Wednesday, 31 July 2013

MaFTA Session: Catherine Chant (Author of Wishing You Were Here)

Hello everyone! I'm so happy to present Catherine Chant for Books & Sweet Epiphany's MaFTA session!! *squeal*

She is one of my favourite authors and I had fun knowing her.
Take a look at the interview down below. :D

1. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

Although I’ve been writing since I was very young (heavily influenced by the Nancy Drew series in elementary school), I went to college and studied mathematics because all the adults around me said writing/art/theater wouldn’t get me a good job. While studying math, I took a little detour into computers and after graduation I worked in the technology field for fifteen years. So I guess you could say I’m a computer nerd at heart (which might explain my affection for video games as well.) :)

2. Who are your favourite authors?

I read across a lot of genres, but I think dark suspense is my most favorite, so authors like Brenda Novak, Allison Brennan and Harlan Coben always top my list. I just finished reading the “Gone” series by Michael Grant and really loved that! Couldn’t put those books down! You’d probably technically call that series sci-fi, but it’s got lots of suspense as well!

3. When did you decide to become an author?

I had two complete novels under my belt shortly after graduating from college, but the idea of becoming an “author” (selling what I write and making a career out of it) didn’t happen until fifteen years later when I left my full-time job in technology to become a stay-at-home mom to my new baby boy. I started freelancing (non-fiction articles, website content, etc.) when my son was about a year old and eventually revisited those novels I’d written way back when to see what I had there. Once I started reading them, I knew this was what I wanted to do from now on, and haven’t looked back since.

4. What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?

To be honest, I started my first book simply because I was bored. :) I had an office job at a not-so-busy office, and while teaching myself new word processing software I just started typing up my daydreams and random stuff from my imagination so I’d have some text on the screen to play with (like a practice document). Over time, that ‘stuff’ started to gel together into a cohesive story and I realized I might actually be creating something real here, not just doodle typing. That “doodling” eventually became my first completed manuscript a year or so later.

Since then, I’ve been more receptive to story ideas as they come to me and I recognize them as story ideas, not just random thoughts. As soon as I get one that I think is interesting enough to be a book, I write the idea down and store it in a special “ideas” folder I have.

5. So, what have you written? (*Include books, novellas, short stories, poems, blogs, awards or anything of interest.)

I’ve written tons of freelance material. Everything from how to grow your own vegetable garden to how to do something in one of the new Pokemon games. Mostly I’ve written a lot of technology articles, how-to software guides and things like that, since that’s my primary background. I continue to write similar articles in the blog section of my website from time to time. One article I’m particularly proud of is the one I wrote about ASCII Art for SchoolArts magazine a few years ago.

For fiction, I’ve written a few short stories over the years that have appeared in online and print magazines, but mainly I wanted to focus my energies on novels. I have several novels either completed, at the revision stage or currently in progress.

I put a list of these “Works-in-Progress” on my website:

I do have some awards listed on my website as well:

Most are from RWA (Romance Writers of America) unpublished writer contests, which I entered when I was just starting out to gain valuable feedback from the writing judges and improve my craft.

I’ve slowed down quite a bit on the contest circuit since finaling in the prestigious RWA Golden Heart® contest in 2008, but I did enter a couple published writer contests earlier this year with my novel WISHING YOU WERE HERE. The book was chosen as a finalist in Wisconsin RWA’s Write Touch Reader’s Award contest, so I’m pretty excited about that.

6. Are you working on anything currently? 

I am currently working on Book 2 of my Soul Mates series, the follow-up to WISHING YOU WERE HERE, and I’m also working on a new “top secret” paranormal project that if all goes well I’ll be able to say more about by the end of the summer. Waiting in the wings on the back burner are two completed novels that need some revising. One is a YA mystery/suspense and the other an adult romantic suspense.

7. Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?

I try very hard to treat my writing as a regular job. So I get up early, get my son off to school and then I go to my home office and work at the computer until about two in the afternoon. Then I have lunch and wait for my son to come home from school. I’m more of a “morning person” so I try to get my writing done first thing in the morning, but sometimes it’s hard because email and Facebook tempt me mercilessly. :)

8. What is the hardest thing about writing?

The hardest thing for me is procrastination, being distracted by things like email or Facebook when I’m supposed to be writing. :) And I think the second hardest thing is probably writing when you don’t feel like it, which isn’t really an option since this is my job.

9. Did any movies inspire you to write your book?

I wouldn’t say any particular movie inspired me to write the book (maybe La Bamba had a tiny bit of influence if I had to pick one), but a song definitely did, way back in the 1980’s. It was tribute song about two musicians from the 1950’s that I didn’t know much about, but the song made me want to learn more. When I looked the duo up, I discovered one of them sang a song I was very familiar with, so I was surprised his name hadn’t rung a bell. Then I read his biography and discovered he had died in a car crash several years before I was born, when he was only 20 years old. From my shocked reaction, the idea for WISHING YOU WERE HERE was born.

10. Who is your most favourite character in "Wishing You Were Here"? Why?

Wow, that’s hard to say because each of the characters, even the minor ones, have something I like about them (even mean ol’ Walter), but I think I’m going to go with a character that most readers probably like the least and that’s Sable Courtney. She just makes me smile when I think about her actions in the story. She tries so hard to be prim and proper and do what’s expected of her, but through Callie’s eyes she’s a bit of a drama queen. I’m toying with the idea of giving her a cameo appearance in the second book.

11. Are any of your characters based on anyone you know?

Nope. Every one of them I made up from my fertile imagination. Although the idea for the story was inspired by a real musician and his untimely death, everything about Joey Tempo (except maybe his choice of guitar) is totally different. Background, family, personality, all made up.

Likewise, although Callie’s reaction to Joey’s story is inspired by the shock I felt when I learned of that musician’s tragic death, she’s definitely not me. I did love classic rock ’n’ roll as a teenager, but I was ever as ambitious as she is at 17. I went off to college without any plan at all. I had no clue about what sort of job I’d have after I graduated. I even changed majors after my first semester because I was so unsure about what I wanted to do. Callie, on the other hand, has it all figured out. She’s very goal-oriented and knows exactly what she wants. (Just maybe not the best way to get it. :)  )

12. People always debate on traditional paper/hard back books and ebooks. What is your favourite?

As I write this I’m simultaneously reading a hard back, a paper back, and a book on my Kindle. So I love all formats! :) I find different formats good for different situations. The paperback, for example, is great to take to the beach (and that’s where I was the other day!). A hard back is too heavy to carry with all the other stuff you bring to the shore, and I’d never take anything electronic with me. Sand gets everywhere. I worry it could get in the e-reader buttons or scratch the screen.

On the other hand, ebooks are great for taking with you to places like doctor’s offices. The readers are so slender they fit right in your bag and off you go. Over the weekend I was at a horse show to support my sister and during the down time, I sat on a rock and whipped out my Kindle while waiting for the next event to start.

I tend to buy hard backs of books I want to keep in my collection, especially if it’s part of a set (like the Harry Potter novels, or a new Stephen King novel) because they look nice on the shelf all lined up, but I’d say without a doubt I buy most of my books on the Kindle now. So easy!

13. What is your favourite genre? Why?

Suspense all the way, but I also read many other genres because if you think about it, every story has some element of suspense in it or you wouldn’t be turning the pages. I especially love ghost stories, family secrets, and mysteries. But I also read a little bit of sci-fi and historical novels, like the Tudor books by Philippa Gregory. I’m not a huge fantasy fan, but I have the Game of Throne series on my TBR (to-be-read) pile and hope to get to it soon. (I love the TV show!)

14. I really love the cover of 'Wishing You Were Here'. Tell me about the cover and how it came about. 

I designed the cover myself, and initially I was planning something like an old postcard as a play on the title and the “Wish You Were Here” sentiment you often see on old postcards, but as I experimented with different nostalgic images (postcards or things from the 1950’s), it just seemed to give the book an “old” feel that didn’t look right for a young adult novel.

So I went back to the drawing board and decided to focus on the time travel aspect of the story instead and let the blurb on the back of the book relay the time period. Time travel got me thinking about doorways, tunnels, crossing boundaries, etc. and when I came upon the picture of the girl on the covered bridge it struck me as the perfect way to show someone traveling between two worlds. The empty grass on the far side of the bridge symbolized the unknown to me as well as the simplicity of a rural, southern town in 1957.

The image of the lone figure on the bridge also struck me as kind of romantic. It reminded me of someone waiting to meet her boyfriend, someone she probably wishes were here right now. That was my “Ah-ha!” moment in the design process. This single image said so much about what was going on in the story, I had to use it.

I did try to keep a hint of the original postcard idea, though, when I selected the typeface used for the title. I wanted it to seem as if Callie were writing those words in her own hand to Joey.

15. Do you think the cover plays an important role in the buying process?

Definitely! There are so many books available nowadays that when you look at a display of titles for sale it’s the cover that’s going to first draw your eye one way or the other. They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but many readers do. They may not buy the book solely on appearance, but usually it’s the cover that makes someone look at the back of the book or read the online description to see if the story appeals to them.

16. When you first published your novel, were you afraid or excited to read the reviews?

Probably a mixture of both. :) I was hoping people would like it, but at the same time I knew from having entered so many writing contests that not everyone loves every story. I also thought about my own reading choices and reactions to books that other readers might love, but I just didn’t get. I vowed to keep reviews in perspective and remember that they are subjective.

Mainly I was just very excited that the book was available for people to read. WISHING YOU WERE HERE has had a very lengthy journey to publication.

17. What are your thoughts on good and bad reviews?

I don’t know any author who doesn’t like a good review. LOL! And I am always eternally grateful for every positive review I receive. Each one is special to me and means a lot.

As a reader, if I’m considering buying a book, I usually look at good reviews for an indication of what about the story the reader liked. If it’s the same sort of things that appeal to me, then it might influence my purchase choices.

Similarly, as a reader, I might look at negative reviews to see what the issue was. Nitpicky reviews that talk about typos or other minutia don’t sway me in the least. I want to hear about the story (without spoilers, please!). And mean reviews that just want to tear someone down and have nothing to do with the story I disregard completely.

18. What is your favourite motivational quote?

I have three that stand out me:

“If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” – Stephen King 

(which translates into simply, “Read a lot. Write a lot.” That’s how you become an author.)

I don’t know who said this next one. I got it in a fortune cookie at a Chinese restaurant a long time ago and taped it above my computer:

“If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it.”

And this last quote is printed on a picture of a butterfly my son gave me for Mother’s Day one year:

Believe in the magic you can create.

19. When you want to relax, what do you do?

I usually will read, knit/crochet (that’s my favorite hobby away from books), play a little Sims 3 or another video game (I think I may have mentioned earlier I know a thing or two or three about Pokemon LOL!) or I watch TV. I’m a sucker for Lifetime TV movies, anything with Gordon Ramsay and the Nickelodeon shows I watch with my son.

20. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Keep writing. You only get better with practice, so if this is what you want to do don’t stop. Lots of people say they want to write a book, but few ever finish one. Show everyone you’re a finisher and keep going! And don’t forget to read a lot too! That’s very important. (As Stephen King reminds us in the quote above).

Also, write the book you want to read, because you’re a reader first.

21. Give a shoutout to all your fans out there. :D

{Big wave} Thank you all for stopping by to learn more about me and my novel Wishing You Were Here. If you feel like traveling back in time to 1957 for a little drama, a few life or death moments, and a lot of rock 'n' roll romance, please check it out.

And an extra big, super huge, enthusiastic THANK YOU to Selina for inviting me to Books and Sweet Epiphany today! It’s been a real pleasure to meet you and talk to you about my writing.

 Here are some ways you can get to know Catherine Chant. 

Not only that, here are some links to get Catherine's book, Wishing You Were Here. TO read my review, click here

Thank you Catherine for taking the time to answer these questions.

You're Awesome!!



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