Not only is she a USA and New York Times Best Selling author, but Cait London also finds the time to be an artist and mother all while maintaining an amazing website devoted to helping other authors promote their work.
Join me in welcoming Cait to the blog!
You started out as an artist, why did you decide to try your hand at writing? Did you always want to be a writer?
No, I’ve been a painter/artist since early in life. I sold my first painting at 10, so writing came a little later, some 23 years later. I’ve read about people who wanted to write early in life, who wrote journals, etc., or children’s stories when they were children, but I’m no such talent. While they were children and wanting to write, I was merely reading.
I’ve always been a heavy reader, of anything, epic sagas, poetry, Poe, non-fiction, whatever. But I got snagged on Harlequins, and then Woodiwiss’s Wolf and the Dove, and thought, I can do that.
What was your path to publishing like?
I found it wasn’t that easy. Not with a 3 small children in tow, a farm, and a husband who was gone most of the time. I did manage to write one 500 page, single-spaced manuscript and send it off—back in the days of a small manual portable and carbon copies, which means that a few words were erased and retyped, or scratched off and handwritten. Rejects aplenty for 7 years. So many that when thoroughly frustrated, I used that little machine (it had to be moved on and off the kitchen table) to write pages of the word S**t. I crumpled it and discarded into the trash. But wouldn’t you know, one daughter needed to dig something out of the trash and found it. That was after I had a perfectly prepared 300 page ms ready to go and someone spilled spaghetti all over it. Hand-typed, you know.
Anyway, Western Writers of America (WWA) had their conference nearby, and I got off early from my day job (I was a single mother by then) to drop in during their cocktail hour. Someone introduced me to Ray Peekner, who was not a romance agent, and he interviewed me back and forth for a time, and then submitted my category story to Joan Marlow (Golan now) at Berkley Second Chance at Love (SCAL). The call came in like this: “Hey,” he said. “You’ve been bought. I convinced her to read past the first 50 pages.” I had to ask the whole process of who does what. (Keep in mind, no Internet, no writers groups then. I was published prior to all that.) Joan actually taught me the Ps and Qs of writing. Calls from NY began. We worked through one chapter at a time. I sent her one, she corrected it and sent it back with notes on the next one. When I asked why so much time spent on me, she said they wanted to get the stories out of me. She said I came into writing with lots of stories and characterization.
My first revision letter was 7 pages, single spaced, and I wanted to send the $2500 first-half advance money back. I was scared sick to my stomach, but I also had 3 daughters as a single and did not have any money. There really wasn’t any choice but to try.
The second book required very little editing. I’ve written 60 or so since then. BTW, if you are a writer, that second books needs to be stronger than the first one.
NOTE: If you get a chance to work with Joan in women’s fiction, grab it and learn. Ray Peekner (gone to the big popcorn bowl in the sky they say) said she was “a real old-fashioned honey of an editor”. Back in the day, editors did not have all the duties they have now and spent more time with writers. Now we have writers groups/workshops/conferences/Internet, so we have to know a lot more coming in. Or should.
You were a single mother, working full time, how did you find time to write?
I made time. Repeat, Made Time. I’ve always been regimented, and that is almost one half of success, or at least one third. I basically wrote fresh copy through the weekend, sometimes 60 pages, then edited/researched/did business the rest of the work day evenings. When you write fast, you can go zing in the wrong direction real quick, which I did a few times.
What’s your writing process like? Do you write every day? Mornings? Afternoon? Or Evenings?
I’m full-time now, since ’92 when all my daughters were out of college. My basic creative up-time is early, i.e. 4a. I can edit throughout, but 2 fast, good hours, maybe 3 is about all I’m good for in fresh draft. When the story starts breathing, has a heartbeat, I may do more. The rest of the time, and I pretty well still work a business day, is spent on editing and business. I calculate that business/marketing/proposals/contracts etc. may compose almost 75% of a midlist author’s work day. Factor in networking.
You’re currently working on contemporaries, any plans to write another historical?
I’d like to. While writing them (I did NW), I traveled to all the Indian trails, gold trails, etc. in the NW and up into Canada. Stopped at the forts, i.e. during the Oregan Trail drive, and loved every minute. Loved the stories, too. My Mountie story, Delilah, was heavily researched on site and to date, I’m not certain another book has been written of the same. I’d love to see Tom Selleck in that Mountie uniform. I remain a fan of the American Western, if done right. When that subgenre was hot, too many were poorly researched and lost me as a reader, because I’d actually been there, or I knew about how westerners act as I was raised in inland WA State across from the Colville Native American lands.
How do you respond to negative critiques of your work? Or those who might respond negatively to the fact that you write romance?
My work definitely isn’t for everyone. I’m not literary, or chick lit (if that term still works), and I’m not several other things. I came into writing with a certain style, dialogue and characterization, and it remains throughout. I’m not an extraordinary talent like Nora Roberts, who has the best line for writers ever, if I may paraphrase, “I can correct a bad page, but I can’t a blank one”. I’m not a copycat or cookie-cutter writer either, as all my stories are built from the basement up. (I had to learn how to plot, see my how-to at my website http://www.caitlondon.com/ .) I know a few other things about my own writing, plus the editorial process before it gets to print, so my take on negative reviews is that while that person doesn’t like my work, enough readers do like it. They keep me going and happy.
We do have some unhappy writer/reviewers posting things that can destroy an unseasoned-in-business writer. These very sharp condemnations that occur sometimes, should be aware that their work is also available for study/critique.
Romance has been around since the beginning of written word, and probably before. It’s not going anywhere. I’ve never felt it necessary to argue my point about why I write romance, or to “stand up for it”. Either they get it, or they don’t, so don’t waste time and energy arguing the point.
What advice can you give aspiring writers?
Do NOT read a well published author, in the same field as you are writing, at the same time you are creating your own material. It’s only natural to compare. But consider that a work-in-print has already moved through an agent, revisions, copyedits, several editors in traditional print, while yours hasn’t. A work changes a lot from the time it’s first sent to an editor. It’s an apples and oranges thingie.
What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies?
I have a fast-growing family, but also have too many interests: painting-still, I’d like to get back to that, jam-making (www.myjamjar.blogspot.com), reading everything, networking with other writers, computers, photography, graphics, and driving on open road. I also do some light gardening, herbs, etc. Much of me is in my books. I’m also currently interested in Runes and Tarot, archeology, etc. and blogging. I also run a regional writers loop and mentor a bit on business, plus occasionally presenting a seminar/workshop The Business of Writing. You can find my tips at my website. I’m a tipper.
Where can we find you on the web?
I create and manage all of the following:
http://caitlondon.blogspot.com/ (look here for writer survival guides),
and I have an enewsletter,
available by writing http://email@example.com
Cait’s giving away a signed copy of For Her Eyes Only, the third book in her trilogy. Leave a comment and email addy for your chance to win! Check back later for the winner.
It’s interesating that so many authors are creative in other ways. (painting, cooking)
Great interview! I love your call story, Cait. I’m going to check out your website. Sounds like you have a lot there for writers.
Hi, jep and Edie. I do have a lot for writers there, but on my blog, caitlondon.blogspot.com there are lots of tips about Writers Survival, software, all sorts of stuff. 🙂 I should write a book; I’ve done enough how-tos. 🙂 Yes, most authors are creative in other fields, too.
Thanks for a fascinating interview! I’ve added your blog to my reading list, as I’m always looking for tips to light my path to publication.
That’s great, tatt3r. If you can, go back and check out the tips on my blog, by using the tags. However, my writing section at my website has a lot, too.
Great interview. Cait, you are talented in so many ways. Rising authors are very fortunate to have you to guide them. I do feel a “How to” book is in your future! 🙂
Cait, your story is very inspiring! I admire your work ethic and research skills. Plus, your books sound very interesting, too!
Thanks, all. I am very attached to my Psychic Triplet trilogy, and will soon be doing an interview as Greer, their mother. I knew the family dynamics as I am the mother of 3 daughters and that birth position has a big play in their relationships and with me. Plus we think we’re a little psychic, or so says my sister. 🙂
What a great interview. Like you, I started in the days of typewriters but had correction tape all over my work. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the acceptance, only the rejections!
Your books sound wonderful. thank you!
Thanks, Christiana. I don’t know how you received rejections, but I had 7 years of them, prior to writing groups and Internet help. More info is readily available now; however that spread the competition wider. Frankly, I’m so used to computers that I don’t know that I could type on a manual typewriter now. 🙂
Great Interview! I’m amazed at what you’ve accomplished.
I love your thoughts about negative critiques, that your books just aren’t for everyone. Very good way of thinking about it.