Writer, researcher and teacher, Catherine Schaff-Stump (aka cathschaffstump) and I share something special. Our debut novels came out on the same day, June 1st 2010. Cath's book, Hulk Hercules, is a fun read, especially if you're familiar with Greek mythology. She kindly agreed to stop by today and answer my list of searching questions about herself and her work.
JON: Your novel, Hulk Hercules Professional Wrestler is a modern day twist on the Hercules myth. How did you come up with the idea?
CATHERINE: Hulk Hercules wasn’t my idea. Sonya Sipes, the publisher at Cats Curious Press, had heard me read a short story at Wiscon in 2007. She liked my style. I’d sent her a couple of serious short stories that didn’t work out for an anthology, but she remembered the light and comedic YA story I’d read, and in 2008, she approached me about writing a modern re-telling of the 12 Labors of Hercules. I said yes.
I was also look for an educational project for an endowed chair at my college, and when I proposed rewriting mythology for modern kids as part of Sonya’s project to the college, my proposal was accepted.
I was very lucky fate intersected in this way.
JON: Did you need to do a lot of research or were you already well-versed in Greek mythology?
CATHERINE: As a kid, I devoured every piece of Greek mythology I could get my hands on. Actually, I should have written this book when I was 12! I would have been so ready! Luckily, I knew a lot about Greek and Roman mythology, so research for the book was pretty easy.
JON: What’s your preferred genre/wordcount?
CATHERINE: I’m a fantasy writer. I like to write fantasy that’s folkloric, and has something to do with variations on the world we live in right now. Word count? Well, that depends on the book. Hulk Hercules is around 40,000 words. The longest novel I’ve written so far is 80,000 words., after a lot of cutting.
I enjoy writing adult, young adult, and middle grade fiction. I write both humorous and serious works
JON: What’s your current WIP?
CATHERINE: There are 3. I’m almost done with a young adult novel I’ve been working on for a little over a year—The Winter the Troll Danced with Old Nick—which is about adolescent trolls and frost elves in Decorah, Iowa, fighting the devil from Norwegian folklore. I’ve planned out The Were-Humans, which is a novella that will be set in small town Iowa in the 70s. It’ll be kind of gothic. Then I begin revamping a five-book series about a family of demon binders. I’ve written most of the third book, but I intend to do a huuuuuggggeee outline to get the whole series lock in step. I'm looking forward to that series.
JON: Are you a pantser or an outliner?
CATHERINE: Depends on the project. The troll book I’ve been pantsing, and that’s why it’s taken so long. Both the Were-Humans and the demon binder books will be planned out better. I’d like to save more time.Of course, the careful plans of my outlines are often destroyed by my characters, curse them!
JON: Where else can we find your work?
CATHERINE: At my site Writer Tamago (http://cathschaffstump.com), there’s a publications page, which lists some of the short stories I have available for free at various sites on the Internet, and some other items for purchase. Besides Hulk Hercules, my novella Sister Night, Sister Moon available in the Needles and Bones collection from Drollerie Press.
CATHERINE: Alcestis, a retelling of Greek myth, by Katharine Beutner. Appropriate, eh? Also my husband and I read to each other on our morning commute. We are currently going through Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series. We just finished a year of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. I just finished Aaron McGruder's Boondock's collection A Right to Be Hostile, and I'm going to read Eleanor Gaskell's Cranford after the book I'm reading now.
I like reading widely in a variety of genres, in case you couldn't tell.
JON: What was the best writing advice you ever heard?
CATHERINE: Write what you write. Finish what you start. Send it away. Don’t worry about the rest. Be happy for the success of other writers.
JON: What was the worst?
CATHERINE: Write what sells. I am a believer in being true to the kind of story I write. Really, I can't do anything else, regardless of what happens. I'm afraid you won't be seeing a zombie book from me any time soon, for example.
JON: What do you know now that you wish you'd known when you first started writing?
CATHERINE: Writing requires you to be a very patient person. Even patient people need to be more patient than they are, once they start writing. It used to bother me that I wouldn't hear about a submission for perhaps six months. Now I understand that's the nature of the game. I wish I'd known that before.
Also, the writer alone is a myth. No book is written alone, even if you write the drafts of it in solitude. It's important for a writer to talk to other writers, and a critique group is also very valuable.
JON: Where else can you be found on the web?
CATHERINE: It’s easy to find me on my website Writer Tamago (http://cathschaffstump.com). Writer Tamago is mirrored on Live Journal and Dreamwidth. I also dispense pearls of wisdom on Twitter.
CATHERINE: Cavemen! Imagine you're an astronaut, and you land on a planet. The indigenous people lie in wait. Boom! A club breaks your face plate! A spear pierces your environmental suit! It's all over for you, Space Traveller! Atmospheric poison! Cave stench! Micro-organisms attack! But if you throw ray guns into the mix, that might tip the odds. However, not knowing otherwise, I'm going with cavemen.
In addition to being an active teacher, researcher, and novelist, Catherine Schaff-Stump enjoys learning other languages. Japanese is her most fluent to date, although she has a minor in French, knows enough German to be dangerous, and is taking the tiniest steps toward Russian. Catherine is also an avid seamstress, sewing theatrical costumes and the occasional quilt. She thoroughly enjoys being married to her science teacher husband, who lives with her and two cats in a 140 year old house somewhere in Iowa . They travel as much as they can in and out of the U.S.