Thursday, May 28, 2015

An Interview with Author Cathy Elliott...and a Giveaway, Too! :)

The best thing about my local writers group, aside from learning about writing, is getting to know the other members. One of my oldest friends from the group and long-time encouragers is Cathy Elliott. Her friendly smile, uplifting words, and no-nonsense critiques have always been just what I needed to keep going in my writing. She is a traditionally published author, and her most recent book release is a cozy mystery called A Stitch in Crime.


 For those of you who don't know, a cozy mystery is a mystery which downplays the violent aspects of the genre and often takes place in a small community. Basically, a fun, non-creepy mystery...the type you can read before bed and still go to sleep. ;)

I had the privilege of reading A Stitch in Crime and enjoyed its quirky characters and fun, lighthearted yet mysterious plot. It made me want to go back and read A Vase of Mistaken Identity, Cathy's first cozy mystery featuring the same characters.

Cathy agreed to do a book giveaway here on the blog, so I thought it would be fun to have her stop by and share a bit about herself, her book, and writing in general.

1. Tell us four fun facts about yourself.
    Are you sure? Okay...here goes:
  1. I used to sing and play guitar in a country rock band. Playing class reunions, wedding receptions, and other gigs provided the cash to put my daughter through private school for three years. Loved it. We even provided the music for a big Navy Ball on Mare Island near San Francisco. Unexpected fun!
  2. Years ago, I entered a fiddle contest for our local district and won a second place trophy. Some of the judges wondered about my style, since I'd played violin in some orchestras first. Classical fiddle? He-he. Maybe.
  3. For several years in my youth, I lived in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba with my family. We had a lovely home on a wee peninsula, called Mobile Point, and though we could never leave the base because of Castro's occupation of the rest of the island, I rode all around on Navy buses. It seemed like a lot of freedom and we were very safe, even as children on our own. There were riding stables, swimming pools, daily fruit boats from Havana, gorgeous beaches...it was a paradise for both adults and children.
  4. I'm a dedicated Anglophile, loving all things English. In fact, I created a character in my book, A Stitch in Crime, who takes it much farther than me. My amateur sleuth, Thea James, has a mother who insists on being called "mum" by her girls and speaks in an affected British accent though she is Italian American. She's done it for so many years, no one remembers that she is not to-the-manor-born.
2. When did you first get interested in writing?
    My first memory of writing was as a freshman in high school. My friend and I used to write and exchange stories, thinking we were oh-so-clever. Always a reader, I longed to write from that point forward. I thought I might write gothic romances but ended up writing cozy mysteries, instead. Going goth is still a possibility.

3. Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
    If you have talent and are willing to persevere, you will make it to your goal. My advice for traditional publication (but it applies to self-publication, too) is:
  • Read, read, read good books. Read books like you want to write and books not in your genre. Stretch yourself. Absorb the classics. Read poetry to learn how to make every word count. Read Pulitzer Prize winners and writer journals. You will learn much about writing from reading.
  • Join a good writers group, one that has a critique component. You must have your work critiqued by folks who will be honest. Your goal must always be excellent writing over publication. Keep the bar high.
  • Go to writer's conferences. There, you will learn to hone the craft, meet editors and agents, and network with other writers. Writing is a solitary vocation and writers are notoriously full of self-doubt. They need the supportive writing community. Encouraging one another along the journey makes all the difference. 
  • Start small. Try writing articles or book reviews or a personal essay – even a filler piece. Look for opportunities to build your writer resume while you are working on your book. The more you are published, the more likely an agent or editor will take you seriously.
  • Read books about writing. Some favorites I recommend: Stein on Writing by Sol Stein, Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Browne & King, Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell, and a special fave for new writers – Give 'Em What They Want by Camenson & Cook. (The Writer magazine is tops.) 
   Keep writing, rewriting, and honing the craft. Often, you think your book is ready for publication, but there is still more work to be done. That happened to me. Don't be discouraged; it's a long road to publication. But you'll get there if you persevere. 

   "Be persistent. Editors change; editorial tastes change; markets change. Too many beginning writers give up too easily." John Jakes.   

4. What sparked the idea for A Stitch in Crime?
    As a quilter who loves history, I purchased a book about Civil War quilts and the Underground Railroad and found it fascinating. It made me think about messages in quilts and legacies over time. That was the core spark for me to create the fictional Larkin's Treasure, a highly prized quilt with a secret of great riches. And decide how someone might insert that message into it somehow, yet in a way that isn't apparent and is mysterious.

5. Could you give us a brief summary of the story?
    When a beloved quilt judge gets clobbered, a renowned textile expert goes MIA, and the famous Wentworth heritage quilt disappears, the town of Larkindale's reputation as a tourist haven is at risk. Quilt Show Co-Chair Thea James attempts to piece the mystery together and save the town's investment in the event before something worse happens.

6. Are there any fun "behind the scenes" facts about the creation of the plot or characters that you'd like to share?
    When I was developing the character of Gram (Thea's grandmother), I had the best time! Feeding my appetite for all things British, I decided she came to the USA from England during WWII as a war bride. So I did a lot of research about that fascinating subject. In addition I gave Gram a propensity for wearing silly hats in deference to the Queen. And in my mind, this sweet lady, especially in old age, was a lot like the bumbling, forgetful Aunt Clara on the original TV series, "Bewitched." When Gram has a scene, I see a blend of Aunt Clara (who collected doorknobs) and the dear grandmum I created. She just tickles me. I love her.

7. Which of your characters was the most fun to create?
    That's a good question. An author tends to become invested in every character. They are all like my kids. But if I must pick one, it would be the main character, clumsy, scaredy-cat but brave, twenty-nine-year-old Thea James. She has some of my traits (on steroids). We are both procrastinators and both love antiques. Thea is a better businesswoman than me. She is kind. But flawed. I love watching her react to things – especially when trying to reel in Gram, who might say anything at any time. Thea tries, but she can never be cool.

8. Do you foresee any other stories for Thea in the future?
    I do have other stories for Thea lightly outlined. And titled. I've even designed quilts for each future book. Whether or not they make it to publication is a mystery. :) A couple of my readers have asked for a book that deals with Thea & Cole's romance. Will they end up together? Inquiring readers want to know. But...that's also a mystery.

Thanks so much for taking the time to share with us, Cathy. Some of your answers were things I didn't know about you! :) (And for the record, I'm totally one of those readers who thinks Thea and Cole need another book. A third book to make a Thea James trilogy would be quite nice, don't you think?) ;)

Visiting Cathy at her book signing. :)

As part of the interview, Cathy has graciously agreed to provide two books for a giveaway. One reader will receive both A Stitch in Crime and A Vase of Mistaken Identity, the first of Cathy's mysteries about Thea James.

Here are the details:

1. This giveaway is open to residents of the USA only. 

2. If you are under 18, please get permission from a parent or guardian. 

3. Leave a comment below with your name or username and email address. Comments with personal information will not be published.

4. The giveaway will be open until Thursday, June 4th. On Friday, June 5th, a winner will be chosen by random draw. 

5. I will email the winner, and he/she will have one week to respond via email with a mailing address. If I have not heard from the winner by Friday, June 12th, another winner will be chosen.

Thank you for stopping by, and have fun entering! :)

For more information about Cathy, be sure to check out the links below:

Author Website & Social Media Links
Website & Occasional Blog - www.cathyelliottbooks.com
Pinterest - https://www.pinterest.com/cathyelliott10/
Facebook – Author Cathy Elliott cathyelliottbooks.com
Twitter – @CathyElliott10

Read the first Chapter of A Stitch in Crime HERE.



Cathy Elliott is a full-time writer in northern California whose cozy mysteries reflect her personal interests from quilting and antique collecting to playing her fiddle with friends. She also leads music at church and cherishes time with her grandchildren. Cathy’s other plot-twisting works include Medals in the Attic and A Vase of Mistaken Identity.




9 comments:

Kathryn Barker said...

Oh, Hannah, wonderful interview of our dearest friend Cathy!! Both of you are the BEST! Love your blog and of course, I adore A Stitch in Crime! Cathy's characters are always delightful. Thanks for helping us get to know both of you better!

beastsbelle said...

No problem, Kate! :) Glad you enjoyed the post.

Cindy Elliott said...

What a great interview!
Love Cathy and her books big time. Once you
start one of her cozies, you can't put it down
and her fascinating characters linger in your
mind long after the story is over. So good.
Your blog is adorable, Hannah! Thanks for letting us
join in on the fun.

beggarmaid said...

Cool interview! The books sound like a lot of fun. And hopefully it's not to shallow to say I really like the book cover :)

beastsbelle said...

So glad you enjoyed the interview and the blog, Cindy. :) Thanks for stopping by!

Lol, beggarmaid, I don't think it's shallow at all. I love the cover, too. ;)

Rebecca, I couldn't publish your comment since it included your email, but I relayed your message to Cathy. :)

Still four and a half more days to enter! :)

Cathy Elliott said...

Thanks, everyone, for the kind words. I just love the cover, too. The crazy quilt was done by a crafty quilter named Angela McInnis. The publishing house found a picture of it on her web site and asked to use it. So perfect for the book!

And, now Angela & are are friends. :-) Another blessing from this A Stitch in Crime experience. As is this interview with Hannah and having you drop by to comment. Thank you all.

Hope "you" win. Good luck!

Cathy

Kathleen O'Brady said...

May I ask what age range this is for? I'm the only one in our house who is really into mysteries.

beastsbelle said...

Hi Kathleen! It is adult fiction, but it's not gory or scary. I would think it would be okay for YA-aged readers, too. I've messaged Cathy to get her recommendation, and I'll leave another comment as soon as I hear back from her. :)

beastsbelle said...

Kathleen, I checked with Cathy and she agreed that it works for both YA and adult teaders. There is no objectionable content. :) Hope this helps!