I’m excited to be interviewing my agency sister, Caitlin Sinead, about her writing process.
Let’s just dive right in, shall we? What inspired you to write your first book?
I’ve wanted to write a book since I was a kid. When I got married, I realized my life was tumbling forward and I still hadn’t written a book. I’d been relying too much on “someday.” I decided to get to work! I launched into a year and a half of fits and starts and a fair amount of first chapters.
Then, finally, I got the idea for Denali. It just grabbed me and I needed to write the story.
You just described my writing life with your answer! Are you a pantser or a plotter and how did you approach writing your story?
I wrote my first book as a panster and I’ll never go back to that. I had no idea what I was doing. And if it hadn’t been for my love of the premise and characters I don’t know if I could have withstood the multiple (multiple!) plot overhauls. Finally, I realized I needed help. So I looked into outlining books and found Story Engineering to be very helpful. Still, I had to take those principles and apply them over a work I already wrote, which was kind of like fitting a circle into a square peg. Since then, I’ve crafted the square peg first, which makes things a lot easier and more fun!
I love to outline. Some people hate it. I’m glad you found what works best for you. What books have most influenced your life?
One of my favorite books is Winesburg, Ohio. I’ve read “Adventure” dozens of times. The book deals heavily with themes of loneliness, but it actually reminds me of why fiction is so powerful. It serves as a connection.
That’s a very important and powerful reason to read. If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I had the fortune of knowing Reetika Vazirani when she taught creative writing at William and Mary. She was always very encouraging of my writing and thought I should pursue an MFA. I did eventually get my masters from Johns Hopkins where I got to learn from a host of other amazing writers, but I’m not sure if I would have thought it was a possibility without Reetika’s early encouragement.
That’s wonderful to have had someone on the College/University level that encouraged your growth. What book are you reading now?
Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos. I got to hear her talk at a writers’ conference earlier this year and she was just so delightfully funny! Additionally, she said she wrote her books sentence by sentence. She’d write a sentence, get it exactly perfect, and then move on to the next sentence. I had to see what the end result of that process looked like.
That’s quite a process. I’m going to have to check that book out now. What are your current projects?
I’m wrapping up (well, on my end anyway…who knows what edits will come!) a book that’s set to come out next summer. It’s about the daughter of a vice presidential candidate who has to deal with rumors that her deceased father isn’t biologically related to her. It’s my first book with no speculative elements whatsoever. My WIP is getting back into the speculative realm and is about characters with the ability to hypnotize people. If you’re an X-Files fan, think this episode.
You had me at X-files! I can’t wait to read it. Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My writers group has been phenomenal. They have been so supportive and have kept me on track.
Having a group of writers at arms length is definitely convenient. If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
For Heartsick, I think no. It’s the best book I could have written. I am still tweaking my other projects.
Great answer. Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I wrote a story in second grade about a child who was scooped up by the stars and saw the city below. My mom and teacher thought it was great. I decided then that I wanted to be a writer and that desire stuck.
Wow. Add that to your WIP list because I think that would make an awesome novel. What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Honestly, the hardest part probably didn’t have much to do with writing at all, but rather the belief that it was okay to be audacious enough to write a book. I have a wonderful support system and have been surprised (to the point of happy tears) at how encouraging many of my family and friends have been. But I also had some friends who were downright dubious that I could write a book. What did I really have to offer? Did I really think I was that good of a writer? Did I actually believe I could write a whole book!? Not everyone in your life is going to be as supportive as you want them to be. They’ll think you’re crazy for trying to write a book. The truth: you are crazy! But that’s what makes you interesting ;-). Ignore them and do what you want to do.
That’s right, ignore them! Great advice. Do you have any advice for other writers?
Don’t get caught up in the waiting game. My cat died the same week I heard back from an agent I was desperately waiting on, and it still makes me sad to think that I spent the last few days with my cat “can’t waiting” for a later point. Not realizing, of course, that he wouldn’t be around at said later point. As much as I loved him, I get that he was a cat, not a person. What if my husband or mom or someone else close to me had died? While I obviously want everyone in my life to live long, healthy lives, my time with them is still finite. Spending a few days desperately waiting for an email instead of, you know, enjoying what I have, is a few days too many.
That’s so true. Waiting sucks, but don’t forget to live in the meantime. Which character was your favorite to write and why?
This feels like picking a favorite kid, but if I have to…it’s got to be Luke in Heartsick. I told my husband not to worry about me fantasizing about Ray, the love interest in Denali in Hiding, because he’s loosely based on my husband. This is not a lie! But, it wouldn’t be obvious to most people that that’s the case. So, with my second book, I more directly based the love story on how my husband and I met and our dynamic when we first started dating. (We didn’t have purple eyes or a murder to solve…heh…but the dynamic was similar).
I also based an aspect of Luke on a newer characteristic I’ve noticed in my husband. He has a tough job where he often has to confront the darker aspects of humanity. When he makes work calls around me, it’s strange to hear his serious, world-weary voice. But, when he gets off the phone, he’s back to being goofy and romantic with me. In fact, it seems the worse the case, the goofier he gets afterward. It’s like he needs that goofy time to ameliorate the harder aspects of his job. I applied that quality to Luke, who’s a SERIOUS COP with off-the-job goofy tendencies. Even though plenty of aspects of Luke aren’t derived from my husband, it was fun giving my husband a bit of an homage. And he gets a kick out of telling people that a Harlequin hero is based on him.
I’m not sure if I could answer that last question. It’s hard. LOL Since we’re agency sisters, I already know the answer to my next question, but I’ll ask anyway. Who is your agent?
The wonderful Andrea Somberg! <<she’s a=”” rockstar!=””>>
Andrea was always one of my top choices to query, but my conversation with you convinced me to do it sooner rather than later. So thanks. How did you meet your agent?
Good, old-fashioned query. Here’s the story.
Such a great agent story! Do you have a favorite line one of your characters says in your book?
A few CPs suggested I cut this from Denali in Hiding. I know all about darlings and can usually be pretty brutal with myself, but I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of this darling! I’m including the line before it for context:
“I thought it was only a matter of time before Rosalyn noticed Ray’s defined stomach, which I can see when he lifts his shirt up after a run to wipe his face; or how his voice can get low, like a strong hum, when he explains something; or how, despite his aura of precision, he has a mischievous grin, which comes out every time I suggest we run off the trail. We stomp down the mud and the muck and the leaves, jumping over rocks and slapping our sneakers through streams.”
Thank you so much for sharing. What’s all your social media links to share with readers?