Saturday, 22 November 2008

People of Interest

I’m starting a monthly series called ‘People of Interest’. As in people I find intriguing for a variety of reasons.
Today we start out with my good friend the novelist Cate Culpepper who will tell us a little about her new book, Fireside, as well as her cult series Tristaine. Next week I hope to introduce you to my pal Mo who has six toes, but only on her left foot.
(art by Barb Kiwak

Me: Cate, why did you start writing? I first encountered your work through the fandom sites. Was that your starting point and why? When and how did you move onto publishing?

I tapped out the first Tristaine novel on an electric typewriter in 1980, sitting at my formica table in my shag-carpeted studio apartment. By the time I began The Clinic, I had four Tristaine books crammed into a desk drawer. They were very different stories than my published works, but those early writings formed the basis of Tristaine’s Amazon clan.

I think that’s why I was so drawn to the Xena series fifteen years later, with its two leads who could have walked out of that first book. Writing Xena fanfiction introduced me to a world of women who craved the company of strong and loving Amazons, and the Tristaine novels evolved naturally from there.

Me: I love the Tristaine series. When you began The Clinic did you imagine it would run on like this? Did you plan as a series from the start? Will there ever be a fifth book and what might it contain?

When it came to publishing, I never assumed I was writing a series. I figured if there were enough interest among readers, I’d be happy to continue the saga, but if not, I had other stories to tell. It was fun leaving tantalizing clues to the clan’s future in each book, because I liked letting readers imagine their own resolutions. But ending the series with Queens of Tristaine was a good call – the books simply weren’t selling well enough to merit another instalment.

I might well write another Tristaine novel someday just for the pleasure of it, as I wrote those first private stories about this clan. Brenna’s Reign comes easily to mind. Menopause Strikes Tristaine is a possibility, if I remain inspired. It seems doubtful that a fifth novel will ever see print, but I’m content with my four public tales.

Me: An immense part of its success was that it captured the imagination of readers everywhere. The entire culture and heritage of these women warriors and their ideals of sisterhood really struck a cord. Where you surprised by that?

You’ve summed up why I’m happy enough with my small readership. My ambition as a writer is to connect with my readers, and knowing these stories touched a close circle of like-hearted women is immensely satisfying. (The books did not strike a cord, however, they struck a chord, really, Gill, proofreading, proofreading)

So many of us are searching for families. Even if we have a wife and six kids, we can imagine being part of a larger clan, an entire community of women. I think this is an ideal a lot of us yearn for, and it led me to write about Tristaine in the first place.

Me: It must be great fun to create and populate an entire Amazon world. How complex was your research. Did you go to the Amazon?

I watched a couple of old Tarzan movies.

Honestly, world-building is not my greatest strength. I was writing about women living in primitive conditions in a technologically modern world, and I didn’t even try to go into depth about how they managed that. I focused more on the politics of their society, and the clash of values that formed the heart of the story. The only research I had to do on oppressive governments was watch the evening news.

Me: Your new book, Fireside, out in January through BSB is a departure from the T series. I understand it is a contemporary romance. Can you tell us a little something about it?

Fireside is set in an entirely different world – this one, today. But, no surprise, it’s still a story about women searching for family. Fireside is a domestic violence shelter, and I’ve often thought of the staffs I’ve worked with in shelters as Amazon clans. It’s a tale about a small group of passionate women trying to protect the most vulnerable among them from predatory danger. It’s also a love story. I’ve discovered I can’t write a book without injecting some element of the supernatural, so it’s a ghost story too.

Me: Finally, Kirby is your trusty West Highland terrier. If owners are like their dogs, what traits do you see in yourself that you share with Kirby and Westies in general?

You have stumped the band. Kirby is a stubborn little coconut who is Amazonic only in her unyielding determination to have her own way. And she’s crazy about men. But she was curled sullenly on my left foot throughout the writing of each of my books, and I couldn’t ask for a better wee muse.

Well, there it is, on rechord - Cate Culpepper may do another Tristaine novel and Fireside is an ensemble piece with ghosts. That sounds rather riveting and I will be looking out for it. I love a good ghost story.

Coming up soon even more People of Interest.


Anonymous said...

I think Cate is wrong about the cord thing

Anonymous said...

I like the pic of the chord. I also like the dog.