Even by her own admission, novelist Catherine O’Connell is no overnight success. But after 25 years, with five completed novels, four published and a half-dozen manuscripts in the top drawer, one never knows when lightning will strike. But strike it has. It was one of those shelved manuscripts—the first piece she ever wrote actually—that has turned into O’Connell’s breakout novel, The Last Night Out ($29, Severn House Publishers). After editing and rewriting it more than two decades later, it’s now in its second printing—in six different languages. The novel is the gripping story of a bachelorette party turned deadly, with both opening and closing scenes set in Aspen.
O’Connell is not surprised, but pleased by the book’s success. “I really believe in my book,” she says. “It may have taken 25 years, but that’s OK. I’m a writer, and I’ve been a writer since I was a kid. It’s like being an alcoholic—either you’re practicing or you’re not. There’s no age limit to writing.”
She first moved to Aspen as a ski bum in 1979 when she worked and lived as a maid at The Snowflake Lodge. She returned as a full-time resident with her husband, Fred Venrick, in 2000. Since that time, O’Connell has been a member of the Aspen Words board and was moderator of the nonprofit’s Tuesday Night Writers’ Group.
She pulled several experiences from those years of Aspen living as fodder for her next novel, First Tracks, which is another psychological thriller set for release April 1, featuring Aspen ski patroller Greta Westerlind. Soon thereafter, The Last Night Out will be released in paperback by Canongate’s new crime fiction imprint, Black Thorn.
“I’m kick-starting my career at 62,” she says. “I finally feel like am going to keep just writing and writing. I don’t know even where it all comes from. You surprise yourself, and I’m proud of the work—all of it.”
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