Meet Cat Winters.
Social media links:
Hi Cat! Thanks for joining us today. Tell us a little about yourself.
Thank you so much for hosting me! I’m the author of five novels for teens: In the Shadow of Blackbirds, The Cure for Dreaming, The Steep and Thorny Way, Odd & True, and a new novel about Edgar Allan Poe’s teenage years, The Raven’s Tale, which debuted this past April. I’m also the author of two novels for adults, The Uninvited and Yesternight, and I contributed to the young adult horror anthology Slasher Girls & Monster Boys. My work is heavily influenced by classic Gothic literature and strange, dark, and haunting history. I’m known for blending historical fiction with the supernatural.
What first attracted you to dark fiction? Is there a certain element that you enjoy more so than others?
In the second grade, when I was browsing the shelves of my elementary school’s library, I found a book about real-life houses that were purported to be haunted. The horrific accounts of hauntings and creepy photographs in those pages both terrified and fascinated me. Shortly afterward, I started believing that my own bedroom was haunted, and I became drawn to all sorts of stories about ghosts, including novels and short story collections I discovered through my school’s Scholastic book orders. Eventually, I started writing my own eerie stories and poems.
I’m not entirely sure why, but I love the rush of terror that accompanies a good, atmospheric ghost tale, even though I’m terribly afraid of being alone in the dark and would never sleep in a room reputed to be haunted. Psychological horror and suspenseful tales of haunted people and places are my preference for dark fiction. I’m not always a fan of gory horror, unless it’s done cleverly, like in Poe’s short stories.
Did any of your books (whether it was a certain character or plot point) surprise you after you had turned in your last round of edits prior to publishing?
Odd & True probably surprised me the most. It originally started as an adult novel that was very much historical fiction without any fantasy elements involved, beyond a main character’s belief in monster legends. Then it seemed to want to be a supernatural YA novel about monster-hunting sisters that also paid tribute to the power of storytelling. By the time I turned in the last edits, the novel had turned into a book about the pain of letting go of childhood magic and innocence, which I hadn’t initially realized would be a major element of the characters’ journeys. It’s actually one of my darkest and most personal works of fiction.
YA vs. Adult fiction. To you, how are they similar and different? Do you enjoy writing for one age group more than the other?
To me, the main difference between writing YA and writing adult fiction is the fact that protagonists in YA novels typically range in age from 15 to 18 years old, and protagonists in adult novels are usually older than 18. There are some books that blur the lines between YA and adult fiction, but truly the ages of the main characters are the key distinction. If the author is writing from the point of view of a character who currently is or recently was a teenager, then the book likely gets shelved as YA.
I don’t water anything down for my books for teens, and I certainly don’t hold back on exploring darker subjects. I honestly don’t prefer writing for one age group over the other. The stories themselves determine whether the novel should be YA or adult fiction, and I set out to write the strongest book that I can, no matter the target audience.
What was your first author event (be it a convention, signing, or school visit) like?
My first event as a debut author was the 2013 American Library Association Midwinter Meeting in Seattle, WA. While there, I quickly discovered the wonderful, infectious enthusiasm librarians bestow upon authors. My publisher, Abrams, invited me to sign free galleys for my debut novel, In the Shadow of Blackbirds, and when I showed up at the Abrams booth, I was stunned to find a long line of excited librarians waiting to meet me. They made me feel like a rock star! I’m extremely grateful for the support of librarians, teachers, bloggers, booksellers, and anyone else who spreads their passion for reading to others.
Do you have a favorite place to write?
Once a week I meet up with local author friends to write in an indie coffeehouse. It’s one of my favorite parts of the week.
Do you have a writing schedule or just find yourself writing when inspiration strikes?
During my entire career as a published writer, I’ve been the parent of two kids, so writing has always been very much been based around their school schedules. When they’re in school, I write as much as possible. When they’re home, finding the time to fully immerse myself in my fictional worlds gets more challenging. Thankfully, I have a home office with a door I can close and a helpful husband who likes to cook. To help pay the bills, I take on freelance work and teach workshops, so even when the kids are away, I can’t always write whenever inspiration strikes. Like most writers, I’ve had to develop the skill and the discipline to sit down and write productively when time permits, and when I’m working to meet deadlines, I’m often writing deep into the night.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers today?
I’d like to invite readers to visit my website, http://www.catwinters.com. I’ve posted special links and bonus material for all my books over there, and schools and libraries can find information about my author visits and downloadable teaching guides.