WG: Welcome Cathy. Thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month. To start off, please tell us about yourself.
CM: My gorgeous husband and I have been married for 19 years now (I can hardly believe it sometimes). We have 17-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, who have just finished their junior year in high school. I'm proud of both my children, who don't have any aspirations of being a writer. At least, not yet.I've lived in Arizona most of my life, and all of it in or near Scottsdale. Most people move to Arizona for the mild winters and then tolerate the hot summers. Me, I love the heat. Give me triple digits any day! I always love the questions about pets because we have lots of them. Besides the prerequisite two dogs and one cat, we have eight mules, three horses, one donkey, one duck, and about 30 chickens (I raised them and have a nice little egg selling biz on the side). We used to have a whole lot more when my kids were younger, fish, hamsters, goats, and rabbits, but we cut back a few years ago.
We have a weekend place in Young, Arizona, and go there as often as we can. Young is a very small town about three hours northeast of Phoenix. The town of Blue Ridge in my first two Harlequin American books is loosely based on Young. We really enjoy switching from the fast-paced city life to the country life and go to Young as often as we can.
WG: Let’s talk about your own personal road to publication: Is there some individual, group or event that you can point to as the catalyst/impetus that set you on the road to becoming a writer? Explain.
CM: I had an idea one night. Just that simple. I was sitting in the car, waiting for my husband, bored to tears, and I saw something that got me thinking, "What if...." Then, this story popped into my head (I've always had an active imagination). That "what if" idea eventually became my first book. It took me a few days thinking about it, but then I decided, "Gee, I think I can write a book." Two pages a day, eleven months later, I had that book. That was twelve years ago. I can hardly believe it.
I should say that I did a lot of writing in high school and college, even won some contests. In fact, I really wanted to be a writer when I was in my very early twenties. Somehow, I wound up majoring in business at ASU and writing took a backseat for a while.
WG: Tell us about your journey.
CM: One night I was shopping at Sam's Club, perusing the book aisle (naturally), when I spotted a book with a banner across the front advertising a contest. I was about two-thirds through my first manuscript, the one based on the story idea I had sitting in the car, and decided I'd entered the contest. I don't remember the title of the book but the contest was sponsored by Warner. I finished the book and entered the contest. Yeah, that's right, I didn't win. But it got me started. I started collecting rejection letters and racked up quite a few before deciding to take the small press route. Still, it was three years before I saw my first book in print. I eventually sold two more books to small presses, then two to Five Star and two to Avalon. It wasn't until 2005, ten years after I started writing, that I landed the kind of sale I'd always dreamed of — my first mass market paperback, The Gate to Eden, to Dorchester. I've since sold another book to Dorchester and three to Harlequin.
My journey has been a long, slow one so aspiring writer out there, take heart. If you stick with it, you will eventually get published.
WG: How many books did you complete before you sold your first? Have all/any of them sold since?
CM: Probably because I chose the small press route, I sold my first manuscript and my second. I didn't sell my third, however. I have about a dozen partially completed manuscript I haven't sold. A couple of those are so bad, I could never bring myself to submit them. I do keep them around. Every once in a while I pull something from them, like an idea or a character that stayed with me.
WG: What changed most about your life as a direct result of selling that first book?
CM: Without a doubt it was joining RWA and, more specifically, my local chapter. Yes, I loved the support and the networking and educational opportunities and being a part of the writers' community. But more than that, I met people who have since become my best friends. They have changed my life completely, adding to it in ways I never imagined.
WG: Do you have a group or individual you work with as you’re brainstorming and/or drafting your manuscript? If so, what do you look for in the way of feedback/input?
CM: I have a critique group, we've been together for 3-1/2 years. They're invaluable to me, and I can't imagine writing a book without them. While I sometimes bounce ideas off them, I don't brainstorm with them exactly. I use my critique group to help me polish my manuscript and make it the best it can be.
WG: Do you maintain a set writing schedule? Is there such a thing as a typical day for you?
CM: Yes, I maintain a regular writing schedule. Because I have a day job and family, my writing time is limited. I write in the morning after the kids go to school and before I have to leave for work. How many pages I write depends on my current deadline but usually 2-3. On weekends, I again write in the mornings but try for around 4-5 pages each day. I edit in the evenings.
WG: Do you set writing goals for yourself?
CM: Yes, I'm a firm believer in goals. Daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly.
WG: Do you have a ‘mood setter’, something (music, ritual, environment, etc) you use to get you going when you sit down to write?
CM: I like absolute peace and quiet when I write. I just can't concentrate with any distractions. I know writers who go to Starbucks everyday and bang out their pages. Me, I'd drink lots of coffee and make new friends rather than write.
WG: Do you do a lot of up front plotting before you start or do you just dive in?
CM: I prefer to plot but I haven't have a lot of time for that the last few books because my deadlines have been so tight. So, I'm learning to write more by the seat of my pants. Not sure I like it. Plotting feels more comfortable for me.
WG: Do you normally start with storyline or with character or with some combination of the two?
CM: Characters. Definitely characters.
WG: Do you find certain themes or character archetypes making recurring appearances in your stories.
CM: Lately, my series books have been reunion stories with second chances at love. My current Harlequin WIP (due out in mid 2008) is the first series book I've written in a long while where the hero and heroine don't know each other from before. However, it has a contemporary ranch setting, which all of my Harlequin books do.
I'm also playing around with a couple paranormals story ideas, both of which have the same good vs. evil theme as Night Hunter, my upcoming Dorchester release.
WG: What do you see as your own personal strengths as a writer?
CM: It's hard to judge yourself so I'll go by what my critique group says about me and reviews, which oddly enough, differ. My critique group tells me I craft great action scenes - and I admit, I enjoy writing them. My reviews often state that my characters are well-drawn, multi-layered, and exhibit believable emotions. This is interesting as scenes with emotion are hard for me to write, much more so than action scenes.
I also see determination as one of my strengths. Publishing didn't come easy or quick for me. If I'd given up after a couple years of trying, after five or six years of trying, I wouldn't be where I am today. I hung in there and it eventually paid off in a big way.
WG: Do you have a favorite sub-genre as a writer? as a reader?
CM: I love writing western historicals. I only wish there was more of a market out there for them. Second best, I enjoy contemporaries, especially those with a ranch setting because, well, that's my life. But I also like trying new things, like paranormals and comedies, because I think you have to stretch yourself as a writer in order to continue improving.
As far as reading, I probably enjoy edgy romantic suspense books the best, though I read almost everything. Actually, only about half the books I read are romances. I especially like reading thrillers.
WG: Is there a genre you haven't been published in yet that you'd like to try your hand at someday?
CM: I enjoy reading a good mystery and really admire writers who can weave a cleaver tale with twists, turns, and false leads. I would love to be able to write a mystery but don't know if I have the skill to create a story that can lead readers down a garden path.
WG: Do you have any advice to offer writers still striving toward publication?
CM: Stick with it. Don't give up even in the face of disappointment.
WG: I love to collect quotes, all kinds of quotes - inspirational, quirky, motivational, profound, etc. Do you have a personal favorite you'd like to share.
CM: I have only one quote taped to my computer. It came from a fortune cookie:
Take heart, the wheel is about to make an upward turn.
I found this simple quote several years ago when it seemed as if I was getting rejection after rejection. I taped it to my computer so I could be reminded every day that a change for the better was on the horizon. It turned out to be true!
WG: Please tell us about your current and upcoming projects.
CM: I have four books scheduled to
come out over the next year. They are:
His Only Wife, Harlequin American, June 2007
Night Hunter, Dorchester Books, July 2007
The Family Plan, Harlequin American Feb 2008
Bear Creek Ranch (working title ) Harlequin American mid 2008
WG: And before we close, tell us how your fans can get in touch with you.
CM: My email address is: CathyMcDavid@yahoo.com.
I also have website: www.cathymcdavid.com