Author Interview: Catherine Cruzan

I’ve known Catherine for quite some time, we seem to bump into each other at author related events constantly. She is also a fellow member of the OC Writer’s in Southern California. I am pleased to introduce Catherine here on No Wasted Ink, she’ll make a daydream believer out of you too.

Author Catherine CruzanI was born and raised in Bloomington, MN, but I moved to Southern California in 1984, so I’m really a California girl at heart. Since graduating from California State Polytechnic University in Pomona with a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering, I’ve been working as a structures engineer for different aerospace corporations in and around the Los Angeles area. About 10 years ago, between working as an engineer and teaching dance classes, I began writing more seriously. I studied in the UCLA Writer’s Program and at Long Beach City College. They had an excellent creative writing staff there at the time.

I must have a split personality or something, because there are so many wonderful things to experience in the world, I can’t seem to pick one thing and settle down. I want to do it all. I love my motorcycle, and my blue celestial parrotlet, Jasmine. I’m a period costumer, and a cosplayer; as well as a scuba-diving, sky-diving, hang-gliding kind of girl. I like to get really geeky sometimes, while other times I need to get out there and get some wind in my hair.

When and why did you begin writing?

My interest in books started as a child. I had a voracious appetite for reading. It’s my mom’s fault really, because she read to us a lot, and I loved it. As soon as I could read for myself, I wasn’t waiting for those snowy days when we’d pile onto her bed to hear a story. I always had extra books in my backpack, and an eye open for the next new Fantasy or Sci Fi series I could sink my teeth into. It became my escape when things weren’t going well in my life.

Climbing into a book was the best medicine for my fears and frustrations. I would rather hang out in Xanth than face the bullies at school. I could ride a dragon, jump through gates to other worlds, or put on a golden ring and fight wraiths when things weren’t good at home. And when I was bored or lonely, the pages were my best friends.

I published my first story in the 8th grade, when a teacher put my homework (a short story about forest animals facing hunters) in the school newspaper. I didn’t even know she’d done it until some of the other kids started coming up to me to ask about it.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

That’s a tough one really, because I’ve never really defined it. I was just always in the habit of writing things down my whole life, from grocery lists to my bucket list, from a poetic phrase to dialogues between characters that don’t even appear in any of my stories yet.

I have this crazy collection of napkins and post-it notes I keep in a box under my desk, which I raid often and replenish constantly.

But I guess I didn’t really feel like a *writer* until I was neck deep in classes at UCLA, trying to hone my craft. When I could no longer suppress my desire to write well and publish, that’s when I began actually calling myself a writer. That’s when it all changed for me.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

It’s about a young woman’s quest to avenge her family and save the Elves.

Lariel has lived a life of privilege as the daughter of King Tallen, and heir to the Tallen throne, until the captain of the King’s Guard betrays the Tallen family, murders the king and takes possession of his lands. On the run and in exile, Lariel finds refuge in the distant north at the heart of the Elvin kingdom, where she discovers her secret heritage. She is Elfkind, not fully human, blessed with the gifts that come with Elvin bloodlines. But will her new skills be enough to overcome the dark powers awaiting her as she endeavors to reclaim what was taken from her?

What inspired you to write this book?

This book is a culmination of daydreams. I used them to return to the world after losing a major relationship in my life. So imagine my surprise when, thematically, the book turned out to be about loss – experiencing it, coming to grips with it, and moving on with purpose. It also touches on what I consider key tangential elements to loss – forgiveness and redemption.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I write deep point-of-view (POV), character-driven stories. I climb into my characters’ heads and live there while I write. If there’s a narrator voice in what I do, it’s not by design. I want to feel like I’m living what they are living; and I want the reader to experience that too.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

In touching on aspects of humanity, I ruminated over what makes us different, yet what makes us all the same. What motivates anyone to do anything? What shapes our character and our temperament? What is good, bad, beautiful, ugly, right, wrong….? Basically, what comprises humankind? What are you if you’re not truly a part of humanity, but are of Elvin blood as well? Not human, not Elvin. You are Elfkind.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

If you want to be your best, you need to find out who you are on a fundamental level and be true to it. Yes, let the world shape you in wild and wonderful ways, but never lose sight of your best qualities. Don’t let the hard times dissuade you from your truth – that you are loyal, or clever, or considerate or brave.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

You will find glimpses of my friends, family and strangers off the street in everything I write, because I steal from life and then put it in a blender. I have borrowed snappy attitudes and simple winks, compulsions to do the right thing in misguided ways, yearnings for love and the fear of it, even some physical traits. But I promise you, if I ever find myself nose-to-nose with a Grahze, I’ll probably wet myself and then run away.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

This list is long and eclectic, ranging from Tolkien to Drew Hayes, from C.S. Lewis to Bill Watterson and David Mack. Robert Jordan, China Mieville, Tad Williams, Raymond Feist, Terry Brooks, George R.R.Martin, Scott Westerfield, Anne McCaffrey, C.J. Cherryh, Tim Powers, Bradbury, Heinlein, Asimov, Neil Gaiman, Edgar Allen Poe… . I could keep this up all day, so let’s stop here.

The key is rich, character-drive story that compels the reader to do more, to be more, to think more, to question more. These writers embody adventure on the page, and entertainment that stimulates the mind. What could be more inspiring than that?

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

I consider Tim Powers my biggest mentor. He is the reason I didn’t flat out give up and walk away from writing when things weren’t happening for me. He has taught me so much about the craft and about the business, I cannot even express. He’s an amazing teacher – encouraging, smart, talented, and able to convey things clearly to his students. We walk away better writers just for listening to him and trying again.

My agent/author/friend Denise Dumars is a terrific mentor as well. She was the first person to really have faith in me and my work. She put herself out there to get me published, and I dedicated the book to her for that reason. Elfkind is as much her baby as it is mine.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

The cover of the book was designed by my publisher, Hunt Press. There are also a couple of illustrations in the body of the book by artist Sarah Banning. She is amazing. She’s a wonderful blend of American and Manga style with an outrageous eye for color. I love her coloring. I was lucky to stumble upon her through a mutual friend. I’ve got her working on some stuff for the next book now, and I can’t wait to get my greedy paws on it.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I cover a number of topics on my website which I consider critical to the craft. But the bottom line is: You have to write. You have to sit down and do it every day. Find your method, your motivation, your tenacity to keep doing it even when you can no longer explain why you would even try.

Listen to what your mentors tell you, and trust your instincts. Do not confuse ego with instinct. Ego has to be set aside if you want to improve, and we should always want to improve. There is no glass ceiling on being better.

Go read David Gerrold’s Worlds of Wonder whether you’re writing genre fiction or not. It’s loaded with compelling, enlightening information that will make you a better writer.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Only that I hope you love this story as much as I do. I look forward to your feedback on Amazon, so please take a moment to rate it if you have the time.

Elfkind Book CoverCatherine Cruzan
Long Beach, CA

Hunt Press, Los Angeles
Illustrations by Sarah Banning


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