Thursday, September 11, 2008

Please Welcome Author...Cathy Yardley

Thank you for taking the time to interview with us! Cathy Yardley's newest release is CRAVE: The Seduction of Snow White. Her full length romantic erotica novel became available in trade paperback on June 3, 2008.

  • When/how did you know you wanted to write?

I’ve always wanted to write, but I never thought “real” people were authors… you had to be really special or really lucky. Fortunately, I found the Romance Writers of America, thinking that I could become a publicist for the books I enjoyed so much. They taught me that authors are not just real, they’re wonderful. And they helped me become a published author, as well.

  • How long did it take you to become published?

I started writing seriously in 1996 or so, and sold my first book in 1999. But if you take into account all the scraps of novels I wrote (never getting further than chapter 7!) then I started writing in 1992. It took me seven years to get published.

  • Who are some of your favorite authors?

Jennifer Cruise, Sherrilyn Kenyon, J.R. Ward, Dean Koontz, Sarah Addison Allen, Stephen King, Nora Roberts, Laurell K. Hamilton.

  • Who do you count as your literary influences?

All of the above favorites! I also love archetypal stories: fairy tales, folk stories, myths. Neil Gaiman does a marvelous job of mixing different mythologies. Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter series does a good job of integrating classic Greek and Roman mythology with her own “Atalantean” pantheon.

  • How long does it usually take for you to research a book?

It depends on the book, and how far outside my comfort zone I’m writing. I’ve noticed that it takes more and more research the more books I write.

  • Many authors are doing strictly e-books, do you think this is just a trend, or does it spell the end of real books?

Well, I think that “real” books is a misnomer. The story’s the key, not the medium. So hardcopy or e-copy, the story will still be king. Personally, I love the feel of books, and I love the physical act of browsing through a bookstore – browsing through Amazon just isn’t as fun! But I think that the distribution model of e-books, like iTunes, will level the playing field for a lot of authors. As more people get comfortable with screen-reading, I think that physical books will probably start to disappear, but not for a while.

  • How long does it take for you to write books?

Between three months to a year, depending on the book.

  • Is there any character in your books that you can really relate to?

I relate to an aspect of all my characters. The funny thing is, I usually find that when I’m done writing a book, the main character’s “problem” usually reflects something I needed to figure out about my own life. How’s that for your subconscious speaking to you?

  • Do you see yourself writing in the same genre in 10 years? If not then what?

I would like to shift into horror a bit, or more paranormal, but I really love romance and women’s fiction. Whatever I write will have elements of that, I think.

  • What advice do you give to those who are just starting out or trying to become published?

Enjoy what you’re writing. The business can be soul-sucking, so don’t be hard on yourself now. And look for what makes you unique. You can’t be just a little different version of what’s out there. You’ve got to be original and yet understandable. (Yeah, easy to say, but tough to do, I know.)

  • What do you do when preparing to write a story?

I do a lot of character background and figure out what they want and why they want it. Then I do a really intense plot outline… I usually change that a bunch of time as I write, but it gives me a sort of roadmap. I've got the whole method in my non-fiction book Will Write for Shoes: How to Write a Chick Lit Novel. It works for any genre of fiction. It’s a little nuts, though, and really comprehensive!

  • Where do your story ideas come from? Do you use people you know as characters sometimes or even sometimes a certain event from real life happenings?

I get a lot of ideas from songs on the radio, or from titles. I come up with the book title before I come up with the story idea sometimes! I've used composites of people I know for characters. Only once did I use a person I knew as a model: in my book Couch World, I used a good friend of mine who was a bouncer at San Francisco clubs. He’s “Sticky”, the main character’s best friend. And while the character was larger than life in the book, he doesn't even come close to doing justice to portraying the real Sticky. Sticky is a force of nature.

  • What is your favorite part of writing?

Plotting and idea generation. I love it when a plan comes together!

  • Do you have any projects you are currently working on?

I’ll have a second fairy tale erotica coming out in October ’08, called Ravish: The Awakening of Sleeping Beauty, and then in April ’09 I will have two books out… the third fairy tale, Enslave: The Taming of the Beast, and a women’s fiction novel called Turning Japanese, about a woman who quits her job and moves to Tokyo for a year to become an intern at a Japanese comic book company. Other than that, I’m also writing a trilogy for Harlequin’s Blaze line, a miniseries called The Players’ Club. I have no idea when that comes out. Busy year!

  • Did it take a lot of rejections for you to finally get published or was it pretty easy for you?

I was insanely lucky: I got one rejection on a manuscript, and then my second book sold. It turned out there was a mini-series planned for Harlequin, and then one of the authors couldn't deliver a book, so they needed something in a hurry, and my premise exactly fit what they were looking for. So bam! I got a contract. Of course, then I got writers’ block and didn't come up with another book for a year and a half. But that’s another story.

  • Do you write your stories out with pencil and paper first or do you work straight on the computer?

I work straight on the computer. My typing speed’s 110 words per minute… if I tried writing on paper, my wrist would go numb keeping up.

  • Getting back to your books coming out soon. Tell us a little about what to expect from them.

The fairy tales are all modern-day versions of classic fairy tales. I tried to use the more grisly, “original” versions as jumping-off points, but I made them all new. For example, with Snow White, I made her a princess from a small country, the daughter of an actress-turned-royalty like Grace Kelly. Then, her stepmother was murderously jealous. So she ran away to a small agricultural cult in Pennsylvania, sort of like a Quaker commune, but with more ominous undertones, ruled over by seven “founders” instead of seven dwarves. I made sure to incorporate a lot of original elements: the apple, the mirror, etc. It was so much fun! I love that book.

  • When and where can we purchase your books?

These books should be available in all major and independent bookstores.

  • How do you feel about fans doing fan fiction and/or roleplaying on the web based on your or other author's works?

I’ve never had anybody do fan fic of my work. I think it would be strange: writing is so personal, it’s weird enough to know people are basically reading my “daydreams.” To have people reinterpreting my daydreams might feel a little wrong. But if they really enjoy it, or feel that my story didn’t address something (like a secondary character or something)… I don’t know. I’ll have to see.

  • What are you reading right now?

I just finished reading The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen, and it’s lovely. I’ve also just finished Odd Hours by Dean Koontz. Not bad… I mean, the guy’s great, and the character’s a winner, but the story felt like a set-up for the sequel. Not as good as Brother Odd or the original Odd Thomas.

  • What was the book that most influenced your life — and why?

I couldn’t possibly narrow that down to one!

  • What are your 10 favorite books —and why?

Eep. How about my 100 favorite books? J

  • Favorite films?

That varies. I love animated movies. Pixar embodies the creative spirit I absolutely adore. I like comedies, romantic suspense, old movies, indie movies, big budget action movies… really depends on my mood.

  • Favorite music?

I’m all over the place. I definitely have a soft spot for 80’s music – Oingo Boingo was my first concert! I love Sting for being creative and artistically brave. Sublime, for being inventive…Michael Buble, for that luscious voice…the Gorillaz, especially with DJ Dangermouse producing… the FloBots for being funny and socially conscious without being annoying… Amy Winehouse, for that totally modern yet utterly retro sound… Shakira’s La Tortura, and some other reggaeton by Daddy Yankee… Five for Fighting, for when I’m feeling emotional, or Rob Thomas/Matchbox Twenty… the Swedish Eagle mix of Depeche Mode’s “Drive” and “Route 66”… The Chemical Brothers, the Dust Brothers, some Beck, Cake… oy, I could go for hours.

  • Give us three "Good to Know" facts about you. Be creative. Tell us about your first job, the inspiration for your writing, any fun details that would enliven your page.

My first real job was at an ad agency. I was an assistant, and they kicked my ass. I wound up writing about some of the horror stories in my first Chick Lit novel, L.A. Woman. I didn’t name names, but I did once work 32 hours straight (stayed overnight, kept on working.) Insane! Hmmm… I’m a foodie, and I’m pathologically obsessed with ice cream. Some of my fav’s: Sticky Toffee Pudding ice cream from Haagendaaz, Breyer’s vanilla, Karamel Sutra by Ben & Jerry, and just about anything homemade. I’m experimenting more with homemade flavors. This summer, I’m trying honey flavored ice cream with Macadamia Nut brittle. Yum! Finally, for a third weird/fun thing, I would like to write a comic book or have one of my books turned into a comic book someday. I read some manga, especially when I was writing Turning Japanese, although my all-time favorite comic book series is Sandman by Neil Gaiman. Love me some Death! J

  • What else do you want your readers to know? Consider here your likes and dislikes, your interests and hobbies, your favorite ways to unwind — whatever comes to mind.

I love dark chocolate. (Food. It’s all about food.) I love music, I love dancing. I love watching movies with my 2 year old son. I hate running after my son when he makes a laughing, screaming break for it at the playground. I love finding a new author and reading a book that will keep me up until two in the morning. I love sinking into a cozy favorite, too, especially if I haven’t read it in a while. I find computer social networks fascinating and could easily spend ten hours straight on StumbleUpon if no one else was around.

  • When did you first realize that you were a writer?

I think the better term is “accept”. I didn’t accept that I was a writer until I won a prize in my local RWA chapter’s writing contest, which I only entered to ensure we had enough entries (I was president at the time.) But I’ve been writing stories since I was in kindergarten.

  • Who was the most influential author you have read?

It depends. I think Jennifer Crusie has inspired me in writing romantic comedy, Nora Roberts for sheer dedication to the craft, Stephen King for being atmospheric yet personable in horror… so many others. There isn’t just one.

  • How do you structure your day for writing?

It depends on whether or not I have one of the “Grandma Squad” watching my son. If they are, I write for a few hours straight. If they aren’t, I write after 7:30, when he goes to sleep.

  • Do you prefer pen, typewriter or PC?

PC, hands down. I type about 110 words per minute, a lot faster than I could possibly hand-write, and I love being able to edit onscreen. Also makes backing-up easier and faster.

  • What are your experiences with publishers and agents?

I’ve had a good experience with publishers and agents. I’ve had two agents in my career, both very lovely women who helped me get where I am now. I’ve also worked for Harlequin, NAL, Thomas Dunne/St. Martin’s, and now Avon HarperCollins. I’ve been fortunate to work with some wonderful editors.

  • What will the role of the Internet play in the future of publishing?

I think that the most important role the Internet is playing is the ability to explode word-of-mouth exponentially, thanks to social networking. As e-books like the Kindle become more acceptable, then you’ll also have an iTunes-styled ability to increase distribution and get out of the print publishing business model, but I think that’s still a few years off.

  • What's your next project?

I’m writing a 3-book trilogy for Harlequin Blaze: a miniseries called “The Players’ Club.”

  • Why and how did you get started writing?

I’ve always loved writing. I didn’t get started in a serious sense until I graduated from Berkeley and joined the Romance Writers of America (I thought I was going to be a publicist.)

  • Why did you choose your genre?

When I went to college, romance novels were the one thing that helped calm me down from all the stress. I started writing them because I enjoyed them so much.

  • What do you consider your best work and why?

In a weird way, I still think my very first book, The Cinderella Solution, is my best, because it’s so fresh and funny, and probably the strongest example of my voice. Also, I still enjoy reading it.

  • How do you create your characters? What determines their characteristics and names?

It’s sort of different every time. I like to create a character description and a “chronology” that gives a summary of his/her life from birth to present.

  • Have you ever gotten to a point where a story wouldn't come? If so, how did you get back on track?

That’s been happening a lot more lately. You just have to ride it out, keep showing up to the page, and hope for the best. Having a good critique group or supportive group of friends is important.

  • What do you think is the most important characteristic of a prolific writer?

A business-like attitude. If you look at each book as a work of art, determined by the whims of muses, you’re going to be screwed at some point when the muse decides to take a vacation.

  • Some authors start out with a plot in mind, others with characters whom they’ll follow to reveal the theme. What works best for you and why?

I start with the characters, come up with the story goal and conflict as a result of the characters, then write a plot outline before I go to draft. There are always changes, but that “other view” lets me keep the pacing tight. It works for me.

  • Do you use a pseudonym? More than one? Why?

I’ve always used the same name: Cathy Yardley. It’s my maiden name.

  • How did you research for this novel?

I did a ton of research on voodoo for RAVISH: The Awakening of Sleeping Beauty, because it’s an integral part of the plot. Fascinating stuff, too!

  • Many writers have had success writing in different genres. Do you think it is difficult to switch over to another genre?

I’ve written in three different subgenres so far: romantic comedy, Chick Lit, and erotica. I think that the first two were fairly close so it wasn’t too far a stretch, but the third was like night and day. If I had that much trouble between subgenres, I think that the difference between genres like romance and horror or romance and mainstream could be brutal, especially once you factor in publishing’s desire to keep you in one recognizable category for branding’s sake.

  • Do you belong to a critique group or have a critique partner? Which do you prefer?

I belong to a group, and have had several groups over the years.

  • Would you recommend critique groups to other writers? If so, what elements, in your opinion, make a successful writer’s group?

I recommend crit groups, definitely. The kind of group depends on where you are as a writer. When I first started, my critique group was full of beginners as well, and we were all very gentle with each other because we were so afraid of sharing our work. As I developed a thicker skin, I joined a much rougher critique group, improving my skills and getting used to producing more. Now, I have a group that doesn’t critique a lot of my work, but they do provide a lot of emotional support and brainstorming. A successful writer’s group will be in a similar place in their career, and they’ll generally have similar goals.

  • Can you tell me a little bit about your writing habits such as where you work, how many hours a day you spend writing and researching, how you tap into your creativity to produce a satisfying day’s work, writing rituals, etc?

I could’ve told you that a few years ago, but since my son’s birth every day is different!

  • Have you ever experienced writer’s block and how did you handle it?

After I sold my first book I had block for a year and a half. I was depressed. It took a lot of reading to get out of it, and very supportive friends.

  • What advice would you give writers looking to get published?

Join a professional writers’ group if you can – the RWA is one of the best. And keep your love of writing as long as you can.

  • Do you ever look back and think, "I wish I had written this differently?"

Sometimes, but I try not to anymore. If you do that, you’ll make yourself nuts.

  • What's the hardest aspect of writing?

Keeping perspective. I usually call my best friend about halfway through every single one of my novels, and she always says the same thing: “Don’t worry. All does not suck.”

  • Is writing your full time job or do you have another job also?

I do some freelance editing and content writing, a lot of different weird things.

  • When you are researching a book, what is your most valuable resource?

Google! The internet is a treasure.

  • How do you cope with the inevitable stress of deadlines?

Chocolate, good friends, prayer.

  • How long does it take you to complete a book, from the time the idea for the book is conceived, to when you submit it to your editor?

I think 3 months is my shortest.

  • How many drafts does it take you before the book is just right?

Depends on each book. Thanks to the plot outline, my number of drafts goes down a lot.

  • How important is it to attend writing conferences?

If you’re unpublished, it can be good to meet editors and learn at workshops, but I think you can get a lot of that from your local chapters or online. I get burned out at conferences, so if you don’t make it to one, I think that’s fine.

  • Do you write more than one kind of book? Do you have a preference? Is one type of book easier to write than another?

Erotica is by far the hardest to do well, because the guidelines and expectations are so strict. I love writing romantic comedy, but alas, no one’s buying it right now.

  • What kinds of books do you like to read? Who is your favorite author?

I have too many authors to list one specific favorite.

  • What do you do to unwind in your free time?

I’ll admit I play video games like Diner Dash or Cake Mania or JoJo’s Fashion Show to relax. Very fun!

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Disclaimer (because we don't have a choice): The views expressed by the guest blogger do not necessarily reflect those of The Deadly Vixens.

4 deadly screams:

Molly Daniels said...

Great interview, Cathy:) I love twisted fairy tales:) One question: Who is your publisher and what website can I find your books? (Okay...that was two:)

Gracen Miller said...

Fabulous interview, Cathy! It was a huge honor having you.

Sarah Mäkelä said...

Great interview, Cathy! Thanks for joining us today! =)

Cathy Yardley said...

Thanks, guys! I appreciate the opportunity!

Molly, the books are out from Avon Red, and you can find the books on my website, Thanks, again!