Interview with Catherine A. Winn
What genre do you write and why?
Ever since I read my first Nancy Drew, mysteries have been my favorite genre. My passion is writing mysteries for young adults. Teaching gave me insight and understanding into writing about teens and for teens. They want novels to relate to their lives and make them wipe their eyes, gasp, or laugh out loud. I think Beyond Suspicion is a thrill ride that will appeal to young adults.
Tell us about your latest book.
Beyond Suspicion is a mystery about fifteen-year-old, Shelby Palmer. An average suburban teen from a small town, Shelby’s life changes when her mother remarries and has a baby. Resentful at being the built-in babysitter stuck at home while her mother and stepfather enjoy a social life, Shelby comes home from school looking forward to a night away from home at a best friend’s party. To her dismay she’s told she can’t go because she has to babysit again.
Following a huge argument, Shelby takes her infant half-brother, Josh, to the park where he’s kidnapped. After hours of questioning, an angry detective confronts her with a copy of her text messages and, to her horror, twists their meanings to accuse her of murder. Disbelieved about being stalked by a couple in a white van, hounded by national and local media on the street outside her home, and hated by the kids she thought were friends, Shelby knows if Josh is to be rescued she’s going to have to do it.
Who is you favorite character in your book and why?
Shelby is my favorite. Refusing to feel sorry for herself, Shelby does whatever she has to do to save her brother.
How do you research your books?
Besides visiting locations for settings and doing research in the library or on the internet, a retired journalist encouraged me to interview people. I was reluctant to do that but in the next Whispering Springs Mystery a murder is committed with a gun important to the plot. I know nothing about guns so a relative introduced me to a woman who’s an amateur expert on handguns and she invited me into her home. I explained what I needed and asked her advice. She brought out a small black gun. “Your killer would use this. A compact Bersa 380 and this bullet is made to take your victim down.”
With a notebook filled with notes, I drove home silently thanking that journalist for this enriching experience. Personal interviews have now become a primary part of my research.
How long did it take you to write your book?
It took two years to write the final draft of Beyond Suspicion. After the rough draft was finished, it went through a critique group and many revisions. Then I put it away to “simmer” for a few months. When I pulled it out and read it with fresh eyes, it went through a few more revisions before I decided it was ready for submission.
What advice do you have for other writers?
Keep writing and don’t give up no matter how discouraged you become. I cannot remember the author who shared this idea a few years back, but above my computer on my bulletin board I have a sign like hers that reads: Someday I may give up. But today is not that day. This reminder has helped spur me on when rejections filled my inbox.
What's the best thing about being a writer?
The best thing for me about being a writer is getting lost in the story being created. I love it when my characters come to life on the page and insist on doing things I never dreamed of having them do which makes the plot unfold in surprising twists and turns.
Who or what inspired you to become a writer?
I credit my parents for instilling in their children the love of reading. They introduced us to stories and books long before we could read, took us to the library regularly, and generously bought books to fill our bookshelves. Those beloved books by talented authors made me want to become a writer.
Does your family support you in your writing career? How?
My family is totally amazing. At first I was nervous to tell them my dream of becoming a writer but once I did they became my soft place to fall as well as my cheering section with every small success.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
When I am not reading I work in my garden. Since the long term drought has arrived, my garden has been downsized dramatically, but discovering ways to have my plants as well as conserve water has become a marvelous learning experience.