Cathy Elliot’s interview

» Posted on Jan 24, 2008 in Blog | Comments Off on Cathy Elliot’s interview

1. What made you start writing?

I had long wanted to write, but the catalyst was actually a telephone call from my daughter, announcing her engagement. It was a very exciting moment. As I considered her news and what it meant, it occurred to me that not only was she entering a new season, but so was I. At that moment, I had a sudden knowing that it was my time. My time to write, at last.

2. How long have you been writing? When did you sell your first book?

I’ve been writing seriously since 2000. Since I got “the call.” Before that, I only dabbled a little here and there. Once I began, there was no turning back and I worked toward that first book contract which came in the fall of 2004. I finished the book in June of 2005 and it was released in April of 2006. It was a long process, but well worth the wait.

3. How do you handle rejections?

When I began submitting, if my hopes were dashed by a rejection, I sort of slunk around, embarrassed that I didn’t make the grade, that my writing or characters or plot didn’t measure up. It was my style of mourning. But the degree of devastation has lessened some over the years as I see what good company I’m in. Other authors are rejected, too. Maybe all. And often. It’s a part of the writer journey.

I try to be conscious of other factors like timing and editorial preference and business decisions for the publishing house. Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s not. Now I try to think of rejection as redirection and not be quite so hard on myself. But it still stings.

4. Why do you write?

I simply long to put words down on paper. It satisfies my creative spirit more completely than any other art form. I love everything about the process. The plotting, developing the story, setting, and characters. The rewrites, editing, pitching, promotion¬¬—all of it. Just the “doing of the thing” is lovely to me. Plus, the people I have met as I studied the craft and the experiences I’ve had as a result of this writer journey have enriched my life so much. It makes me smile inside and out!

5. What would you be doing with your free time if you weren’t writing?

Probably still antiquing on the weekends with my friends, looking for that fabulous find. For many years, antiquing was like a sport. I didn’t earn a gold medal, but sad to say, I probably should have.

One hopes that I might pull out my violin and practice regularly, so I’d be comfortable playing when the opportunity presented itself. Recently, I spoke at a Fine Arts Camp and many of the attendees had their fiddles in tow. I wanted to rosin up my bow and cut loose with a little “Boil the Cabbage.” (Wink) But if one really wants to write, some things have to fade into the background. One cannot do it all. At least, I can’t.

6. What are you working on right now?

A new, more suspenseful mystery. I’m very excited about it. We’ll see if it finds a good home. While I wait to find out the future of this beloved group of characters, I plan to finish up the proposal for the sequel to my debut novel. I’d love for that story to continue—at least one more book. Or maybe two? God willing.

7. Do you put yourself into your books/characters?

Absolutely! In fact, I can’t stay out of their lives. I’m like a meddlesome mother-in-law, always busting in at a sensitive time. I do often write from personal experience to add authenticity to a scene, if it works. There are bits of me in all my characters. But they also possess their own identities and live their own stories.

8. Tell us about the book you have out right now.

Happy to, Margaret. It is a cozy mystery titled, A VASE of Mistaken Identity. Here’s the pitch: an antique dealer acquires a vintage vase with a list of familiar names inside. Initially, she is only curious, but when the first person listed has a tragic accident and the second goes mysteriously missing, Thea gets nervous. And then gets involved because—her name is next!

My favorite definition of a cozy mystery is “Cats, quilts, and not a lot of blood.” Since this was my first book, I added a golden-eyed, calico cat (Betty). Just in case that wasn’t enough coziness, Thea also made a quilt for her cat! She worked on it through the book. At the end, the original quilt pattern called, “Kitty in the Cabin” is included. The reader can actually make the same quilt. For a picture of the finished prototype, check my web site:

Any future books in the Thea James Mystery series will contain a new, original quilt pattern, as well.

9. Do you have any advice for other writers?

When I started writing, I’d get a really good idea but wouldn’t use it. I was worried I might need it for something else. Like it was too wonderful to waste or something! (That makes me laugh, now.) But then, I read some advice that said to put all your best stuff in your project right then. Go for it! Don’t worry. More will come.

10. How important is faith in your books?
It’s very important. How wonderful if my books could point to Him, even if He isn’t mentioned on the page. But I am also loathe to whack anyone over the head with doctrine. I want the faith element to be natural to the story—a tough task unless you make your protagonist a pastor or church secretary or something. At least, I find it challenging.

While writing the book, I struggled. How much is too much? I worried a little about non-believing friends who might read it. Would they just dismiss it as so much Christian tripe? But during a road trip, I read (a la CD) one of Jan Karon’s Mitford novels, where Father Tim and Cynthia decide to marry. The notes that these two passed back and forth, the depth of their gratitude to God for the unexpected blessing of their upcoming union, and their private prayers were so powerful, yet tender, too. I had to pull off the freeway and weep for the beauty of it. Karon connected with my heart in such a sweet way, her words full of truth and loveliness. Right there I prayed that I would not be afraid to be bold for the Lord in my writing.

I don’t expect to be a Jan Karon. And my story may not lend itself to the same type of interaction between the characters, but where it IS right, it is my hope that I don’t miss the mark faith-wise. I will, of course. But I’m trying. I can only do my best. The result is up to Him.

11. What themes do you like to write about?

In my cozy, the theme was “trusting God.” My protagonist, Thea, suffered much loss in the past six or so years. During those times, she cried out to God, but it seemed He didn’t answer. Now, she prefers not to lay her heart on the line.

But there is also an underlying theme of “Light.” Light that shines into the darkness and exposes truth. Light that guides the way. Light that makes things heretofore unseen, beautiful. Though my next projects deal with the issue of “forgiveness” I suspect all of my books will have the underlying theme of “Light.”

12. What is your favorite book you’ve written and why?

It’s my cozy mystery, A VASE of Mistaken Identity. Maybe that’s because I have no other book completed with which to compare. ☺ Perhaps when I have a second and a third book out, it will be harder to choose. Or easier!

I look at my book and see the faithfulness of God. I see rich relationships with my agent, my writer friends, and with the kind, creative folks at Kregel Publications who took a chance on a rookie. It reminds me of the years of classes, conferences, and critiques that helped me to a publishable state. And I think of the world of folks who live inside its pages and often inside my head. I am most grateful and very blessed.

13. What is your writing schedule like?

Oh, dear. Did you have to ask that? It’s not as organized as I’d like, for sure. I do have a day job in a community college library. And…I’m a night-owl. So usually, I write at night.

This past year, an author friend of mine agreed to be my accountability partner. What a great help! I don’t write “X” amount of words per day. It works well for me to set a date and tell my friend, “Expect a new chapter by the 19th.” That works for me. I may write every evening as I work toward a deadline. Or skip several days and pick it back up again. Since I love to rewrite and edit, I can get hung up trying to make it perfect and never move forward. My accountability partner will give me a little talking to if I get too distracted. I really appreciate it! My writing has a better forward momentum now.

Margaret, thanks so much for having me interview for your blog. Your questions made me think and dig around inside for answers. Most interesting! If folks want to know more about me or my debut novel, A VASE of Mistaken Identity, please visit my Web site at where with one click, they can also see the book trailer!