Author of Angelhood, Seven Riddles to Nowhere Genre: YA fantasy; middle grade mystery
1) What inspired you to write?
I’ve always loved reading. I was one of those kids who actually enjoyed participating in the library’s summer reading program. I made up stories when I was young, but the first time I really thought about becoming a writer was when I read Anne of Green Gables for a book report in sixth grade. When I closed that last page, I thought that if I could write a book that touched other people’s hearts the way that one touched mine, then I would have the coolest job in the world!
2) What was the hardest scene/post you ever had to write? What was the easiest?
I honestly can’t think of individual scenes that were hard or easy to write. The plot for Angelhood came very easily. In fact, it came while trying to work on the plot for Seven Riddles. I was so stuck on working out the riddle-solving in my middle grade mystery that I began to despair that I would never actually be a novelist. I thought, “My writer career is over before it’s really begun!” And that’s when I got the idea for a story about a girl who thinks her acting career is over before it’s begun . . . and that was the start of Angelhood. Within three days, I had the story plotted out and all the characters mapped out.
3) How do you select the names of your characters?
In a word: babynames.com. It’s a great resource when you want a name with a specific meaning. For example, when it came to name one of the key guardian angels in Angelhood, I looked up names that mean “guard,” and I found the name Warren, which became the perfect name for the guardian angel who becomes the mentor for my main character Nanette, a new angel who needs to “earn her wings.”
4) While writing, did the story go as planned or did it take a turn you didn’t expect?
The ending of Angelhood was a surprise. I can’t say more without giving it away! Seven Riddles turned out pretty much as I expected once I was finally able to fix the problems with the riddles that are involved. The riddles are all related to the artwork inside churches in Chicago, so figuring out how all those riddles were going to tie together took about a year of researching and visiting the churches that are featured.
5) Are you proud with the work you’ve done or do you wish you could’ve done more?
I’m proud of what I’ve done. What I wish is that I could find the time to hammer out the sequels to both books. I have ideas for both, but with a full-time teaching career, working on a doctorate program, speaking at writing and educational conferences, and hosting a TV show, I haven’t really found the time. Gee, I wonder why. ;)
6) If you could live in one literary universe, what would it be and why?
Funny you should ask. Just earlier today I interviewed an author who wrote a book about Christ figures in sci-fi and superhero stories, so the first thought that came to mind was . . . Star Wars! It’s both a film and literary universe that is populated with a wide variety of characters. You’d certainly never get bored in that universe. Besides, who doesn’t want to train to be a Jedi Master?
7) Do you find it hard to keep your Faith in your writing career?
Oddly enough, no. I think that’s because I didn’t set out to write books with faith aspects. I just wanted to tell good stories. My stories end up having faith aspects because that’s just part of who I am. For example, I’ve always loved the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, and anyone who reads Angelhood can easily see its influence on the story. The idea for Seven Riddles to Nowhere came from the fact that I had taught at a Catholic school that closed, so I wanted to write a story about a boy trying to keep his Catholic school open. I didn’t want the book to be sad. I wanted it to be a fun, mad-cap adventure-mystery, like the kinds of stories I loved to read as a kid. Since the story is about keeping a Catholic school open, it was a natural step to make the riddles in the contest about artwork in Catholic churches. Again, it’s not like I set out to write a book that includes “Catholic trivia,” it just seemed to fit the story.
8) What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Read as much as you can in the genre you want to write. Write and then write some more. Join a writers group. There’s one for every kind of writing you might want to do (children’s, mystery, romance, Christian). Learn the business of publishing so you don’t get swindled. (Hint: Don’t fall for a vanity or hybrid publisher.)
And when you get stuck, don’t give up! Our best ideas sometimes come out of our struggles!
Not only is A.J. an incredible author, but she now hosts her own show called BOOK.eD where she talks about "books that matter". The show is brand new and is aired every Thursday at 8 pm EST on http://www.shalomworldtv.org/live. Be sure to check it out!
She also is currently booking both Skype and in-person visits to schools. Teachers and principals can learn more about my author visits and writing workshops at http://www.ajcattapan.com/school-visits/