Cath Schaff-Stump writes speculative fiction for children and adults, everything from humor to horror. Her YA Gothic fantasy The Vessel of Ra is available from Curiosity Quills. Catherine lives and works in Iowa with her husband. During the day, she teaches English to non-native speakers at a local community college. Other recent fiction has been published by Paper Golem Press, Daydreams Dandelion Press, and in The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk. Catherine is a co-host on the writing and geek-life fan podcast Unreliable Narrators. You can find her online at Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, @cathschaffstump, cathschaffstump.com, and unreliablenarrators.net
1. Will you tell us about your most recent published work?
In August, 2018, my novella The Ground is Full of Teeth came out from Paper Golem Press in a collection of novellas called Alembical 4. I share the book with Travis Heerman. This novella takes place in a small Iowa town in the 1970s, about a young teacher interacting with child abuse and a town that seems to condone it. I call it my Southern Iowa Gothic werewolf novella. It is semi-autobiographical, and I will let you guess which parts are autobiographical. The novella is horror, and very literary.
2. What personal challenges do you face as a writer?
Time is always a challenge for me, as it is for writers with day jobs, although I have recently shifted some of my job responsibilities, so now I have more time to write. The other challenge is expecting writing to be a linear climb, like most other careers. It most definitely is not, and that can be frustrating. All you can do is keep writing and publishing as you can.
3. What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Sometimes my first drafts have nothing, literally nothing, to do with my revised drafts. I feel like I might be wasting some time there, but if I don't go through the phase of clearing out the bad ideas, I seldom get to the good ones.
4. What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
My children. Wait. I don't have children. I wonder if that worked...:D Honestly? I guess time again, because the only way to become a better writer is to practice.
5. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I tend to think and write in series, so publishing my first book made me think about the sequels to my book. By the way, this is not a recommended practice in traditional publishing. You aren't supposed to write a sequel until someone tells you they want one. Which is why for some projects I will be self-publishing. Also, I try now to do more advance planning than I used to do. Not outlining, but I use the planning method in Lisa Cron's Story Genius which is all about the emotional impact of a novel.
6. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have? Will you tell us about them?
I have a book about trolls in Decorah, Iowa which is a YA fantasy. It's going to get a major reworking.
Blood is Thicker than Water is a serial I wrote about a group of Victorian monster hunters. It's not a book I plan on publishing.
I have written the sequel to The Vessel of Ra, which was not picked up by my publisher, so I will be self-publishing The Pawn of Isis after I write a few more books in the series.
Finally, I have a middle-grade series about the intrepid vampire killer Abigail Rath. The first book Abigail Rath Versus Blood-Sucking Fiends is being perused by a couple of agents, and the second book Abigail Rath Versus Mad Science is almost completed.
7. Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I do read my book reviews. It's hard not, especially when you're new to publishing, and it's novel. And it's interesting to see what people think. I don't let them affect me one way or the other, because people are entitled to their opinions about my work.
8. Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Yes. I do tuckerize characters (using the names of people you know as characters) and I do put in-jokes in my books that people who know me will catch.
9. What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
Man, I know a lot of other authors! I've attended a couple of high end Science Fiction and Fantasy workshops (Viable Paradise, and Taos Toolbox), and some of my teachers have been John Scalzi, Elizabeth Bear, Stephen Gould, Laura Mixon, and Stephen Gould. I also know some writers who later made good, like Lauren Teffeau, Kate Heartfield, or E. C. Meyer. And I hang out with Jim C. HInes and Caroline Stevermer. These folks have taught me a lot about craft and how to manage a writing career.
But my main writing peeps are the students I attended Viable Paradise with, and the folks who come to Iowa for Paradise Icon at Icon in October. These are the writers who critique most of my work, and they push me harder to write better.
10. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Writing is mostly about luck, not about skill. Still, luck cannot happen without skill, so write, practice, educate, and get better at your craft. Send stuff out and get thick skin. You will get rejected, whether you deserve it or not. And realize writing is not about what others think. It's about making art you are proud of, because the only thing you can control is the quality of writing itself.
11. What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Thinking they are bad writers because of rejection. Rejection has almost nothing to do with the writer when they get to a certain skill level. Even very famous writers still get rejected!
12. What’s the best way to market your books?
Wow. I think the best advice is shoot wide. I have an online presence, I'm part of a podcast, I attend conventions, I have launch parties, I go to book shows, I tell people about my books, I have readings...I guess the answer is there is no magic bullet, so do what you like and what you have time for.
13. What is your favorite childhood book?
Hard question, but I'm going to go with The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. Yes, I was *that* child.
Unreliable Narrators: http://unreliablenarrators.net/