Cathy Perkins’ suspense writing lurks behind a financial geek day-job, where she learned firsthand the camouflage, hide in plain sight, skills employed by her villains. Born and raised in South Carolina, she now lives in the Pacific Northwest with her work-a-holic husband and a 75-pound Lab who thinks she’s still a lap-puppy.
Set in South Carolina, stopping the serial killer who is terrorizing college campuses drives the plot of THE PROFESSOR. The tension and stakes build as the characters’ wants and needs set them on a collision course: Charismatic State Agent Mick O'Shaughnessy wants more from life than work and a pretty face. Fiercely independent graduate student Meg Connelly always wanted a loving family and professional success, but has to learn to trust in order to get either. The Professor knows the only way to get what he wants is to take it—and taking Meg’s life will destroy Mick with the same stroke of his knife.
Did you ever want to quit writing? Why or why not?I started writing for my own pleasure. I didn’t even think about publication until later. There were times when I wondered if I would ever push that particular boulder all the way up the hill, but I never considered not writing. Creating the characters, the world, and turning them loose is simply part of me.
Have you truly mastered grammar and sentence structure? Do you feel 100% confident about every comma in your book?What a funny question! Have you ever read Eat Shoots and Leaves? Funny grammar guide – add your own commas to the title and it means completely different things!
Having said that, given the teachers who drilled grammar rules into me, I do feel confident. What I’ve noticed, however, is a change in the publishing industry’s rules of grammar. Commas are deleted; phrases rearranged. Hyphens are removed from words. As long as the meaning of the sentence is clear, I don’t worry about it. I’ve even ended a few sentences with prepositions. Remind me to tell you a joke I heard about that.How many pages do you think you could write in one day if you had zero interruptions from 8 AM to 8 PM?
I cannot imagine a day with zero interruptions…I’m still working the day job, so I write early in the morning or at night. I’ve written a chapter (10 to 15 pages) in an evening, so as long as I have an idea where the story is going, I can probably write several chapters—if that mythical free day appears.
How do you think (take a guess) writers like Nora Roberts write so many books in a year?She cloned herself. It’s the only answer.
What would be easier for you to write, a sex scene or a murder scene?I don’t think one is more difficult than the other. In a gross, over-generalization (which means, of course, this would never apply to you!) I think people stress over love scenes because they aren’t comfortable with the subject or they’re forcing the action. When the characters have reached a point in the relationship and/or the story arc where they would make love, I find the emotions flow and the scene isn’t difficult to write. I enjoy these scenes for the richness of the emotional connection.
Murder scenes can be a challenge unless I’ve gotten into my villain’s head and know why he’s killing. Once I know that, I just have to channel my inner serial killer. JIf you were allowed to have only ONE book (of yours) for sale on Amazon and B&N, which book would you select? Why do you think readers might enjoy it?
I have a book I’ve never tried to sell (the working title is Gone) that’s probably my favorite story. My beta readers loved the characters – and invested in them so heavily I had to remind one reader these were fictional characters when she got upset about an experimental treatment I employed! But the story opens in a very dark psychological place that I’m not sure most readers will accept. For now, that story is just for a few carefully chosen readers. I may change my mind later… stay tuned.What made you decide to become a writer?
While I’ve had a life-long love affair with reading, I didn’t start writing until about five years ago. This probably isn’t how most people start, but I had a lengthy consulting job in a city about 90 miles away. I’d listen to music and daydream during the commute. Pretty soon the day dream had dialogue and I thought, hmm, this is turning into a good story. That particular book lives in a box under the bed, but I was hooked on writing, creating worlds and characters.I realized how much I didn’t know about writing, so I took classes and joined a critique group. These writers encouraged me to join RWA and enter a few contests, including the Golden Heart. The Professor, my debut novel, won those contests and was a Golden Heart finalist, but I kept hearing ‘romantic suspense is dead’ so I really didn’t try to sell the book.
Instead, I put the story away and kept writing. About this time last year, I pulled The Professor out and thought, I love these characters and want to share them with a wider audience. Carina Press made an offer and I’m thrilled to say the novel released on January 23.Any advice for new writers just getting started?
Never give up! The road to publication can take numerous twists and turns. Whether an agent or editor will want your story may involve timing and other projects they’re working on as much as the merits of your story. Add in individual likes and hot-buttons and you just have to keep working and submitting. If the story is rejected, remember it’s business, not personal. A well-written novel has multiple opportunities.The second piece of advice is, keep learning. I’ve sat next to multi-published, NY Times best-selling authors and watched them take notes in a conference class. Sometimes it’s a new concept and sometimes a speaker hits me between the eyes with exactly the question or idea that I needed to pull a scene together.
There are so many new avenues for authors – traditional and small presses, digital first, and self-publishing. Which one to pursue is a very personal decision, based on your story and your personal publication goals.I’ll leave you with some advice Angela James offered at the Emerald City Conference – just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Her point was, make sure whatever you send out is ready, polished and your best work.
Thanks for having me here today, Theresa. I appreciate the chance to talk about The Professor, my debut release from Carina Press.
Links to learn more about Cathy Perkins!