Written by L J Higgins
It’s time again to meet one of YAAR’s talented authors! Today we interviewed Sarah Wathen, author of the Catchpenny Series.
- Tell us about your Catchpenny Series.
Catchpenny is an offbeat romance—one novel released in 4 serial parts. The original title was Wicked Lover, and that’s exactly what Meg Shannon is…in all of the ways you might interpret such a phrase. She’s in her senior year of high school, so imagine the consequences of playing that role. Meg has plenty of enemies and slut shame is a big theme. She does find love, yet finding her true worth as a human being is the ultimate quest. In that way, it’s also a coming of age story.
- Why did you release it as a serial?
I had intended it to be a pretty short read in the beginning. My first book, The Tramp, is part of a long epic story, with tons of characters, history, and interweaving plot lines. With Catchpenny, I wanted to take a breather and write a simple love story. Of course nothing about love is simple, and writing about it isn’t short or simple either. I finished Wicked Lover (part one) and while I was working through it with my editor, part two just couldn’t help itself from happening.
- Your main character in Wicked lover is a teenage girl who is obsessed with poker. Do you play?
I would say Meg’s a gambler in almost every sense. Love interest Tristan would say she gambles with her body, but not her heart. I do play a little poker, but my game is Blackjack and I learned from the best. My Aunt Maxine taught me everything I could know about cards and she was a true romantic, a guiding force in writing this book. She passed away right before Thanksgiving last year and Catchpenny is dedicated to her.
- The world is captivated by young love, which seems to be a main theme in Wicked Lover. What do you think we find so enchanting about it?
Young love is pure. We can all remember when we felt so powerfully about another person, before all the worries of adult life got in the way: finances, marriage, family, career. Back when we were invincible and our worlds were filled with boundless hope and endless possibility. Of course, I remember young love being pretty painful, too, when I really stop to think about it. Reading a book about it is much more fun!
- Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
I’m always influenced by whatever good book I am currently reading. Right now it’s The Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro, a collection of short stories. Makes me feel like writing a short story, which I’ve never done.
- If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
There’s plenty I would change about the money I wasted! I made so many mistakes it’s ridiculous. But I guess I learned from them all, too, and in a way, the knowledge I gained is priceless.
- Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
Catchpenny is the collection of four serial parts: Wicked Lover, Battle Ax, Cactus Heart, and Gold Mine. It was fun to release the books as a serial at first, and since I’m a brand new author, it was a great way for readers to get a taste of my writing before diving into a full novel. Yet after finishing the serial, I really wanted to give people a chance to read the story as a whole.
- How did you come up with the title for your books?
“Catchpenny” means something cheap, bought for pennies. In the beginning, that how Meg thinks about herself (though she doesn’t realize that). Her journey from a Wicked Lover, through to the Gold Mine in the end of the series, is about her discovering her worth. The two books in between are titled for key concepts in each, but I can’t give that away!
- What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
I’ve been told that my first book, The Tramp, moves too slowly by some. It’s hard for me not to take that to heart and just stay the course of my plan for the series. I hate that I feel like changing the story because of what some people think, because I think it’s a great book and I do have a plan for it as a series. It was written with a lot of purpose and not every book needs to move quickly, like Catchpenny does. Mostly, I think I made some marketing and genre mistakes. Because the best compliments have also come from The Tramp! Maybe it moves slowly, but apparently that’s because I’m a darn good “wordsmith” and I’m great at painting a rich, visual landscape. That doesn’t happen when you rush through a book! You need to settle in. I guess my favorite books that I’ve read are of the settle in variety.
- If you had a superpower what would it be?
Mind control, so I would never have to worry about marketing ever again!
- What else are you working on at the moment?
I’m marrying writing and making art together in a graphic novel. It’s a really exciting project and a huge challenge for me. The story comes from a series of Flash Fiction that I wrote back in April last year called Gaslight. The short, 300-word segments are perfect for graphic novel chapters!
- Tell us about your cover design.
Each of the four drawings on the Catchpenny cover were covers for the four serial parts. The first one, the cover for Wicked Lover, was a charcoal drawing with a long history for me in grad school. This weird little figure began as a chalk smudge on velvet paper, then came alive as I discerned a tiny being and filled in details with a pen. I wrote it’s birthdate down and “pregnant, dancing, armored bodice.” Next, it became a series of silk screens, each print different. Finally, she was fully realized in the detailed drawing I used for Wicked Lover. When I found the drawing in a flat file, she was just perfect for this strange creature that Meg Shannon is in the beginning of Catchpenny. The figure becomes more human and more beautiful in each part, then finally takes flight. It’s such a great metaphor for discovering yourself.
- Your website shows that as well as writing you have a passion for art. Which do you prefer and why?
They are apples and oranges, though both ways to create. Writing and making art couldn’t feel more different to me, and I need them both. Here’s a good way to think of it: when I paint I listen to rock, when I draw I listen to jazz, and when I write I listen to white noise on noise-canceling headphones. I was classically trained in painting and up until a few years ago, that’s how I would’ve defined myself. Now I realize that, as an artist, I just choose the hat for the moment. Last year I was “a writer,” this year I’m “an illustrator,” and before that I was “a painter.” It’s all art.
- Are you a coffee or a tea drinker?
I’m drinking coffee right now, but I prefer wine.
- Is there anything else you would like your readers to know about you?
Yes! I work closely with my musician husband when I write, and the title Wicked Lover is from a song that his band, Her Last Boyfriend, wrote. It’s the song in the book trailer I produced and you can check it out here: http://bit.ly/WickedLoverTrailer
Also, HLB has decided to produce an EP album of four songs, one tune for each serial part of Catchpenny. It’s not finished yet, but they are doing some really cool stuff that goes so well with the story in the book. I love it! The second song is a remake of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” The fourth is an alternative rock version of the famous wedding song, Pachelbel’s “Canon in D.” Follow my blog, and I’ll keep you informed: www.sarahwathen.com