Oct 25, 2011

An Interview with Catherine Gardiene

Cat's first published novel, Mission Statement, was recently released by Loose Id. This is her first author interview, for her first novel…as a virgin, we assured her it would only hurt the first time.
Do you plot or do you write by the seat of your pants?
I try to plot. I honestly do. But I've said it before and I'll say it again: most of the time, I don't actually write. I take dictation. Something creates a spark for me, which evolves into spending an inordinate amount of time developing characters in my head, a plot outline, and an arc. Then I sit down to write and my characters take over. If I try to make them follow a plotline that doesn't work for them, they stop talking to me. I once cut over 100 pages because I tried to make my characters go where they didn't want to go. The story got flat, the dialogue got monotonous, and the whole experience was unpleasant for everyone involved. Now I listen better.

What drew you to the story line of Mission Statement?
I love writing about people making positive change in their lives, especially when they take unconventional routes to get there. Vicki finds herself completely off-track and uses some rather unconventional means to get back to where she belongs. One of the many things I love about her is that she overcomes decades of preconceived notions to get "unstuck" in her life.

What’s your favorite quote?
When I was sixteen, I was a stage manager for a local production of Nuts, the play by Tom Topor. The lead character is an unconventional woman (at best) who finds her power and control in a highly unconventional way: she becomes an extremely high-priced call girl. When she's asked how she can defend her choices, she says "You don't understand the things I do, but I do have my reasons. They're not your reasons, so they're not real to you, but they're real to me, and that's enough." I've navigated by that ever since.

What three things would you want with you on a desert island?
My Kindle. A way to charge my Kindle. And lots and lots of paper and pens. Oh, crap. That's four things, isn't it? Well, can I pretend that my desert island has a tree that grows pencils? Of course, if all those things were there, it wouldn't have to be a desert island. It could be half a mile from civilization and I'd never go looking.

Who is your favorite character in your book?
I hadn't really thought about that, but I think I'd have to say Michael. That's actually a surprise to me because I usually fall in love with a secondary character, but Mission Statement is really a study of Vicki and Michael. His illusion that he's got it all together is fascinating to me; watching it unravel makes him real. Of course, a very minor character has since inhabited my brain, so Jonas is quickly becoming a favorite of mine, but that is -- quite literally -- a story for another day.

Where do you write?
I write at my dining room table. There are sticky notes and scraps everywhere. It's free of household clutter and relatively quiet, so it works for me. I only trip over the power cord every three or four days now, which has impressed pretty much everyone in my family.

What was the hardest scene to write?
The opening scene was the hardest. That's always the hardest one for me. I just want everyone to know everything I know from the first word. The first draft becomes something of a brain dump, and it isn't pretty. If not for the supreme patience and candid feedback of my pre-readers, I'd never make it through the submission process. If not for the talent and patience of my fabulous editor, Maryam Salim, the first three chapters would be…well, probably chapters four, five, and six.

What was your favorite scene to write?
I travel a lot for my day job. I saw a woman, seated alone at a bar reading emails on her phone. There was a man in the corner watching her. That picture evolved in my brain. At the same time, I noticed my thirty-something and forty-something friends and I were spending a lot of time wondering "how did we get here?" - the female version of a mid-life crisis, I guess. That poor woman in the bar suddenly had a mid-life crisis of her own and Mission Statement was born. Since that's how the story came to me, that's how I wanted it to give it to the readers. See the answer to "hardest scene" above to see how that ended.

Who is your greatest cheerleader?
It's hard to narrow it down to one person. I have three friends who really helped me summon the courage to try publishing. My dear friend Meri was my first "beta" reader and editor in all things, and she pushed me to improve in a million ways. The story itself started as a snippet in an email with the subject line "does this suck?"; MJ, if you had said yes, I wouldn't be here. Terri is my prototypical reader and compatriot in day job world, constantly telling me that she'd hang it up and hand me Sharpies at my first book signing if only I'd just go for it. These women changed my life.

What other time period besides your own would you like to experience?
I have an obscene fascination with nineteenth century England. To be truthful, I have an obsession with England in general, but the Regency era is a time period I'd travel to in a heartbeat. Of course, in my fantasy, I'd be arriving as Lady Pennyforth-Smythe, Marchioness of Danbury, Society maven and premier member of the haute ton. With my luck, I'd come back as a serving wench at a dockside pub. Not that that's a bad thing; I do have a strong affinity for ale. I just think the experience would be very different. Perhaps I'll write about it instead, so I can have some control over who I am when I get there. Unless the plot/dictation thing messes me up again, that is.

About Cat:
Cat Gardiene spends her days behind a desk and her nights in front of a laptop, but struggles to understand why she doesn’t have a better tan or a firmer ass. A lover of theatre, books, music, and alpha males, not necessarily in that order, she is a proud resident of New York City, where all four are available within a ten-block radius of any corner she finds herself…well, perhaps not the alpha males. But she can always score an excellent cappuccino.

Her writing career began in elementary school, when she and her friends would write fan-fiction for a series she refuses to disclose, but says rhymes with Blarsky and Dutch. Since then, her male characters have become more handsome and her dialogue more suggestive, but her obsession with cops and Hollywood continues. As she did then, she credits her friends with giving her the courage and the stamina to write, and her readers with providing the greatest gift of all – feedback. Visit her at www.catherinegardiene.com. Write to her at cat@catherinegardiene.com and share your thoughts. She’s practically OCD about responding.

About Mission Statement:
Victoria Simpson’s life is crumbling around her, so why not escape to Aruba for a little soul searching? Armed with a mission statement she hopes will turn her life in a new direction, she never expects to fall for a man like Michael, a man who pushes her buttons as much as he pushes her limits.

Michael Collins had everything under control, especially the women he chose to dominate at Club Marquis. But relationships started and ended at the club door, which was precisely how he wanted it. Drawn by Vicki’s vulnerability, he can’t stay away. Her body responds passionately, but she keeps her heart and mind closed to him. Can she embrace the submissive he senses inside her, or will his need to control her drive them apart?

Mission Statement is available from Loose Id at http://is.gd/MissionStatement

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