I hail from Cleveland, Ohio. I come from a very large, diverse family. I work for one of the top 100 largest library systems in the United States. it was there that I fed my passion for reading and research. And I fell in love with writing when I was a young girl of 11. My mother was enamored of the arts and exposed my siblings and me to them by enrolling us in dance classes, taking us to the theater, concerts, and encouraging reading when we were young. I used to want to be an actor before I discovered that there was power in the pen.
2. When did you first consider yourself a writer?
That's a good question. I suppose it's when I saw "written by Cathy Jo" on the cover of my first book. I stared at that cover for what seems like hours, unable to really wrap my head around the reality of what had transpired! Even now, only two books in, I'm still amazed.
3. What inspired you to write your first book?
The inspiration behind my first book--Transitions: short stories for a rainy day--came about as a result of several things. I was taking a creative writing course because I wanted to sharpen my writing skills, after having written my first novel, which was unpublished at the time. The professor had us write several short stories using various writing props. Four of the stories in the book are from those writing assignments--Three Cards Short of a Deck (deals with mental illness); Transitions (a young girl with multiple children's fathers); Reflections--In Memoriam (life choices--rising above your upbringing); and E-male (hypocritical Christians). The novel that I had written was about the lives of three characters. One character was dealing with self-image and self-esteem issues (Expectations). Another character was dealing with shattered dreams and the worst type of betrayal (Think Again). And yet another character was dealing with commitment issues, brought on by growing up in an abusive environment and an absentee father (Caught). I included those three stories in the book as well. One of the stories (Innocence) was inspired by a news teaser that flashed across my television screen while I was watching a program. The news commentator made a statement about the statistics, at that time, annually for women who make an accusation of rape in the U.S. I thought the number was staggering. The teaser came on during family hour, and I found myself thinking, "What if a small child is hearing this? What might be his/her response?" Small children, being naturally curious, might ask: "Mommy, what's rape?" And from there the story came to life. The original version of Transitions: short stories for a rainy day, had a ninth story, that does not appear in the revised edition. The story addressed the question: "How well do you know the people you call 'friend'?"
4. What books have influenced your life most?
Here are four. I'd have to first say the Bible. In my lifetime, I've read the Bible from cover to cover many times. Second is a book by Erma Bombeck, "If life is bowl cherries, what am I doing in the pits?" One of the saddest days in my life is when she died. Through her writings, I learned not to take myself too seriously. And to find humor in whatever hardship or tragedy I was undergoing. Third, I know why the caged bird sings, by Maya Angelou. One word sums up my thoughts on this book: WOW! It was the first book that I'd ever read that dealt with the subject of child sexual abuse, namely rape, from the tongue of the abused. Fourth, Flowers in the Attic, by V. C. Andrews, for reasons too emotional to mention.
5. If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor? Hmm...that's a tough question to answer. I would have to say Diane McKinney Whetstone. I love what she does with a sentence! The day I discovered her, my love of writing was reignited. She writes these long, descriptive sentences that engages all the senses, and she never loses focus. I once counted the number of words in one of her sentences; there were 72. Beautiful! I want to someday emulate her style.
6. What book are you reading now? I'm never reading just one book. Currently, I'm reading Bluesday (by Adrienne Thompson); Once an Outlaw (by Sandra Hall), Amnesia (by Brian W. Smith). In addition to reading, I'm listening to the audiobook of Born to die (by Lisa Jackson).
7. What do you like to do when you’re not writing? When I'm not writing, you guessed it, I like to read, especially books of a spiritual nature. In addition to that, I enjoy the theater, movies, concerts, and spending time with family and friends.
8. Where do you get your ideas for your books? Everywhere! It could be in a look I witness between two people. A word spoken in passing. A commercial. People-watching. A passing thought. The sky is, literally, the limit.
9. What new author has grasped your interest?
Not sure how you're defining "new," so I'm going to define it as someone who has published for the first time in the last year or so. On that note, hands down, three people: Adrienne Thompson, for her ability to weave a tale and hold your attention from the first sentence 'til "The End." I also admire her for not only saying she believes in her ability, but for demonstrating that by quitting her job to write full time! The way she churned out quality novels (while working full-time) is amazing. Sandra Hall, for her versatility. Here's an author who writes across several genres: mainstream/contemporary; romance; western; and paranormal. All of that in a year's time! Also, not only is she self published, but she secured a publishing contract prior to self publishing. Quiana. I'm so impressed with this author. She's not afraid to break away from tradition in her writing. I like that. I'm also impressed with the way she pursues her dream. The way she's always out there selling her book somewhere. I was so happy to see that my library purchased several copies of her latest book. That's no small feat! For a major Urban library to do that (when the author has not pitched to them) is a huge validation! Kudos to the library and to Quiana!
10. If you couldn’t be an author, what would your ideal career be?
My ideal secular career would be to be a Psychiatrist. Human behavior has always fascinated me.
11. What was your favorite chapter to write and why?
In my current book, No More Expectations, my favorite chapter was chapter 5. It shows the closeness that exists between Brianya and her parents and younger sibling. I particularly enjoyed writing the latter half of that chapter. I love the relationship that Brianya and her father have, the candid way they communicate; the playfulness. They have a closeness that I think all daughters should have with their fathers. When her father addresses her as "Daughter," it's filled with such affection. And in my book of short stories, I most enjoyed writing the story, "Three Cards Short of a Deck." It's my favorite story because it's about a woman who's delusional. I enjoyed writing this story because it deals with the subject of the human psyche.
12. Why do you feel you had to tell this story?
One of the reasons I felt I had to tell this story is because I was getting several readers of the book of short stories express their desire to know what happened to the main character, Brianya Johnson, in the short story, Expectations. I had planned to tell her story at some point in my writing career, but when I kept getting the same question over and over, I decided that I'd better tell it right now, while the interest was there. Also I wanted to explore the issue of going out with several people at once. In the world in which we live, people think nothing about being involved with multiple suitors (do people even use words like "suitor" anymore? I'm dating myself here (smile)). And while they're going about their merry way, it may not occur to them to let the other parties know that they're exploring their options with other's. The flip side to that is, not everyone is wysiwyg (what you see is what you get).I wanted to also put the message out there that okay, even cool to be celibate If a guy is truly interested in you he'll respect that and invest the time and effort to get to know you.
I also wanted to tell this story because there are tons of people out there who lose massive amounts and weight, then they struggle to keep it off, only to gain it all back and then some. Unfortunately, they never get to the root of why they eat. Only in understanding and dealing with the issue of why can they hope to successfully keep the weight off. Brianya learned that she's an emotional eater. I wanted to explore what happens to someone like that when they encounter several highly emotional situations at once. I'm going to go out on a limb here and make a sweeping statement that we've all been hurt and humiliated in relationships in one way or another. And that premise is the basis for the ultimate inspiration and my reason for writing this book--Forgiveness. I had read an article on forgiveness that said when God forgives you he wipes the slate clean; he is not waiting for you to sin again so that he can throw it up in your face. That wouldn't be true forgiveness. So I began to think about that, and to research the subject from a religious and secular point of view. And what I found was fascinating! So I made the subject of forgiveness the foundation of the story; although I don't beat the reader over the head with it.
13. Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
I can. My upcoming book is about two characters that readers were introduced to in Transitions and No More Expectations: Lonnie Parker and Cashmere Masters.
Lonnie grew up in an abusive environment. His father was an alcoholic, who would come home and beat his mother and Lonnie and his siblings. He was also an unfaithful man, who cheated on his wife all throughout their marriage. After having beat one of his sons to within an inch of his life, he finally leaves the family, and Lonnie's mother has to finish raising the rest of their children alone. Not wanting to be anything like his father, at the same time not realizing that in some ways he's exactly like his father, Lonnie refuses to commit to just one woman, and decides that marriage and a family is not the route he wants to take. But when Cashmere walks into his gym one day, Lonnie begins to rethink his life course.
Cashmere Masters is a woman with a complicated past. Her parents split up when she was seven and turned her world upside down. Believing that her father didn't love her, she goes in search of love in all the wrong beds. Years ago, after having slept in the wrong bed, Cashmere finds herself bargaining with God to spare her life. She promises that she will change her promiscuous ways and become celibate. After unsuccessfully thwarting Lonnie's efforts, Cashmere agrees to go out with him. As the relationship progresses, she neglects to tell him one very important detail of her past. A detail that could possibly cost Lonnie his life, if he doesn't stop pressuring Cashmere.
14. How do you market your book(s)?
My marketing efforts are a work in progress. Currently, I'm marketing through social media, printed ads, interviews such as this (thank you very much, by the way), and radio interviews (thank you to Cyrus Webb), and through word-of-mouth.
15. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
The best piece of advice I can give to aspiring writers is to doggedly hone your craft like it's a drug! Readers love a well-told story; one that leaves them salivating for more of your work, and thinking about your characters long after they close the book or shut off the e-reader. And of course the most important piece of advice is to have their work PROFESSIONALLY edited. If you can't afford to do that then don't publish until you can afford a good editor.
I'd love to hear from readers. Find me on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cathyjog1; Twitter: mzcatjo; email@example.com
Cathy Jo, author