Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Catherine West {Writer Wednesday}

A little bit about Catherine...

Award-winning author Catherine West writes stories of hope and healing from her island home in Bermuda. When she’s not at the computer working on her next story, you can find her taking her Border Collie for long walks or reading books by her favorite authors. She and her husband have two grown children. Catherine’s novel, Bridge of Faith, won the 2015 Grace Award. Her new novel, The Things We Knew, releases July 12th, 2016, through Harper Collins Christian Publishing. Catherine loves to connect with her readers and can be reached at

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Get to know Catherine...

You and Writing

Lets talk about you and writing...

I’ve been writing for many years now. I started way back when my daughter was a baby. It was a few years after that, when both my kids were in school, that I began to pursue publication. At first I wasn’t sure I really wanted to get published, but the I shared my work, the more encouragement I received, and the dream was born. It hasn’t been an easy road at all, but there have been so many blessing along the way. I have the best agent, and she has been a great supporter of me from day one, and last year when we finally landed a 2 book deal with my dream publisher, Harper Collins, I think she was almost more excited than I was!

Your Writing

Let's talk about your book...

Do you have a favorite character in this work? If so, why? 
I love all of the characters in The Things We Knew, but if I had to pick, I’d say Gray and Cecily are my two favorite characters. Cecily, because she’s so filled with hope and wisdom, she just makes you feel better. And she’s a great baker and cook. :-) And Gray. Oh, man is he a messed up soul in need of a come to Jesus moment. :-) But there’s something about him I identify with in a way. I know what it’s like to feel you don’t have much hope to hold onto, and I also know what it means to have friends and family come alongside and see you through those hard times.
What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with? 
As in most of my stories, hope and grace are very prevalent in The Things We Knew. Although all the characters in the book have their own struggles, there is always hope that things will get better. The story is really about seeking truth, and I think most of us can identify with this. Secrets and lies are dangerous, it really is the truth that sets us free.

Were your characters easy to pin down or did you discover them along the way as you wrote the book?
My characters always seem to take on a life of their own. This was true for all of them in The Things We Knew. Lynette grew the most, I kept having to write her differently in every edit, because she was growing stronger and I needed to make sure her personal growth was obvious. Each of the siblings have their own story, their own history. While we don’t get to see all of their stories in this book, I was always thinking about them, and hope perhaps one day I will get to share those with my readers as well.

What made you choose the setting for the book?
Because I live on an island myself, I felt the setting of Nantucket would be somewhat familiar. The story could really take place anywhere, I suppose, but as it turns out, the setting became a character too, playing a huge part in the mood of certain scenes, stormy weather especially. :-)


Let’s talk about your writing life...

How long did you write before you got published?
Years. LOL. Literally, it was years. I was almost at the point of thinking it wasn’t going to happen, and then I got my first contract for Yesterday’s Tomorrow back in 2011.

What’s your encouragement for younger writers aside from “keep writing”?
The biggest thing for me is learning to have faith in yourself. And for some people, this can be really hard. Especially if you’re facing rejection and you just don’t know why. But if you believe you’ve been gifted, you somehow find the strength to persevere and the faith to know that one day, it will happen.

Are you a Panster or Plotter?
Panstser all the way! I like to plot inasmuch as having a rough idea of where I am going with the story, occupations, ages of characters and good character sketches before I begin a story, but that’s about as far as I get, because the story always takes on a life of it’s own somehow. :-)

What is your favorite and least favorite part of the writing process?
I love starting a story. That’s the most exciting part, when ideas are fresh and new and you just can’t wait to get it all written down. And then comes the middle . . . that’s not so fun. LOL! But once I can push through that part, the rest seems to flow naturally. Editing is my least favorite part, especially when you’re looking at cutting a lot of words. But I know it’s a necessary evil, so I suck it up and just get on with it.

What did you learn along the path to publishing that you’d care to share as encouragement? Patience!! Actually, I am not convinced I’ve learned that lesson yet. :-) But honestly, it’s very rare for an author to ‘make-it’ overnight. Often it takes several tries to land an agent, and even then, you don’t always get a contract right away. I think most new writers need to accept this going in, and understand that if they want to be traditionally published, they may be in for a wait. I’ve also learned how very important friendships with other authors are. You really need to be in community with people who truly understand this journey, and will walk it with you. That kind of support and encouragement is invaluable. And learning to write well is a process. I don’t believe even the best writers will ever get to the point where they feel they ‘know it all’. I’m constantly learning and trying to improve my work. The goal of course is to get better with each book, but most of all, have fun with it. :-)

How do you grow in your writing craft?
I maintain relationship with other authors, talk writing and craft and learn from those who’ve been at this a lot longer than me. Going to writers conferences is very important to me. I attend ACFW every year that I can. The teaching and fellowship found there is invaluable. I probably wouldn’t be published if I hadn’t found this wonderful organization!

How do you balance your writing life with “real” life? Any tips or tricks to share?
Ha. I think I’m still figuring this out!! Since being contracted, I really have to keep to a schedule, so I try to write as much as I can during the day, taking breaks to play with and walk my dog. I try to work out early, then go into my ‘office’ to work, rather than just lounging on the couch with my laptop. And when I’m on deadline, I turn off social media, and check in as a reward for however many hours I’ve worked. That’s probably my biggest challenge though, staying offline!

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How did you like to celebrate the 4th of July?
Bermuda is a British colony, so we don’t celebrate the 4th of July. :-)

What is your favorite activity during the summer?
Probably swimming. Mid-July through the end of September, it’s very hot and humid here, so the only way to really be outside is to be in the water.

Share a personal freedom you’ve experienced.
Last year was quite a challenging one for me. I’d received what we thought was really positive news regarding my writing back in the fall of 2014. By January 2015, we knew that wasn’t going to happen. And it hit me hard. I wasn’t exactly sure how it would all play out or where I was going with my writing. I’d been slogging away with my Indie books, but I knew that wasn’t where I really wanted to be. My dream had always been to write for a major publishing house. After a few really hard months, I finally surrendered everything, and I mean everything, to God. I told Him, “I don’t know what your plan is in all this, but I trust You with it.” I started to heal at that point, and life began to feel a little saner. It was literally about a month later that my agent contacted me to let me know I’d been offered a 2 book deal with Harper Collins. I think I stared at those words for a long time before I realized what had happened. As soon as I let go, I gave God room to move. It was an amazing lesson. One I should know, but obviously I needed that reminder. :-) The freedom in fully trusting God is really astounding, isn’t it?

What are you currently reading?
I just finished The Ringmaster’s Wife by Kristy Cambron, which was excellent, and I’m now reading The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah. I don’t have nearly as much time to read as I wish I had!!

Emilie here: Thank you for being my guest Cathy! I've enjoyed The Things We Knew so far - sadly I've been swamped with moving but I'll finish it soon!

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