Welcome to the one hundred and forty-sixth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, directors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today’s is with fantasy novelist Catherine Stovall. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate the author further. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here.
Morgen: Hello, Catherine. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Catherine: I’m just your every day average working mom who loves anything to do with reading and writing. I have always been a writer at heart. One day, I woke up and decided I wanted to write a book and well here I am.
Morgen: What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Catherine: I don’t generally like labelling myself or my work. If I have to pick a genre, I guess my work is really a cross between horror and fantasy but always fiction. I am playing with some Steampunk material now but I’m not sure how it will turn out.
Morgen: That’s OK, the genre lines are fuzzing these days and with eBooks it’s not so important. What have you had published to-date? If applicable, can you remember where you saw your first books on the shelves?
Catherine: My first novel, Stolen: Book One of the Requiem of Humanity series just released on September 5, 2011. Though it is only in eBook, I still cried the first time I saw it on a virtual shelf. It was on the Untreed Reads Store website and I sent the link to every single person I know.
Morgen: I reckon I’ll be the same. Have you ever seen a member of the public (whom you don’t know!) reading your book… in any unusual locations?
Catherine: That sounds like so much fun! I haven’t had the privilege as of yet but I will probably take a picture if I ever do.
Morgen: How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Catherine: I do the majority of my marketing. Being published by a smaller publishing house has many advantages but a huge budget for a brand new author isn’t one of them. I do get a lot of support from my friends and family. My best friend created the Official Catherine Stovall Fan Page on Facebook and we both utilize it to spread the word. I also have my mother who tells every single person she meets about her daughter the author.
Morgen: I have one of those (and an aunt). My mum said when I first started writing to hurry up and get something published so she could tell everyone I was a published author so I sent something to Woman’s Weekly and it was published. She now says not to let it take over my life but she’s a few months too late. Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions and do you think they help with a writer’s success?
Catherine: Being a relatively new published author, I haven’t taken part of any competitions yet. I do think that wining or being shortlisted in competitions affects a writer’s success. As with anything in life, a badge of achievement can open doors.
Morgen: I agree, someone official saying you can do it. Do you write under a pseudonym? If so why and do you think it makes a difference?
Catherine: I write under my real name. I find it more personal to the audience, despite the possible limitations it may place on someone who attains a great amount of success.
Morgen: And I think you don’t need one. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Catherine: I don’t have an agent at this time. Since most major publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts, agents do seem to be a vital part of the process. I would like to see this change but that is the way of the publishing world.
Morgen: I think with eBooks it’s bound to. Are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process?
Catherine: Yes! Stolen is available at almost every eBook retailer. The ePublishing processes was wonderful. I received a lot of support from my editors and publisher. I am very excited that I will be able to tell my future grandchildren that I was part of the technological revolution that is the eBook.
Morgen: What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
Catherine: After completing Stolen, I sent out 16 queries and received two acceptance letters. It is still very much a thrill to have been so lucky. I know that many writers spend years searching for that first yes and I still can’t quite believe that I wrote, edited, and published my first novel so quickly.
Morgen: The right thing with the right person, it happens. Well done. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Catherine: Most of the rejections I received were very polite. Those were easy to shrug off. Rejection is part of the process. However, one gentleman was not quite so nice. In an array of negative comments, he told me that my genre was already stock full of substandard vampire novels and that Stolen would be one more to the pile. I cried. Then I printed out the email and tacked it to my wall. That not-so-nice man inspired me to work harder so that someday I can send him a copy of my books and say thank you.
Morgen: A positive out of a negative. I have heard people ‘in the know’ saying they’re tired of them but then vampires have been written about for hundreds of years so why not hundreds more? It’s well known that there are few plots out there, it’s what you do with them that counts. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Catherine: Right now, I am working on several different things. I recently finished the preliminary edits on Reborn: Book Two of the Requiem Series, I am revamping (no pun intended) Requiem: Book Three, and I am writing a new novel that follows a young half fairy and half human woman on her quest to save her mother’s people from the cold sleep and a dangerous foe.
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
Catherine: Oh how I wish I could find the time to write every day. I dream of the day that I can leave my day job and spend my days lost in words. The final two and half chapters of Stolen were written in one sitting. Overwhelmed by inspiration and wrote a little over 4,000 words that day.
Morgen: That’s good going, and I’m like that with NaNoWriMo - once I start, as long as I have no other plans, I can keep going, the joy of writing. What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
Catherine: Writers block is your mind’s way of telling you it is time to return to the real world for a little while. I get writer’s block quite a bit. When the nasty little bugger hits, I simply take a break. I read a book, hang out with my husband and children, or go out with some friends. The topic of writing and characters is strictly forbidden during these breaks that sometimes last for a few days.
Morgen: I should say “oh dear” but it sounds like the respite does you good and maybe your writing’s better for it. A question some authors dread, where do you get your inspiration from?
Catherine: I am inspired by everything in life, even every day mundane things can be used in a novel. Music is probably my biggest inspiration. I am a huge music lover, though I can’t play an instrument or sing. You can check out the playlist for Stolen on my webpage.
Morgen: What a good idea. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Catherine: I use both methods. I will make a very general outline but once my characters start to develop they tend to run away with the story and I just try to keep up.
Morgen: I love that image… and aren’t they great? I love making up new people (I do most Monday night workshops). Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Catherine: This is my favourite question!
Morgen: Oh, thank you Catherine.
Catherine: I spend an inordinate amount of time on naming my characters. I like to look up the various meanings of the names I am considering. I try to keep the character’s appearances, accents, and names true to their place of origin. I think the one thing that makes my characters believable is that they all have good and bad traits. No one is purely evil or purely good. I think you have to love your villain and want to slap your heroine / hero at least once during every story.
Morgen: <laughs heartily> Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Catherine: I do promotional pieces for to promote my friends and families work. I also write freelance articles from time to time. None of it is as much fun as writing novels though.
Morgen: Fiction is my favourite. Who is your first reader – who do you first show your work to?
Catherine: For the Requiem series, my first reader was my very good friend Jessica Lacey. She was so sweet to endure my rambling for months on end and she was always so excited to receive the next chapter for her approval. I tend to give the first copy of my work to different people each time. I make my choice based on my friends’ and family’s tastes and willingness to be badgered for opinions.
Morgen: Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Catherine: I edit a lot. I do most of my writing very late at night due to my day job and family needs. I often have to rephrase things that are written during the early morning hours so that they make more sense.
Morgen: How much research do you have to do for your writing? Have you ever received feedback from your readers?
Catherine: Since I always try to include real places and situations in my work, I do a lot of research. I want the reader to have a very accurate picture of where the characters are in the story. In order to paint a picture of a place I have never been, such as Budapest, good research is vital. I recently received feedback from a woman who is very into religion and whose husband speaks at a seminary frequently. I was touched that she found the religious twist in Stolen to be fascinating. I was so elated.
Morgen: And there will always be someone who knows where you’re talking about, even top authors get corrective feedback (accurate in Alexander McCall Smith’s case, inaccurate in Simon Scarrow’s). What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
Catherine: Like everything in my life, writing for me is anything but a process. The closest thing I have to it is that I drown out the world with my iPod, grab a Mountain Dew, and attempt to find a place where the kids are less likely to find me.
Morgen: My ‘kid’ is my dog and he always finds me. Do you write on paper or do you prefer a computer?
Catherine: My outlines, notes, and character lists go on paper. This provides me with easier access so that I don’t have to toggle back and forth. Everything else goes on the laptop.
Morgen: Some writers like quiet, others the noise of a coffee shop etc. Do you listen to music or have noise around you when you write or do you need silence?
Catherine: Music is necessary for me to write. I listen to alternative, old country and rock, rap, blues, classical, heavy metal, and everything in between. No television is preferred.
Morgen: Me too, I can’t write with the TV on, I end up staring at it, fingers hovering over the keyboard. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Catherine: I prefer third person. I like to talk about the emotions and thoughts of everyone of my characters and third person makes this easier for me. Second person is fun to play with. I have tried it a few times but it is not something I think I will ever use in a full novel.
Morgen: Yay, you find second person fun. So do I but agree, it’s best for shorter pieces. Do you use prologues / epilogues? What do you think of the use of them?
Catherine: I have never been a big fan of prologues and epilogues in my own writing. I think they are necessary for some more in-depth works.
Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Catherine: I have several of them but it is not because they are not up to par. Sometimes I use my writing as a way to vent and these tend to be very dark. They are extremely personal to me and I think they belong in the recesses of my “writing box” and not on display.
Morgen: I have a novel like that. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Catherine: My favourite part of my writing life is having the chance to leave something of myself behind for future generations. To me my works are the only true chance at immortality. My least favourite is my own doubt. No matter what accomplishments I make, I still question myself and I hope to overcome this.
Morgen: I think practice will help, you get stronger as a writer and with more accomplishments it’ll help your confidence. If anything, what has been your biggest surprise about writing?
Catherine: This sounds terrible but my biggest surprise was finding out just how non-glamorous the whole process is. It is all very technical and there is a ton of hurrying up to get something done only to wait forever for the results.
Morgen: I think certainly with traditional publishing (that was a shock to me too) but eBooks are bound to speed things up… maybe, we live in hope. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Catherine: It only takes one yes so don’t get discouraged by rejection. If you need to write, then you have what it takes.
Morgen: Absolutely. What do you like to read?
Catherine: I am an eclectic reader. In a pinch, I have been known to read the cereal box for entertainment. Not really, I’m just joking. I love old classics like Wuthering Heights and the original Dracula. My favourite works are by Anne Rice. If you have never read the Feast of All Saints, I definitely recommend it.
Morgen: You’re not actually the first to say “cereal boxes”. I’ve not read that book so thanks. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Catherine: I love the word xanadu. It is fun to say, pronounced zan-a-doo. My favourite quote is by the fabulous late Marilyn Monroe. “I’m not interested in being rich. I just want to be wonderful.”
Morgen: Wasn’t she great? And Xanadu – yes, it was a film back in the 80s. I’ve never seen it but I like Olivia Newton John. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Catherine: When I am not at work I am home taking care of my husband, three kids, epileptic dog, crazy cat, beta fish, and our ball python. When I do get a free moment, I do whatever I can to have fun. I love taking photographs, reading, painting terrible pictures, having friends day with my girls, and just enjoying life.
Morgen: Sounds like a fair amount of inspiration there. Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful and would recommend?
Catherine: I love Goodreads website. It’s a virtual wonderland for writers and readers alike. I also have a humongous list of favourite writing blogs that I read. The best ones are like this blog. A place you can go and read about other writers and the tricks they use.
Morgen: Ah yes, Alice mentioned Goodreads yesterday (as have a few other interviewees)… I must check it out. In which country are you based and do you find this a help or hindrance with letting people know about your work?
Catherine: I am based in the United States and there are many great resources here for writers. I live in a small town though and I think that it hinders my writing career as far as in person networking more than anything else.
Morgen: I live in a big town but our literary scene is terribly poor (it used to be better but the arts have suffered from cutbacks). Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how invaluable do you find them?
Catherine: Facebook, SheWrites, and Authors Den are a few of my networking sites. Facebook is absolutely the most valuable resource out there right now for writers. I have met so many wonderful fans and fellow writers through my Facebook Fan Page and pages like Volley View that allow you to like and link with others.
Morgen: Ooh I like the sound of Volley View. Where can we find out about you and your work?
Catherine: Webpage: www.catherinestovall.webs.com
Untreed Reads: http://bit.ly/qCgNAS
Morgen: What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Catherine: I think the future holds more developments in eReaders, eBooks, and the opportunities that they provide. Though the love for hard covers and paperbacks will always exist, I think the convenience and affordability of technology will continue to grow.
Morgen: I think so too, and as an imminent eBook author I’m hoping so. If you could have your life over again, is there anything you’d have done differently (writing-related or otherwise)?
Catherine: I wouldn’t change a single thing about my life. Everything, both good and bad, has brought me to the place I am now. Every experience has shaped me and prepared me for this journey.
Morgen: Lots of fiction fodder. Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Catherine: It may sound a little corny but I want to encourage everyone to tell their favourite bloggers how wonderful they are. Blogs like this one provide an amazing service for readers and authors alike. It is hard to maintain a captivating and informative blog and the hosts deserve a round of applause.
Morgen: I don’t think it’s corny at all but then I may be a tad biased. Thank you Catherine (oh, and I love your hair ). Is there a question you’d like to ask me?
Catherine: What is your favourite book of all time?
Morgen: My goodness. From childhood I’d say Russell Hoban’s ‘The Mouse & His Child’, which I still have (well, a more recent copy) and remember being emotional over it, although I can’t remember it well enough so bought it again to re-read. If I had to choose a desert island book I’d pick Roald Dahl’s Complete Tales of the Unexpected; because he’s a master of twists but also because it reminds me of my father (he did some photography for Roald, including Sophie’s fourth (or thereabouts) birthday party). Great question, I’d say that was my favourite. Thank you again Catherine.
I then invited Catherine to include an extract of her writing and she chose an excerpt from Chapter 1 of Stolen: Book One of the Requiem of Humanity Series:
The intruder stood inches from her, his black eyes boring into her as if the entire world depended on this very moment in time. He stood almost a full foot taller than Jenda. His broad shoulders tapered down to a trim waist. He appeared to be well muscled but not overly large. He was almost handsome except that his presence sent tremors of pure undiluted terror screaming to every brain cell and nerve ending inside her. All of her senses told her to wake up, to run, and to escape as quickly as she could.
Jenda did not turn or run. She stood her ground, focused on the object that the intruder stood holding between his thumb and forefinger. There in his large pale hand hung a crystal from her tree. Her mind went wild with the outrage she felt at the idea of this invader, this intruder touching something so personal to her.
Jenda seethed. Before she could stop herself, she reached to rip the trinket away. As she grasped the crystal, she saw the purple light begin to fill it. She gasped and then his hand closed around her tiny wrist. The cold shock of steely flesh sent shivers through her. She paused, thrown off guard by the sensation of having her entire hand plunged into ice. Then her heart skittered and she felt as if the world were spinning too fast and that she may fall.
Catherine Stovall is a new and upcoming author of fantasy fiction. Her novel, Stolen, is the first in the Requiem of Humanity series. Catherine received her Associates of Science in Criminal Justice from Colorado Technical University. After working in the Criminal Justice field for several years, she has decided to dedicate her life to her true passion, creating captivating works of fiction. She currently lives in southeast Missouri with her husband, three children, and pets. And Catherine returned on Sunday 16th October, as part of her blog tour, with her guest blog wonderfully entitled ‘When bad titles happen to good books’.
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