Sunday, July 19, 2015

Cathryn Chapman - Interview

The Interview 

Today we have a wonderful post set up for all of our readers! I was lucky enough to interview the lovely Cathryn Chapman, author of ‘Sex, Lies, & Cruising’! Which, if you have not pre-ordered your copy yet… What are you waiting for? It is such a page-turner! A super fun read!

Readers can download the first ten chapters for free on Cathryn Chapman's website if they'd like to give the book a try first! Just click HERE!

So where was I? Oh, yes! Interviewing the lovely Cathryn Chapman! Sorry to make you wait love. Let’s jump to it with my favourite question for any author:

When did you know that you wanted to be an author?

I’ve gone through phases with my career aspirations. In high school, my favourite English teacher suggested I write for Mills & Boon, but back then, besides knowing nothing about relationships (I was 14!), we also didn’t have the internet, so the idea of doing that for a living was quite ridiculous. I also was in a world where nobody really supported creative career dreams. My parents were totally supportive of me having a creative outlet in my life (dancing, singing, etc), but I don’t think anybody believed there were realistic jobs for me outside something like law or business.

So it was really a few years ago, after spending over seven years of my adult life living and working in other countries, including a whole lot of crazy behaviour, online dating, etc, that people started saying “You should write a book about your life.” I just thought, “I’m not famous. Nobody wants to read my memoir.” But over time, the idea morphed into writing fiction instead. Then I’m not limited to write one book. I could write at least twenty books inspired by all the crazy stuff I’ve done!

The internet has made several things possible where before they were just not available to people. I can understand why your idea of writing is recent. I can’t imagine wanting to be a writer without the internet available for both research and/or marketing. That being said, you must have had quite a different upbringing than the children of today. Want to tell us a bit about that?

I’m the youngest of five children, born in Sydney, Australia, then moved up the coast to Brisbane when I was about seven. My father grew up without money, so he was always determined to be successful – my parents became successful in my teens – and they traveled a lot. They didn’t take me with them on holidays and business trips, because Dad said I needed to make my own way in life, so I was really motivated to travel. I did a Bachelor of Business, majoring in Film and Television Production and minoring in Marketing, but all I wanted to do is go to London for a year. I saved 50% of my temp job salary each week, sold my car, and went to London at 21. I stayed for three and a half years in the end, and have been travelling on and off ever since. “Itchy feet, just like your father,” my mother used to say.

At the age of 31, I left a successful Public Relations Agency to go and work on cruise ships again – which I had also done in my twenties. I had my heart broken and decided to move to Paris to try and sing for a living… and then to London. I studied singing, dancing, acting, and accents, including a semester in NYC, but was never able to make it to the West End. My father got sick and I rushed home to be with him, but he died a week later, and when I got back to London a week after that, I finally had my big opportunity – an audition for the part of Rizzo in the professional production of Grease in London’s West End – but I was in shock... my heart wasn’t in it, and it was a terrible experience. I think I lost my confidence, and ended up taking a job as a Resident Entertainer in a holiday park in Cornwall, England. That’s where I met a bartender named Andres, who is now my husband… so I guess it turned out well after all – even if it’s not the result I was working towards!

So you actually worked on cruise ships? Wow! So can we believe that what you wrote in ‘Sex, Lies, & Cruising’ is actually a possible description that resembles reality on cruise ships for their staff?

It is definitely a work of fiction, but like many women, I do have some things in common with Ellie. Like many of us, she makes some ordinary decisions with men, and in a cruise ship environment, it’s more complicated and fast moving than ‘the real world’. My own personal experience probably contributes to about half a scene, or two pages, in the book. I haven’t done everything Ellie does, or been through everything she has, although I or one of my friends probably know somebody who has.

So, that being said. That leads me to our next question! When did you publish your first novel? Or, when will you publish your first novel?

This is it!

Wow! Congratulations! That is a huge accomplishment! Especially when your first novel comes so well rated! Can you tell us a bit about your novel. For starters, what genre is it and what genre do you see yourself typically writing in the future?

My first few books will definitely be in the chick lit/rom com genre

And what about this genre draws you in? Tell us why this is your chosen genre to write.

I think it’s the most natural voice for me. I’ve also done lots of stupid things regarding men, dating, and life in general, so I can write easily about girls who also do stupid things in their love lives!

Can your readers expect any other genres from you in the future?

I definitely want to write a historical romance. I have a plan for a book inspired by my grandparents meeting in Malta before WWII. I aspire to write something as beautiful as The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons, but I need a lot of practice writing before I tackle that one!

Where, may I ask, do you get your ideas and inspiration from for writing? Where did the idea for ‘Sex, Lies, & Cruising’ come from?

This book was mostly inspired by my jobs on cruise ships in my twenties and thirties -- I worked on them ‘on and off’. So many crazy things happen on ships – you really have no idea until you get there. Some people love it and some people don’t. I’m probably one of the latter. There are definite benefits to working on ships, but although I was no angel, I couldn’t get past the way people behaved when they thought you wouldn’t be part of their life for the long term, and also the way they behaved when they were away from their unsuspecting partners at home.

This leads me to ask, because I’m sure the readers are eager to know, what is the most taboo thing you have ever seen as a staff member of a cruise ship?

Definitely all the cheating – in all its forms. Men who had a wife and kids at home, and a girlfriend on the ship. When his wife came on board for a vacation, the girlfriend would move out of his cabin for the week and basically pretend she didn’t know him. Nobody would breathe a word. Then the night his wife went home, the girlfriend would move back in as though nothing had happened. The guys often pretend their wives don’t exist, maybe until the day before she arrives. I unknowingly got involved with a married man because he’d conveniently neglected to mention his wife over a two month period, until she was arriving the next day with their children, and his mother! I didn’t confront her, but I cried my eyes out when I saw them together. The guys are very forgetful with details at times, so it happened more than once. I guess I’m too trusting.

Possibly what was even worse, were the people who cheated on their partners who were actually on the ship with them. When one person was working or asleep, their partner would jump into bed with someone else. Horrific.

Wow! That would be something! That is the difference between bro code and sister code eh?
What about future works that we will see from you? Where are all these idea’s going to come from?

For future books, I’ve got a whole lot of ideas, inspired by the experiences I’ve had in my dating life and travels around the world.

That just means that we can expect more greatness from you. Your travels have brought a bunch of crazy books our way I’m sure. So, how many books do you see in your writing career? If you had to guess right now, of course!

20 is a figure which comes to mind… No idea why. I hope I’ll write a lot. I’m only 40, so that’s a couple a year until I’m too tired to look at a computer anymore, haha.

I hope you allow The Schwartz Reviews to be a reviewer of your future work! I thoroughly enjoyed book number one! Now, to something extremely important, because we all know how much I adore book covers. Seriously, a good book cover will get me every time… And, your book art was fabulous! Where did the idea for that masterpiece come from?

It was a combination of ideas from myself and my great friend and talented designer, Jo Kuipers. I had actually had at least three covers designed previously, by freelance designers. I didn’t fall in love with any of them, as they didn’t represent the right ‘feel’ of the book. So we had a big chat about what chick lit covers should look like, although I didn’t want a full illustration… then I left her to it, and she came up with something very similar to this, using a different model. The model’s expression and hands didn’t quite work, so I found the new photo; then a friend of mine in Tunisia changed her hair colour and added some saturation to her lips, and Jo put it onto the background. Hey presto, we had the perfect cover! Lots of people are responding well to it, so that’s really exciting to hear.

It is such a lovely cover! Bright, and exciting and I think that it matches the novel perfectly!

Another tough question. I know how difficult it is for a reader to answer the “Who is your favourite author?” question, because most readers have several. So, the same question to an author: Who is your author role model? And why?

I’m not sure if I have just one. I do love how Jackie Collins isn’t afraid to put it out there. She’s so fabulous and has written a huge amount of great books. While I’ve only read a few, I’ve enjoyed the ones I’ve read, and find her long term success in the industry to be a real inspiration.

Oooh, she is a good author! Plus, every author aspires for the long term success. I can easily see why she would be any author’s role model!

This question is a fun one. As a reader, I live many lives through the novels that I read. But as an interviewer, one of my favourite questions to ask is: What does a typical day in your shoes look like?

At the moment, I’m up at around 4-4.30am most days. I try to spend half an hour to an hour working on book promotion, social media, and catching up with news, before my three year old wakes up at 5-5.30am. I go back to bed and lie with him for at least half an hour to an hour, cuddling him while he drinks his rice milk. Then I do the morning routine, like getting ready for work, and usually leave home later than planned at around 7.30am. I work in marketing for a large non-profit, and get to leave around 4pm, depending on what time I arrived. When I get home, I spend time with my son, prepare dinner, and take turns with my husband doing the evening routine. When he goes to sleep around 7pm, I go back to my computer to work on my book, promotion, or whatever, until about 9.30pm. Okay, that’s a lie. I’m often still sitting in my office at 11pm – and then I curse myself and rush to bed before waking up at 4 and doing it all over again. Sometimes I also have client work to do for a marketing consultancy I freelance for. Once or twice a week I try to have a night out with my husband – we’re lucky that my mum lives downstairs from us – but I’m always tired.

Oh wow! I got tired just hearing about your typical day! I remember when my children were young. They have grown quite a bit now (ages 7-10), but toddlers! They know how to keep a house busy, don’t they? The cursing yourself for staying up too late, that happens to me more times than not as well. Usually because I’m reading and don’t notice the time creeping by. Tired. I understand that.

Can you tell us what you always have near-by when you are writing?

When we moved into our current house, I managed to negotiate the third bedroom to be my writing room. I decorated it all in pinks, and I have a comfy armchair, bookshelves, and a fairly small desk. I tend to drink a lot of almond milk Chai with honey. I keep a little notebook by my keyboard, and have lots of family photos on the shelves, a watercolour of a rainy NYC on the wall, and a vase of flowers on my desk, which I keep hinting to my husband to fill. I don’t have anything special with me, but I love writing in my beautiful room.

I can picture it perfectly. Sounds like a lovely room to write in! And to think that my office is generally in my kitchen at the table…or in the living room on my couch (oh, the joys of my laptop!).

I have to ask, what are you ambitions for your writing career?

 I promised myself that by Christmas 2015, I’d be writing full-time after the success of my first two novels. I’ve been visualising selling a million books and getting the book adapted for a TV series with HBO or similar. Nothing major, haha.

If this book was turned into a television show or movie, who would you want to play Ellie?

Romola Garai. She’s a fabulous British actress who has done lots of theatre, and been in films like Atonement. My publicist is talking to people about adapting the book for TV, and has offered Romola a copy, so you never know!

She looks like the perfect Ellie! I really hope it works out for the best! It would be an interesting show to watch for sure!

This leads us to your novel! Let’s tell the readers more about this amazing novel! Can you share with us the blurb from your book?

Exotic locations, sexy men, and crazy crew parties… Ellie has her dream job… or does she?
When Ellie's fiancĂ© cheats on her with a younger, slimmer, blonde from the office, she boots him out of her life and finds solace in a fabulous photography job aboard a Caribbean cruise ship. Twenty-four hours on board and she’s already shagged her sexy Texan colleague, who happens to love her muffin-top. Unfortunately he’s leaving in a week, and his ex-girlfriend, a hot-headed Brazilian with stripper moves right out of the 90s and a talent for stealing boyfriends, is still on board and out for revenge.

Ellie must work out how to deal with the loco ex, sort the lying scumbags from the good guys, and figure out how many crew members in a cabin it takes before officially becoming group sex. Who the hell knows? (It’s five, actually.) It’s a world completely unlike the one she left behind, but as she tries to find her place on board, Ellie discovers laughter and tears in equal measure. And in the midst of the craziness, she realises the greatest thing this lifestyle change has given her is the chance to rediscover herself.

If that doesn’t peak their interest, I don’t know what will! But, just to elaborate some, what did you LOVE about the characters?

I created them from scratch, and wanted them to become a good group of characters who worked off each other, and they started to become real to me throughout the process. Towards the end of the book, they started to take on personalities of their own a bit, which I had read about, but never believed really happened. Although I planned my outline in advance, there were a couple of times the characters urged me to do something not in the plan – like have group sex – which is something I hadn’t planned for them, but they wanted to do!

I found that your characters were extremely well developed. They seemed like completely real people to me as I read your novel. They were a lot of fun and had me on the edge of my seat a lot of the time just waiting for the next crazy scene to unfold!

What would you say was the best part of writing ‘Sex, Lies, & Cruising’?

I think it was the days when my writing flowed. There are days when you feel like you’re a rubbish writer, and nobody will ever want to read the drivel you’re churning out. Then there are days when thousands of words flow in a matter of hours, and you feel better again. It was quite fun revisiting places I’d been on ships, and imagining it coming to life as a TV series later – I really visualised a lot of it. That was fun. It was also fantastic when people read my first drafts. My mum kept saying, “You’ve got no idea what it’s like to read a book and think, ‘my daughter wrote this’.” She was so proud, so that was lovely.

Awe! That would be an incredible feeling. Can you tell us more about what your family thinks of your writing?

They’re incredibly supportive. My mum lives downstairs from us, so she helps a lot with our son, the cleaning, and the cooking. My husband and I take it in turns to do the bedroom routine for our little angel, and when I have really busy periods, they entertain him while I work. I try to minimise spending time in my office when he’s awake, and save it until he’s asleep at night – but there are times I’m just too tired to only work in the evening. I’m a morning person… so if I really need a clear head, I work during the day, and they take care of things. I keep telling them that one day I’ll sell a million books and provide them with a fabulous lifestyle, so perhaps that helps keep them motivated!

That is an amazing support system you have there! You sound like a very lucky woman.
I have to ask: What do you want readers to know about ‘Sex, Lies, & Cruising’?

That although I wanted the environment onboard the fictional ship to be fairly realistic to what really happens on ships in general – where they say life moves four times’ faster than real life –I also worked at creating well rounded, fun characters, planning the plot carefully to keep things interesting, and to keep things moving. Even if it’s light-hearted, and not high end literary fiction, I wanted it to be a page turner, and so far, everybody’s told me that is the case.

It definitely is a page-turner. And you answered one of my questions in my review as well! After reading your novel, I was wondering if it told the story of working on an actual cruise ship. I may just have to switch careers and party for a bit!

Serious question now. What is the hardest thing about writing?

For me, it’s been having a fear that I’m not going to be any good. That I’m going to sit down and the words won’t come. That what I write will be rubbish, then I’ll fail at it as a career, and have to admit I’m no good and the career change will never happen. So there are lots of times I procrastinate sitting at my computer. I put it off because then I don’t have to face the fear!

I don’t think that will happen. Your first book was amazing. But that does lead me to my next question, writer’s block. I feel that it would be closely related to that fear. So, how do you deal with writer’s block. And, how do you face the fear?

To finish this book I made a rule – that seven days a week, no matter how tired I was, or whether I felt like it or not, that I would sit and write for a minimum of 15 minutes. That way, if the words didn’t flow, or everything I wrote was rubbish, I only had to sit there for 15 minutes, and I’d still know I tried my best. Sometimes, those nights I didn’t feel like writing turned into three hours and 3,000 words – so you never know when the writer’s block will clear!

That is some good advice to anyone out there aspiring to be a writer! Such a great idea. I’m so glad that it worked out for you!

Tell me, what do you think the best thing about writing is?

That nobody except me can write my novel, so on the days I feel more confident, I feel good that I can tell the story exactly as I like. And the words flow!

That must be a great feeling! It sounds a lot like how I feel writing my reviews, but on a smaller scale. Here is another one of my favourite questions for authors, because the answer always differs from author to author. How long does it take to write a book, in your experience?

I’ve only written this one book, so I don’t have much experience in that area. However, I can tell you that it took me about two years to write this, but with lots of breaks. I started it when my son was six weeks old, and I would often write while he was asleep. In hindsight, I should have slept too – which all the baby books suggest for good reason – I got completely exhausted and nearly drove myself into the ground. So I took a break for at least nine months to get my sanity back. I had only written about eight chapters in that time too, so it was going very slowly. When I got back into it, it was the same – and I thought I’d never finish. That’s when I created the rule of sitting down for fifteen minutes every night, regardless of how I was feeling. I finished the last 13 chapters in about three months. Given I had a baby and a full-time job by then, I think it wasn’t too bad.

I’ve given myself ten weeks to write book two, so we’ll see how that goes!

I would have to say, that given your busy life and the quality of the novel, you did a great job. Another book! Can you tell us a bit about what your second novel will be like? Or is it a secret?

It will follow Ellie on her next adventure… and she’ll have to make a tough decision or two. Ummm, it’s best left there I think. If people read ‘Sex, Lies, and Cruising’, there will be a brief description of the next book at the end. There’s a blurb on my website too, but I don’t recommend reading it – as personally, I like having no idea of what will happen in the second book while I’m reading the first one!

Ellie was such a compelling character that any book following her as a character is bound to be interesting and inspiring. I’m sold!

As a reviewer, I review a lot of novels for authors who have self-published. Can you tell us a little about your decision to self-publish? And do you see yourself continuing down the self-published path in the future?

I always had an idea that I wanted to self-publish. I work in marketing, so I had an idea how to promote. I like to have control, and I’m fairly impatient – and published books take a long time to be released – so it felt like the natural choice. But my mentor said it was a shame to not give the book a chance at traditional publishing and suggested I try and get an agent. Some agents can receive up to something like 15,000 submissions from authors each year, and may take on one or two. The odds aren’t good, and even if you get published, a debut author has to do a lot of publicity anyway. I figured that when I self-published and became successful, the agents would come looking for me, anyway. So I tried, but my heart wasn’t in it. A voice was yelling in my head every day “YOU NEED TO SELF-PUBLISH!” and I eventually listened.

I’m really not sure about the future. I’ll have to see what happens. You never know, I might get an offer I just can’t refuse!

Ok, so your not sure about whether you will be self-publishing in the future, but generally speaking, where do you see yourself in the future? 

Well, obviously I would definitely love to write full-time. I love working from home and sitting in my comfy writing room, drinking tea and doing the odd bit of social media too. There’s nothing I want more than to do that for a while. Further to that, I’d love to have Sex, Lies, and Cruising made into a TV series. As I mentioned before, I’ve hired a publicist in LA, and she’s trying to help make that happen – so watch this space!

In terms of location, it’s hard for me to imagine not spending more time living overseas again. It’s in my blood. I wouldn’t mind going back to the UK, but outside London… and hopefully to NYC for a while too.

I can't wait to see more from you in the future! I loved your debut novel and I am positive that future works will be popular as well. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy writing schedule to participate in this interview with The Schwartz Reviews!

About the Author 

Cathryn Chapman nearly gave up her writing career when her eighth grade English teacher refused to believe her sensual poem could have been written by somebody so young. Two years later, when Cathryn was fourteen, that same English teacher declared she should start writing for Mills & Boon, and a women’s fiction writer was born. Cathryn graduated from university with a business degree and spent seven years travelling the world — working on cruise ships and living in London, New York, Paris, and South America. In her thirties, she left a successful marketing and public relations career to pursue her dream of gracing the stages in London’s West End. When this failed dismally, Cathryn settled down in Brisbane with her husband and baby boy, and finally stayed in one place long enough to write her first novel, SEX, LIES, AND CRUISING.
She is currently working on the sequel, LOVE, DRUGS, AND NEW YORK, due for pre-order in July and release in October.

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