Welcome to the six hundred and sixty-first of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with debut novelist Catherine Dougherty. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Catherine. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Catherine: I’ve always wanted to be a published author and have been writing for as long as I can remember—poetry, short stories, children’s stories and now novels. I live in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, a beautiful place, where many people come to vacation. Besides writing, I love to read and knit. My husband and I also enjoy browsing in bookstores throughout New England.
Morgen: I’ve never been to the US but New England has always looked so green, very… English, I suppose. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Catherine: My debut novel in Polyester Pajamas is an easy and funny read, and is also thought-provoking. Some may classify it as chick lit, but I prefer “women-centric” instead, a term I’ve heard recently. There are still several more books in this genre I want to write, so I’ll be busy for quite a while. But, someday I’d like to try other genres.
Morgen: ‘women-centric’ is a new one on me but I love it. 🙂 You mentioned your debut novel – what have you had published to-date?
Catherine: in Polyester Pajamas was released in June 2012 by Briona Glen Publishing. It is available in both eBook and trade paperback format. The sequel in Woolen Bikinis will be released this upcoming June.
Morgen: How exciting. And great titles, by the way. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Catherine: I received only a couple of rejections for in Polyester Pajamas before Briona Glen Publishing accepted it. It was disappointing at the time, but I knew to expect rejections—everyone gets them—and it was a learning experience along the way. Also, since Grey Gate Media, LLC (formerly Briona Glen Publishing) is based out of New Hampshire, I am now so happy it worked out the way it did.
Morgen: Things do have a habit of working out for the best, and I always think of rejections as just the wrong person for the right thing. Have you ever entered any competitions?
Catherine: I haven’t participated in many writing contests, but I did win a monthly contest with Writer’s Digest in 2005 for a short essay about observing Stephen King at a lunch counter in Maine. It was a thrilling moment when I received the email notifying me I was the winner. My dad, who knew I was writing, was just as excited. I wish he could’ve also celebrated my first novel release, but he passed away a few years ago.
Morgen: What a shame. My father died September 2001 and missed me getting my dog the following June, and me discovering writing in 2005. I’m open-minded about the hereafter but I like to think he knows how I’m doing and I know he’d be proud, because he’d already tell me he was. I dedicated my debut novel to him. 🙂 Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Catherine: I do not have an agent. Yes, they can be helpful, but I don’t think they’re always necessary. Who else can promote the manuscript better than the author who believes in it the most? It does take time and plenty of effort, however, so sometimes I wish I had one. Maybe someday.
Morgen: I agree. Of the 700+ authors I’ve interviewed, only two have said they don’t do their marketing, that their publisher, agent or publicist does it for them. They were still active online though and these days that’s so important. Most publishers don’t have the budgets to put behind us, but the great thing is that we get direct contact with potential readers. You mentioned your novel is available as an eBook? Were you involved in that process at all? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Catherine: My book is available in both eBook format and trade paperback. Grey Gate Media takes care of getting it out there and making it available to the public, and, yes, they do work with me on edits, cover, design, etc. prior to publication. They keep me informed and involved in every stage of production.
I enjoy reading eBooks, as well as paper books, but I prefer holding a book in my hands. That’s a good thing because I own hundreds of books still needing to be read. (Plus, I continue to buy more—in both versions!)
Morgen: Me too. Even if I read prolifically I don’t think I’d get through all the books in my house… but they look nice. How much marketing do you do?
Catherine: Well, let me see, I have an Author Facebook Page, and also a website / blog. I’m a member of Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Goodreads, Promocave, etc., etc. And I’m a member of the New Hampshire Writers’ Project. In addition, I have posters, business cards, postcards and bookmarks that I hand out, and I talk about my book(s) all of the time to anyone I meet. I’m also continuously involved in book signings, expos, author tours, etc. It keeps me busy!
Morgen: Wow. It certainly sounds like it (and I bet you love it). Do you have a favourite of your characters? If in Polyester Pajamas were to be made into a film, whom would you have as the leading actor/s?
Catherine: Both Jean and Rosie, the two main characters of in Polyester Pajamas, are my favorites. I can’t pick one over the other. There’s been a lot of debate with my friends as to who would be ideal for the leading actors if it were to be made into a film. It was decided that Susan Sarandon is ideal for Jean, although she’s about 10-15 years older. Julianne Moore would also be a good choice. As for Rosie, Andie McDowell would be a perfect. It’d be so awesome if it were to happen. I know it would make a great movie or even a sitcom.
Morgen: A great cast. I’d certainly go and see it. Did you choose the title / covers of your book(s)?
Catherine: The titles for both of my books are my own, although I did receive some help adjusting the title for the second book. As for the covers, Pam Marin-Kingsley, Acquisitions Editor / Creative Director at Grey Gate Media asked for my thoughts and suggestions and then proceeded to create covers so much better than I ever imagined they could be. She’s the best.
Morgen: It’s great having that support. And it’s a great cover. You’ve talked about book two – what are you working on at the moment / next?
Catherine: I’m finishing up the editing process for in Woolen Bikinis as it’s due for release this upcoming June. Also, I’ve started my first Christmas novel with all new characters. After that, I have a third book to write in the Jean & Rosie series.
Morgen: It must be fun getting to know your characters for more than just one book, and I know agents, publishers and Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Catherine: I try to write every day if possible. Sometimes other things get in the way. As for writer’s block, yeah, I have it occasionally, but if I can get past the procrastination level, it doesn’t last. The hardest part is staring at a blank page and starting. It always gets easier from there.
Morgen: 🙂 I always say you can’t edit a blank page but yes, kicking off is often hard. I think as long as you have a germ of an idea your brain and the characters will kick in with the rest. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Catherine: I gather ideas in my mind all of the time and then run with them. No outlines—the story tends to take a life of its own.
Morgen: That’s my favourite part of the ‘process’. Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Catherine: I have general ideas about the characters beforehand, but they develop into their own unique selves as the story comes together. Sometimes I have a name in mind, but many times I make the names up as I go along. The characters are believable because what they experience represents what many “real” people experience. Those who have read in Polyester Pajamas say the characters remind them of people they already know.
Morgen: That’s great. Characters should feel real. Do you write any non-fiction, poetry or short stories?
Catherine: I blog about real stuff, have written several short stories, and also write poetry. I don’t have any form or rules with the poetry—it just comes out of me and then I do a little adjusting and know when a poem is done. Some of my poems are posted on my author site at http://catherinedougherty.com.
Morgen: Maybe you’d like to submit some for https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/post-weekend-poetry and / or http://poetrywritinggroup.wordpress.com. 🙂 Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Catherine: Both. I find that the more I write, the better I get at it and the less editing is needed. BUT, I do edit a lot. I can read through something several dozen times and still find something else I missed (or misspelled). I’m sure many times it’s because I know what I want it to say so I just read it that way afterwards, know what I mean? Plus, punctuation is always questionable—I go back and forth about that. Does it need a comma there? No comma? So frustrating. I really believe in editors and believe every writer needs one or more.
Morgen: Absolutely. We’re always too close to our own work and the original ideas. It’s why I set up https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/feedback and the online writing groups. Do you have to do much research?
Catherine: I observe people all of the time. I guess you could call that research. It gives me a lot of great information to work with and I have loads of fun with it. I also draw on my own personal experiences. For example, the two main characters of in Polyester Pajamas are realtors. Since I was in real estate for 12 years, it was easy for me to explain the process of showing properties, putting together a purchase and sale agreement, etc.
Morgen: They do say to write about what you know. The Serial Dater’s Shopping List was a just-turned 40 woman dating 31 men in 31 days via an online dating service. I don’t think I’ve dated that many men in my entire life but a fair chunk was autobiographical. 🙂 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: I can work with both noise and quiet. My favourite CD to listen to while I write is by the artist George Winston. He’s a pianist and his music is soothing and beautiful.
Morgen: It sounds lovely. I have Eric Satie on at the moment (Gymnopédies no.2). What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Catherine: Both of my novels are in first person and I enjoy that style the most. I also have written short stories in third person. Haven’t tried second person . . . yet!
Morgen: Oh do, it’s great! It’s rather an acquired taste, but I acquired it the first time I tried it. 🙂 Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Catherine: I do. There are pieces of paper in files, in drawers, all over, filled with sayings, unfinished poems, you name it. Plus, I have tons of files on my computer—poems, short stories, thoughts, children’s stories, etc. I just can’t part with any of them. But to say it will all be published someday? I can’t imagine, but it would be wonderful if that happened. Since I’ve started my blog, I’ve been able to share some of my other writings. It’s a good feeling to know they are being read and enjoyed.
Morgen: That’s why I write. I’d love to make a living out of it (I get to be at home all day thanks to renting out two of my rooms) but I’d rather give my work away (I’m actually currently serialising TSDSL on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/novel-nights-in) than have it sit in a file. Like you though, I do have tons of pieces that haven’t seen the light yet but the more we write, the more we can see where they need tweaking so I like to think they all will. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Catherine: I love being lost in the writing process—when the characters take over and I forget I’m even writing. My fingers seem to move across the keyboard without my input. (At first, that was something that surprised me.) I’m just reading the novel and enjoying the journey. Worst part is time flies and before I know it, several hours have passed and I haven’t done all of the other things I still need to do—like clean the house, do the laundry, make dinner, etc. My husband reminds me sometimes.
Morgen: Oh I know about time. We used to be good friends. I’m hoping to rekindle our friendship this year. 🙂 What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Catherine: Read as much as you can and write every day. Write what you know and write for yourself, not just to please others or to get published. Oh, and if you write fiction, be prepared to be surprised at where your characters may take you. It’s an adventure wherever it leads, so enjoy it!
Morgen: Absolutely. I love it. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or invite three people, hiding the takeaway containers)?
Catherine: This one is easy – I’d invite my mother, my father, and my French Canadian grandmother, Memere. All of them are now deceased. They would join me, along with the rest of the family, to celebrate. My dad would cook because he loves to, and we’d have boiled Maine lobsters and steamers, Maine baked potatoes and New Hampshire fresh picked butter and sugar corn on the cob. For dessert, we’d enjoy some of Memere’s mincemeat cookies. (Oh, I’d also have to grill a steak for my husband—he doesn’t like seafood.)
Morgen: I love lobster. Can you save a place for me too? 🙂 (Satie’s just finished – Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 72/1 now… I only know because I’m on a classical shuffle on iTunes – I’m hopeless with names!). Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Catherine: First and foremost, Galations 2:20 in the Bible. It was revealed to me through a personal spiritual experience and changed my life. Also, I like this simple quote: “This little light of mine / I’m gonna let it shine.” (Harry Dixon Loes)
Morgen: I like that. Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Catherine: Yes, I write and edit a newsletter for the Greater Lakes Region Making Strides for Breast Cancer, sponsored by the American Cancer Society.
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing?
Catherine: I enjoy knitting, and I also enjoy spinning (with wool, not the exercise). Also, my husband and I like to browse through bookstores. Oh, and of course, I love to read. Pretty simple stuff—I like simple. I also work 40 hours a week at my day job.
Morgen: Ah, the darned day job. Let’s hope your books really take off and you can write full-time. Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Catherine: I enjoy your website! I like reading what other authors have to say about their books. And I visit the websites of other authors. You can find some of them listed on my own site at http://catherinedougherty.com. I also like http://theauthorsshow.com. I was interviewed there and also was one of the 50 authors included in the 2012 edition of 50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading, presented by them and available in ebook & trade paperback on their site and at Amazon. Two books by Kristen Lamb have been extremely useful as I began to build my social media: We Are Not Alone, The Writer’s Guide to Social Media; and Are You There Blog? It’s Me, Writer.
Morgen: Oh, thank you very much. 🙂 Kristen Lamb’s been recommended here before. I must have her guest here. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Catherine: I’m on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, as well as several other online sites. I find Twitter and Facebook helpful for sharing news and notifying people of my blog posts. Facebook is quite addicting, so I have to limit how much time I spend on it. Otherwise, I’d never have time to write and do other things.
Morgen: <laughs> Yes, I know that feeling. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Catherine: There are great opportunities available to writers right now and it will keep getting better as time goes on. And thanks to eBooks, more people are reading again—people of all ages!
Morgen: Isn’t it great. I really do think the tables have turned where authors have far more say than they used to. And anything that gets people reading is wonderful, although I’m not sure I’d read a whole novel on my mobile. Where can we find out about you and your work?
Catherine: You can visit my blog / website at http://catherinedougherty.com. Also, check out my Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Catherine-Dougherty/260116727392157 and be sure to “Like” me. I can also be found on Twitter, LinkedIn, Goodreads, Pinterest, and several other online locations. Just Google my name and you’ll find me. Plus, my book in Polyester Pajamas can be purchased at the following locations:
Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/In-Polyester-Pajamas-Catherine-Dougherty/dp/1618070509%3FSubscriptionId%3DAKIAJBDF5XQBATGDX4VQ%26tag%3Dspea06-20%26linkCode%3Dxm2%26camp%3D2025%26creative%3D165953%26creativeASIN%3D1618070509
It is also available at many other online locations and can be ordered from any bookstore.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Catherine: Yes, I’d like to thank you for this opportunity today. It’s been a pleasure.
Morgen: You’re so welcome, Catherine. It’s been great chatting with you. Do let me know when your film comes out. 🙂 Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Catherine: How do you find the time to do all you do? Your energy and commitment just amazes me!
Morgen: <laughs> It’s a full-time job and then some, so commitment certainly, energy is another matter but I am passionate about what I do so that conquers everything, I think. 🙂 Thank you, Catherine.
I then invited Catherine to include an extract of her writing…
He came up to me one evening while I was lazing in front of the flat screen TV enjoying an episode of House Hunters. I’m a realtor, so that’s my favorite show, and Bob knows not to interrupt me while I’m watching it, so I was immediately annoyed.
“Hey, wait till the commercial,” I snapped at him in my usual bitchy way.
He reached for the remote on the coffee table in front of me and shut the show off.
Now I was really mad! But when I looked up at him to bitch some more, I saw the suitcase in his hand.
“Where are you going? What’s happening?” I was afraid to hear what I feared he’d say next.
“I’m leaving. I can’t stand your negative nature anymore. And, and….”
“And you have a girlfriend, right?” I shouted back. I was hoping he didn’t, but I already had my suspicions.
“Jean, I don’t want to hurt you, but it’s no good between us.” He looked away for a moment, then gathered up enough nerve to look at me again and said, “I’m sorry, but yeah, I do have someone else, and I want a divorce so I can marry her.”
BOOM! It was like a two-by-four hit me in the gut. All of the air shot out of me as I burst into tears. I always suspected he’d leave me, but when it really happened, when I heard him speak those words…
Catherine Dougherty, a New Hampshire native, is a former newspaper reporter, columnist, photographer, and Real Estate/Business Broker. For several years, she served as the Lakes Region Coordinator of The Cozy Cap Project, a project she began in 2007 resulting in many volunteers making and donating thousands of hats for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. She was editor of The Cozy Cap Project Newsletter for three years, and volunteers as writer / editor of a newsletter for The Greater Lakes Region Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.
Besides writing, Catherine enjoys reading, knitting, and browsing through bookstores. She lives in the Lakes Region area of NH with her husband, and is a member of the NH Writers’ Project.
Find out more about Catherine by visiting her website / blog at www.catherinedougherty.com.
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