Sometimes it seems as if things are all meant to be.
Catherine O’Flynn was just putting the finishes to her third novel when it dawned on her.
Yes, she was pregnant.
And yes, her baby was going to be born in August... the same month as the publication of new book Mr Lynch’s Holiday.
“I had lots of things lined up for August that I suddenly couldn’t do,” says Catherine.
The most important thing, of course, is that both baby Dory – and the book, on August 1 – were delivered safely.
“Dory was born on August 30 by a pre-planned Caesarian,” says Catherine.
“She will always be the youngest in her school year.
“But Edie, now four, was born very prematurely, at 28 weeks.
“She was kept in hospital for the first 10 weeks and I didn’t want to go through all that again.”
Being the youngest of six siblings didn’t do Catherine herself any harm. She won the Cost Book Prize with her first novel What Was Lost (2007).
“I’m the youngest of six... by ten years. I was the ‘mistake’,” she says with good humour.
“Dory was a surprise and so it’s obviously hereditary.
“(Becoming pregnant again) was very scary, the thought that things could go wrong.
“I’m just happy we came through it in the end.
“You do hear of some women having horrendous experiences and it’s remarkable they have more children.”
The last thing on my mind when I sat down to chat to Catherine about her novel was abortion, but it seems like she is in a better position than many to offer a view on the subject.
“I am pro-abortion,” she says. “From a political point of view about women having the right to choose.
“But it’s also a very difficult issue. Where do you draw the line?
“When we were in hospital, I saw so many tiny babies.
“I am very personally affected by that. And it’s a really difficult question.”
Brought up in a Nechells sweet shop, Catherine had a curious view of the world – with adults coming in to buy sweets in an environment that children love best.
She mentions a new sweet shop on York Road, Kings Heath called I Had One Of Those with reservations about where time has gone.
“It’s horrifying how it makes you feel very old, but that’s part of my life.”
Catherine will take part in a Birmingham Literary Festival event at Ikon Gallery on October 11 and is surprised when I say she’s booked in from 7.30pm-9pm.
“That long?!” she asks.
“Normally, someone will talk to me,” says Catherine.
“And I might read a bit before the audience asks questions.
“To be honest, I’m not sure why authors read from books as to me it’s like watching someone listening to music.
“I’m happy to do it, but I’ve never quite ‘got it’.”
Despite her successes – and My Lynch’s Holiday has been very positively reviewed – Catherine approaches her work with degrees of pessimism.
She might have gone from being the a receptionist at mac or working in a record shop at Merry Hill to being the family breadwinner, but each book takes a year to gestate, a year to write and a year to edit and review.
That she undoubtedly “works hard” is a term she hesitates about.
“I found this one quite a challenge. I was stuck for a quite a long time and I did suffer.
“You are working on your own, with no outside perspective.
“Yet initially I had a clearer idea about it than the first two.”
Catherine prefers to write in the mornings at home in Kings Heath before the rest of the day fragments around her children, emails and chores.
“I use about five per cent of a program called Scrivener, it’s so much easier than Word, because I don’t write in order and it lets you swap chapters about.”
Catherine’s second book, The News Where You Are, reflected the architecture in Birmingham, with one character loosely based on John Madin who designed the much maligned Central Library.
Even now, she doesn’t want it to be flattened.
“The new Library of Birmingham is great and absolutely brilliant, but I hope it doesn’t mean resources are being directed away from local libraries,” says Catherine.
“I regret the old one being demolished... destroying things that we are embarrassed about is what Birmingham does, before we’ve had a chance to work out what it might be like if we used it for something else.
“My mum was always tearful when she talked about the old Victorian Library being demolished and for the Central Library to have been replaced in my own lifetime... It’s all such a waste.”
Catherine always prefers reading books the old fashioned way – and admits to having a ‘periodic cull’ at home to make space for new ones.
There’s still a chance that she might yet become known for a film or two.
“What Was Lost is still under option by Heyday, the company behind the Harry Potter movies.
“But these things move at a glacial pace..,” she sighs.
“They’ve had two screenplays and because one director had to do something else it needs another one.
“The News Where You Are was optioned for television for two years, but that is now available!” she emphasises with child-like optimism.
Catherine’s first novel was published by city publishers Tindal Street Press after a score of rejections elsewhere.
But, although her two-book deal with Penguin Viking has expired, she says she would probably approach them next with any fourth novel.
Husband Peter, a former lecturer in English as a foreign language, is taking an Open University degree to become a statistician.
“It’s a tragedy for him that when he gets very excited about things it’s all lost on me,” she smiles.
And if this book is her last, if that temporary block suddenly became permanent... what then?
“I’m not wrapped up about being a writer,” says Catherine.
“I would be perfectly happy to go back to doing something different.”
Having won the Costa Book Award at the first time of asking, I wonder if she gets free coffees at the now ubiquitous chain.
Does her purse harbour a glittering, one-in-a-million plastic loyalty card – in contrast to the standard issue purple one that everybody else uses?
“I don’t get free coffees actually,” says Catherine in a way that almost sounds more disappointing to me than to herself.
“They did enough for me and I am grateful for that.
“And I do try to be loyal to them.
“If I’m in town, I do try to go to a Costa.
“My favourite one is the quiet one at the back of Forever 21 in the Bullring.”
* Birmingham Literary Festival opens today (Thursday) and runs until October 12. Box office: 0121 245 4455. Details: www.birminghamliteraturefestival.org