Thursday 5 June 2014

Interview: Cathi Shaw, author of Five Corners

Hi, everyone! I'm pleased to welcome author, Cathi Shaw, to The Queen of Teen Fiction! She recently took the time to answer a few questions about her debut novel, Five Corners. You can read my review of the book here. Enjoy!

Hi, Cathi! The Marked Ones is such an epic adventure, how did you come up with idea?
I’ve been asked how I came up with the story of Five Corners a lot of times and honestly I don’t have a straightforward answer. I’ve told the story of how the idea of the three sisters came to me one day when I was out running a number of years ago. I was a bit frustrated that there weren’t a ton of epic adventures that had female protagonists. Dystopian novels tend to favour female heroes but in fantasy the main character is often male and I felt that there needed to be more female characters in fantasy.

Did you relate to any of your characters at all whilst writing the novel?
I tend to relate to all of my characters when I’m writing. They very quickly take on a life of their own and become real people to me. None of the characters are really “me” but when I’m role playing I certainly take on their persona for a bit (I was a big drama student in high school). I’m usually inspired by people in my life to create parts of characters. I think my daughter, Caitie, really has inspired all three of the sisters in Five Corners. Most obviously would be the similarities between her and Thia because they both have Epilepsy. But Cait is strong willed like Kiara and a nature lover like Mina. Think she probably inspired all the main characters in the book for me.

Did you learn anything new about yourself during the writing process?
Writing Five Corners taught me so much about the writing process. I’d written a lot of poetry and even some ill-fated romance stories in my time but Five Corners was the first really good novel that I completed. I thought I knew what was going to happen in the book and I was constantly surprised by what would suddenly appear on my computer screen as I sat down to write. I have no idea where the ideas came from but I do know my characters took on a life of their own and really took over the story. I just finished Book 2 and it was exactly the same process as Book 1 (but at least this time I knew what to expect). I have to say I found the entire process delightful!

The Five Corners has many various towns and people from all walks of life, was it difficult to plan all of them out before writing the story?
This is where the mystery of the writing process really came to life in the book. I actually planned very little with respect to Five Corners. I just sat down and made myself write every day for 30 days (I wrote the first draft of the story during NaNoWriMo) and these places and people just emerged from … somewhere. I have no idea where but I just loved it. It was like I, as a writer, was going on an adventure each day.

Five Corners is the first book in the Marked Ones series, what can readers expect from the second book?
As I was writing the second book I felt that it really surpassed the first book in the series. The second book, Finding Refuge, has just come back from my beta readers and they seem to all agree that it is better than the first book. For one thing, as often happens in series, there is not much back story. Instead we jump right into the adventure. I’m assuming that most readers of Finding Refuge will be familiar with Five Corners. Also the second book allows each of the characters to develop a bit more than in Book 1. We get a lot of more of Mina’s story in particular.

Did you always plan to write Young Adult novels?
I’ve written some (very bad) romance novels along with an unpublished collection of poetry and some academic papers. I also co-authored an academic writing textbook. But YA is my favourite genre to read (and always has been). Somewhere about 10 years ago I realized that I probably should be writing what I enjoy reading. Having said that, I do have a chick lit book that is in the editing phase and I’m working on several non-fiction books, too. But YA is definitely my first love.

What were some of your own favourite stories to read as a teenager?
I grew up on a ranch so when I was very young my favourite series was The Black Stallion. Later I fell absolutely in love with Anne of Green Gables (very Canadiana).  And then I discovered fantasy novels: Tolkien, Terry Brooks, and later Robert Jordan. I’ve always loved epic adventures. But for me the stories I’ve loved best have always been the ones with strong characters and a bit of romance. Both are essential elements of a story for me.

Big thanks to Cathi for stopping by, and be sure to check out her awesome series!

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