Photo Credit: Corey Ralston Photography 2013
Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our Friday spotlight on science fiction/historical fantasy author Beth Cato. Beth is the author of The Clockwork Dagger duology and the Blood of Earth trilogy, both from Harper Voyager, plus a short story collection from Fairwood Press called Red Dust and Dancing Horses and Other Stories. She writes a lot of short stories and poetry, with work in lots of anthologies and magazines. She lives in the desert on the western fringe of Phoenix, Arizona, with her husband, son, and feline overlords.
Our first question to you, Beth is, where can people find your work?
Everywhere books are sold, I hope! In stores and online. Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester included, of course.
How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?
BethCato.com is the place to be! My social media links for Facebook and Twitter are right there, and I maintain an active blog, too. That means I post the latest book news, but I also do a weekly food blog called Bready or Not that features loads of succulent cookie and bar recipes, plus breads and gluten-free stuff, too. My recipes are eclectic, not unlike my writing.
For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write? What can readers expect from Breath of Earth, the first book in your most recent series?
I write science fiction and fantasy, and I like to mash up genres. My debut novel, The Clockwork Dagger, has been described as Agatha Christie blended with the Final Fantasy video game series. Breath of Earth has some mystery influences, too, but at heart it’s an alternate history novel. I rewrote the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire with magic and incredible creatures.
What kind of research went into writing this book? What is your favorite research story? What cool facts and findings didn’t make it into the book, but you loved discovering?
I tried to make most of my historical alterations conscious ones, which meant I took my research to rather, um, obsessive levels. For the complete trilogy–all three are out now–I ended up reading some 75 full books for research. I cite my sources in each of my novels and the full bibliography can be found on my website. I did a research trip to Hawaii for the third book, which was the best tax write-off ever. I went to the Big Island when there when there was still lava flowing at Volcanoes National Park. I had read several century-old travel journals before my trip, and it was interesting to contrast them with a modern adventure. For example, back when folks like Mark Twain visited, people would trek at night right up to the lava lake Halema’uma’u and get close enough to roast hot dogs and singe souvenir postcards. I was quite content with viewing the lava lake from a mile away, on the crater rim!
What draws you to writing historical fantasy? What do you think draws readers to these kinds of books?
I write the kinds of books I love to read–ones with strong and savvy women, deep world-building, oodles of fun magic, and a dash of wit. I want books that make me think while providing escapism at the same time. From the feedback I get, that’s what readers take away from my novels, too.
Writers very often have furry or feathered or otherwise non-human companions to “help” them through their work. Do you? What do you have? How do they “help” (or, “not-help”) with your writing?
I have three cats by the names of Luke, Finn, and Kylo. Yes, that’s a Star Wars theme. We adopted all three as adults at a cat shelter about two and a half years ago. Luke, in particular, is my writing buddy. He’s a black tabby with a stout build like a bull dog. He usually sleeps on my desk beside my monitor as I work through the day. Woe upon us all if I must go out for a few hours of grocery shopping. He gets anxious if I’m not where I should be, and when I return he is desperate for affection. If I don’t pet him, he tries to head-butt my monitor or walk on my keyboard, and drools profusely all the while. Exasperating as he can be, it’s nice to be loved and missed. In all truth, I cannot function without a cat around.
Thanks so much for taking the time out of your busy day to answer our questions, Beth!