Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
My name is Catherine Zebrowski and, to put it in a historical perspective, my parents were married right after World War II so I am up at that retirement age.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Leicester, Massachusetts right on top of three steep hills each rising one on top of the next. Collectively, they are known as Dead Horse Hill.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
My imagination was stirred at an early age by the stories and songs I heard from my mother who had grown up on the West Coast of Ireland. After graduating from Worcester State College, I went over to Dublin, Ireland for a year and was enriched by studies in Anglo-Irish Literature at University College Dublin and the many experiences I had over there. My time in Dublin in the mid 1970’s was an inspiration for two chapbooks of poetry I published through Lulu : Immigrant and Gone Stealin’. I had been working in libraries for the last few decades until I retired last year, and, during that time, I was also writing fiction and have completed two novels. Sleepwalking Backwards is my first published novel.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
On June 16th, my Novel, Sleepwalking Backwards, was published through Touchpoint Press. It’s very exciting to have the words and characters I have been working on for several years come into print and to know that my story is being shared. I am having a good time doing book readings and signings.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
The first story I remember writing was when I was in the fourth grade. It was called Tony and His Cat and it even had illustrations.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I guess when I wrote Tony and His Cat. (Ha, Ha)
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Sleepwalking Backwards was inspired by many events, books, and a curiosity about grief and how it can show up in imaginative and unusual ways. The turn of the last century was another inspiration because I wanted to write a story in the time period before it happened. I wrote the first draft in early 1999 and that is the time period of one of the two main characters. I was also inspired by a book by Arthur Koestler, The Sleepwalkers, where he writes about many of the medieval astronomers, like Kepler, who made astounding discoveries sometimes without realizing their significance. It’s a very informative and also entertaining book as he delves into the genius and eccentricities of these pre-modern age scientists.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The first title was Amanda the Sleepwalker when Amanda was the only real main character. Then I wrote the other story in the voice of her mother in the late 1970’s so Amanda was not the only main character and the novel then had another earlier time period.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I guess I would say my novels are character-driven probably because I have always liked reading and writing plays as well as poetry and prose. I like to mix genres and Sleepwalking Backwards is a mixture of ghost story, mystery, mother-daughter, and magical realism
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Since many of the scenes take place where I grew up, I did sometimes pull from my own experiences but changed them. For instance, Gloria goes to the same college as I did and her first day in the fall of 1970 she is handed the book Our bodies,Ourselves before she even has a textbook. In the book my character is somewhat put off by this; in real life I became friends with the person who handed me that book and I thought it was cool. My character is more conservative than I was so, alas, I couldn’t push my 70’s political agenda there. I had to push her mistrust of all that new freedom.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
For this story I did not have to travel. For the first one I wrote I took a trip back to Ireland in the early nineties—great excuse.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The cover was designed by Colbie Myles at Touchpoint Press. I had sent in three photographs that a friend of ours, Kevin Boucher, had taken in his backyard observatory hoping they would use one of them. All three were used and the result was spectacular.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Not really; I just hope readers enjoy a good story.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
I have been reading novels by Tessa Hadley recently and really loving them. A read a new young author this year name Paul Murray. Two fantastic entertaining books I’ve read by him are Skippy Dies and The Mark and the Void. I really like reading Joyce Carol Oates and William Trevor.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I’m getting up there in age but I suppose it could be another career.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I can’t think of anything. Of course, in fifteen years of working on it I changed plenty.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I guess maybe what I learned is the story kind of changes as you change and characters take on a life of their own—be prepared to rewrite and rewrite.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
The mother could be Sissy Spacek and the daughter, I’m not sure.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Keep writing even through the discouraging times.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
I hope you are entertained and, in some way, moved by my story and words.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Two Tessa Hadley novels.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
The first chapter book I read by myself was Alice in Wonderland.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Books by Joyce Carol Oates and Margaret Atwood usually make me do both sometime during the reading experience.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Yes, my grandmother in Ireland who died young in childbirth. The stories from Ireland have always haunted me and I suppose I feel like there would be some kind of resolution.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I like music and love to sing folksongs. I also like nature walks.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
My two favorite movies of all time are Coal Miner’s Daughter and Housekeeping. I like to watch dramas like NCIS and Madam Secretary.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Crackers and cheese, green and blue, folk and blues
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Be sad—listen for stories wherever voices could be heard.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
It’s been a good run
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
I am on Facebook and my website is catherinezebrowskwriter.wordpress.com
My book is available on amazon and at https://touchpointpress.com/
and the poetry collections through lulu.com