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Interview with Cathy Jo

Who or what inspired you to become a writer?
Thinking about that question, I don’t think any one person inspired me to become a writer; though my mother saw that yearning in me and fostered it by giving me my very first diary at the age of 11. When I was in high school, I got a job as a page at Cleveland Public library. While I was working there, I also worked in the school library. So it seemed that libraries and books were destined (for lack of a better word) to be a permanent feature in my life. That was perfect for someone like me, who loved reading and writing. Although I enjoyed writing, I never thought of myself as having any sort of writing ability, until one day I showed my sister a poem I’d written. She loved it! I was flattered. She showed it to some of her co-workers and they loved it. Then the same thing happened all over again, when I showed her a short story I’d written.

I was exposed to so many books, working at the library; it’s a veritable playground for a bibliophile with a voracious appetite for reading. I discovered writers such as Eric Jerome Dickey, Omar Tyree, E. Lynn Harris, Terry Macmillan, Carl Weber, Iceberg Slim, Donald Goines, J. California Cooper, Diane McKinney-Whetstone, BeBe Moore Campbell. I could go on and on. I would devour book after book. I had never read books like this before, certainly not at school. Some of these authors were pioneers in their genre. For example, Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines; they are the true fathers of Street/Gangsta lit. Then you had authors like Dickey, Tyree, Macmillan, and Weber bust onto the scene with Urban lit. In my opinion, no one can make words sing like Diane Mckinney-Whetstone does, writing Literary fiction. BeBe Moore Campbell, J. California Cooper, and E. Lynn Harris, with their Contemporary fiction, floored me when I first read them. I especially loved J. California Cooper’s colloquial style of writing. She makes you feel like it’s just you and she in the room, while she spins a yarn that so easily entangles you. Even if you could get free, you wouldn’t want to; that’s just how caught up you can get in her writing.

So, all of that is part of what inspired me to become a writer. Well, that and the narcissistic desire to see my name in the byline! J

What genre do you write and why?
If I had to pigeonhole myself into a genre, I’d say that I write Contemporary fiction. Some have classified my writing as Chick lit, Women’s fiction, Inspirational fiction, Christian fiction, and Urban fiction. I’m comfortable with all those classifications, except Urban. By today’s definition, my writing in no way, shape, or form fits into that genre. Most people, when they hear the label Urban fiction, think drugs, street life, gangsters, pimps, prostitutes, and so on; which, in my opinion, is a total misapplication of the genre.

What's the best thing about being a writer?
For me, the best thing about being a writer is that I get to be the boss! Well, that’s not totally true. I know this may sound weird to someone who’s not a writer, but sometimes we writers are just the vehicle that our characters use to bring their stories out into the world. There are times that I have a scene all worked out in my head, from beginning to end, then lo and behold, my character will fight me tooth and nail until I concede to his or her wishes.

True story. I was writing a scene in my latest book, No More Expectations, where the main character, Brianya, was supposed to choose a certain character as her love interest. But no matter what I did, she just would not cooperate! So, I let her choose; and last I heard, they’re quite happy. There was another instance, when I was writing the short story, Caught (it’s a story in my first book, titled Transitions: short stories for a rainy day), and the female protagonist was supposed to realize the error of her ways and concede to Lonnie’s wishes, but she wasn’t having it. I won’t say who won that struggle, but according to the readers, I made the right choice.

Who is you favorite character in your book and why?
In the short story book, Transitions: short stories for a rainy day, I’d have to say my favorite character is Rita Collier. Rita is a so-called Born again Christian. Having been raised in the church, as an adult she chose a not-so-holy lifestyle. After years of living a debauched life, Rita’s mom talks her into going to church with her. Listening to the sermon, she decides it’s time to straighten up her life and walk the straight and narrow. She remakes herself, even changing the way she speaks. However, instead of becoming tolerant of people who are like she once was, she becomes judgmental and critical. Yet, she believes that God’s will for her is to help save lost souls. When she gets this hot, steamy misdirected email, she’s faced with the monumental decision: answer it or ignore it. I like Rita, because she represents that subset of Christians who have a desire to help people but they just don’t get it.

I actually have two favorite characters from my novel, No More Expectations. One is Endo Jamison. Endo is the older man who pursues Brianya. He seems nerdy; however, he turns out to be anything but . . . as Brianya soon finds out. The other favorite is Brianya’s best friend, Dreama. Dreama is one of those no-nonsense straight shooters. She tells you what you need to hear, not what’ll make you feel better. Brianya has a tendency to coddle herself so she and Dreama are the perfect duo. Dreama goes through a bit of a rough patch and we get to see the softer side of her, which will touch the reader’s heart.

Why do you think readers are going to enjoy your book?
I think readers will enjoy No More Expectations because Brianya really represents every woman. She’s just lost over 200 pounds; and she’s struggling to keep the weight off, which, by the way, is the hardest part of weight loss. She learned that she’s an emotional eater (upwards of 90 percent of the population eat in response to an emotional trigger). She’s confronted with one issue after another and she’s fighting to keep from responding in her usual manner. She’s also a little bit naïve, when it comes to men.

Readers will enjoy Transitions: short stories for a rainy day, because the book is designed for people who don’t want to invest a lot of time in reading, but they still want the satisfaction of knowing that when they close the book, they’ve completed a story. Also, the stories are about real life situations that people find themselves in and their resolve in handling those situations. The stories run the gamut of emotions; you’ll cry, you’ll laugh; you’ll become angry; and you may even become a little confused. But one thing you won’t become is disappointed. You meet Arlise, who’s locked away because she’s Three Cards Short of a Deck. Lonnie unexpectedly stayed too long with one woman and got Caught. Cashmere, just may have to Think Again, after her fiancé reveals a startling secret just two weeks before their wedding. Little four-year-old Shelby is watching television with her mom, when a news reporter utters a promo that prompts Shelby to ask: “Mommy, what’s rape?” By the way, Brianya’s story begins in the story Expectations and it picks up three years later in the novel.

How do you research your books?
I use many avenues. Mostly, I do a lot of research on the Internet, making sure the sites I use are reputable. For example, when writing the short story, Three Cards Short of a Deck, I used the web sites NIMH (National Institutes of Mental Health), NIH (National Institutes of Health) Mayo Clinic, and MedLine Plus, just to name a few. When writing No More Expectations, I used the web site HR.com and personally interviewed several Human Resources professionals. I also got input from law enforcement professionals, lawyers, and a county civil court judge.

I have a tendency to go overboard researching. Even the things I know firsthand, I research, just to make sure I have it right. J

How long did it take you to write your book?
I began writing the book of short stories back in 1998, around the same time that I began writing the novel. The novel I finished in 1999, but I didn’t complete the short stories until 2010. Over the years, I would write short stories whenever I’d hear, see, or experience something interesting. There are a few that I didn’t include in the collection.

What is your work in progress? Tell us about it.
Currently, I’m working on book that’s untitled. It’s the story of Cashmere Masters and Lonnie Parker. Both of these characters are from Transitions, and you catch up again with them in No More Expectations.

Cashmere is dealing with a severe health crisis. And although she yearns for a relationship, her illness prevents her from becoming seriously involved with anyone. Until Lonnie. He’s reeling from a tragic event that’s left him more distrustful of women than ever. Until Cashmere. Will they allow mistakes of the past to prevent them from finding what they each need to reap the rewards of the present, so that they can discover if they have a future?

Look for the book to be available Winter 2014.

Where can a reader purchase your book?
Readers may purchase my books from my web site: http://www.twistedwordpublishing.com, where you’ll also learn more about me. They are also available on any online bookstore. Smashwords has the book in all eformats, including Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and more. If you’re in the Cleveland area, you may find them at Loganberry books, Appletree books, and Fashions by Fowler, and a few local libraries. If they don’t have them, request that they order the books. Also, if you’re in the Columbus area, you may find my books at the Booksuite bookstore.

What advice do you have for other writers?
The best advice I can give is this: 1) Decide if you want to self-publish or go the traditional route 2) Research ALL of your options 3) Write what you’re passionate about 4) Research, research, research all aspects of your story, even what you think you know and, 5) Invest in a couple of great editors. But most of all have fun!

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