Beth Cato devises delicious recipes to accompany her books, takes photographs with a sloth named Novella, and is one of my favorite authors. Is it any wonder that I had a struggle to control my inner fangirl when I spoke with her last year?
Beth knew from a very young age that she wanted to be a writer, and, as a child, she used to produce books, full stories stapled together with staples along the spine to make them look more professional. Obsessed with horses and unicorns, equids were the subject for her earliest stories.
Around the age of 11 or 12, she started reading fantasy novels and playing role playing games. Her love of historical fiction complimented her new interest in fantasy, and helped inform her stories with a greater breath of knowledge, something that she still has to this day, and which helps make research for her stories fun.
However, her teachers and her family discouraged her from pursuing writing fantasy, as it wasn’t considered literature, and under their pressure, she took a break.
Funnily enough, this is an issue that continues to plague her, despite being a successful fantasy writer with many fans and award nominations. Perhaps it is because where she lives isn’t a big literary town, where young adult and fantasy fiction is frowned upon, unless it has been made into a tv series or movie and proven to be successful.
Unfortunately, literary snobbery is not only the purview of those who don’t read that much, it is also rampant among writers, with many considering genre fiction such as fantasy, science fiction and horror, not valuable because it is popular. Even within the fantasy community, women writers are often considered inferior to their male colleagues because they may write romance, or have female focused story lines.
National Novel Writing Month helped Beth rediscover her love of writing fantasy. The only problem was that her NaNoWriMo novels were horrible – something I find hard to believe – so she decided she needed to improve her writing. Writing short stories was her chosen path to accomplish this, and it proved very successful, setting her on the path to publication, procuring a literary agent and fulfilling her life long dream of being a novelist.
An animal lover especially fond of cats, Beth fills her books with creatures, and even based the lovable gremlin, Leaf, from The Clockwork Dagger, on one of her dearly departed feline friends. In a beautiful ode to her cat, she immortalized him in her books.
Another aspect Beth executes deftly in her novels is romance. Fed up with how relationships are often portrayed in novels, with the object of desire a toxic, dangerous man, she decided to write romance that was focused on true respect and partnership, that could act as a role model for what people should look for in a mate.
When I asked her what she likes best about writing, Beth’s answer is profound. She enjoys making people feel, and working out her own feelings in her writing. She likens the author to playing god, invading the reader’s imagination and making them believe that they are different people. Put that way, it is an awesome thought.
What she likes least is simple. Rejection. There is no getting away from it. She explained how easy it is to fool yourself into thinking that once you’re published, once you’ve sold so many books, once you’ve been nominated for an award, you won’t be rejected again. Unfortunately, the harsh reality is not so kind. Even readers can reject your work in their reviews, and as a result Beth avoids her reviews for the sake of her mental health.
Beth’s advice for writers is to make sure you have a support structure of other writers in place. Writing is hard, and is a private endevour between you and your computer, so it’s essential to know other writers who understand what it’s like, and can celebrate your highs and commiserate your lows. She encourages writers to find a writing group, either on line or in real life, where the writers are at a similar level to you so that you can grow together