Saturday, February 23, 2013

Author: Catherine Astolfo Interview

I'm pleased to welcome Catherine Astolfo to Books à la Mode today. Hello, Catherine! Will you please share a brief bio with us?

Catherine Astolfo retired from education to pursue her true passion: writing. She self-published a novel series, The Emily Taylor Mysteries, through her own publishing company, which was then picked up by Imajin Books in 2011. The series revolves around an unusual heroine—the principal of an elementary school. In her late forties, Emily Taylor becomes a reluctant sleuth through a variety of external events. Some of her decisions, however, are based on a fear of discovery, for she has a mysterious past that involves her husband. Readers do not find out the details of this past life until Book 4.

In 2005, Catherine was awarded a Brampton Arts Award for the first novel in the series, The Bridgeman. Recently, she won a four-book contract from Imajin Books for the e-versions of the series.

Catherine was the 2010-11 President of Crime Writers of Canada and is a member of Sisters in Crime Toronto. She is the co-owner of an eZine for writers and readers, Scribes Digest, and of SisBro & Co. Inc., a film production company.

What is The Bridgeman about?

Series: Emily Taylor Mysteries #1
Page Count: 162
Release Date: 9 April 2012
Publisher: Imajin Books
Genre: Mystery

Some secrets can come back to haunt you...

Principal Emily Taylor feels safe in the friendly little town of Burchill—until she finds a body in her school. The murder of caretaker Nathaniel Ryeburn brings back memories she'd rather forget and plunges Emily into a mystery that involves a secret diary, an illegal puppy mill and a murderer innocently disguised as an ordinary citizen.

As fear rips through the traumatized town, Emily's investigation inadvertently leads the police to her door, and to her husband Langford, who is hiding a secret of his own. It becomes clear to Emily that many of Burchill's residents are merely wearing masks. And it's time for those masks to be ripped away... and for a killer's identity to be revealed.
How much of your real life is written into your fictional stories?

Unfortunately too much of the book is realistic. I usually warn people that there is a puppy mill scene based on my niece’s factual experiences with abused dogs. However, I also like to let everyone know that the bad guys get their just desserts.

My characters are usually a hodgepodge of different friends, acquaintances and family members in my own life. I exaggerate or change their qualities and quirks. Thus my characters become people with their own personalities. My heroine is an elementary school teacher, which was my role just before I retired. I based some of my plots on experiences I had in schools—again, exaggerated or twisted or transformed by my imagination.

That's exactly how I develop my characters as well! When did you first know you could be a writer?

I wrote fairy tales in Grade Three, when I was still seven years old. The kids in my class loved my stories, which inspired me to write more. A couple of years ago I met someone who’d been in my class that year. All these decades later she still remembered them!

In Grade 8, a teacher read my stories and told me I had a terrific style. He thought I was a writer already. I agree with his assessment. Anyone who has the urge to put words on paper might be a writer. It’s the follow-through that counts. Sometimes I use the word “author” to make the differentiation. For me, an author is a writer who wants his/her creation to be read by others. You have to be willing to rip apart your initial output and edit, edit, edit. It’s a lot of work. Only authors are dedicated (obsessed?) enough to put in the time.

Who or what influenced your writing once you began?

When I first retired and began serious work on my unfinished novels I was advised by a friend to join Sisters in Crime and Crime Writers of Canada. These organizations led to critique groups, mentors, friendships and networks. In the last couple of years, my publisher, Cheryl Tardif of Imajin Books, has been a huge influence.

Over the years, my daughter has been an enormous influence on my writing. She encourages me, inspires me. Even when she was little she was interested in what I wrote. My son is a scriptwriter so his advice and direction have helped enormously. My husband has supported my obsession without faltering once. I’m very fortunate to have a family and friends who encourage me all the way, who offer critiques and spend hours editing, and motivate me to finish.

How would you describe your writing style?

I’d say I’m a fairly descriptive writer, bordering on “literary,” that is, well-developed vocabulary and expressive prose. I love to write in first person and present tense.

Sounds like I would enjoy it! What is the most difficult aspect to writing a novel?

I think perseverance is my biggest challenge. It’s similar to a love relationship. In the beginning you’re all excited and the interaction is easy. Then come the more difficult times, in turns boring and frustrating. You get bogged down by detail. If you stick with it, you’ll come out the other side and enjoy your affair once more.

I completely agree, and your relationship analogy captures the difficulty perfectly! What are your goals as a writer?

I would love to acquire worldwide acclaim. Honestly. I’ll likely have to be satisfied with being known only in my little corner of the world, but I would truly bask in the glow of becoming a famous writer. Of having a book made into a movie. I have lofty goals that are mainly dreams, but you never know...

Name some authors that have impacted your life the most.

Two great writers—every single one of their novels—have had a huge impact on me: Margaret Laurence and John Steinbeck. I keep my eye on the quality of their writing as a model. Then I do my best. More recently, I have been influenced by Canadian Louise Penny, both personally and professionally.

What is the message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I am making a statement about good and evil. Not a unique lesson, but I’ve put a distinctive spin on it. I want readers to believe that love and community can make a difference. I believe that. I purposely leave the novel on a hopeful, inspiring note.

Give aspiring readers your best advice—something you wish you'd known before getting published.

Don’t stop! If you are truly wired for authorship, you need to finish. You can always go back and fix the mistakes later. That’s what the editing process does. Take the editor hat off and create first. Persevere through the boring/bad parts and get ‘er done! Then get others to critique, edit, proof and advise to make the novel even better. These days you don’t even have to wade through the difficult publisher maze. You can do it yourself, so there’s no fear of never having an end product after all your hard work Americanflag

That's very motivating—I hope my readers who want to write a book (I know there are plenty of them!) take your words to heart! Where can you be found on the web?

It was wonderful hosting you for Orangeberry, Catherine! Thank you so much for joining us, and good luck with the rest of the tour.