Monday, January 30, 2012

Break Out the Bubbly and the Dark Chocolate: Celebrating Cathy Perkin's Debut Novel THE PROFESSOR

Author Cathy Perkins

I'm delighted to welcome author Cathy Perkins to the Veranda to celebrate her debut novel THE PROFESSOR published by Carina Press. Cathy and I have an interesting history and I can't wait for you to learn how and where we met. She's not just a wonderful writer, I consider her one of my first out of the area writing friends. I wish her every success and I can't wait for you to read all about her journey to publication!! So let's pop the cork and pour some champagne and enjoy the story.


Hi Cathy, welcome to the Veranda. I know we've talked about this before, but tell my readers about your writing journey. How did you decide to be a writer? 

While I’ve had a life-long love affair with reading, I didn’t start writing until about five years ago. This probably isn’t how most people start, but I had a lengthy consulting job in a city about 90 miles away. I’d listen to music and daydream during the commute. Pretty soon the day dream had dialogue and I thought, hmm, this is turning into a good story. That particular book lives in a box under the bed, but I was hooked on writing, creating worlds and characters. Christine and I met right after I finished The Professor – we both had to count backward on our fingers, with moves and when the kids graduated high school as touchstones – at the fall 2007 writing retreat sponsored by the Lowcountry RWA.I learned so much at that Masterclass, I came home and joined a critique group, hoping to learn more. These writers encouraged me to join RWA and enter a few contests, including the Golden Heart. The Professor won those contests and was a Golden Heart finalist, but I kept hearing ‘romantic suspense is dead’ so I really didn’t try to sell the book. Instead, I put the story away and kept writing. About this time last year, I pulled the story out and thought, I love these characters and I want to share them with a wider audience. Carina Press made an offer and I’m thrilled to say the novel released last week, on January 23.
I remember all our long walks along the beach, Cathy. We had lovely long chats about writing. What is your favorite genre to write?
I’ve always loved mysteries and suspense—figuring out the who-dun-it puzzle, delighting when the author keeps me guessing or on the edge of my seat, wondering what will happen next. When I started writing, my stories and characters had secrets, obstacles and a race to uncover the villain. I’m going to slide a second “favorite” part in here—bringing the characters to life, figuring out what makes them tick and throwing the challenges of the plot and relationship at them, is so much fun. It’s probably the best part of writing.
While my book is listed as romantic suspense, it’s really more suspense than romance. Just like thrillers can be anything from an action adventure to an intensely psychological nail-biter, the romantic suspense spectrum covers everything from steamy relationship-focused stories to ones like The Professor, where the relationship is a subplot rather than the focus of the story.  
I know of many Romantic Suspense authors who are moving into the mystery/thriller genres and are doing quite well as their readers follow them. I think it's a great fit for your story. When you write your stories are you a plotter or do you follow the muse?
My stories grow out of day dreams, the snippet of an idea, a what-if. For example, my husband and I were hiking in a game refuge near our house. While pushing through dense undergrowth beside the Snake River, I glanced over my shoulder and said, “Wouldn’t this be a great place to find a body?” The amateur sleuth story grew from that What-if.
Once an idea takes hold, the plot and character evolve together. But I’m a plotter, so the first thing I do when I think the idea has possibilities is sketch an outline of the plot. That outline grows and evolves as my characters’ personalities and motivations flesh out. Things that of course they’d do, add layers or subplots as the story unfolds.
 I wish I was a true plotter. It would make life so much easier at the computer. After you're finished plotting and writing, how do you relax? 
Most weekends we head up to the mountains – I’ve shared a few stories about the wild life, er wildlife, at the Blame It On The Muse blog. Depending on the weather, we may work on the property or head out for hiking or skiing, but 5 PM usually finds us kicked back with a glass of terrific Washington wine.
I bet the mountains are reenergizing and inspiring. What a great way to refresh yourself after working so hard. What are you working on now?  
I'm working on two very different manuscripts right now. One is a dark, financial mystery with the premise: how far will you go for those you love? The mystery revolves around the heroine's father - did he kill to save the company he loves or is he really trying to protect both his family and employees? It's currently out under consideration; think positive thoughts!
We will! Crossing all appendages!!
I'm polishing a light amateur sleuth mystery about a small town CPA—houses, handbags or companies, she knows how to make a deal. When a friend's body turns up beside the Snake River, she has to dodge a vengeful detective - her ex-fiancĂ© - while staying one step ahead of a murderer.  It was a blast to write and fun relief after the intensity of the darker ones. I might publish this series under the pen name Cathy Ann Stewart Hamilton, because when a woman’s initials are CASH, how can she not get involved in finance?At this stage, I feel blessed to have so many opportunities. Ultimately I want to write a story that readers enjoy.
Your projects sound so interesting. I love the way your mind works. CASH is a great way to think about your future pseudonym!! How did you celebrate the “call?”
I missed The Call! I was working out of town with my day job, came home and found Angela James’ voice mail, saying she’d read The Professor and wanted to talk to me about it. I met my critique partner for lunch – I’m not sure that cafĂ© will welcome us back – and we decided she wouldn’t call to turn me down. Later that afternoon, I got an email extending the offer and setting up a time to talk.
Fabulous Cover!!
I'm so glad she called and you received a contract. What a fun story!! It's been a few years since we walked along the beach, but look where you are now! What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Never give up! The road to publication can take all sorts of twists and turns. Whether an agent or editor will want your story can involve timing and other project they’re working on, as much as the merits of your story. Add in individual likes and hot-buttons and you just have to keep working and submitting. If it’s rejected, remember it’s business, not personal.
The second piece of advice is, keep learning. I’ve sat next to multi-published, NY Times best-selling authors and watched them take notes in a conference class. Sometimes it’s a new concept and sometimes a speaker hits me between the eyes with exactly the question or idea that I needed to pull a scene together!
There are so many new avenues for authors – traditional and small presses, digital first, and self-publishing. I’ll leave you with some advice Angela James offered at the Emerald City Conference – just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Her point was, make sure whatever you send out is ready, polished and your best work.
Cathy, that is excellent advice. I shall take it to heart. And I love it when I see top selling authors taking notes during the workshops that I attend. James Scott Bell says one should never stop learning the craft. Thanks so much for visiting the Veranda and sharing your writing journey.

Cathy Perkins can be reached via the following ways:

You can order THE PROFESSOR from these sites:
Barnes & Noble -- here
Carina Press -- here.


Anne Gallagher said...

Great interview Christine. Thanks Cathy.

I liked your thinking about finding the body in the woods. Actually that's why I stopped walking in the park. I always thought I would find a body someday.

Wendy S. Marcus said...

Hi Cathy!
Great interview. Congratulations on your sale! Two of my favorite authors also publish with Carina - Adrienne Giordano and Julie Rowe! Carina can spot talent!

M.V.Freeman said...

I like how you figured out you wanted to write--by driving. :)

Not only does the current book sound interesting--the other two you're working on intrigue me.

I hope to read about many more of your stories being published in the future!

Virna DePaul said...

I was lucky enough to meet you in Low Country, as well, Cathy, and am SO happy for your debut release!! You are awesome and I wish you much deserved success!

Cathy Perkins said...

Thanks for stopping by!

Oh no Anne - don't stop walking in the park. Just watch out for the undergrowth...over by the river :)

Wendy - I've read both Adrienne & Julie's books; fab storytellers!

MV - we all have our processes; trying to take notes while driving, though... not so much
I hope these two new stories make it to publication, too

Virna - confession - we brainstorm; it's rather frightening :)
Looking forward to the Lowcountry again - with you teaching!!

Patricia Preston said...

Congrats on your sale! From a fellow CP author.

Cathy Perkins said...

Hi Patricia

Thanks for stopping by!