Catherine Stuart lives in Nebraska and has been a practicing counselor for the past fourteen years. She enjoys reading, writing, travel, and spending time with her family, friends, two shelties, and most of all her six beautiful grandchildren.
How to Connect with Catherine...
Find the book on Goodreads: Potluck: A Sleepy Haven Mystery
Purchase: Potluck: A Sleepy Haven Mystery
Get to know Catherine Stuart
You and Writing
Tell us a little bit about yourself and writing...
I always enjoyed hearing stories when I was growing up and loved it when my parents read to us. I was “that girl” in elementary school who thought of her favorite books as “friends.” Over the years I wrote in secret diaries, and then graduated to journals. For many years, as I would think of story ideas I’d write them in notebooks. I don’t mean the digital ones of course, rather the good old cheap, spiral bound notebooks of various colors to capture these ideas. Potluck actually started in one of these notebooks, as I handwrote much of the story. I realize in this day and age that’s hard for many people to believe or understand. I’m not sure I understand this habit myself, except somehow I find comfort in writing the words out. At some point I do become thankful for the computer! I write because I really enjoy it and it’s one of the very few ways I can experience the same type of passion I did as a child. I relate this to the way gymnastics or dance made me feel. I’m long past those years!
Emilie here: I was "that girl" too! And you really can't replace the feeling of writing...though typing is so much easier *sigh*. I love that you're still as passionate about writing now as you were when you were a child!
Tell us a little bit about your book...
“Potluck” was born out of my interest in the idea that while some sins are obvious, others take place in the interior of the heart. I looked at scriptures connected to this and thought about how these deadly sins can easily sneak into a Christian heart.
My grandfather was a minister and I got to hear stories about the church and core group of church ladies. It was fun to create a fictitious group of church women. The ladies in “Potluck” are well-meaning and are growing, yet in every family there are conflicts and squabbles. The little foxes of sins in the heart can go into the henhouse of the church unnoticed and wreak havoc. The title and story involve a potluck supper and a death/possible murder. I wanted to explore the dynamics of the women as they suspect each other. One of the main characters is not a Christian, however is observing what she experiences when she helps her aunt with church events in order to solve the mystery. Her aunt is concerned about the church splitting over the possible murder, so together they attempt to find the truth. I had fun with the title, as most people have been to potluck suppers, so can probably picture the event. The deeper meaning is how luck may not have much of a role in life, although it may get more credit than it deserves. I hope that people can enjoy this on different levels of entertainment as well as relating and finding food for thought.
Do you have a favorite character in the book?
I love all the characters for various reasons, however if I had to choose one of my favorite characters I would pick Aunt Annie, since for me she is true to her values, while being kind of like a comfort food character. I’m also very attached to Renee, as she is on a journey of her own to find contentment and purpose in life.
What is one take away from your book that you hope readers identify with?
I hope that readers will identify with how important and key grace is for everyone, including themselves. If I could name one more, I also hope readers enjoy attempting to solve the mystery!
What was a challenge you faced while writing it?
I learned a lot about technology, while writing it. I found out that my editing skills need sharpened, and that I had to push through parts of the publishing process.
Emilie here: The story sounds like a lot of fun. Can't wait to read it! And I love that the focus (among other things) is grace. Isn't that so necessary in all of our lives?
Let’s talk about your writing life...
How long did you write before you got published?
I started the story a few years ago, and got to know some of the characters. It became apparent that the season to write it completely was not at that time. Amazingly, I was able to find that notebook and get going again over a year ago. It took me from October 2014 to October 2015 to complete it start to finish including getting published. I chose to go through a self-publishing company that is part of Thomas Nelson Publishing. I went back and forth about going the traditional route, however decided to self-publish and never sent off the manuscript. I had a lot to learn, but when something is a passion you find a way to push through it.
What’s your encouragement for younger writers aside from “keep writing”?
I want to offer encouragement to writers who experience the passion of writing, however find the timing is off. It may be necessary to put it on the shelf for a while. When I was able to resume with writing more seriously I was thankful I’d kept what I’d written. It was like returning to old friends, and I enjoyed the process of getting them on their journey.
What is your favorite and least favorite part of the writing process?
My most favorite part of the writing process is the creative expression. I compared it earlier to dance or gymnastics, where you feel connected to it, as if it’s a part of you. My least favorite part of the writing process is editing. I learned how much I don’t know about the mechanical details, which are vital to a good story. I also firmly believe for myself, that editing is not my strength, and it is a whole professional category of its own. In traditional publishing that is taken care of, however an indie writer must find a way to forge through this. I believe it’s crucial that you get a professional if this is not your strength. Even then there will be a few unseen mistakes that slip through. Hopefully your readers will let you know if they see something, however your family probably will tell you. My family has been an amazing support!
Where do you find inspiration for your story/characters?
I find inspiration for my characters in everyday life, as well as in memories or even family stories. An example of a family story is one that my grandmother told. The wonderful core group of women were a very important part of the church family, however there’s no perfect family. A story came to mind that she’d shared with me and it seemed to be a perfect fit for my minister and his wife. My grandmother was told of a young woman in the church who had become pregnant out of wedlock. This was in the 1940’s when people were ostracized many times in those situations. My grandmother found the attitude of the ladies group was to judge and gossip about the girl. My wise grandmother decided to ask the ladies if they would give the girl a baby shower. It still moves me to think about how she saw this as an opportunity to reach out to the young woman, as well as the ladies. The ladies’ attitude was transformed and they gave her a wonderful baby-shower in love. My grandmother came up with this idea after praying and asking the Lord for direction. The women grew close to this young woman and her baby as a result. I love my Sleepy Haven church ladies, yet none of them get to be perfect either! Also, I pray before writing, as my faith is an integral part of my life including my writing.
Emilie here: Great advice, Catherine. I think sometimes we're afraid to put something aside until a later time - maybe it's that we need to be working on (or focusing on) something different. I'm with you on the editing though - I somehow have this idea that I wrote it how I wanted it and that's that. But sadly no...that's only the beginning!
What’s one thing you are looking forward to in the New Year?
I look forward to reading!
What are your writing goals for this New Year?
I am planning to complete the next novel in the Sleepy Haven series.
What are you currently reading?
I just finished reading “Lie Down in Green Pastures,” by Debbie Viguie, which was a really fun mystery! I am currently reading “Seven Women,” by Eric Metaxas, which is so interesting and inspiring, and “Give Yourself a Break,” which is wonderful advice, by Kim Fredrickson and look forward to reading “Abednego,” by Jennifer Zartman.
Emilie here: Thanks again, Catherine! Loved the chance to get to know you better!
Congrats Katie! I'll be in touch :)