Former journalist and newspaper editor Sharon E. Cathcart joins us in the virtual studio. She’s the author of In The Eye of The Beholder and In The Eye of The Storm — a pair of novels inspired by The Phantom of the Opera. Before we proceed with the interview, let’s take a quick look at the descriptions of Sharon’s titles:
When French equestrian Claire Delacroix loses her fiance in a tragic accident, she comes to live at the Paris Opera during its 1890s heyday.
Whilst working at the opera, she meets a mysterious, masked stranger: Erik. Is it possible that the two of them will heal the pain of each other’s past?
San Francisco, 1948
When a mysterious stranger approaches Clarice Kaye in her favorite restaurant, his words trigger a voyage of discovery: “You look just like your grandmother, but you have your mother’s eyes.”
There was only one question in Clarice’s mind: how could he know?
Armed with family diaries that tell of the scandalous grandmother for whom she was named, Clarice embarks on a journey through Paris’ modern art movement, 1906 San Francisco, and the depths of the Opéra Garnier in this long-awaited sequel to “In The Eye of The Beholder.”
Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together for Sharon E. Cathcart!
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m originally from Portland, Oregon, but now live in the Silicon Valley. I’m married, and we have a number of rescue pets. I studied journalism and forensic anthropology in college (at different times). I think my background as a journalist and, eventually, a newspaper editor, are part of the reason I love writing historical fiction. I’m one of those rare birds who actually enjoys doing the research. Fun fact: my left elbow is double-jointed.
2. When did you start writing?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. One of my best friends from elementary school and I used to write and perform plays for our classmates, and I have been writing short stories and poetry ever since then. Now, I’ve got two novels, a number of novellas and short stories, and poems that have been published over the years.
3. Do you recall the moment you first conceived the ideas for your novels?
I definitely remember for “In The Eye of The Beholder.” I had just abandoned what I still consider to be the worst-written book I’ve ever seen (I will not out the author here), and was so frustrated. My inner voice said “Well, if you think you can do better, why don’t *you* try writing a novel.” So, I did.
4. Of the characters you’ve created, which one is your favorite?
I’m ridiculously fond of one of the characters in my current work in progress. His name is Jimmy Arceneaux, and he is the loquacious, precocious 6-year-old nephew of my male protagonist in “Bayou Fire.” He idolizes his Uncle Amos, and tags along after him whenever he gets a chance. He’s also a bit of a chatterbox.
I don’t know that I have an overall favorite character, to be honest … I kind of fall in love with my male protagonists (thank god for my patient husband) every single time.
5. Any project in the works?
I’m currently working on my first historical paranormal, “Bayou Fire.”
6. Using five words or less, describe the protagonist in Bayou Fire.
Diana Corbett is a travel writer and dreamer. (I think I failed the brevity test.)
7. How do you feel about outlines? Are you for or against them?
I am a dedicated “pantser.” I have a general idea of where I want the story to go, but then I just start writing. Sometimes characters show me unexpected sides of themselves that take the book in a slightly different direction. If I wrote mysteries, I would have to outline … for obvious reasons. Historical fiction, on the other hand, has a general timeline in which events need to occur – but there’s some leeway within that timeline.
8. Let’s talk about your favorite book genres.
- Which do you prefer to read in?
Historical fiction, and mysteries.
- Which do you prefer to write in?
9. What are you currently reading?
“Dead and Buried,” by Barbara Hambly, and “Bayou Farewell,” by Mike Tidwell.
10. How long does it usually take you to write a book?
My previous two full-length novels took four years each. I went down some serious research “rabbit holes” while working on them. The current one looks like it will have taken about a year to complete by the time I’m done with final edits. I’ve become much more disciplined over time.
11. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Even if it’s crap, put it on the paper. Editing is for later. This was one of the best pieces of advice that received, and I pass it on whenever I’m asked. Thing is, a blank screen, or blank piece of paper, can be intimidating if you think the sentence has to be perfect before you ever write it. It’s better to write it, and go back and fix it later on, than to never write it at all.
And now for a game of “Which Do/Would You Prefer?”
1. Books or movies?
2. Dogs or cats?
I love both. I seriously cannot choose.
3. Car or motorcycle?
4. Living in the city or living in the country?
I am definitely a city mouse.
5. Staying in a hotel or going camping?
Hotel. I hate camping.
6. To speak using ONLY rap lyrics (from songs released in the 21st century) or to speak using ONLY quotes from Austen’s books?
7. Being able to speak and understand every language known to humankind or being able to speak and understand every language known to animals?
I’m a polyglot (English, French, Italian, Spanish, Kouri-Vini) and an animal communicator, so this is another one where I don’t really see an either/or.
8. Losing your ability to speak or losing your ability to hear?
The ability to hear would be the far greater loss for me; I love music too much.
9. To never read another book or to never watch another film?
I could give up movies far more easily than books.
10. To never again eat a piece of chocolate or to never again drink a cup of coffee?
I don’t like coffee; giving it up would be easy.
11. Have every day be Saturday or have every day be Christmas?
Saturday. It’s far too easy to get tired of a given holiday, even if you love it.