I have always loved reading author interviews, so I’m not sure why it took me so long to realize that I could
bribe ask authors questions of my own and then *gasp* actually get a response.
Beth Cato has graciously agreed to be a test subject for my first interview. She’s a science fiction and fantasy author from Arizona.
I first became aware of Beth after reading (and being mesmerized by) her short story “Maps” in Daily Science Fiction. It has a haunting ending that sticks with you long after you’ve finished the tale. I recommend that everyone take the time to read it.
What made you want to be a writer? Has this been a dream since childhood or something more recent?
I was one of those weird kids who at age 4 was drawing and binding my own books and creating my own languages. I took the dream pretty seriously up through my teenage years, but I was too terrified to submit my stories anywhere. I gave up entirely for about ten years, realized how unfulfilled I felt, and realized I NEEDED to write to be true to myself.
How long have you been writing short stories?
I started writing short stories in 2007.
How many rejections did you amass before your first short story sale?
Oh, gosh. Just a couple. My first short story publication was at a “4 the luv” market, and I don’t think they were terribly picky. A lot more rejections came after that.
Which of your short stories is your favorite?
One of my very favorite stories is “Red Dust and Dancing Horses,” published in Stupefying Stories. It’s a horse story set on Mars, where horses can’t exist. It’s a very personal story for me because I was horse obsessed as a kid and at age 11 I came to realize I’d likely never own a horse of my own. The love remains, though.
You’re working on a novel. What can you tell us about it?
Yes! I’m working on a steampunk novel set in 1906 San Francisco. Students of history can guess at the terrible event that might take place.
What’s a day in the “writing life” of Beth Cato like?
Wake up. Read the newspaper. Shuttle the kid to school. Write/edit. Resist the temptation of food blogs and Facebook. Write more.
Do you have any particular writing rituals or daily goals?
I’m very goal oriented. I set daily and monthly goals, and as a perfectionist, I have the “do this or else” mentality. It really depends on what I want to accomplish from day to day. When I was writing my novel, I pushed myself to do 1,500 words minimum a day, with 2,000 as an ideal. Right now, I’m reading the draft and trying to do at least 25 pages each day and making notes for my next editing pass. Sometimes I solely focus on submissions or writing a new story.
You enjoy baking, as evidenced from the delicious treats you show off on your blog. What’s your personal favorite?
I have to say, I’m a total sucker for cookie dough. A lot of times I like the dough more than the baked cookie! Lately, I’ve been obsessed with using Biscoff spread in baking because it has an inherent cookie dough taste, but it works like peanut butter in recipes. New York City will probably move to make it illegal.
Which is better: Coffee or tea?
I’ve become a tea drinker in recent years–decaf, before bed. I like using coffee as a baking ingredient, but I can’t drink the stuff.
Who are some of your favorite authors? Whose work do you draw inspiration from?
Elizabeth Moon, Mary Doria Russell, and C.E. Murphy. They all inspire me in different ways. Elizabeth Moon forged a successful writing career while raising an autistic son, which is what I’m trying to do, so I’m awed by her. Mary Doria Russell… well, read The Sparrow and see why she’s amazing! C.E. Murphy’s Walker Papers urban fantasy series was the first in the genre I fell in love with, and it’s still my favorite. I studied her technique so I could learn how to write first person.
Have you read any good books lately?
I read Kindred by Octavia Butler recently. It was a hard book because of the subject matter, but it’s one of those books that is a classic for a reason.
I recall hearing that you used to play a lot of Final Fantasy games. Which is your favorite?
Oh, yes. Final Fantasy IV was my gateway drug to the fantasy genre. I met my husband because of our mutual love for the series, and walked down the aisle at my wedding to the Final Fantasy theme. I have to say, FFIV is the nearest and dearest to my heart, though Final Fantasy VI, Secret of Mana, and Chrono Trigger are favorites. I also love the Dragon Quest series and have a massive collection of slimes.
Anything else you’d like to share?
If people want to read some of my work, I link to everything through bethcato.com. Quite a few stories and poems can be read online for free. On my blog, I post evil and delicious recipes every Wednesday!
Thank you for talking with me today, Beth.
Thanks for the opportunity, Gary!