Hello there friends!
It’s such a pleasure to interview my sweet author friend and fellow mermaid-nerd Catherine Jones Payne on my blog today! I had so much fun meeting her at Realm Makers and was super excited to get to feature her here 🙂
Catherine is a Seattle native who loves the written word, international travel, crashing waves, and good coffee. Her earliest memory involves pulling up a rolling chair to her parents’ old DOS computer—while wearing a tiara, naturally—and tapping out a story of kidnapped princesses. She lives in Waco, TX with her historian husband, Brendan, and their cats, Mildred and Minerva. Connect with Catherine on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! She also recently released her novel Breakwater.
A red tide is rising.
As the daughter of one of the mer-king’s trusted advisors, seventeen-year-old Jade has great responsibilities. When her fiancé murders a naiad, plunging the underwater city of Thessalonike into uproar, tensions surge between the mer and the naiads. Jade learns too late that the choices she makes ripple further than she’d ever imagined. And as she fights against the tide of anger in a city that lives for scandal, she discovers danger lurking in every canal, imperiling her family and shattering the ocean’s fragile peace.
Can the city’s divisions be mended before the upwelling of hate rips apart everything Jade loves?
Now, on to the fun interview with Catherine that I would say went swimmingly… 😉 (See what I did there?)
KS: Tell a bit about how we met?
CJP: Originally we met online, I’m pretty sure, somewhere in the bustle of book releases, but we got to officially meet in person at Realm Makers 2017. I was super excited. I had been eyeing your book.
KS: Yes! It was such a joy to finally see you in person. <3 How long have you been involved in Realm Makers?
CJP: Since 2015, and it has been one of the best possible things for my career in publishing. It’s the highlight of my year, and I’m already looking forward to next year!
KS: I really enjoyed attending my first Realm Makers this year! And your little speech about Quill Pen and just attending a conference in general was one of my favorite parts. Aside from being a writer, how else are you involved with the publishing industry?
CJP: I’m an editor too! In my day job, I run Quill Pen Editorial, where I do developmental and line editing for almost all kinds of speculative fiction, thrillers, chick lit, and a fair bit of non-fiction.
KS: Yes! Fun fact: I’m actually using Catherine’s editorial skills for another pass on TGWCS. What’s a little-known fact about you, friend?
CJP: I’ve been to fifteen countries, but despite growing up within three hours of the Canadian border, I’ve never been to Canada.
KS: Oooh! I’d love to visit Canada someday too. If you could meet one movie character, who would it be?
CJP:Diana from Wonder Woman. I’m obsessed with this film. I cried through every action scene the first time I watched it, and when the credits rolled, I turned to my husband and asked, “Can we go to the next showing?”
KS: *cries* Yes, yes, YES! Wonder Woman was SO GOOD! *sniff* Chocolate or Vanilla? (Is this a trick question? 😉 )
CJP: Vanilla, actually. I don’t like chocolate. I know, I know…
KS: *gasp* You…don’t like chocolate? What horror is this? 😉 Next, what novels have impacted your writing?
CJP: Too many to name, but a highlights list would have to include many of Ted Dekker’s books, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, C.S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces, and—though this isn’t a novel—Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own.”
KS: So many great books! Who was your favorite character to write and why?
CJP: Jade’s younger brother, Benjamin. He’s named after my oldest nephew and, while the character isn’t strictly modeled after the real-life Benjamin, there are many similarities, so it was a lot of fun to get to write in someone I love.
KS: Awww that is fun! I bet he feels a bit famous xD What is the biggest way that your novel has changed from the first draft?
CJP: It’s improved in almost every way. The first draft—like all first drafts—was a hot mess with wildly inconsistent characters, dropped plot arcs, and dialogue so bad I can’t believe I wrote it. After the first draft, I made some notes, pulled it together into a more-tolerable second draft—I actually added the character Benjamin at this stage—and then worked with six different editors to whip it into publishable shape.
KS: Sounds about right! Thank you for giving my readers some more insight into what it takes to carry a book to that publishable state. 🙂 What theme that has been woven into your novel are you most passionate about?
CJP: There are so many I could name, but I’ve been thinking about gender equality the last couple of days. While my underwater world is fractured and unjust in many ways, they’ve pretty much got it right when it comes to women. In Thessalonike, women can work at all levels of society without being challenged for it. While making a good marriage with social connections is important for women in this culture, it’s equally important for men. Even the surnames are egalitarian—if you pay careful attention, you’ll find that the women have matronymic surnames and the men have patronymic surnames. It was a lot of fun to craft that kind of culture.
KS: Wow! Sounds so beautiful and intentional. Alright, I have to ask–how do you find time to write?
CJP: I tend to overcommit and stress myself out all the time, so I’m learning not to do that. Finding time to write is easy enough—you just prioritize the writing—but to really have the emotional energy to dig down into yourself and write a story that matters, that’s harder. I’ve been simplifying my life recently and stripping out unnecessary things that cause stress, so that I can be better at creating that space for myself.
KS: I love that, and can totally relate to having to have the emotional energy to write an impactful story. What does your writing process look like?
CJP: I’m a total outliner. I have to have a chapter-by-chapter outline before I write the first word of prose, and I do my best—and most efficient—writing if I’ve sketched out an event-by-event outline of exactly what’s going to happen in a scene the day before I sit down to put it into prose.
KS: Haha! I am NOT a hard-core outliner, but I can definitely see how useful and much tighter of a novel it can produce. What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
CJP: Finish the first draft. If you ask ten people off the street if they want to write a book, most of them will say yes. But the thing that separates you—a soon-to-be professional writer—from the average person on the street is discipline. Most of those people will never finish the first draft. Once you do, you enter a new class of aspiring writer, and you’ll have put together amazing momentum that can help speed you through the finish line.
Yes, so much wisdom and truth in learning to prioritize writing and grow more disciplined.
Thank you so much for joining me, Catherine! This was such a wonderful interview. <3