Gorilla Girl caught up with popular author Catherine McGreevy in this romantic month of June, when many brides are hoping to live happily ever after with “the one.” Love, though, is always in season, particularly inside the covers of Catherine’s five historical suspense novels.
Gorilla Girl: What attracted you to the historical suspense genre?
Catherine: It’s because I grew up with gothic novels by Phyllis Whitney, Victoria Holt and others, and love the mood and world of these books. Other writers I enjoyed were Mary Stewart, Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels, who wrote romantic suspense.
Something about the Victorian era appeals to me, perhaps because many of the issues they grappled with resulted in the world we live in today. Besides, I love the elegant way they spoke and the beautiful gowns the women wore! As for suspense, I enjoy the tension and excitement of that genre, and the opportunities it provides for the hero and heroine to fall in love while running for their lives.
Gorilla Girl: The Jewelry Case features a beautiful young opera singer who’s lost her voice. Where did you get the inspiration for this character?
Catherine: From my mother, who loved opera. I grew up with record albums featuring glamorous opera singers on the covers, so when I needed an interesting career for my protagonist, I thought that would work well. I also love Gilbert and Sullivan, and my oldest daughter was active in musical theater when she was a teenager, so those facts influenced the plot as well.
Gorilla Girl: Please share the highlights of your journey to becoming the published author of five novels.
Catherine: A bookworm since childhood, I always dreamed of writing novels but I had trouble finishing a book. After a career as a journalist, I took a screenwriting course at UCLA where I learned the nuts and bolts of plotting. That’s what I needed to move forward with those books I’d been working on forever. Another leap forward was joining writing clubs. Since I write in several genres, I’ve joined Sacramento Suburban Writers, of which I am now president, Sacramento Valley Rose (a chapter of Romance Writers of America), Capitol Crimes (a chapter of Sisters in Crime), and the California Writers Club. Learning more about craft from these organizations also helped me finish all those novels that had been knocking around in the back of my head since college days.
During this long process, the publishing business changed. When my first queries did not result in publication, I decided to try the self-publishing route, like so many new and established authors do these days. My first four novels were published this way: A mystery, The Jewelry Case, and three historicals: The Gardener’s Tale, Chance’s Bluff, and New Hope. In the meantime, I continued to send out queries to traditional publishers.
Two weeks after publishing New Hope last summer, I got an unexpected phone call from an editor at Cedar Fort Publishing. He had read my manuscript and loved it! He asked what other novels I had, and ended up publishing Chance’s Bluff as well the retitled A Place Called New Hope. Others are soon to follow
It has been quite an experience to work with professional editors, cover illustrators, and marketing directors, to have to meet deadlines, and to see my books in book catalogues and bookstores!
Gorilla Girl: As an author – what do you enjoy most about the writing process? What feels like a chore? How do your organize your time when working on a new book?
Catherine: I enjoy diving into an imaginary world with characters that I like spending time with. I daydreamed constantly as a child, and still do. But now I write my daydreams down. The part of writing that feels like a chore, to be honest, is marketing. All authors, self-published or traditionally published, must devote time to maintaining an online presence and making appearances to promote their books. However I’d much rather be happily typing away in my office wearing pajamas.
When starting a new novel, I do as much pre-planning as possible in my spare time. I’ll write a brief synopsis, so I know what the character’s goal is and what her main obstacles are, and come up with lists of character names and descriptions. I also organize the main story into Act One, Act Two and Act Three, and add turning points, midpoint, and climax. I’ll even start writing scenes, often out of order.
When I have bigger chunks of time, like after getting home from work or on weekends, I’ll write straight through, skipping parts where I haven’t yet figured out what is going to happen. While writing the book, I go back and forth between the story and my planning sheets until all the gaps are filled in. Then it’s time to go back to the beginning and smooth out rough spots, find inconsistencies and repetitions, and resolve plot holes. Critique groups are super helpful with this!
Gorilla Girl: What else would you like readers to know about you?
Catherine: I love to travel and spent half of my growing-up years overseas, in France, Spain, and Morocco, attending two French-speaking schools during that time. This opportunity to live in other countries gave me an appreciation for other cultures even as it taught me America’s unique gift to the world, the ideal of democracy as a form of government. A huge history buff, I’m lucky to live in California’s gold country, which has a rich and fascinating heritage. If someone offered me a ride in a time machine that could take me either to the future or the past, there is no question I’d go back in time…as long as I could return to our day when I was ready.
Gorilla Girl: Any advice for others who want to write in this genre?
Catherine: First, join a writer’s organization! I have learned so much from speakers, conventions, and other writers. I thought writing was a solitary occupation, but the synergy and shared wisdom from being around other writers is invaluable, not to mention the wonderful friendships that result as well.
My second piece of advice is to be humble, thick-skinned, and willing to work hard to learn the craft. Don’t be like those singers on American Idol who think they’re amazing but are terrible. There are lots of great books out there on novel-writing. Read them. And keep on writing!
For more about Catherine and her work, see Catherine McGreevy ~ Clean, Inspirational Fiction
Gorilla Girl invites readers to Reply with a Comment below to ask Catherine their followup questions and comments.
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