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?
catt dahman (little letters; no caps: a promise to keep my ego in check that I made several years ago) I am 53.
Fiona: Where are you from?
North East Texas, although I have lived several places. I am currently in the Fort Worth area.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I graduated from Texas A & M and was started on a PhD when I finally stopped; my area was criminal psychology. I ended up teaching grades 4- college after that (art and literature). My father was a poet and writer and went by the pen name Jay Ellington Ashton.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
So much…With Michael Noe, Roma Gray, and Kitty Kane (and Toneye Eyenot) we are revamping a blog cast called Wicked Little Things (Wednesdays 7 PM CST). With the above, we are also doing a project for JEA that is based on old school double feature creature drive-in movies. We have about 25 authors involved and there will be a summer 2018 release of novels and novellas. Third, I have about 7-8 novels in the works and due out this year or the first of next. Then there is the Anti-bullying foundation, Unkind Bullies, that Michael Now and I are co-directing. Over at JEA, I work with CEO, Essel Scott Pratt and COO, Jim Goforth as we run JEA and release tons of great books! I have a few other things going with other friends as well!
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
As long as I can remember. I write/wrote books and stories in my head and often acted them out and then I began writing them down and eventually typing. I actually began with horror and westerns. I had a handwritten HUGE book about zombies and a few years back, the zombie craze heated. I typed fast and found a great editor. (I worked about 20 hours a day for months!). Then I did the old-fashioned thing and tried presses, 3 of them, and I subbed wrong to two, but the third press, Severed Press (Australia) asked for 10 days to read the first 3 book in a 9 book series and I agreed. On day 9, they sent a contract and contracted me for 8 more books on other themes. I danced around the house; it felt so good to have it happen the old way and to have contracts. I think it was a case of the right books, the right amount of them, the right place, and the right time as well as it was the perfect press for me.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I think on the day 9 from above. J To be accepted by peers was amazing. The other time was when I was allowed to join the Horror Writers Association as a voting member because I had the sales to prove I WAS a writer. And the third big time was when I met actor and director, Tom Savini, and introduced myself as a writer.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
The Time of Grace was based on some true events in my life, the history of my hometown in 1957, and the fact that my father taught at the college where part of the action takes place. The setting is my hometown, Texarkana, Texas, which is where the events of The Town That Dreaded Sundown occurred. I have always enjoyed basing my own horror into places and within events that are historical.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
My titles always hit me fast (I have about 65 books either published or about to be). Jim Goforth, a fellow writer, helped me with 2 that were not emerging with titles.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I write in a weird way. I write the books in my head with no or only a rough idea of an ending. Then I begin to type. Each day I go over everything from the top and edit in more detail and better conversations and then add a new chapter. When finished, it gets a few more readings and then goes to the editor. I have only altered 2 books since starting: one was because writer, Mark Woods, told me my timing and tempo were WAY off and I had to re-write the entire book; the other was when a chapter was misplaced and I switched it. I tend to follow the characters and if I made notes or plans (or outlined) then I would be tempted to force the action and events. I love to see what happens to my characters as “they” drive the stories. I was once greatly upset when I couldn’t save a character and went outside at midnight, got into my Jeep, and tried to figure out how she could escape with broken bones and was unable to do it (and fell out of the Jeep!) That sort of thing is very usual for me.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
It depends. When I write historical horror or crime novels, I am basing them on true events’ in those cases, a lot is real. Maybe 50-75%. If pure horror, I think only 5% or less is ever based on anyone or anything real. Generally, I can hear a few words (like the song Smooth. The title set off in my head that people’s minds could be wiped out “smooth” and they could go feral. The book of the same title is one of my favorites) and then get an entire book (except for the ending) in my head within a short time. Over-imagination…it’s what my insomnia lives upon!
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I have. My work is almost always set in the North East Texas area (Like King and his love for Maine?). I have set novels based on a trip to Arizona, trips to Louisiana, and Jamaica. For the one set in California, I used my husband’s memories.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Gary McCuskey, David McGlumphy, and Michael “Fish” Fisher. I am no sure who did a few via Severed Press. I have always loved my covers and am proud of them.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I think I always have an undertone about people, in extreme situations of stress, can go very bad. I love to delve into the dynamics of relationships and I still love working on criminal profiles and going into the nature/nurture reasons for criminology.
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?
This is a hard one and because I have many writer friends, I’ll go with the more well-known names to keep the list fair and shorter. J I do live Stephen King, Richard Laymon, Ira Levin, Thomas Tryon, Dan Simmons, Graham Masterton and the team of Preston & Child.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Mark Woods. He is a great writer as well!
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I hope so since it is all I do now and how I identify.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
A doctor of infectious diseases told me I had a “brilliant but sadistic and scary mind” and that he hoped I was careful when describing the engineering of a prion disease since my theory was “horrifying”. I leaned I might be brilliant, but I was sadistic and horrifying; I’ll take that!
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I know I want Tarentino or Zombie to direct any film of my novels. (I wish!!!) I am not really the person to know who would be the best in any roles, but sometimes I imagine actors Ed Harris (The Abyss) and Andrew Lincoln (The Walking Dead) as characters. I love all the actors and actresses that those directors often call upon.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Too much to say here. J I always say “Don’t become a writer,” and I am teasing but not always. Writers need a thick skin. We get rejected, we get torn to shreds in reviews, there is drama in the communities, we get more criticism than compliments, and it can be lonely. Grammar matters, experience matters, patience matters. Realistically, few of us ever “make it” (as far as making a lot of money and being famous). I sure am not there! Writers looking for it as a job that pays or fame will be disenchanted; we write because we have to, because we love it, and because it is who we are. My other big advice is what I got when I started: be modest, be gracious, and be real. Say “thank you” and “please”. Be professional.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Judas Iscariot. Answers.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Preacher, The Walking Dead (and Fear TWD), Sneaky Pete, Vikings, Fargo, and above all, Old and new Twin Peaks and Fire Walk With Me.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Seafood & DrPepper. Aqua, teal, black. The numbers 5, 13, and 3. Old stuff from 60s and 70s, Duran Duran, some grunge.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Unfortunately, this happened a few years ago! I lost my father suddenly and then I snapped my shoulder bone in half in an accidental fall. My husband, David, had a heart attack (and survived!). I was, of course, sad and worried about my father and my husband but the break was what caused me to be unable to write at all. My hand was broken up and I was in a cast and on pain pills that did nothing for the pain. I have a high pain tolerance but was in such agony that I screamed, I cried, or I puked; that is all. It was 6 months before I had relief and a year before I was healing well with the doctors’ help (it took a team). I was flat on my back for months and gained weight and when I began any recovery, I found that I couldn’t even raise my arm enough to type and my fingers didn’t work the same. The pain was severe. I worked on it and learned a new way of typing that I have to use now. I am STILL with the team of doctors to gain back the strength. That was a world of hurt and one in which I could not use writing to reduce stress as therapy.
If I could never write again, I would once again be half a person. I did have support in my husband, son, mother, fellow writers, the JEA group, and especially Toneye Eyenot and Scott Pratt (whom I gave JEA to when this happened and he still runs it as CEO). I think that not writing would take away who I am again and my core personality. Depressed yet? But I am writing again, so it is all good.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
Loosely: “historias non indicavit” (Latin for “she told stories”)
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Author of over 45 books (various presses) www.cattd.com
Owner of J Ellington Ashton Press www.jellintonashton.com
Active member of Horror Writers Association
Co-founder of Unkind Bullies foundation www.unkindbullies.com