The Write Way Café welcomes Catherine Chant, who delights in moments when writing surprises her.
When did you first have the thought you'd like to write a book? Was that first thought related to writing romance?
When I started writing my first manuscript long, long ago, it was mainly because I was bored at work and needed something to pass the time. I didn’t set off to write a romance specifically. In fact, I didn’t know about genre expectations or any “rules” at all. I just had a story in my head and wanted to write it down. I knew it was a love story, but I didn’t understand the difference between a romance novel, from say Nora Roberts, and a love story, from someone like Nicholas Sparks. To me, love was love and it had its ups and downs. So, I wrote a 125,000-work novel about a couple who struggled over obstacles to be together, to have a family, and then…the hero died at the end. *gasp*
Yes, I’d gone for the poignant, bittersweet ending. It wasn’t until I joined RWA in 2003 that I learned that most of my book read like a romance novel, except my hero wasn’t supposed to die. In fact, the story probably should’ve stopped at the marriage part and then it wouldn’t have been 500 pages long, either. :-) I’ve done better since then.
What was your path to getting this book written and published? What type of research did you do?
I wrote NOTHING STAYS THE SAME as a follow-up to my first book, WISHING YOU WERE HERE, which I’ll refer to as WYWH for brevity’s sake.
WYWH was a Golden Heart® finalist. My agent sent it to all the big publishers and although several liked my style, my agent couldn’t get any editors on board with the 1950s time period. It wasn’t historical enough, it wasn’t contemporary enough. So, I eventually self-published it.
NOTHING STAYS THE SAME (or NSTS for short) had been at the idea stage when WYWH was out on submission, but my agent advised me not to spend time writing it if the first book didn’t sell. After I published WYWH, there was no reason not to finish the story. Both books are part of the Soul Mates series and share some characters, but each book can be read as a standalone romance.
NSTS was a fun book to research and write, because the year I picked (1973) is smack in the middle of my childhood. So I was able to incorporate a lot of fun memories of TV shows, clothing and other little things that I’d grown up with. I did have to do some research, though, on the layout of Hollywood studio lots and sound stages. I’d toured Universal in CA back in the 80s, so I remembered a lot from that visit, but it was still helpful to see pictures and floorplans.
I also had fun looking at pictures of vintage clothing. Oh, some of those ‘70s fashions were so bad! Of course I had to force some of my characters to wear them!
Reliving my youth by watching clips on YouTube from my favorite kids’ TV shows like The Banana Splits, The Kids from C.A.P.E.R, The Monkees and The Kroft Supershow, served as research and inspiration at the same time.
Why did you pick the setting you did?
I knew from the beginning that the story was going to center around a made-for-TV band (The Monkees were a big inspiration) as well as a kids’ Saturday morning TV show, so Hollywood was a natural setting for the story. I also knew that a lot of the action would take place on the studio lot, so I created fictional soundstages at Paramount for the events in the story.
I was a little undecided on the exact time period for a while, though. I knew I wanted it to be the ‘70s decade so I could focus on a ‘70s teen idol like David Cassidy/ Jimmy McNichol/Leif Garrett, and initially I was thinking about choosing 1976, when musical comedy shows like Donnie and Marie were very popular, but then I wanted my fictional band/show to have seemed like they evolved from the idea behind The Monkees (which originally ran from 1966-1968). So, I started looking at the beginning of the decade instead. Finally, when I realized I also wanted to give a nod to David Bowie’s influence on the music scene, 1973 became the time period for the book.
Are your main characters completely imaginary or do they have some basis in real people? Do they reflect aspects of yourself?
Completely imaginary. Definitely a nod to The Monkees and The Kids from C.A.P.E.R in the style of the kids’ shows portrayed in the book, but everything about the cast is made up. The main character, Leah, isn’t a lot like me. I think I’m more like her older sister who starred in WISHING YOU WERE HERE. Leah loves sports, while I avoided them as much as possible in high school, and Leah isn’t into music, while I was a huge music maniac as a teenager. The free-spirited Daisy reflects a lot of my feelings on life and the universe, but she’s much more laid-back than me.
Did you face any blocks while writing the book, and if so, how did you handle them? If not, what's your secret?
I think with writing any book you have good days and bad days where the writing flows or doesn’t flow. On the bad days, I found music from the time period I was writing about helped put me back into the right frame of mind to continue the story. The Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack was one CD I played on repeat for a long time while working on the first draft. I also played The Monkees Greatest Hits and David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars quite a bit, too.
What have been surprises you've encountered while writing the book and after?
The ending was definitely a surprise. I won’t give it away, but I will say that when I first sat down to write the book I had no idea that was how things would turn out. I love when that happens, when the writing surprises me.
I also hadn’t envisioned Daisy’s role being as large as it turned out to be when I first came up with the story idea. Initially, she was just someone for my hero Brennan to interact with before the heroine, Leah, joined him in the past, but Daisy became much more vital to the story as I continued writing. And in the end, she’s probably my favorite character.
Tell us about your writing space and how or why it works for you.
I have a spare bedroom that serves as my “office” but mostly it’s my craft room (where I keep my sewing machine, yarn, etc.). For many years I wrote there, surrounded by my bookshelves, whiteboard, Post-It Note scene map on the wall… But after a while it started to feel a little claustrophobic and maybe a little lonely, too, closed off from the rest of my family. The overflowing bins of crafts supplies probably didn’t help, either. :-) (I’ve rarely met a ball of yarn I didn’t want to buy!).
So, sometime in 2015 I moved my center of operations out of the craft room and into the dining room where I can work alone during the day while the rest of the family is at school/work, but still work and function as part of the family when they come home. It feels more inclusive. I don’t feel like I’m locked away in a closet anymore. It does mean I have to pack everything up when holidays come around, so we can have big family meals and guests over, but that’s one of the nice things about using a laptop. It’s meant to be portable.
What are some of your favorite books and why?
I have so many favorite books, it’s hard to choose, but there are a few standouts:
- I’m a huge fan of mystery/suspense, and Harlan Coben is one of my go-to authors in that genre. I have never read a book by him that I didn’t love. It’s instant auto-buy for me the second I hear he has a new book coming out.
- Outlander by Diana Gabaldon was a big influence on me in terms of falling in love with time travel. I read the book when it first came out in 1991 and it blew me away. I’ve since read the other books in the series as well, but it was that first book that really got to me.
- Stephen King’s books are always among my favorites. I started reading them as a teenager and haven’t stopped. I’m not a big fan of the fantasy ones like The Dark Tower, but I’ll gobble up ones like 11-22-63, Under the Dome and Cell. Stephen King does a phenomenal job of creating interesting and authentic characters. You can’t help but be drawn into their worlds.
- My newest author obsession is Liane Moriarty. After I read The Husband’s Secret last year, I was hooked! Since then, I’ve been reading her backlist little by little and am currently reading her latest one, Truly Madly Guilty.
Would you like to try your hand at writing a different genre? Which one and why?
I would love to try mystery/suspense. It’s my favorite genre to read and I keep toying with the idea of writing a story in this genre, maybe a ghost story. I’m also tossing around ideas for a cozy mystery series with a crafting theme, but I know there are a lot of those already out there, so I’m still hunting for that specific theme that’s unique to me and my background/interests, and will help it stand out on the shelf.
What are you working on now?
I’m actually at a crossroads trying to decide what project to focus on next. I have several books in various stages of completion. I’m just not sure which one I’m the most passionate about and which one will serve the “brand” best—because as a published author, that’s always on your mind. Writing something completely different from what you’ve written before can sometimes be like starting all over from scratch. Do you really want to do that? That’s a question I need to figure out.
I have on tap:
- a young adult murder mystery that needs revisions, but is complete.
- a new-adult paranormal romance that is part mystery, part horror, dealing with angels and demons that was my NaNoWriMo project last year, so there’s about 30,000 words there, but not a whole story yet.
- a YA contemporary romance that is fully outlined and about 30% written. I like the story, but I keep feeling like it needs to be more than just a contemporary romance, like it needs a mystery element or something. I just can’t figure out what, so its languishing while I try to decide on its direction.
- a new-adult contemporary romance between a costume designer and a comedian, set at a Renaissance Faire. I wrote the first couple of chapters to feel out the idea, but haven’t done much more with it.
- a possible third installment in my Vampire Diaries novellas for Amazon Kindle Worlds. For the first two novellas, I focused on Stefan. I’m thinking maybe I’d like to write a story about Damon that ties in with the previous stories.
- Lastly, I have the beginning of an idea for a third time travel book set in 1988 that would be the conclusion of the Soul Mates series (if I wanted to make it a trilogy instead of a 2-book set), but I’m struggling to decide if there’s enough interest in an ‘80s book to make it worth the time writing it. The plot would center around a British heavy metal band, but I’m not sure yet how it would be linked to the other books in the series, or who the crossover characters would be.
NOTHING STAYS THE SAME, the Soul Mates series
Young Adult Time Travel Romance
Available from Amazon.com
One Choice Changes Everything…
Soccer star Leah Reinard has been crushing on Brennan Basford for ages. When they end up at the same summer job, she thinks the fates have finally aligned in her favor. That is, until Brennan suddenly disappears. One day he’s there, the next day, he’s gone.
And no one but Leah remembers he ever existed.
Brennan’s wish to change the course of his dead father’s life has dropped him back in 1973, on the set of his father’s successful teen sitcom, and into the midst of its disintegrating made-for-TV band, The Beat Detectors.
Brennan’s determined to redirect the course of his father’s young life and create the happy ending the man deserved, but even the smallest change to the past is wreaking havoc with the present.
Can Leah find Brennan in time to stop him from ruining both their futures?
Award-winning author Catherine Chant is an active member of Romance Writers of America and a Golden Heart® finalist. She writes rock ‘n’ roll romantic fiction and stories with paranormal twists for young adults. You can find out more by visiting her website or connect with her via social media: