Monday, December 20, 2010

Interview With Cathy West - ACFW Beyond the Borders Zone Director

     Hi Cathy and Welcome to AuthorCulture. Tell us a little about yourself and how you fell in love with writing.

Thanks, Lynnette, thanks for having me! Well, let’s see – I was born and raised on the beautiful island of Bermuda, went to school here as well as in England for a couple of years and finally Canada, where I graduation from The University of Toronto with a BA in English. My husband, a pediatrician, is Canadian so we lived there for a few years, but moved back to Bermuda once our two children were born. Canada is way too cold for me! It’s a wonderful place to raise kids and is much like living in a small community. Our children are now college-aged, so life is looking a lot different for me now.

I’ve always loved to write. I can’t really remember a defining moment where I decided I was going to be a writer. I think I just knew I was one. I wrote my first romance ‘novel’ when I was in tenth grade. It read kind of like a soap opera, but my friends loved it! Thankfully I’ve improved since then!

     You are an ACFW zone leader. What is ACFW?

ACFW stands for American Christian Fiction Writers. I can’t say enough about this amazing group of people. About ten years ago I decided I would focus on writing for the Inspirational market. I’d joined Romance Writers of America, and their Faith Hope and Love Chapter, but I’d never heard of ACFW. I stumbled across them one day online, and realized I’d found a home.

Being on a small island can sometimes be isolating – I wasn’t a part of a writer’s group here or anything – I really didn’t know what I was doing at all. ACFW provided me with the necessary tools and education I needed to move ahead with my writing, as well as giving me some amazing mentors and critique partners, friends for life! ACFW holds a conference once a year as well, which is a great time of teaching and fellowship. For anyone interested, you can learn more about ACFW at http://www.acfw.com

     How did you become the Beyond the Borders zone leader?

I blame Ane Mulligan. J Well, actually, it’s my fault. The organization is set up into Zones, so when you join, you’ll be filtered into the Zone closest to where you live. Some Zones have a lot of members and actually meet in person. Others function through online communication. Not living in the United States, I couldn’t be put into a Zone. I knew that there were many members like me, who lived in other parts of the world, so I suggested we create a Zone for overseas members, thus Beyond the Borders was born, and I was asked to be the Zone leader. You know they say be careful what you pray for…no, seriously, it’s been wonderful to see this group grow. We’re currently going strong with over sixty members living all around the world!

      Has being a leader of that zone taught you anything about writing? If so, what?

Not specifically about writing, but more about the beauty of being connected through what we do. It doesn’t matter where we live, we’re all after the same goal – to bring glory to God through the gifts He’s given us, which in our case, would be our writing.

     I see that you are represented by agent Rachelle Gardner. I always love to hear stories of how authors got connected with their agent or publisher. Tell us, what brought you together with Ms. Gardner?

Actually, blogging! Back in 2006, I started reading Rachelle’s blog. At that time it was mostly a personal blog. We had a lot in common, and we struck up an online friendship. She was working as a freelance editor for various publishing houses and also had her own editing company. We didn’t really talk writing until I got an idea for a new story, about a female journalist who goes to Vietnam to report on the war. I asked Rachelle’s opinion and she gave me some great feedback. Once that story was completed, she asked if I would send it to her. I had no idea why she wanted to see it, but shortly afterward she told me she was about to launch a new career, as a literary agent with Wordserve Literary Agency. And a few months later, she offered representation.

      Have your goals and writing changed since signing with an agent? Are you more focused? Dedicated?

Goodness, I’d love to say yes, but…! I’m a very disorganized person. However, once I’m working on a story, and it’s going well, there’s no stopping me. My goal was always to become a published author, so that hasn’t changed. And I don’t want to be a one-hit wonder either! J

 I’ve always been open to criticism, and I’m willing to do whatever I can to improve my writing. Having an agent has helped give me the confidence in myself that I think I lacked prior to having Rachelle in my corner. We’ve been able to define who I am as an author, which genre I should focus on and that sort of thing. It’s great to have someone to work all that out with. Rachelle has also been great about giving generous amounts of time to the editing process. Because of her editorial background, I’ve learned so much from her already. I realize not all agents do this, so I feel very fortunate in that regard.

      Recently you sold a book to OakTara Publishing. Can you tell us a little about it?

Yes! I’m still so excited, can you tell?!

It’s called Yesterday’s Tomorrow, an Inspirational Contemporary Romance. It also happens to be the book I’d sought Rachelle’s advice on, five years ago! Although the premise of the story remains the same, it has undergone several rewrites, been shelved for a while, and finally brought out again, and on the last round of submissions, found a home with Oak Tara. The projected release date is March 2011. Here’s a brief synopsis:

It’s 1967 and Kristin Taylor wants to go to Vietnam to report on the war, and honor her father’s memory by becoming an award-winning journalist like he was. But no editor will send her. So she strikes out on her own and steps into a world more terrifying than she’d imagined.

As she encounters the horrors of war, Kristin struggles to report the truth while trying to find her only brother, who enlisted some months before, but both tasks seem impossible.

When she meets photographer Luke Maddox, Kristin knows she’s found a story. The mystery beneath his brooding eyes triggers her curiosity. She’s convinced he’s hiding something and determines to discover his secrets. The only trouble is, he won’t let her within three feet of him.

In an unexpected twist, Kristin and Luke are forced to work together. With war raging all around them, they engage in their own tumultuous battle of emotions. Headstrong and willing to risk it all for what they believe in, they’ll do whatever it takes to fulfill their own private agendas. Kristin is after a story that might get her the Pulitzer. Luke wants retribution from the enemy that took away his family. In the face of death, Kristin and Luke must decide if they’re willing to set aside selfish ambition for the love that seems to have ambushed them and captured their hearts.

     What are your future projects?

I have another completed women’s fiction manuscript called Hidden in the Heart, about a young woman, Claire, who makes the decision to go in search of her birth mother. The story is loosely based on my own search and reunion journey.

I’m also working on two other novels at the moment, as I can’t seem to decide which one to move ahead with first, so at the moment it’s sort of whichever mood strikes me! I love family-sagas, so a lot of my stories have pretty interesting characters in them, and a good dose of romance as well.

     Pretend you could go back in time 10-15 years. What advice would you go back and give yourself about writing?

Ah, yes, the ‘if I knew then what I knew now’ question! I’d tell myself to chill out. Stop taking everything so seriously. Back in those days, every rejection was devastating. I really thought I was the next Danielle Steel and I couldn’t understand why editors didn’t agree! J I’d say take a step back, join a critique group. Get some honest feedback on your writing and listen to advice from authors who know what they’re doing.

Thanks for being here today, Cathy. Any final thoughts?

Thanks for having me! I guess I’d just like to encourage all those wonderful writers out there who are journeying along the path to publication. It was only a few months ago when I thought it would never happen to me. It’s really easy to get discouraged and want to give up. Don’t. If you truly feel called to be a writer, and you want to be published, keep at it. Learn all you can, go to conferences, get your work out there, and take every opportunity to improve your craft. When the timing is right, that door will open! 
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9 comments:

  1. Great interview, Lynnette and Cathy.

    Cathy, it's cool hearing how Rachelle helped you when you were planning your story and handpicked you as one of her first clients when she became an agent. And look where you are now! =)

    I think your advice to "chill out" is on target. I remember my newbie enthusiasm. I had much more desire than knowledge in those days. Thankfully, I learn quickly. I stopped submitting after the first handful of rejections and took time to study craft.

    I'd like to know if your Canadian husband moved to Bermuda primarily because you wanted to go back or if he's grown to love it as much as you do.

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  2. Actually, Keli, Stephen's Dad was a pastor in Canada and he took a church here in Bermuda when Stephen was 12, so he did high school here, and it was already 'home' for him when we started dating, so it was kind of a no-brainer for us to move back here, even though his parents now live in Canada.

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  3. Cathy, one of these years my hubby and I are going to have to do a world tour. We now have friends all over the place. I grew up in Africa so I have many friends who are still there, we have lots of missionary friends all over the world, a good friend in Australia, one in Belize... are you willing to have us add you to our list of stops? :D

    I'm so excited for your breakthrough! I just love to hear of authors breaking in!

    If you plan to do a blog tour, give us a holler!

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  4. Thanks for stopping by today, Cathy! Congrats on your new book. I appreciate your advice for authors to "chill out." It's far too easy to let the negatives (or perceived negatives) of the writing life cause us undue anxiety. Sometimes we just need to step back and remember why we're *really* doing this.

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  5. Thanks Cathy. I always enjoy learning more about you. Thrilled that your wonderful book is getting published. You and I have so much in common---adoption being one of them. I can't wait for your Vietnam story to come out.

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  6. Thanks for the inside peek at working with an agent, Cathy and Lynnette. Congratulations on your contract with Oak Tara!

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  7. Lynnette - YES! You better come to Bermuda!!
    K.M. - thanks, it's so much fun visiting different blogs - that's been a real positive about getting contracted, I've worked a lot harder to get my own blog going and making new contacts with other bloggers, potential readers! I am loving it!
    Christine - thanks! Glad you are looking forward to it - tell all your friends, hee hee!!
    Janalyn - thank you!

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