Is This Love? is a novel that explores the “universality of love and pain”


It’s a big year for author and Primadonna Festival director Catherine Riley. The highly-anticipated all-ages weekend is taking place between 29-31 July at the Food Museum in Stowmarket and the lineup is truly exceptional. The programme features the likes of La Roux, Abi Morgan, Juno Dawson and many more. 

The festival runners know that times have been challenging with the cost of living crisis and have kept tickets for this year’s Primadonna low. For just £85 attendees can get away from the stresses in the UK at the moment and experience a weekend full of literature, entertainment and amazing memories. 

And that’s not all, Catherine’s debut novel Is This Love? will be hitting bookstores on 4 August. It’s an addictive and compelling read perfect for fans of unreliable narrators. Catherine sat down to speak with DIVA via Zoom and tell us all about what we have to look forward to with Is This Love? and Primadonna. 

DIVA: Congratulations on your upcoming book. In your own words, how would you describe it to DIVA readers?

Catherine: At the beginning of the book, you meet two characters: J, who’s a fun, driven, passionate person, and who meets the person who will become their wife. You sort of follow their love story as they very quickly fall in love, passionate love. Then little cracks appear, as they can in any relationship. But in this story, it goes very rapidly into a dark kind of toxic mess of a breakup and, as the reader, you have to switch between both perspectives, and you’re never quite sure who’s telling the truth. 

Can you remember the moment that sparked your inspiration or you knew you had to write it?

I was thinking about writing it for a long time. And then, I left my job at the end of 2019 and I had various freelance and contract things set up for the start of 2020. And then this pesky thing called Coronavirus came along and all that work evaporated. So I was working on Primadonna and we did a virtual edition of the festival, but then I had absolutely no excuse. I sat down and started writing the book and I managed to do that over six months. I made the most of the pandemic, let’s put it that way.

Are you able to tell us what you hope will be the key takeaway for readers? 

I hope that the story shows the kind of universality of love and pain and what happens when you fall for somebody and then also what happens when you have your heart broken. 

You mentioned Primadonna earlier, this year’s lineup looks phenomenal. What are you most looking forward to?

I look forward to the gates opening and people coming in and smiling and putting their bags down, tents out, and knowing that they’ve got three days ahead of them where they can just smile, listen and dance and do whatever they want to that makes them happy with the company of some brilliant speakers. 

Primadonna features artists from the publishing and entertainment industry. The publishing industry has changed quite a lot, especially in the last decade. What are your hopes for the publishing industry for the future?

I hope that we are part of a movement for change. Publishing is changing, but it still remains very white, still very middle class. The people at the top are generally men. And that’s without going into queer identities, disabled identities, working class identities. So, we’re trying to create a space where all of that diversity can come together and celebrate the brilliant work that is being done in those different communities. And then take that back to the publishing industry and sort of say, look, you know, it’s already here. I think we’re part of a wider movement for change.

What is your utmost priority directing this year’s festival compared to previous ones?

What we’re trying to do every year is diversify our audience. We want Primadonna to be as welcoming to as wide a community as possible. And we do build community, that’s one of the things that we are really proud of about the festival. People come away saying, “this is a life changing experience”. People make friendships and those friendships last and they also make potential career-changing connections. In the first festival, two people – one performed in a kind of comedy event and one took part in a meet-Primadonna event – and both came away from the festival as published authors. And that’s their job, their career. 

Is This Love? by C.E. Riley is published by Serpent’s Tail on 4 August, hardback £14.99.

Primadonna Festival 2022 takes place between 29-31 July, Stowmarket, Suffolk.

DIVA readers can go for £20 on Saturday, or for the whole weekend for £70, but using the following codes:

SATURDAY20 for Saturday tickets

PRIMADONNA70 for weekend tickets 

Get your tickets here


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