Exclusive Interview with
When did you start writing?
I wanted to be a writer by the time I was about five or seven, as soon as I realized that the books I read were written by people who wrote them for a living. My first real taste of what impact my words can have on others came in junior high, when I wrote a short story that my teacher read to the class. After that, someone stole it out of my locker! I never did get that story returned to me. It had been handwritten on loose leaf paper and was my only copy. But now I look back on the theft as a terrific compliment!
What makes writing your passion?
I love the challenge: You can always improve a draft. It also amazes me that these symbols we call letters can be grouped together to create an agreed-upon meaning in a word, and those words can be used to create whole imaginary worlds.
How long have you been writing?
Since third grade, when a teacher gave us the assignment to write a book of poetry, complete with cover art and binding. That teacher would be thrilled to know I went on to retrace those same steps as a professional writer!
What was the feeling when you published your first book?
Scary and exhilarating, in equal parts. You put so much of yourself out there and have no idea what you're going to get back! It's like tightrope-walking for the first time, without a net.
What’s the story behind your choice of characters?
Cat McCormick is an amalgamation of a lot of women I've known over the years, both more recently and in my twenties.
'Amazing' Grace was inspired by my husband's late mother, who really did change her legal name to A. Grace, only adding the A when officials told her she couldn't change both her first and last names to just Grace, like Cher, I suppose. When people asked her what the 'A' stood for, she would say, 'Amazing.'
What annoys you the most in pursuing a writing career?
Truthfully, it's the dramatic decline in book reading - and the resulting decrease in literacy.
How do you get over the “writer’s block”?
I also write for my company, Brunette Games, with a full-time team of six of us creating stories for mobile games. When you have a client and a deadline, you don't have time for writer's block! I apply the same rigor when writing my novels and when writing for the blogs.
We all know the writer’s path is never easy, what makes you keep going? What advice would you give to new authors?
What keeps me going is the satisfaction of getting my story into the hands of readers. My advice to new authors would be to spend a lot of time honing your craft, getting tons of feedback and revising, before you rush to publish.
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say?
As a victim of trauma, I would tell my younger self that while some wounds are so deep they leave permanent scars, over time, the pain lessens, and true joy is possible.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones?
I read every review, but I don't obsess over them. Years of reading player feedback on mobile game stories has taught me that only the aggregate matters. The outliers can be ignored, especially if they expect something other than what you've set out to give them: It's silly to write a 1-star review complaining about paranormal elements in a book that is clearly about paranormal events!
What is the feeling when you get a good review?
It's fantastic to feel you've reached a reader, but again, I don't obsess over these. One should never rest on her laurels.
Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
None of my novels are autobiographical, but I did have an often hilarious, quirky time dating when I lived in Seattle, so some of those experiences found their way into the books, at least as starting points.
Which of your characters you can compare yourself with? Did you base that character on you?
'Cat' in the Dreamslippers Series is closest to me, naturally, as she's the main protagonist. But as she and I were 25 years apart when I wrote her, we're very different people. I guess I projected back a bit to what it was like to come of age in my twenties. You never forget that.
What do you think, the book cover is as important as the story?
It's not AS important, but it is a key factor in attracting readers to your book. For all of my books, I hired a pro cover artist who designed covers for the Harlequin romance and mystery lines for years, and she did a great job. Sadly, I've seen a lot of bad covers in indie publishing, and that's unfortunate. They might be masking terrific books!
Do you connect with your readers? Do you mind having a chat with them or you prefer to express yourself through your writing?
Who would mind this? Any reader who takes time out to get in touch is welcome and appreciated. The best way to engage with me is by posting comments on the blog at www.catintheflock.com. I look forward to hearing from you!
How do you feel when people appreciate your work or recognize you in public?
Truthfully, and this is something I'm working on... I feel overly exposed, and as if the other shoe will fall next, and I'll be canceled or called out as somehow lacking.
Who is your favorite author? Why?
It's really hard to pick one, but I've been on a Jane Austen kick lately. It's just too satisfying to slip back into a world where events unfolded more slowly, manners and propriety were still important, and the value of the printed word was unquestionably high; most communication happened by quill and paper.
What’s the dream? Whom would you like to be as big as?
I was once rejected by a New York editor who took a look at my career writing both game stories and novels and compared me to Neil Gaiman, but without the fame. I don't know how you get the fame first, before getting the book contract, but it would be a thrill to see my books adapted as comic books, interactive novels, and for the big screen, as Gaiman's have been.
Would you rewrite any of your books? Why?
I wouldn't unless I were adapting them for another medium, like comics or movies, as mentioned above. They were written at at a time and place, and I'm in a different time and place now, so what I write is different.
If you could switch places with any author – who would that be?
I don't know that I'd literally switch places with anyone, as I'm here as who I am for a reason. But just for a day, it would be interesting to see what it's like to be Tana French! I'd spend that day writing, for sure.
What would you say to the “trolls” on the internet? We all know them – people who like to write awful reviews to books they’ve never read or didn’t like that much, just to annoy the author.
I wouldn't say anything to them. It's best not to feed the trolls.
What would you say to your readers?
Thank you, thank you, thank you. It's so hard to get noticed these days, and to make a living with your words even when you do. Your trust in my ability to entertain you with mere words on a page fills me with deep gratitude.
Share a bit about yourself – where do you live, are you married, do you have kids?
I live in St. Louis, Missouri, the closest thing I've ever had to a "hometown." I've been married to a wonderful, supportive man for seven years, and I have a terrific stepson who's just joined the Navy.
What is your day job if you have one?
I'm the owner and chief creative officer of Brunette Games, the game industry's premier storytelling studio.
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
Gardening is my number one passion after writing. I've even combined the two with a blog, www.brunettegardens.com.
Did you have a happy childhood?
It contained many happy moments, but it was also fraught with trauma and tragedy. But don't pity me. I didn't just survive. I've thrived!
Is there a particular experience that made you start writing?
Reading. Reading was the particular experience that made me start writing. I escaped into books, and I wanted to open the escape hatch for others.
Do you have unpublished books? What are they about?
I do. One is set in Tacoma, Washington, where I lived for three years, and I left it unfinished when I realized I didn't know what the project was about. You have to know that for it to succeed. Another is something called Meat: A Memoir. That one, my agent said, did not offer enough light moments. It was too dark; she couldn't finish it.
What do you think should be improved in the education of our children? What do we lack?
Kids aren't left to explore on their own anymore; their time is scheduled and supervised, as well as guided too much. I never would have found myself in that tightly controlled environment. You need the space and freedom to make mistakes, recalibrate, explore on your own.
If you were allowed 3 wishes – what would they be?
The correct response to this, of course, is to use each wish to ask for more wishes!
What is your favorite music?
My tastes are eclectic. Right now I've got Billie Holliday's "Good Morning Heartache" in my head.
Share a secret with us 🙂
Here's a secret I'm willing to share: This is officially the longest interview I've ever done! OK, here's another: The Dreamslippers Series contains several Easter eggs, and if you're a gamer, you know what that means...