29 August, 2013

#SpecialFeature :: Interview with #Author Catherine Astolfo

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*** SPECIAL FEATURE - August'13 ***

A Quick Recap

About the Author :: Catherine Astolfo

Catherine Astolfo retired in 2002 after a very successful 34 years in education. Catherine received the Elementary Dufferin-Peel OECTA Award for Outstanding Service in 1998. She was also awarded Dufferin-Peel Catholic Elementary Principal of the Year in 2002 by the Catholic Principals Council of Ontario.
Catherine is a past President of Crime Writers of Canada and a Derrick Murdoch Award winner (2012). She was a Zonta Club 2012 Nominee for Women of Achievement.
Writing is Catherine’s passion. She can recall inventing fantasy stories for her classmates in Grade Three. Her short stories and poems have been published in a number of literary Canadian presses. In 2005, she won a Brampton Arts Award. Her short stories won the Bloody Words Short Story Award (second and first) in 2009 and 2010. She won the prestigious Arthur Ellis Best Short Crime Story Award in 2012.
Catherine’s novels, The Emily Taylor Mysteries and Sweet Karoline, are published by Imajin Books and are optioned for film by Sisbro & Co. Inc.

An Interview with the Author
What was your first piece? Yes, that scribbled thing in a notebook that’s somewhere in one of the boxes of memories?
Well, I have to tell you that I started writing in Grade Three. I wrote fairy tales for the other kids in my class. However, that was a loooonnnng time ago and I didn't save any of them! I have lots of short stories still sitting in my files (some of them were done on an ancient device called a typewriter). One of the first shorts was a story about a childhood friend who died when she was hit by a car in the middle of the night. It wasn't a mystery; it was more an exploration of kids who are neglected. 

Why Mysteries? How do you come up with ideas for your books?
I really didn't mean to write a mystery. I thought my stories would be general; tales of love, life and the human spirit. Then I discovered that you can do that with Mystery, plus explore issues of social justice and have an intriguing problem to solve. My books are what I call "mighty meaty mysteries", though I've read the term "literary mystery" and I think that applies to my novels. I get my ideas from life, literally. The Bridgeman was based on some experiences my niece had when she worked at a vet's. Victim arose from my readings on Objiwa culture and the stewardship of the earth. Legacy has a lot of my experiences as a principal in a school with children at risk. Seventh Fire culminates the Emily Taylor series in the overturning of a wrongful conviction, which I based on several Canadian true stories. Sweet Karoline combines my children's heritage and history with the study of psychopathology (I have a degree in psychology). I love the mystery genre for its diversity and the ability to weave all sorts of stories and subjects together while solving one or two puzzles at the same time. 

We have read the bit about Sweet Karoline’s birth, but how would you introduce the leading characters to your prospective readers?
Anne Williams and Karoline Mikulski are two very complex young women. One of my reviewers said, "Never have I encountered a narrative voice that alternates more deftly between alienating and enticing." That's such a great summary. The other characters in the story almost swim around these two—and we are really only seeing Karoline through Anne's eyes. Anne is the unreliable narrator, the very centre of her world (and therefore of ours as we read). She's conflicted and flawed but within those failings she's human, with many qualities that make us love her. She displays guilt, love, confusion, wit. She's the victim of a betrayal that might send any one of us over the edge. We ride along with Anne because she's so attractive, not just physically, and because she has unearthed a fascinating history. We can't wait to discover the reasons behind her emotional breakdown and uncover the truth of Karoline.

How would you compare your book to others in the same genre? And what is the USP of this book that makes it stand out?
My novel is a literary mystery, so it has an elevated vocabulary, is quite descriptive and the characters are almost more important than the plot. Although it has a mystery to be solved in the classic way, there are layers of romance and history intertwined that make it quite different. It's probably more of a psychological suspense because of Anne's narration. She tells us the story, but we're always wondering whether she's giving us the whole truth or avoiding honesty by distracting us. Anne Williams is the USP: you will not encounter another character whose charm and humanity will draw you in, yet whose flare of mean spirit will repel you on the next page. You will spend time thinking about this book even after you've closed the last page.

Does one of the characters in this book have any of your own quirky characteristics? If yes, then who and what?
I have to admit that Anne has some of my quirkiness. Have you ever been in a situation where the person speaking to you is so "full of it" that you begin thinking mean thoughts about their appearance or whatever? You keep those thoughts to yourself, of course, because that's a bit of the devil inside. Well, I have found myself in that situation a few times, I have to admit. Anne is the kind of person who speaks the vitriol aloud, right there on the page. Her critical, biting comments are sometimes shocking, even to hers. They're usually the kind of grumpy response I would sometimes like to make to a huge corporation who's ripping me off over, let's say, my telephone bill. Naturally, I don't say it, but Anne does. I do exaggerate this quirk in Anne, but it's still a bit like my mean girl inner voice.

Tell us a bit about the Emily Taylor Series.
Emily Taylor is an elementary school principal, which is what I did in my other life. At first she was the vehicle for some fairly heavy social justice issues that I wanted to weave into the books. Very shortly, however, she pretty much took over. Emily and her husband Langford have a secret past, which does not get resolved until the last book. In The Bridgeman, Book One, Emily makes some foolish decisions because she is anxious that her husband's real identity may be uncovered by an incident in the town. The media move in and she is terrified someone will recognize Langford, so she takes matters into her own hands. I wrote the books so they can stand alone fairly well, although with Book 4, the story of Langford's past and wrongful conviction might be more powerful if you've read at least one other. Victim involves the disappearance of Emily's friend's aunt, while Legacy intertwines several lives, including a family at Emily's school. There is a strong native element running through all the novels, as I love the Ojibwa philosophy on humanity and the earth. Most of the action takes place in a small town and an adjacent native reserve. The classic theme of evil versus good is very strong in these books.

What's your big distraction or vice while writing?
Oh my goodness, I have so many that it's impossible to pick. I like to do word games on Facebook. I tweet a lot or go in to see how the Twitterverse is doing. I eat popcorn or almonds. I sharpen my pencil. Not that I need a pencil, since I write on my laptop. I would drink wine, but I try to limit those episodes.

What is the best and worst advice you ever received?
The best advice I ever received was to keep writing. Be persistent and patient and tenacious. The worst advice I ever received was to give it up: most often, writing "doesn't pay". I discovered that there are lots of different ways to be paid.

There’s always that someone who doesn’t like your book. How do you deal with it?
I'm not very good at dealing with it. Where is my thick skin? I know I should have developed one by now. For at least a few minutes, I am very hurt after I read a scathing review. I know in my head that of course not everyone is going to love my novels. But in my heart it's still like having someone cast aspersions on my child. Sometimes I stop myself from reading the bad reviews. Mostly though, I get over it with time...or red wine.

If you were a casting director for the film version of Sweet Karoline, who would play your lead roles?
I know exactly who would play Anne—Halle Berry. To be honest, I haven't really thought about any of the others. I'm thinking they'd be "unknowns" so this could be a huge vehicle for Halle.

What three things would you carry to the famous deserted island?
Paper, pencil, and a hat.

What are top 3 Most played songs on your playlists?
Anything by Neil Diamond, anything by Johnny Reid, and Time in a Bottle by Jim Croce.

Besides writing, what else interests you?
We have nine grandchildren in our blended family; two grown kids of mine plus three kids who are my husband's, most of whom have kids of their own. Our siblings and their families are very close to us. Thus my husband and I spend as much time with family as we can. We have two cats and we spoil them like crazy. I'm also a voracious reader. I like to do lunch with my friends, especially since we're all retired. Oh, and travel. If I could afford it, I'd travel everywhere.

As you put it that you have already started working on ‘sibling six’. Could we have a sneak peek into what it is about?
Absolutely! Again, this is a very different novel from Emily and from Anne, too. It's a comedic mystery. (I seem incapable of writing a straight, classic book!) Tentatively entitled Nosy Rosie, it's the story of a retirement home in which the residents are being killed off one by one. I know that doesn't sound funny, but the crew involved in solving the mystery are a bunch of old hippies who still smoke up. They create a lot of hilarious havoc in their wake.

Is there a message you would like to send out to your readers?
Thank you! Readers are the best. Although I would probably still write (e.g. on that desert island), having readers and fans is the supreme gift. The other thing I'd like to say: in this digital publishing world, the best thing you can do for your favourite authors is to write a review for them. Go into Amazon and Goodreads and so on, and tell the world why you liked that novel. No need to be erudite or to summarize. Just give your own thoughts and feelings about having read that book.

Her Books

"If I knew what I know now, would I have searched so hard for the truth?" 
Anne Williams says she killed her best friend, Karoline. But did she? Or is there more to Karoline's mysterious death than meets the eye? 
Anne embarks on a compelling journey to discover her past and exposes an unusual history, horrific crimes and appalling betrayals. Through unexpected turns and revelations, Anne learns about love, family and who she really is. Can she survive the truth? 

The Emily Taylor Mystery Series
(Click on the Book Covers to visit their Goodreads Page)

Say Hello to Catherine

Buy Sweet Karoline

Ms.Catherine has kindly agreed to sponsor prizes for the 5 top winners! 
Each winner will get a copy of their choice of any ebook from www.imajinbooks.com

Imajin Books have Adventure, Anthology, Chick Lit, Fantasy, Historical, Horror, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Paranormal/Supernatural, Romance, Religious Fiction, Science Fiction, Suspense/Thriller, Western, Young Adult (YA) books. So matter your preferred genre, you are sure to find something to your liking.

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