Welcome to Author Spotlight! Each week will feature a different author. We’ll get the scoop behind their writing life and dish a little. The authors will also be giving away a copy of their latest book. FUN.
The winner from last week’s Author Spotlight with Ann Shorey JEAN BORSHEIM! Please email my assistant Christen with your mailing address. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This week please welcome Catherine West in the spotlight! To win a copy her book Hidden in the Heart (OakTara, 2012) , leave a comment on this post.
Share a little bit about yourself. Married with kids? Empty nester? Do you work full-time and write when you can squeeze it in?
Thanks for having me as your guest, Suzanne! Yes, I’ve been happily married for almost 27 years now, to the most wonderful man in the world! Our two children are now grown, and our daughter is about to get married in May! Our son studies music at Berklee in Boston. We’ve enjoyed the empty nest, but this summer after the wedding, our daughter and her new hubby will be moving home to Bermuda, so I’m looking forward to spending more time with them, as they’ve been living in Canada.
And share something about your writing. What’s your genre(s), your areas of interest…
I am a lover of all things romance! I love writing romance. All my books will have a fairly strong element of romance in them, even if they aren’t classified as a straight romance. My stories are contemporary, and lately I’ve been writing what I would call ‘family sagas’. Big, meaty books with lots of colorful characters and subplots.
How did you get started writing? Did you have a dream of being a published author?
I’ve always loved to write. I remember writing my first ‘romance’ when I was in high school. Thought I was quite grown up! LOL! That got me hooked, and I always had some kind of story on the go. I never really considered the possibility of becoming a published author until much later, once I was at home with my kids. Of course that was a busy time for me, so my writing was sporadic, but when they went off to school, I got serious about it and started to investigate exactly how I would go about getting published. This was actually a couple years before the birth of the Internet, so it was more difficult, especially living in Bermuda. Once the Internet came along, a whole new world opened for me! I found RWA and ACFW, and I was really able to learn my craft. Until then, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. It was no wonder those first few editors rejected my offerings!
After you started writing seriously–how long was it before you were published?
Many, many, many years! I can’t even remember now how many exactly. I did put my writing on hold for a few years, but I guess I wrote off and on for about fifteen years before I finally became agented. It was about another four years before my first novel was contracted.
Aside from a cup of good, strong coffee, what helps you get all of your “brain cylinders” firing so you can write well? Do you have any favorite places and routines when you write? How many hours a day do you spend writing?
Ah, yes, the coffee is a must! We have a home office that I use to do my most serious writing, when I’m in the middle of a story and don’t want to be disturbed. I enjoy the couch in the family room as well. ☺ At home, I can really write anywhere. I find it more difficult to write out in public, so you won’t find me parked in a coffee shop working away any time soon. Too many distractions. As for inspiration, books I’ve read, news articles and well-written television all help to get my wheels turning! A typical day for me, (when I’m not focusing on a wedding), would be about four to five hours, more perhaps if I sneak in some evening time. It really depends what I’m working on. These days, however, let’s just say it is a good thing I am not on a deadline! I will get back to my routine this summer. ☺
What has been the biggest help to you in the journey to publication? Writers’ conferences? Writing groups? Your mom as your first draft reader?
Without a doubt, I don’t think I would be published today were it not for American Christian Fiction Writers. The critique groups I have been part of, the mentors who’ve encouraged me along the way and all the wonderful friends I’ve made through this group have all been instrumental in my journey. I try not to miss a conference if possible, the networking is vital for me as far as keeping me focused on my goals and encouraging me to push forward, and of course the teaching is invaluable. I don’t think a writer can ever stop learning and I’m so grateful to know this conference is available to us!
Is the “writer’s life” what you thought it would be?
I’m not sure I had any fixed ideas about what it would be like! I’ve been fortunate to be a stay-at-home Mom, so life tends to go on around me and I’ve learned to balance the kids, the husband and the house and the dog with my writing life. Of course it’s much easier now that I only have the husband and the dog to worry about!
What are your biggest distractions?
Facebook, Facebook, Facebook… You could call me an addict. I love it. When I really have to do something or get a couple chapters written or write an interview…I need to ‘go dark’. Otherwise I’ll be checking it, checking my email, that’s another big one for me…I wouldn’t say I have ADD but I am definitely easily distracted!
What was one of the best moments in your career and what was one of the worst?
Oh, this one I have to answer in reverse order! The worst moment was when my agent persuaded me to put the book of my heart on the shelf. It was the book she contracted me with. She loved the story, I loved the story. We worked hard on it. I worked with two outside editors on it, because I wanted to be sure I was putting the best work out there. And yet, we couldn’t sell it. None of the big CBA publishers were interested in a romance that took place against the backdrop of The Vietnam War. Go figure. ☺ So, as heartbreaking as it was for me, I put that book aside and worked on my next novel. But that story wouldn’t let me go. Eventually I asked my agent if it’d be okay if we tried other avenues, perhaps smaller publishers.
And then came the best moment of my career. ☺ I sent that story, Yesterday’s Tomorrow, to Ramona Tucker at OakTara. She loved it as much as we did. In March 2011, the book of my heart was published. And I learned a valuable lesson. Timing, God’s timing, is everything.
What do you least like about being a writer? Most like?
Hmm. I have to say I don’t like the pressure I put on myself. I’m always wondering how I can do more, sell more, get the word out…etc…it’s emotionally draining. I’m trying really hard this year to just do what I can and be satisfied with that. I’m not superwoman. I’m not Karen Kingsbury. I need to be okay with that. I also don’t enjoy the misconceptions people seem to have of being a published author. I’m always being asked when my next book is coming out. They seem to think it’s an automatic given that once you’ve been published, you’ll just keep popping books out year after year. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way!
What is the role and importance of an agent?
These days, with very few houses even considering an un-represented author, I say an agent is vital. A good agent. I’ve heard some horror stories, and while I don’t know any bad agents personally, I know they exist. Do your homework before you start querying agents. An agent will work for you because they love what you do. You need to love your agent and they need to love you. It’s important to have an agent that you trust, that you can communicate openly with and rely on to guide you through issues in the publishing world that you might not have a clue about!
What advice would you give to new writers?
I always say, if writing is the path God has put you on, stick to it. It’s discouraging, it’s hard, but it’s truly worth it if it is where you know you’re supposed to be. Study the craft, go to conferences if you can, find good critique partners and never, ever, give up!
Pretend I’m a customer at a bookstore looking for a good book. Give me a one or two sentence promo to convince me to buy your book.
You existed before you were adopted. But what if the woman who gave you life doesn’t want to be found?
What’s on the book horizon for you?
How I wish I knew! At the moment we’re shopping a couple of projects, one romance and the other a family saga…so we’ll see what happens there. I’m continuing to write while I wait, and that’s about all I can tell you!
Last question, how can readers find you and your books?