Morgen: Hello, Catherine. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Catherine: I am married, the mother of a young adult son, and a teacher. I live and work in New Jersey. I’ve published three novels in the last six years, and I am working on three more and a novella. I belong to the New York City chapter of Romance Writers of America and the Liberty State Fiction Writers organization in New Jersey.
I began to write early in life, and my first love was poetry. I had a few poems published. I also worked as a retail copywriter, a publicity writer, a technical editor, and am currently a language arts teacher in a middle school.
I began writing romance stories about twenty years ago after reading a lot of them. I took writing workshops and attended many writing conferences which enriched my writing. I also belong to a writing critique group.
Morgen: Being a ‘language arts teacher’ sounds interesting. I love languages (German is my second best followed by French / Spanish). I run or belong to four writing groups and find them invaluable. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Catherine: I write paranormal romance and historical romance. I am currently finishing a young adult paranormal romance and a time travel romance. I wrote a mainstream women’s fiction novel some time ago, and I hope to return to edit and submit it.
Morgen: That’s a good idea because you’ll have had the practice since then to see where you need to edit. What have you had published to-date?
Catherine: I published Sacred Fires, a paranormal romance, with Secret Cravings Publishing in February 2012. My western historical romance, Wildflowers, a story set on the Oregon Trail in the 1840s, is an e-book published with Amazon and Barnes & Noble. My paranormal romance Angels Among Us had been published in February 2006 by Wings ePress.
Morgen: You mentioned self-publishing with Amazon and Barnes & Noble, what lead to you going your own way?
Catherine: My historical western romance novel Wildflowers had been published in 2007, and I decided to self-publish it in 2011.
The book received excellent reviews, but it did not do as well as I had hoped with the original publisher and I decided to self publish.
Morgen: It’s the marketing that’s key and the hardest part of writing. Are all your books available as eBooks? How involved were you in that process? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Catherine: Yes, my books Sacred Fires and Wildflowers are available as eBooks. I chose to submit to Secret Cravings, a new e book publisher, for Sacred Fires, and I plan to submit other work to them in the future. I found them very author-friendly and open to a variety of stories. I read both eBooks and print books. I like the convenience of having many books on the eBook reader as well as the availability of books. I also like holding a book in my hands.
Morgen: Me too, and most of the authors I’ve spoken to have said the same thing. Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Catherine: That’s a tough question. I love all my characters, especially my heroes. If any of my books were made into films, I would opt for Matthew McConaughey, Ryan Reynolds, Ryan Gosling, and Channing Tatum as the heroes depending on the book.
Morgen: Great actors. 🙂 Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Catherine: Yes, the publisher requested information on the heroes and heroines as well as significant objects or scenes that help depict the storyline.
Morgen: What are you working on at the moment / next?
Catherine: I am currently editing my young adult paranormal and plan a major revision of my time travel.
Morgen: There’s always something to do, isn’t there. Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Catherine: Unfortunately, I do not write every day. However, I work on something connected to the writing whether it’s research, outlining, taking notes, promotion, or networking. I keep a blog and participate in blog tours, interviews, and write articles for my writers’ chapter’s newsletter.
Yes, I sometimes get writer’s block, but it’s usually when I am overwhelmed with the pressures of a full-time job, home life, and uncertainty about works in progress. Ideas tend to come to me when I’m away from writing, so I keep a notebook handy to jot them down for later.
Morgen: Me too, in every bag and dog-walking jacket. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Catherine: I am more of a “pantser” and like to write as ideas come; however, I do write a sketch or a brief outline before I start to really draft a story.
Morgen: I’d say 95% of my interviewees have said the same (I’m a ‘pantser’ too). Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Catherine: I don’t have a single method for creating characters. I think my characters are an amalgam of people I know. Generally, I base them off family, friends, and people I’ve known and then let them develop into something more. I like to use Irish names because I’m part-Irish, but I also borrow names from people I’ve met and change the name slightly so I don’t offend anyone. I think basing the characters on real people yet adapting them to the situation in the story and letting them come into their own makes them believable. I based two characters in Sacred Fires on friends and on my own experiences with the paranormal.
Morgen: I’ve based one of my characters on one of my friends, keeping her first name and given her a promotion – she was delighted. 🙂 You mentioned editing a moment ago, do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Catherine: I can write the draft quickly. I participated in National Novel Writing Month where I wrote a 50,000-word novel in the month of November. I find revision and editing takes longer, much longer, and it helps to have a critique group. The editors I’ve worked with really helped with polishing the prose. I feel that I’ve become better at revision, but I still like to show my writing to my critique group or a trusted friend who is good at editing.
Morgen: This year was my fifth NaNoWrimo and it’s the best way for me to write in chunks. Do you have to do much research?
Catherine: It depends on the book. Any book that I’ve written involves some kind of research. I did about five years of research including visiting the Southwest, museum research, interviews, visits to Native American villages, and so forth when I wrote Wildflowers. I did some research for Sacred Fires which is set in Mexico and involves the theft of antiquities from the Mayan and Aztec cultures of that country. I interviewed a magazine reporter and a customs agent who helped me with working on the main characters. I also did research on the Civil War for my young adult paranormal romance since the ghost is a young soldier who fought in that war. My time travel is set in Britain at the time of the legend of King Arthur. I enjoy doing the research, and I have to limit some of the time so I can focus on the writing.
Morgen: Although history’s not my strong point, you do write about some fun subjects. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Catherine: I write in third person point of view. I am experimenting with first person point of view for my mainstream women’s fiction story. I prefer the third person point of view. I don’t like second person point of view. It doesn’t grab my interest.
Morgen: It is an acquired taste. I really enjoy it but then I write dark pieces and it lends itself to dark. You said in your introduction that you wrote poetry, do you still and do you write any non-fiction or short stories?
Catherine: Yes, I write poetry and I’ve written non-fiction articles. I had travel articles published and a non-fiction article published in a magazine some time ago. I wrote short stories and have a short novella which I plan to submit soon to my publisher.
Morgen: The great thing about eBooks is that they can be any size, and I think people do enjoy reading shorter works these days because they can do them in one sitting. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Catherine: Unfortunately, yes I think I do. However, I’m not giving up hope on them because they might become part of a bigger literary work.
Morgen: I like to think the same about my early short stories, although I have so much fairly-current to go through (five collections of short stories and three novels). Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Catherine: Yes, I believe it’s part of the process and it’s not always negative. I’ve used rejections to help me to revise my work. I had a rejection which was actually a request to revise and resubmit my book. That book, Angels Among Us, was published in 2006.
Morgen: Any feedback is encouraging and good on you for persevering with that one. Do you enter competitions? Are there any you could recommend?
Catherine: I entered Sacred Fires in a competition for published books. I recommend my writing chapter’s contest at http://rwanyc.com.
Morgen: Good luck with that. Do let me know how you get on. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Catherine: No, I do not have an agent. I’m not sure. I know that some publishers only accept agent submissions, but I also know authors who have done well without an agent.
Morgen: Indeed. I’ve had a mixture of authors here and most say that times are changing. In fact I’ve heard some agents are becoming publishers because so many authors are going directly now. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Catherine: I probably could do more, but I try with my limit on time to promote through the social media sites, my website, blog tours, book discussion groups including my local library and writing chapters.
Morgen: That’s very wise – social media eats time. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Catherine: My favourite aspect of the writing life is creating stories. I enjoy writing. My least favourite aspect of the writing life is rejection and waiting for feedback after submissions.
Morgen: The trick with submissions is to have more than one item out so when one comes back there’s still something to hope for, although that’s obviously easier with shorter pieces than novels. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Catherine: I’ve been at this for twenty years, and it’s taken a long time to get something published. I know a few who’ve been overnight successes. It’s hard work, often a lonely process, and it gets discouraging at times. However, I believe in what I write and have a good time doing it. Enjoy the process. Never give up!
Morgen: Absolutely. The enjoying is the most important thing. I’ve already had one author request I delete everything I’ve done for him because he’s no longer a writer. It’s a shame but his heart has to be in it. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Catherine: I would invite Annie Oakley, famed sharpshooter and star of the Wild West Show. I would also invite William Shakespeare. My third guest would be Vincent Van Gogh. I would serve a buffet of roast chicken, fried fish, and mash potatoes with gravy, baked beans, and croquets. For dessert we’d have apple pie, Belgian chocolates, and cherry tarts.
Morgen: Nice. 🙂 Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Catherine: “Do it anyway!” – Alice Orr. This quote inspired me to keep writing despite the obstacles and frustrations. Alice Orr is a motivational speaker, published author, and former agent and editor.
Morgen: Great advice. Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Catherine: Yes, I teach writing to middle school students in New Jersey. I enjoy helping young adults to develop their creativity, bring out their best in their writing efforts, and succeed in their own goals as young writers. I have had students published in newspapers, literary magazines, and one even had a book published.
Morgen: Congratulations. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Catherine: I love to travel, enjoy yoga and zumba dancing, playing with my dog Murphy, a Labrador retriever, and time with my family. I also enjoy drawing and watercolor painting.
Morgen: Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Catherine: Yes, I recommend the following websites:
- Romance Writers of America – http://www.rwa.org
- Liberty State Fiction Writers – http://www.libertystatesfictionwriters.com
- RWA-NYC (New York City chapter of Romance Writers of America) – http://www.rwanyc.com
Morgen: Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Catherine: Yes, I am on a few Yahoo sites, Authors Den, Linked, Facebook, and Twitter. I like to use these sites to share information, network, and learn more about the publishing field.
Morgen: I’m on Authors Den but not done anything with it (I should). LinkedIn is brilliant if you have a query because there will always be plenty of people to give advice. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Catherine: I think it’s pretty exciting right now given the popularity of eBooks. I think it’s also a challenge because there is so much competition. I think there are more opportunities thanks to the expansion of eBook publishing and self-publishing.
Morgen: There are absolutely. Having interviewed nearly 600 authors, with another 180 booked in, and over 900 still to return their questionnaires, it’s made me realise just how many authors there are out there looking for exposure, and I think I’ve only scratched the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Catherine: I have a website: www.catherinegreenfeder.vpweb.com and if readers would like to like my author’s page it’s at http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Catherine-Greenfeder/249457198436634.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Catherine: I’ve been lucky to have several mentors over the years, friends who offered their time to critique, encourage, and inspire me to achieve. I met them through membership in writing organizations. So, I feel it is important to belong to a professional organization for writers, such as the RWA or Liberty State Fiction Writers.
Morgen: I agree. I belong to The Society of Authors and they’ve given me some invaluable legal advice on two contracts I was offered. Talking of friends critiquing, I set up a feedback page recently (http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/feedback) which is a free network of back-and-forth feedback for any authors lacking first readers, or those wanting to help others. 🙂 Thank you, Catherine.
I then invited Catherine to include an extract of her writing…
“I’m employed to investigate news on the art world. This is a story on stolen art, and there‘s a chance a revival cult may be involved. Have you heard of any unusual killings recently?”
Miguel averted his gaze.
Casey tapped her toe with impatience as she waited. “Well, have you?”
“No,” he said. “Crime is not that unusual in a huge metropolis.”
“Do you think the mob is involved?” Casey pumped for information.
“This is highly sensitive, and I’m not willing to share information with you. So, I suggest you pack your bags and head back to New York…to what’s his name…Jim Richardson. I’m sure with his father’s influence you can pull a few strings.”
Casey waved her hand as if swatting a fly. “I don’t intend to go back to New York right now. I intend to finish my assignment. And as for Jim, he’s none of your damn concern. “
“Fine,” Miguel snapped. “Stay out of my way!”
She watched him storm off, leaving her to fume inwardly.
Barbara offered her a sip of her bottled water.
“No, I’m fine. Thanks.” She took a deep breath and released it before adding, “After all, this is a job, and no one is going to stop me.”
“You can’t be so sure, señorita.” Barbara went ahead of Casey and hailed a taxi for their return to the hotel. “You have quite an opponent in such a one. It’s too bad he is muy guapo, handsome. Ah, I would not mind tangling business with pleasure.”
Casey stared at her translator a moment then followed Miguel’s retreating figure.
So, the man of mystery not only captivated her in more ways than one, it turned out he was a government agent. One who didn’t want to work with her and wanted her to leave. The last thing she needed in her life. It only meant trouble.
And a synopsis…
When Casey McConoughy, a magazine news reporter, and Miguel Stephens, a rogue U.S. Customs Bureau agent, unite to uncover the mystery behind a rash of bizarre cult murders connected to the theft of antiquities from Mexico they get more than they bargained for.
While Miguel’s hidden agenda is to uncover the cult leader responsible for human sacrifices including that of his step-brother, Casey’s is to get over her former fiancé, a lawyer with unsavoury clients, and to prove her worth as a news reporter. What they both discover is that they had been together in another lifetime in Aztec Mexico. Unlike then, however, this time, they have the law on their side and a love so strong it is sacred.
From modern day Mexico City to the tropical splendour of Acapulco, Sacred Fires paints a story of greed, betrayal, revenge, and love.
Born and raised in New York City, Catherine Greenfeder grew up listening to wonderful storytellers, her grandparents and her mother. Interest in the paranormal goes back to her childhood and listening to her grandfather’s ghost stories of Ireland. Currently a full-time teacher in New Jersey, Catherine writes novels and stories in her spare time. Married to her high school sweetheart and soul mate, Catherine lives in New Jersey. She’s the mother of a young adult son. When not teaching or writing, Catherine enjoys theatre, travel, yoga, zumba dancing, and walks with her black Labrador retriever, Murphy.
Update December 2012: Since our interview Sacred Fires won a first place blue ribbon from Chanticleer Book Reviews (http://www.chantireview.com), and Catherine’s paranormal romance Angels Among Us will be published in February 2013 by the Sweet Cravings Romance subsidiary of Secret Cravings Publishing (http://www.secretcravingspublishing.com).
Update February 2013:
Angels Among Us, paranormal romance, originally published in 2006, has been published by Secret Cravings on their Sweet Cravings Publishing. It came out (with new cover) February 2013 as an e-book. www.secretcravingspublishing.com
Sacred Fires, published in 2012 by Secret Cravings Publishing, won First Place for Paranormal romance in the published book contest I mentioned from Chanticleer Books. www.chantireviews.com
Kiss Out of Time, my young adult paranormal, will be published in the near future by Featherweight Press, a children’s and young adult book publisher. I don’t have a cover for that one yet.
I’m currently revising a shape shifter novella with hopes to submit in the late spring, and then I will either work on my time travel or my women’s fiction novel.
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on this blog but everything else (see Opportunities on the main blog) is free.
If you go for the interview, it’s very simple; I send you a questionnaire (I have them for novelists, short story authors, children’s authors, non-fiction authors, and poets). You complete the questions, and I let you know when it’s going to go live. Before it does so, I add in comments as if we’re chatting, and then they get posted. When that’s done, I email you with the link so you can share it with your corner of the literary world. And if you have a writing-related blog / podcast and would like to interview me… let me know.
Alternatively, if you’d like a free Q&A-only interview, I now have this blog, https://morgensauthorinterviews.wordpress.com, on which I’ve rerun the original interviews posted here then posted new interviews which I then reblog here. These interviews are Q&A only, so I don’t add in my comments but they do get exposure on both sites.
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