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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Welcome Author Cat Melodia - Blog Tour

·  Where do you hail from and what do you love most about your hometown?

I was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. What’s truly spectacular about this place is the natural setting--Mount Rainier, glacier lakes, rainforests ... and it’s all an hour to 4 hours away. Seattle itself has miles of incredible biking trails, lakes, Puget Sound, and a lot of fun neighborhoods, some of which are like small towns. What I don’t like as much (particularly this summer) is the perpetual cloud cover. When it’s sunny, there are few more beautiful places.

·  As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? How has that childhood dream affected your career?

From the time I was ten I wanted to be an opera singer. I started taking piano at age 5, and I was a pretty good pianist, but I knew early on that I didn’t have the discipline or the genius to become a concert pianist. I never wavered in my choice, which did add to the nerd factor, growing up! The other profession I flirted with was journalism; I edited my school newspaper in high school. When a piece of investigative journalism (teacher’s salaries at private schools!) got me in hot water senior year (at my private school), I decided I wanted to be liked too much to stay on that course.

·  Tell us about your latest book.  Do you have anything new in the works and can you tell us a bit about it?

I have a couple of projects near completion, but then there is still the editing, which takes much longer than the initial writing for me. The sequel to Ding Dong the Diva’s Dead is almost finished. It’s tentatively called, The Diva Takes a Dive, and it takes place in Seattle.

·  Have you ever used contemporary events or stories “ripped from the headlines” in your work?

I love reading newspapers, and if I’m writing a period novel, I’ll often go to the library and read old New York Times  to give me the flavor of the period. So I am probably influenced indirectly by what I’ve read in the papers. Nothing in Diva is based on actual events. I’m not aware of any actual murders that took place in opera companies of any size. There was a case in 1980 of a violinist getting murdered by a stagehand at the Met in New York.

·  Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing?

It’s frustrating how mistakes keep turning up! You’ll think you have something perfect, and the next time you look at it, all sorts of things jump out at you--excess words, typos, dangling modifiers ... I feel as if I need to go through everything I write dozens of times, and even then I’m worried that I haven’t caught everything or have left out some important detail.

·  What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

It’s all so individual, isn’t it? I could say something cliched such as “write every day,” but I tend to go through writing spurts myself when inspired rather than keeping a daily schedule. I would say, get as much feedback as possible and take it to heart. Just make sure you find someone whose motives are pure. You want constructive criticism, which sometimes means you have to pay for it. When I first started writing fiction, I had to listen to some pretty harsh criticism. I swallowed hard and took the advice, and I’m glad I did. When choosing an editor, look for someone whose writing style you admire. Someone whose writing you don’t like is not going to be able to help you!

·  Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?

I read for inspiration. For historical novels, I read newspapers or popular history books. There’s an excellent series called A History of Private Life, edited by Michelle Perrot, that tells you how real people lived at various points in history--including the mundane stuff such as how they washed clothes, what kind of underwear they wore. For my Diva books I’ve been reading all the classic opera novels--Phantom of the Opera, Trilby, Song of the Lark... uh, there aren’t too many! Anyway, I plan to send them up in the future books in the series. 

·  Who is your favorite author and why? What books have most influenced your life?

Such a hard question! I’m currently hooked on Martha Grimes, but I have hugely eclectic taste. I love mysteries of all kinds and tend to devour as many books as I can by individual authors. I’ve read a lot of Agatha Christie, but also John D. MacDonald, Lawrence Block, Marsha Muller, Sue Grafton ... I’m a big fan of Southern women writers such as Fannie Flagg, Lee Smith and Ellen Gilchrist. Love Margaret Atwood and will often read a page or two for stylistic inspiration--she’s a poet as well as a novelist. And then there are the classics--Dickens, Thackeray, although I don’t have the patience for the really large tomes anymore. Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina remains one of my all time faves; I’ve re-read it several times.

·  How did you deal with rejection letters?

Rejection never gets easier, does it? Most of them are pretty nice, and you know they are form letters, which lessens the sting. But sometimes, especially when they’ve already asked for more, they are pretty hard to take. As a singer you deal with a lot of rejection, so I guess I already had practice.

·  What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?

I still use a thesaurus--the Synonym Finder, by JI Rodale. I also refer to the Chicago Manual of Style. Other than that, the Internet is an amazing source for almost anything these days as long as you know which sources to trust. A decent computer, of course! Longhand just doesn’t work for me anymore.

·  Where do you as an author draw the line on gory descriptions and/or erotic content?

I try to keep things relatively PG, but I don’t judge other writers who want to stretch boundaries. It’s very difficult to write about sex (or gore, for that matter) in new and interesting ways, and my hat is off to people who can do it effectively. I’m prefer to leave the explicit sex and gore to the imagination. I think you can make the reader imagine it without providing too much detail.

·  What's the weirdest thing you've ever done in the name of research?

Took a trip to Paris on my own. Not exactly weird, but lonelier (and a lot more expensive) than I realized it would be. One day I got lost while trying to find the original apartment where one of my historical characters had lived. Never did find it; I think it had been replaced by a modern structure.

·  Don't forget to give us links to your website etc.
Dingdongdiva.camelpress.com. I recently purchased catmelodia.com, but I haven’t done anything with it, yet!

Blurb:  Deborah de Lille is an opera singer—in the least grand sense. Debbie doesn’t foresee a future beyond Handel Messiahs and low-budget tours … until her agent finagles her a minor role with a small-town company. The artists assembled for this production of Offenbach’s spooky opera, Tales of Hoffmann, have more than opera on their minds. Their games of love are not for the faint of heart, and the cutthroat atmosphere may have become literal. How far are they willing to go to advance their careers and even the score? The singer Debbie replaced died under suspicious circumstances, and after another minor player bows out suddenly, she is also given her role. Now she has two small roles that no one in their right mind would kill for. So, either someone isn’t in their right mind, or the close calls threatening Debbie’s safety are all unlucky coincidences. Add to the mix three preening tenors, a sexy lesbian director, a vengeful conductor, an obscenely rich and Hollywood-handsome general director, a fading Italian pop star, a trio of bitchy leading sopranos, an ambitious understudy, countless attention-starved underlings, an anti-opera terrorist group, a resident ghost, and Debbie’s kooky and dysfunctional friends and family, and you have an opening night that promises to genuinely thrill and chill.

1 comment:

Tribute Books said...

Thanks Brynna for hosting Cat on her blog tour. It's always fascinating to learn about what books an author gains inspiration from and the steps taken throughout the writing process.