if that sounds like an arduous journey, it pales in comparison to the journey its author has been on, a journey which is showing no signs of coming to a conclusion any time soon.

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