Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Visit with Debut YA Author A.J. Cattapan

By Pamela S. Meyers


1. Tell us a little about yourself and your writing journey.

I’ve lived in the Chicago suburbs almost my whole life except for my four years at Marquette University in Milwaukee and my first year of teaching in the Milwaukee suburbs. Since then, I’ve been teaching middle school reading and language arts in the Chicago area. I’ve wanted to write since the sixth grade when I read Anne of Green Gables, and touch people’s hearts the way L.M. Montgomery had touched mine. While I dabbled in poetry and stories, I didn’t get “serious” about my writing until about ten years ago when I enrolled in a correspondence-style course on writing for children. I first wrote stories and articles for children and was published in several different magazines, including Pockets (a Christian magazine for kids and tweens) and Highlights. Eventually, I moved on to novel writing, but it took many years and several manuscripts before I finally sold my debut novel, Angelhood.

2. Tell us a little about your upcoming release.

Seventeen-year-old theater geek Nanette believes her life is headed toward stardom on Broadway. But when her dream theater college rejects her and her best friend dies in a terrible accident, Nanette decides the world would be better off without her. Unfortunately, the afterlife offers something less than a heavenly situation. Trapped between alternating periods of utter darkness and light, Nanette is stuck following a high school freshman around. Soon, she learns she’s a guardian angel, and the only way she can earn her wings is to keep her young charge, Vera, from committing the same sin she did—taking her own life.

Unfortunately, Nanette is missing more than just her wings. She has no tangible body or voice, either. Frustrated by her inability to reach out to Vera and haunted by memories of her old life, Nanette wants to give up, but then she sees what happens when another Guardian at the high school turns his back on his charge. The shock is enough to supercharge Nanette’s determination. If she’s going to find peace in the afterlife, she’s going to have to discover what living is really all about.

3. How did you come up with the idea for Angelhood?

It’s easier for me to tell when when and where I came up with my idea than how! The day was Saturday, October 29, 2011. I was standing in the shower of all places and thinking about my previous novel manuscripts that had failed to sell, and feeling really down about them. Suddenly, an idea for this guardian angel story came to me. I didn’t think it would sell, but during the next three days, I had the story outlined and character maps made. They were finished just in time for National Novel Writing Month, so I hit the ground running and had the entire rough draft finished by the end of the month.
 
4. What do you contribute to your success in selling this book?

Joining writing groups has been hugely beneficial. I’m a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI), the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and the Mystery Writers of America (MWA). Being a member of SCBWI has helped me learn what works and doesn’t work in the middle grade and young adult markets. ACFW played a huge role in Angelhood because I used their critiquing group (Scribes) to help revise my story. Not only did my critique partners help me polish my manuscript, they also gave me the encouragement to seek publication. I thought they’d be turned away by my dark subject matter, but they helped me see that others might benefit from hearing about God’s mercy and ever-constant presence. Finally, being a MWA member paid off because I learned about my publisher through their email loop. Even though my story’s not a mystery, I may never have heard of this publisher if it wasn’t for MWA!

5. Are you a plotter or a pantzer?

Plotter. However, I don’t write out detailed outlines. I use the Blake Snyder Save the Cat beat sheet, which basically uses the key plot points in a screenplay to help you mark out key events in your story. For example, at a certain point in your story, your main character is going to step into “another world.” At another point, they are going to hit their “dark night of the soul,” when it looks like things can’t possibly get any worse and there’s no hope of it getting better.

6. Does your faith affect your writing? How?

I didn’t start working on my writing career with the thought that I would be a Christian fiction writer. I just wrote stories, and somehow as my writing progressed, my faith just seemed to keep popping up in my stories. I don’t know if I could ever really hide it. Even if I didn’t mention Christ or God in general, I think my faith would end up in it in a symbolic or allegorical sense like C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia.

7. What’s the most risk-taking thing you’ve ever done?

You mean besides trying to get a Christian young adult novel about teen suicide published? Ha! Well, I did just go zip lining during a spring break trip to Guatemala. That was pretty crazy, but I felt the presence of my guardian angel even when my “zip” got stuck 200 feet from the finish and I was dangling hundreds of feet over the jungle canopy. Somehow I knew God would get me down, and He sent a strong tour guide to quickly rescue me. I guess people get stuck kind of often when it gets windy up there in the mountains, but no one had told us that ahead of time!

8. What’s next for you?

I’ve got two works to revise. One is a spiritual memoir, and the other is a middle grade mystery. We’ll see which grabs my attention first, but first, I have to get through this book launch!

9. Where can people find out more about you and your writing?

My website: www.ajcattapan.com






A native of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, author Pamela S. Meyers lives in suburban Chicago with her two rescue cats. Her novels include Thyme for Love, and Love Will Find a Way, contemporary romantic mysteries, and her 1933 historical romance, Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. When she isn’t at her laptop writing her latest novel, she can often be found nosing around Wisconsin and other midwestern spots for new story ideas.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

YAY! COngrats, Amy!!
I loved learning more about you!
And to know you're starting a middle reader?

A.J. Cattapan said...

Thanks! The middle reader is written. I just have to figure out how to revise it. :)