Today I Welcome New Zealand author Cat Connor, author of thriller novels such as Killerbyte, Terrorbyte, Exacerbyte, Flashbyte and Soundbyte - her latest FBI thriller about the life of SSA Ellie Conway.
Hi Cat, come on up on the front porch and sit a spell. I guess the first question is the rocking chair or the glider, are you a rocker or a swinger?
Well, you got a good view of Grove Avenue from up here on the porch for people watching. This is the Fan District, the bohemian section of Richmond, half the artsy folks in town walk down this street. As Dorothy Parker said, “authors and actors and artists and such; they never know nothing, and they never know much”. So Cat, let’s find out a little about you. Here in the American south we live by the rule of southern hospitality. There are certain questions you get asked right off the bat when you are invited here to visit. In Atlanta they ask you what you do for a living, in Dallas they ask you where you go to church, here in Richmond we ask “what would you like to drink? I have to warn you I can make a mean Mint Julep.
I’m a southern girl … big fan of Mint Juleps. (To be fair, big fan of bourbon like it almost as much as I like tequila.)
Cat, you write great thrillers, what draws you to that genre?
Honestly, I don’t think I was drawn so much as stumbled into it. I like the adrenaline rush, the not knowing what will happen next, really does it for me. ☺
Besides those ‘edge of your seat’ thrillers you have written, I noticed a book called Romeo and the Chicken, what is the story with that one?
Romeo and the Chicken is a children’s book about our greyhound Romeo. There are two stories in the book – the first is how Missy the fat grey cat met Romeo and the second is a story about Romeo losing his chicken frame. His girlfriend Cleo is in the story, so are my younger two children and Cleo’s family. It’s a bit of fun. Always a fun book to read to the local primary school children. (The kids all know Romeo, as he’s a regular visitor to school.)
Your thrillers have high-energy characters and lots of action. What creative techniques do you use to help get you in-tune with the energy frequency of your characters?
Music. MUSIC. And more MUSIC.
It kinda goes like this;
Ellie – Bon Jovi or Lorenza Ponce and lately a little bit of Adele.
Kurt – Kevin Costner and Modern West
Lee – Richie Sambora or Bon Jovi or sometimes Aerosmith
Sam – Garth Brooks (I dunno why, but, it works for me!)
I understand you have a new FBI thriller about the life of SSA Ellie Conway. Give us an insight into her. What does she do that is so special?
Soundbyte and Snakebyte were both released this year. Next year, we have Databyte coming out.
Ellie is extremely good at reading people. It often looks like she pulls information from the air, and maybe she does? But she is very good at deciphering what people’s bodies are saying. She doesn’t always know what she knows or how she knows it, often music provides the answers. Something in her subconscious generates a song that points her to an answer or clue. She also sees dead people and not so dead people in the form of interactive hallucinations. Lots of fun to write those!
Which actress would you like to see play Ellie Conway in the film?
Claire Danes – I think she’d be an excellent Ellie Conway.
Do you have any other are current and future projects that you can share with us?
The next release in the byte series is the 6th full-length byte novel, databyte: When information becomes misinformation the result is mayhem for Supervisory Special Agent Ellie Conway. Wanted for a murder she didn’t commit and on the run from the FBI and Metro PD Ellie has to protect an actor with close ties to Delta A from a serious threat while trying to clear her name.
I also recently finished the first draft of the 7th byte novel, Eraserbyte. It’s special byte novel in that my Admins suggested the story line (or some of it at least – they have no idea how much I warped our trip to D.C. for this.). Such fun!
I see in your bio you spent some time in the Washington D.C, and Northern Virginia area. What was your impression, and remember, we here in Richmond consider Northern Virginia a foreign country. We consider the Washington area the perfect mix of Northern charm and southern efficiency.
My impression of Northern Virginia was one of comfort and joy, such a friendly welcoming beautiful place. I was very much at home in Northern Virginia and in Washington D.C. In fact, leaving was difficult (yes, I cried on the train on the way to NYC). I absolutely love D.C.
Writing good, crisp dialogue is one of the toughest things to do. How do you give each of your characters an original voice when they speak?
It’s probably wrong to say, I don’t know, but I really don’t. They are who they are and I guess that comes through in their voices. I enjoy writing dialogue, have never found it difficult, but then, I don’t think too much about it. I just do it.
Maybe that’s the key?
Do you have any special quotes or sayings that you keep visible in your work environment to help inspire, motivate, and encourage you when you write?
I used to, because until the beginning of winter I worked downstairs in the middle of the house, and down there I have a set of mobile drawers covered in inspirational motivational sayings and quotes and some stuff that just makes me laugh.
Currently my favorite quote is, ‘Courage, it would seem, is nothing less than the power to overcome danger, misfortune, fear, injustice, while continuing to affirm inwardly that life with all its sorrows is good; that everything is meaningful even if in a sense beyond our understanding; and that there is always tomorrow. - Dorothy Thompson’
That’s the quote that appears at the end of databyte.
So, I will hit you with a question you asked me, describe your current mental status. Any quirks?
Mental status – today’s a good day, but it can get pretty dark in here at times – this year has been tough.
Quirks: Yeah nah, no quirks. Apart from writing with Bon Jovi blaring … and drinking quad espressos.
I see you’re ready for a drink refill. I’ll freshen your drink. Here we never let your drink get below the one-third mark. And letting someone actually finish a drink is against the rule of southern hospitality.
I’m a fan of that particular rule!
So, tell me, who are your favorite writers? Which writers inspire you the most?
Alexandre Dumas, Sir Walter Scott, Willard Price, Jeffrey Deaver, Lee Child, Janet Evanovich, EJ Knapp, D Krauss. Which writers inspire me the most … I’d say Willard Price has had the biggest influence on me and possibly is why I write. I just didn’t see why boys got all the cool adventures. Girls are just as capable.
Who is your favorite fictitious villain? Or are you all about the hero? Who do you love to hate?
I’m all about the hero. Always have been.
Sorry got distracted for a bit there by several big police officers wearing Glocks outside our house … men in uniform and bullet proof vests. Is it hot in here? What were we talking about?
How about giving us a taste (or based on your book titles, a byte) of New Zealand, what is it like living there? What is your average day like? If you’re not working, what are you most likely doing?
Living here is like living anywhere. Except we are sitting on some big faults and it gets a bit rocky sometimes. We’ve had a couple of big damage causing earthquakes here in the middle of the country recently, guess it was our turn? Christchurch has had quite enough!
My average day: Get up at 6. Make coffee (quad espresso), feed the cat, let the hound out, then feed him. Check email, Facebook, Twitter and so forth until 7, sometimes I start work – depending on what I’m working on. Wake the kids up. Supervise them getting ready for school, make Breezy’s lunch, get the hound ready and walk to school. Then I work until half past 2, when it’s time to get ready to pick Breezy up. Sometimes I take Romeo for a second walk then. We get home about 3:30. Squealer gets in from college about then too. I go back to work for an hour or so then get dinner ready. Action Man gets home about 5 now, which is nice so we get a bit longer than we used to with the kids before and after dinner. After dinner I pour a glass of wine (more often than not) and watch comedies on TV, then read until I fall asleep. Depending on how the day has gone I may end up working late.
If I’m not working? I’m not very good at not working. I hang out with The Admins, friends, family, or I go home to Mahau Sound and hang out with Superman.
How did you embark on this writerly life? When did you decide to become a writer?
Remember how I stumbled into writing thrillers? Yeah, same deal. I never chose to become a writer. I just am. I did, however, choose to write something I wanted to read. I don’t think writing is something any sane person consciously chooses as a career! ☺
Dorothy Parker (I seem to have her on the brain today) once said “If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.” What’s the best advice you can give aspiring writers?
Learn to take the knocks, understand that this is a SLOW business, and acquire a taste for wine.
I do regularly point out to the writing group I host at our city library that this is not an industry for the faint hearted or the sane (or sober).
Writing has to be equal to breathing or you may as well give up now.
What do you consider is the hardest thing about writing?
I write first-person so that can be scary, draining, emotionally exhausting, or hilarious depending on the scenes and the story. Writing has never really been hard for me. It’s what I do. It’s how I have fun. The hard part comes after the writing – the marketing stuff. I still can’t find the joy in that! I keep trying though. Hoping that one day it will at least make sense?
You are involved in number of writer’s organizations, Backspace.org., the New Zealand Society of Authors, International Thriller Writers, Kiwi Writers, and Masters of Horror. How do these organizations help you in your writing and marketing?
I belong to them all but lately haven’t been overly involved in any. Seems there are a lot of things vying for my attention and I can’t get to them all. Maybe I need my Admins to take over the social networking side so I can do the other stuff? Although, in saying that, they cause enough trouble! Bless their little cotton socks.
The organization that has helped the most is Backspace. I’ve belonged to that since it first began and it’s a fabulous place to get support, help, and to just be around other writers. People who don’t write sometimes don’t quite get what a tough/freaking insane industry this is.
I noticed that you have racked up a lot of 5 star reviews on Amazon, that pretty impressive. Do your readers or reviewers ever contact you via facebook or e-mail and comment or ask questions about your work?
I love hearing from readers. And yes they do contact me and ask questions. Often it’s not so much a question as a statement ‘I can’t believe you did that’ is a common one. If you’ve read terrorbyte or soundbyte you’ll know why. For the record, I can’t believe I did it either! Bear with … I probably won’t do it again for a few books! ☺
I know I get questions all the time from my UK and European readers about certain American southern terms I use, like “grits” or “something going all Cattywampus”. Once I used the phase, “He dropped the keys on the counter of the double-wide,” and I got the question, “double wide what?” Are there any New Zealand terms you use that readers ask you to clarify?
Nope. I write in American English and a lot of the terms I use are common to both Northern Va and New Zealand, we’re not so different. If it’s something that is very kiwi then I explain it or have the character who said it explain it.
Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
I really can’t think of anything!
I’m going to have to go … police officers, guns, dogs … more joy than I can say and all happening outside my window!
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Please list contact info you would like to include –
Amazon Author Page:
Book Links: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cat-Connor/e/B002DP3JCQ
Thanks Cat, for stopping by. It was wonderful having you and getting some insight into hour work and you as a person. Here, let me top that drink off for you and make you a traveller – that’s a drink to go in a plastic cup. We carry around a lot of travellers here. It’s what passes for a doggie bag, or rather doggie cup, in Richmond. Cheers!
Friday, October 4, 2013
There is an old story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. "Such bad luck," they said sympathetically. "May be," the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. "How wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed. "May be," replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. "May be," answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. May be," said the farmer. You get the idea. The old farmer was a classic skeptic. And since Monday, October 13 is International Skeptics day (actually, the site also lists January 13th, October 13th, and the first Friday of the year as skeptics day). I suspect that a skeptic created this day. And, he or she did so by first creating doubt about the date to celebrate this special day. Like the old farmer I am a skeptic, I believe that any belief system which leaves no place for doubt is not a belief; it is a superstition. I count organized religion among superstitions institutions. My skepticism carries over into my novels and I tend to infuse a good dose of skepticism into my characters, especially when it comes to religion. Take John Wye, who appears in Church of the Path of Least Resistance, Bullfish and Heavenly Pleasure. In “Church” he comes to the aid of his old college chum Mike Compari, he himself a lapsed catholic, and together they travel to Yahweh, Arkansas to save a kid from a religious cult. Along the way they encounter a Christian hit man, attend a book burning and enlist the help of a group of civil war reenactors to blow up the cult compound. As the story unfolds the reader finds out that the cult was part of a federal program to franchise religion and use the income to balance the government. Ok, so I’m a skeptic about government also. John Wye returns in Bullfish where at the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas he meets Eve Savage, physics doctoral student on spring break. Eve creates a wormhole and sends a proctologist from Washington D.C. back in time to swap places with Jesus Christ. Jesus attends a performance of Jesus Christ Superstar while his double is booked to speak at the ‘last supper’. In the end Atlantis is sent back in time to become the original Lost Continent and Jesus ends up as a carpenter in Tarsus, where he dresses up in a red suit every year on is birthday and delivers toys to the neighborhood children. John makes his final appearance in Heavenly Pleasure (soon to be released), where he becomes the chronicler of the final battle between good and evil. Eve also appears in this novel and this time creates a device that modifies brain waves to create orgasmic bliss. The side of evil is represented by a mega-church preacher, the devil, an attorney and a young snake handler from West Virginia. On the side of good is Bengali stripper, a fallen angel, god disguised as an ice cream truck driver and two life partners that operate a Christian porn store where their hottest selling item is the ‘Come to Jesus Vibrator’. Alright, there is a thin line between skeptic and heretic and I may have crossed it. In 2012 Montezuma’s Revenge, I show my skepticism of the end of the world as predicted by the Mayan calendar by bringing back Montezuma II who had been frozen under a lake in Utah for 500 years. Meanwhile an incompetent, and constantly stoned, U.S. president wages war against a capitalist Martian colony in a red planet-blue planet philosophical conflict. Turns out I wasn’t that far off. In my novel Homemade Sin, I show my skepticism of the healthcare industry. While Stinky a sociopathic, telepathic cat tries to raise feline zombie army for world domination, the four horsemen of the apocalypse, War, played by big insurance, Famine, played by agri-business, Pestilence, played by the pharmaceutical industry and Death, played by the medical profession plot to subvert the American healthcare system. Turns out I wasn’t far off on this one either. I even have a novel in progress that features a telepathic pickled infant in a mason jar found among the bulrushes in the James River, (sounds very old testament, doesn’t it?) who has a knock down drag out fight with a clump of kudzu contorted into the shape of a crucifixion (sounds a little new testament, right?) which culminates with the holy pickled infant bringing down the seven plagues of Egypt on a truck stop parking lot. As you can tell I do like to give organized religion a good, old fashioned wedgie. Sacred cows do make the best cheeseburgers. And I serve those burgers with large portions of humor. As Oscar Wilde, another skeptic, once said, “when you tell people the truth, make them laugh or they’ll kill you.” Do I sometimes go too far in poking fun of the doggedly certain? Maybe.