FROM the perils of her "front bum" and the quirks of Tinder and casual sex to intimate details of her love affair and marriage to eighth rugby league "immortal" Andrew Johns, there's not much that self-described over-sharer Cathrine Mahoney doesn't cover in her new book.
In Currently Between Husbands, the former publicist turned chart-busting podcaster and author chronicles the crushes of her youth in her beloved native England before plunging into her 13-year relationship with the Newcastle Knights legend: their giddy courtship and his proposal, parenthood, dealing with the "monkey on the back" of their marriage [his bi-polar disorder] and the visceral pain that accompanied their very public marriage breakdown.
"I feel like I am in a whirlwind talking about myself on this book tour ... even I am over me," Mahoney jokes as she plunges one hand down her fluffy hot pink jumper to prove that yes, just as she writes in her memoir, she does place a crystal in her bra daily for good karma. "I am at a great place in life. I'm really grateful for where I am."
A human soda stream, Mahoney seems one part your bestie two parts Bridget Jones, always optimistic things will work out. Living on Sydney's northern beaches and reeling from the breakdown of her marriage to Johns just days before her 40th birthday [an event that led to her inadvertently over-indulging in alcohol and valium and passing out at LA airport), a sense of frustration led her to pen her own story.
"No one in my social circle then had a failed marriage, I had one friend in the US who had gone through it quite publicly [spoiler: it was Erica Packer], but no one could tell me what to expect or normalise how I was feeling and all the processes that come with a marriage breakdown," Mahoney says. "I was in a book store and thinking, 'Why didn't Bridget get divorced? She has helped me through so many moments'. The way Helen Fielding writes is so funny, even when it's sad it's hopeful. Self-help books are great but I needed a story that had me in the centre, and it wasn't on the shelves."
And so, as the world entered multiple lockdowns, Mahoney tuned into to her favourite '80s music and wrote about love, from her teen crushes, to the Johns years, and bouncing back as a dating single.
"I am still in therapy, I am an open book, and writing seven years down the track after my marriage broke up I felt more like a drone looking over the process, I wasn't in the eye of the storm," she says. "Whether you are divorcing or coming out of a long-term relationship, that first 12 to 18 months is horrendous. It's like a death, but the other person is still alive." [In the book, she writes more pointedly: "I love you, I miss you, if I could get away with running you over in a dark carpark and reversing back over your body just to be sure - I would!]"
A gawky, non-sporty child who realised early that her superpower was her comic chops, Mahoney grew up in South Wales, and after university landed a gig as a music publicist. Landing in Brisbane in 1999 with her then boyfriend, she worked for a street press paper then moved to Sydney alone when she got a job at Sony Music.
In 2002, she met Johns when he starred in a DVD she was marketing.
"I could totally appreciate he was handsome, but he wasn't really my bag. It was his hair. Andrew's hair was a bit all over the shop and he had loads of it. I wouldn't say it was a particular style but there was a fair bit of 'product' in it. I was more into a malnourished, heroin-chic type; a tortured artist with long hair or a shaved head," she writes.
It was Johns who first professed that he was falling for Mahoney, and their relationship blossomed - he drove from Newcastle to Sydney on the only afternoon of the week he wasn't training to see her; at away games he rubbed his chest as the television cameras rolled so she knew he was thinking of her. The ups and downs of being married to a sports celebrity included being stalked and occasionally heckled by fans.
"I was fortunate to work with Dylan, Pearl Jam, J-Lo, music is my first love and they were gods to me, like Andrew is to sports fans," she says. "I am not saying Andrew is Dylan, obviously, but you are used to having people stare as a publicist. That's my job, maybe that helped me navigate it."
Mahoney says she stayed in those early years when she could have walked away, for many reasons. "First and foremost, I loved Andrew like I hadn't loved anyone before ... I had also never been loved as intensely and passionately as I had by him," she writes.
Still, the day Mahoney moved to Newcastle in 2005, she sat in their home alone while Johns was on a bender: "As was always the case with 'those' weekends, there was a huge come down, remorse and an 'I won't do it again' from Andrew," she writes. "The usual frosty few days from me and then we moved on. Nevertheless, I got into a groove."
By the time their on-again, off-again marriage ended, the pair were parents to Louis, now 13.
Mahoney has no regrets of their soured love.
"You don't walk down the aisle thinking, 'Is this going to go tits up in a few years?' The beauty of writing this down the track was that I was really happy and enjoyed sharing my love story with Andrew," she says. "In lockdown, I got to pull out the box at the back of my wardrobe ... I remember how we kissed, how he smells, the butterflies, the crazy things we did."
Mahoney showed Johns her book and received no comment. Louis is yet to read it, but he read his father's memoir recently: "He said, 'Dad said you used to light up a room', and his face was so happy. We have very grown-up conversations now."
Mahoney says her memoir is for everyone and not a self-help book. Still, she offers plenty of tips on how to face separation or divorce. Now co-parenting with Johns ["His first wife and current partner are lovely, we all have a child to Andrew, he has great taste in women"], her vision board is overflowing.
With her Not Another Parenting Podcast and So I Quit my Day Job projects growing and a new magazine column, she covets her own radio slot. As for love, she's open to it: "I am a desperate romantic. Sometimes it's nice not to be the fifth chair."
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.