Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Talk about amazing...

Today I'm showcasing Cate Masters who's had NINE acceptances in less than a year and a total of FIFTEEN since her run of good luck began. In addition, Cate’s short stories and flash fiction have appeared in various web zines and press sites. I’ve asked her to share a bit about her recent successes. We can all use inspiration like that!

It’s an exciting year for me. The Wild Rose Press released my sixties-era short romance, Seventh Heaven, in mid-March. On May 6, they’ll release my short fantasy, The Duende and the Muse. On July 16, they’ll release my contemporary short Going with Gravity, and last month they accepted Design for Life, a sweet contemporary. Eternal Press contracted two novellas—a contemporary women’s fiction and an urban fantasy—and both are supposed to be available sometime this summer. Wild Child Publishing contracted a short contemporary, Liberation via Pen, which should be out sometime this year. Shadowfire Press is set to release my short Halloween-themed urban fantasy, Reflections, on October 2. Freya's Bower accepted my short urban fantasy, The Lure of the Vine, last weekend. A few more stories and novels are out there circulating, and I’m hoping to have news on them soon. Anyone interested can find updates on my blog: www.catemasters.blogspot.com. Readers can find links to my stories, including those published in web zines (i.e., freebies), at http://catemasters.ning.com/.

Such recordbreaking success didn't have come easily. You've invested years of hard work in learning your craft. When did you first dream of being a writer and what steps did you take to follow your dream?

It seems like I always wrote something. About age ten, I wrote poetry and continued until recently, when fiction drew me entirely away. In high school, I also wrote for the school newspaper. I started a novel in my twenties but found it too difficult to write while my kids were young and worked at a full-time job (and simultaneously a part-time job for many years). In my thirties I picked fiction up again more seriously and began buying how-to books and took several online workshops (Gotham Writers Workshop, Writer’s Digest, etc.), and attended local workshops and writer’s gatherings. I joined several critique groups. For a few years, my demanding day job allowed no time to write for myself, and I felt miserableexcept that it was an incredible learning experience, and taught me to evaluate each word’s weight within a sentence. This past year, pressing personal issues forced me to quit work, and I focused on my writing full-time. Joy! And it saved my sanity in a tough time.

You write in a lot of genres. Do you have a favorite and why?

I’m too ADD to have a favorite! I love to experiment. Every genre poses its unique challenges and rewards. I do love urban fantasy, but also contemporary. Not being much for history in school, I was surprised at how much I loved bringing historical characters to life. Flash and short fiction are good exercises for tightening prose, but I also love how novels allow me to explore a story in detail. I love it all!

Some of your books are set in areas where you've lived/grown up. Can you share some of your memories of those places & why they're special to you?

I was very lucky to grow up in an artsy community. Lambertville/New Hope is nationally known for its art, antiques and theater. I also had incredibly talented friends who all loved music as much as I did. Since about third grade, we wrote poetry together, sang together, drew and painted. An amazingly nourishing environment for being creative. But I also like to explore places I’ve never been through writing. The Internet makes it easy to research locations, and I’ve also sent for visitors guides to help provide setting details. Fantasy’s fun for creating new worlds.

Growing up in an artsy community has carried over to your writing. Many of your stories contain references to art and music. What arts do you have a passion for?

I couldn’t live without music. I could never pick five CDs to take with me on a deserted island. I’d need a carrier pigeon to bring me the latest releases! Although I can’t listen to music while writingI get too caught up in it. I’ve dabbled in so much (though lately, not so much)painting, photography, gardening, jewelry making, needlework. In high school, I spent a lot of time sketching. I’ve attempted to play the piano and guitar, but gave it up at the request of my family. Photography comes in handy for making book trailers, which I find lots of fun.

Speaking of trailers, your son did incredible music for them.

Thank you! My husband and I recognized our son Chris’ gift for music at about age two and tried to nurture it by keeping his instrument supply updated. He has an uncanny ability to listen to a song once and play it. He also writes his own music, and I used his songs in my first three trailers. Below is the trailer for Seventh Heaven. I took the photos of the Lambertville/New Hope area on a trip home.

He's obviously very talented, as are you. Has following your passion encouraged your other children to follow theirs?

My daughter Abbey’s a stickler for language like me (luckily, she inherited my husband’ math skills and his mechanical aptitude). My youngest, Becca, has collaborated in designing furniture with my husband, who’s a woodworker, and sketched some pretty cool fashion, too. The Wild Rose Press recently contracted Design for Life, a story I wrote for Becca, as part of their Flower Basket series. I hope I’ve inspired my kids to follow their bliss, to explore within themselves and discover the gratification of nurturing their souls.

To have written so many books and stories, you must have a wonderful imagination. Where do you get your ideas? And what do you do if your muse decides to take a vacation?

Again, it depends on the story. My imagination’s triggered by any number of things. Sometimes I hear a character’s line in my head, and the story takes off from there. Sometimes a name will evoke an entire character. My imagination’s very vivid, and I generally see the story in my head like a movie. While on vacation in Key West five years ago, we visited a maritime museum and a story vision stopped me in my tracks (no liquor was involved, I swear!). That’s the only time that’s ever happened. It was a bit scary! But I spent a day in the Key West library copying old articles and bought a few books about the area’s history. Last year, I signed up for NaNoWriMo and focused on that story, finally. That historical romance novel is now circulating with publishers.

I have a backlog of story ideas and add to it continually. If my muse wants a vacation, it’s well deserved! And I have plenty to keep me busy.

Any habits/rituals you follow to get yourself in the writing mode?

Turn on the computer and sit in front of it. I treat my writing like a day job, except I rarely get a day off!

What stumbling blocks have you encountered and how have you overcome them?

Time’s been the biggest stumbling block lately. I found it necessary to designate a certain chunk of time for email and throwing sheep at Facebook friends, then it’s back to writing. Promotion’s another time management struggle. Blogging’s fun and a great marketing tool but can suck away too much time. I also have to curb my research. It’s essential and I love it, but I can get carried away there, too.

What comes first in your writing process? A scene, characters, title? Are you a plotter?

Depends. The title’s usually last. I rarely like the titles I come up with. Initially, I was a total pantser and let the characters drive the story. Sometimes it was like herding cats. But plotting doesn’t work well for me. I find it too restricting. I settled on outlining, which helps me to know where the story’s going in general, but have the wiggle room to let my characters wander off on a tangent if they insist.

What characters in your books are most like you and why?

I suppose it’s inevitable that part of any writer’s personality ends up in the story. But again, I like to experiment and explore. I love stories that touch a nerve with people and resonate. I try to avoid making my characters like me – I’d end up writing the same character every time. Personalities are so complex, it’s easy to layer on various aspects. Sometimes I add traits to characters I wish I had!

So what's the real Cate Masters like?

I’m painfully shy. Less so than when I was young, when it actually prevented me from following my dream of becoming a journalist. I could never envision myself intruding on people’s lives efficiently enough to interview them. In my thirties, I made a conscious decision not to let it hold me back any longer. I challenged myself to try something that scared me—I freelanced for the local newspaper. It was a thrill to see my stories on the front page. And since then, I’ve realized how important it is for your personal growth to challenge yourself. Try something you think you can’t do. You’ll amaze yourself.

What do you find most challenging about being a writer?

Because I visualize my stories so vividly, sometimes it’s a challenge to translate what’s in my head to paper. Revisions were painful, early on. In the last few years, I’ve learned to respect them and give them their due. If I put something out there, I want the finished product to be my best possible work. Writing’s a high for me, especially when I manage to string together a well-constructed sentence conveying what’s actually in my head. Language is a powerful tool, and I love the feeling I’ve created something worthwhile, something even vaguely approaching art. I hope to create stories other writers recognize as being crafted with skill and care, and that take readers on a memorable journey.

Before we end the interview, do you have anything special you'd like to share with readers?

A few years ago, Ian McEwan visited our area to promote Saturday, after his success with Atonement. At his booksigning, I asked him for advice for wannabe-published authors. He said: Keep writing. At the time, I thought he just wanted to keep the long line moving, but I’ve since realized the truth of it. It’s so important to just keep at it. I’d also advise you not to be hard on yourself. Rejection’s tough to endure, but use it to improve your writing. And don’t take it personally. If a story’s rejected, polish it up and send it right back out until some editor or publisher picks it up.

I don’t believe in regrets. Sometimes what feels like the wrong path in life can actually provide something useful you’ll need on your way to where you want to go. Hmm, sounds very mystical but I believe it’s true. I’m probably living proof!

Okay, I do have one regret: that I was never in a girl band. I’m pretty sure I could’ve given the GoGos a run for their money, if I’d ever learned to sing and play guitar at the same time!

Ahh...but I'm sure her readers won't regret the time and energy you've poured into learning your craft. And who knows? With so much success already heading your way, maybe that girl band is next.

For those of you who are dying to read Cate's latest release, she has a special treat for readers:

She's giving away a PDF copy of Seventh Heaven. To enter, email her at cate.masters@gmail.com with Seventh Heaven Contest in the subject line. If you win, she’ll respond to your email with the PDF attached. She’ll announce the winner here and on her blog tomorrow, April 23, at 9 p.m. Also, be sure to leave a comment for Cate.

That's not the only giveaway Cate's participating in. I mentioned The Wild Rose Press Sony e-reader contest in previous posts (see below). Buy a copy of Seventh Heaven by Cate Masters for a chance to win!


Helen Hardt said...

Hi Cate -- I've been meaning to tell you how much I enjoyed Seventh Heaven. It was a beautiful tale, and I liked the immediacy of the present tense. Congratulations on your all your recent success, and I wish you much more!

Great interview, Lily!


Cate Masters said...

Thank you so much, Helen! I'm so glad you enjoyed it. Your kind words touch my heart. And thanks for stopping by!

Susan Yates said...

Great interview, Cate. Congratulations on all your wonderful successes this year!

Cate Masters said...

Thanks so much, Susan! You're an amazing editor and I so appreciate all your support! You helped take Seventh Heaven to a higher level!

don helin said...

Hi Cate: Great Interview. Congrats on all your successes. Don

Cate Masters said...

Thanks so much, Don! And best of luck with your release, Thy Kingdom Come (an amazing military thriller available from Medallion).

Emma Lai said...

Way to go Cate! What I want to know is what you would have named your girl band?

Cate Masters said...

Hi Emma! Hmm, that's a tough one - it would have to be something that reflected both musical passion and ineptitude! I'd probably leave it to the others, I'm terrible at titles.
Thanks so much for stopping by!

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Cate,
Wonderful interview. Congratulations on all your contracts. You are truly an amazing talented lady.

Cate Masters said...

You're so sweet, Margaret! Thanks so much! But I think the recent run of success is to make up for all the years I had none! LOL.
Thanks for stopping by!

Mary Ricksen said...

I was in a band,(one with guys and one all girls), it was fun but the egos were roaring and it was crazy sometimes. Girl bands were so different then, it was folk music and flowers. Ahhh, yes youth is wasted on the young.
I am so impressed by the diversity of the stories you write. Its. wonderful.
I wish you the best of continued success and, keep on writing!

Cate Masters said...

Thank you so much, Mary! Hope you enjoyed your copy of Seventh Heaven!

Rebecca J. Clark said...

Hi Cate--Congrats on your whirlwind year of success. Good for you.

I'm shy by nature, too, and I think it's important to step outside our comfort zone occasionally. To try something that scares you, as you said.

The thing that helped me most with this was when I started teaching group fitness classes. I fell into it a few years ago when my gym needed a last-minute sub. I literally almost made myself sick before that first class. But every one after that got a bit easier, and now I'm teaching 5 classes a week. I still get a bit nervous and have to remind myself to not stare at the floor and to smile, but it's much easier now. It's all about taking that first little step.

Thanks so much for the inspiring post.


Cate Masters said...

Thanks, Becky! I agree, sometimes the biggest step is the first one, then the others fall into place - more or less (sometimes less, and I still need a nudge).
Thanks so much for stopping by!

elaine cantrell said...

Congratulations, Cate. How wonderful to achieve so much in such a short period of time.

Cate Masters said...

Thanks so much, Elaine! It does seem to be feast or famine... but I'm glad the famine's over!
Thanks for stopping by!

Cate Masters said...

Congratulations to Donna Basinow, who won the copy of Seventh Heaven! Donna, I'll email you the PDF. Please let me know if you don't receive it.
Thanks again to everyone, especially Lily - it was great to visit with you!