Monday, March 8, 2010

Authors Advising Authors #14 - Cat Marsters

Cat Marsters lives in a fairytale cottage with a Prince Charming husband who helpfully brings her delicious treats while she writes, and is more than happy to inspire a steamy love scene at a moment's notice. In fact, he walks around half-naked for this very purpose. And then she wakes up. In actual fact, Cat lives in a village in southeast England which, while not quite a fairytale setting, is nonetheless very pretty and was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. Cat doesn’t have children but she is the adoring keeper of a small pride of cats, and slavemaster to one Demon Puppy.

Cat has been writing all her life, but in order to keep herself rich in shoes and chocolate, she’s also worked as an airline check-in agent, video rental clerk, stationery shop assistant, and laboratory technician. She’s still aiming for the fairytale cottage and asks all potential Prince Charmings to apply in writing with pictures of themselves and their Aston Martins.




How many books did you write, and how long were you writing, before your first acceptance?

I could count them on my toes. If I had ten feet. I number my files because they don’t always have a title, or it changes (Mad, Bad & Dangerous had eleventy-billion title changes), and I think I was up to fifty-something before I sold my first story. That was when I was twenty-three, so I suppose I’d been writing for seven years since I started when I was sixteen, although I didn’t start seriously submitting until maybe four or five years later.

What was the most surprising thing you learned after becoming published?

That you write your book and it has your name on it, but so much of its success is in other people’s hands. Cover art, how it’s marketed, where it’s sold, reviews and word-of-mouth—you can’t control it yourself.

Got any advice or an enlightening story about dealing with revisions or working with editors?

Well, with MB&D I’ve done so many revisions it’s hard to know what to advise! I’ve made charts and bullet points and scribbled notes all over the place. I did this even before I submitted the book, since I knew something wasn’t right. What I needed was an objective viewpoint—my editor’s—to tell me what wasn’t working. It’s like being in a big maze. You need someone on the outside to tell you how to get out! As for working with editors, I’ve had four (with three houses) and it seems to me like any other partnership: Sometimes you just rub along, and sometimes you bring out the best in each other.

What’s your favorite promo tip?

Be genuine. If you really dislike social networking, don’t do it. People can tell (it’s like when you read a sex scene that’s been added because “sex sells”, not because it fit the story or characters or because the writer likes writing sex). Nobody likes the hard sell. If you blog or tweet or network online, don’t just make it all about your books. Connect with people. Make friends. Friends buy books.

Did you have an agent when you sold your first story? Do you have one now?

Nope, I didn’t, and I still don’t. Not for want of trying, though.

Do you feel there’s a stigma attached to writing erotica/Romantica™?

Not especially. I certainly don’t hide the fact, although depending on the company I do sometimes just say I write romance and then judge from the reaction whether it’s worth explaining the rest. Sometimes the “nudge-nudge-wink-winking” is just too much! Some people look down on it, just like some people look down on romance as a genre. That’s their problem, not mine.

How do you handle writer’s block, or do you believe there’s no such thing?

I can’t say I’ve ever experienced a total block, but there are times when I don’t know what to do with a story or it just isn’t gelling. So I do something else, either writing-related like promo or website maintenance, or something entirely different. Doing manual things like housework frees my brain up sometimes, and so does dog walking. I live near some woods and open fields so I can walk about talking to myself and relatively few people see me and think I’m crazy. The Demon Puppy probably does, but then she’s the devil incarnate so I don’t worry too much about her opinion of me.

What lengths have you gone to in the name of research? What wouldn’t you do?

Sometimes I think if MI5 went through my browsing history they’d probably think I was a terrorist. Or a pervert. Whenever people nudge and wink and ask me if I research all my sex scenes personally, I tell them yes. Every one. Even the ones with the vampires. The sex is great but the bloodstains are hell on the sheets. And werewolves? Very exciting, although they do tend to rip your lingerie to shreds. Either that, or I tell them I watch a lot of porn.

What’s the most importance piece of advice you have for aspiring (not yet published) authors?

Keep going. You’re pre-published, not un-published. If you really want to do it, then keep on going. After all, if you quit you’ll never get there!

Would you offer any word of warning for aspiring or new authors about the writing profession or the publishing industry?

Yes. Write because you love it, not for the money (although some money is nice). Don’t imagine glory and riches. There are thousands of brilliant authors out there but I bet you’ve never heard of 95% of them. If you’re after fame and money, try Simon Cowell.

Anything you want to share with readers about yourself, or previous, current or upcoming EC releases?

I’m a screaming ball of crazy. My books reflect this. Mad, Bad & Dangerous is about a snarky shapeshifter and a feckless mage who can’t actually do magic. It’s the sequel to Almost Human, which was about an angry lion and a high-class prostitute. My favorite character to write is undoubtedly Striker—the father of Almost Human’s heroine—who is a total psychopath. He’s in MB&D too, mostly because I just really like him. I’m considering a third book, one with a retired courtesan and an amnesiac assassin. That could be fun.


Unknown said...

Wonderful answers and I adored Almost Human. I can't wait to read Mad, Bad & Dangerous.

Unknown said...

Almost Human was so much fun. I'd love a Striker story.

Thanks for the advice and encouragement. ;)

Kate Johnson said...

Glad you liked it, guys!

One day, I'll haul Striker's story out of the Bad Manuscript cupboard and try to turn it into a Good Manuscript. Unfortunately it, like Striker, is endearing but terrible.

Anonymous said...

Cool! Lots of good stuff there.

Does anyone know if Cerridwen Press is open to submissions yet?

Stacia Kelly said...

Almost Human is what drew me to your writing, a true romance WITH the erotic part, all wonderfully woven together. And, I was glad to see it carried thru with Kett's story.

I would LOVE to see Striker's you make a psycopath loveable. I'm having that issue with Samuel.

Great advice and encouragement, but then, I expect nothing less from you :D

Kate Johnson said...

You know, I think Striker gets more fanmail than I do! Clearly there really IS something irresistible about a bad boy.

I think, if I can quote James Marsters on Spike, "He's a monster, but if he likes you he'll be your monster, and he'll do anything for you."

Maybe that's the allure?

Barbara Elsborg said...

I'm absolutely with your on the MI5 comment. I once researched how far a body would decompose left under a boathouse and my other half expected a knock on the door at any moment.
You sound fun, Cat - but then we Brits are!!

barbara elsborg

Kate Johnson said...

At least I'm not the only one! I once tried to find out how long it would take a person to freeze to death. Never got a definitive answer...

Stacia Kelly said...

Shouldn't you be able to call the morgue and ask? You'd think they would know. Or a medical examiner.

(We watch way too much crime TV here.)

Kate Johnson said...

I'm not sure it ever occurred to me to call the morgue. Come to think of it, I wouldn't know how to (do they publish the phone number? Can I look it up in the yellow pages? Drop by and ask in person? Where the hell is the nearest morgue, anyway?).

And I can just imagine the conversation. "Hello, morgue? I was just wondering if you could tell me how long it takes a person to freeze to death. No, just a query. I'm not a murderer. I'm a novelist. Why are there sirens outside? Hello?"

Stacia Kelly said...

*laughs* Well, it would make for a good story. I'm not sure where the morgue is...theoretically, shouldn't we know that kind of thing? I would think a local police station would be able to tell you.

And do warn them you're a novelist, that ought to be a GREAT discussion ;)

Stacia Kelly said...

*laughs* Well, it would make for a good story. I'm not sure where the morgue is...theoretically, shouldn't we know that kind of thing? I would think a local police station would be able to tell you.

And do warn them you're a novelist, that ought to be a GREAT discussion ;)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the wonderful advice and encouragment-*wiping brow and sitting in chair fingers on keyboard*--sometimes it is hard to keep on; keeping on. Thanks. FYI: A morgue is any room in any building that holds corpses until identification, autopsy, or funeral arrangements are made. Morgues are often in hospital basements, municipal buildings for medical examiners or coroner; mortuary/funeral homes, and even tents or gymnasiums when natural disasters strike; and sadly, at war zones. So the term "morgue" may bring to mind stainless steel rooms and refridgeration units like we see on T.V.; but the term "morgue" is actually more like an "exit" sign--it means "dead bodies temporarily stored here in this room (structure) or building."