Interview: Cathy Lamb

Cathy Lamb is a wonderfully accomplished author who I happen to think is funny and inspirational besides. How can you not love a combination like that? Wait until you hear about how she went about writing in the early days of her career! You will never again complain about “not having time.” Cathy is a testament to the adage that writers write. Period. They make the time and find a way to do it.

Enjoy this interview.

Photo-of-Cathy-Lamb-013

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and how long have you been writing?

I was born in Newport Beach, California and lived in Huntington Beach until I was ten when we moved to Oregon. I honestly expected wagon trains and Indians, snow ten feet high, a log home, bears, and a few cowboys on horses. I was so disappointed. I still live in Oregon, about four minutes from the home I grew up in. My poor husband has been married to me for almost seventeen years and we have three nice and noisy children. We have a cat who is clearly in love with my husband, which doesn’t bother me too much since he is not interested in furry females with tails, and two unfriendly parakeets.

I have been writing since I was five years old and my mother, dear and sweet, told me how to spell the word, “brat.” I have had a writing project of some sort almost always going on since I was sixteen years old. Whenever I finish writing a book, I always think I’m going to take a couple of weeks off, read, see friends, sleep, clean my house, etc. and after four days I’m climbing the walls, and feel edgy and off balance. (Who wants to clean a house anyhow! Soooo boring) I don’t know what to do with myself if I don’t have that writing project and something to think about at all times…

Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book is Henry’s Sisters. This is a book about three sisters, a mentally disabled and wonderful brother named, Henry, and a mind numbing, nail scraping mother named River Bommarito. It’s set in a gracious Queen Anne home in Trillium River, Oregon, off the Columbia River. It’s also about giant sized cupcakes, a cherry pie fight, loss and pain, a watered Corvette, a bestselling crime writer, a swearing teacher, an internationally renowned photographer, lemonade that can blow your head off, doilies, spaghetti nights, a Grandma who believes she’s Amelia Earhart, a willow tree, a trailer in the woods, abandonment, a burning bra and thong, and everlasting love.

Share some of your writing goals.

I want to keep writing novels and short stories until I’m in my nineties and cranky, at which point I’ll be traveling the world continuously…I love to write, cannot imagine life without writing.

Books you recently read that you love…

The 19th WifeAngela’s KeyA Single ThreadThe Cellist of SarajevoThe Madonnas of LeningradThe HelpThe Heretic’s DaughterSong Yet Sung.

Any type of writing ritual you have?

I launched my writing career between ten o’clock at night and two o’clock in the morning. That was, simply, the only time I had. My kids were very young then, I was working at one point as a half time fourth grade teacher and at another point, for years, as a freelance writer for The Oregonian. When the stars were out and the night was dark and silky, that’s when I wrote. Thankfully, I can also write now during the day because my kids are in school, although I will admit that my best “stuff” gets written late at night. My mind seems to turn on then and see the possibilities. Maybe the quiet lets my creative side out. When I have a deadline, I work about sixteen hours a day. When a deadline is not looming, I still usually work six days a week, although not full days.

When I am initially writing a book, the first draft, I write 2000 words a day. I don’t go to sleep until that’s done. Editing takes me at least as long as it took to write the book. I re-read the book, and edit it, about six times before I send the first round off to my editor in New York. By the time the book is published, I’ve read through the book at least a dozen times.

Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, how did you get past it? If not, why not?

Do I believe in writer’s block? Yes. But I don’t get it. Sometimes there’s a problem in my work, and that makes me stumble a bit, but I just work and work and work at it until I work it through. Usually the problem is that I need to hit the delete button. I do suffer, however from, “I Would Rather Play Than Work Disease,” which can be a real problem…

Advice for other writers?

Here’s my advice for other writers: Write all the time and READ all the time. Study how really talented writers write. How do they put their books together? How do they keep you turning the pages? How do they construct the sentences? Study the voice and tone and word choice. Study pacing. That’s huge. You may have a great plot but if you don’t whip that book write along, you will lose your reader. Draw your characters really tight, so you know them intimately, but remember to let them talk and act as they wish when you’re writing the book. Don’t box your characters in. Trust yourself enough when you’re writing to trust your characters. Remember that every word out of your characters’ mouths must sound like that character. Every word. Your dialogue should be so vivid that with no tags (Lydia said…Harold said…) your reader will know who’s talking. Have interesting sub plots, remember that almost every character needs to grow and change during your book, and know your character so well you can converse with her across your dining room table and you know what she would do and say.

AND, if you keep submitting work and you keep repeatedly getting rejected, consider changing genres. I tried to get published in romance. No go. So frustrating. I should have quit years before I did, but didn’t want to give up, didn’t want to be a quitter. That was dumb. Take a look at what you’re writing, it might be time for a real harsh look, and ask yourself if you would be more successful in a whole other genre. If nothing else, trying a different genre altogether will be truly invigorating, trust me on that.

Where can we learn more about you?

Try my website CathyLamb.net. I answer all email letters, unless they’re mean, so write me a letter.

Anything else you’d like to add?

My books:
Julia’s Chocolates, The Last Time I Was Me, Henry’s Sisters, Comfort and Joy
anthology with Fern Michaels, Almost Home anthology with Debbie Macomber.

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