Have you ever wondered about that girl at the edge of the crowd? The one who has dark, bushy hair that hides her eyes while she’s reading, but tight shirts that don’t even try to hide the size of her breasts? You’ve heard the rumors, you know the rude nicknames, and you wonder what she really does when she’s not in school. She never comes to parties and she lives in a neighborhood where nice girls never venture. Everyone tries to ignore her…but there is something about her that’s impossible to ignore. Especially for the star quarterback, apparently. Because he just asked her to the Homecoming dance, after dumping the head cheerleader.
Catchpenny tells the story from the eyes of “that girl,” and Wicked Lover is just the beginning of this coming of age serial novel. The small town minds of Shirley County have underestimated Meg Shannon for too long. She’s even more fun than she is trouble…but maybe she has finally met her match.
For those who aren’t familiar with Catchpenny, how would you describe what is at the core of the story?
Meg Shannon is on a journey to discover her true worth, although she doesn’t know it in the beginning. At her high school, she is bullied for her more liberated ideas about sex…and maybe one or two unwise decisions she’s made in that regard. She finds love unexpectedly, but she just can’t seem to accept that or love in return. Has she started to believe all the slut shame that her small town has thrown at her? It’s time to let go of the past and learn that she is worthy of love, and so much more.
Where do you draw your inspiration for your books?
Catchpenny is based on my own memories of being a teenager, though Meg’s story is not my story. Kids can be cruel and it’s hard be set apart from the crowd. Meg champions her uniqueness, even though she catches hell for that. But years later, I look back and wonder why I cared so much what people thought, when I was a teenager myself. I should’ve more often said, “let’s just roll with it,” like Meg does.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Ever since I was little, storytelling has been my thing. English and Literature were always my best subjects, and I loved to write all through high school. But—I’m dating myself here—back when I first went to college, being a writer didn’t seem like such a promising career. There were no ebooks, social media barely existed, and I hated the idea of begging agents or publishers to read my work. A picture of the starving author, living in obscurity and forced to hold down the lonely English teacher job, loomed large for me. So, I started with visual art: graphic design. That turned into painting (no less esoteric than writing, of course). Funny enough, I was always accused of making narrative art. My career path has been a little circuitous, but I’m glad I started with visual art. I’m better able to put rich visual imagery into my books, and knowing how to design book covers certainly helps, too.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I was surprised by how hard it is to actually get people to read my books. I know this sounds very Pollyanna, but that obstacle didn’t even enter into my consciousness when I decided to write my first book. I come from a family of avid readers, so I figured that would be the easy part. Oh no, no, no…
Do you hear from your readers much? What is the most memorable response you’ve received from a reader?
I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from readers on the first part of Catchpenny, Wicked Lover. One review that I always remember was from a young woman who had clearly been bullied herself. She was the first person to use the term “slut shame” in reference to Meg Shannon’s experience, and she thought of the book as a commentary on modern feminism. I was absolutely delighted! That was when I realized that my little book was more than just an entertaining story and it might have some important social relevance for women. That’s something I’d like to explore in future books.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? Is there a genre you would be interested in writing, but not sure it would be a good fit for you?
Basically, I just started writing and my stories are what came out naturally. I didn’t make any attempt to stick to a genre at all, and choosing one after the fact was harrowing. I really don’t want to pigeonhole myself into writing in any particular style, though I’ve been told again and again how important it is to stick to a genre. I think the writing world is currently the wild west of entertainment, though, and who knows what will happen? Rules seem to keep changing, so I don’t pay much attention to them.
What books have influenced your life most?
I think the nonfiction books I’ve read have influenced my life most. I go on reading kicks when I get into a particular subject, like genetics or quantum physics or dream interpretation. Right now I’m reading Cooked, by Michael Pollan, and there is a lot about the alchemy of fermentation. So now I’m obsessed with growing a killer wild yeast starter to make sourdough bread. Maybe some of that will make it into my current fiction project—love interest brews his own kombucha or something.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Cooking, reading, and art making are big on my list. I have a 7-year-old son, though, and most of my free time is spent hanging out with him. We’re lucky enough to live in the fun city of Orlando, Florida, and we always have season passes to one theme park or another. This year it’s Disney, and we’re loving Epcot. My son has an Asian culture fascination at the moment, and the Japan and China world showcases are a blast for us both.
A meteor has landed in your backyard, you got to explore the crash site and find you’ve gained a supernatural power, which one would it be and why?
Teleportation! My family and friends are spread out all over the world, and social media has intensified that. I’ve met such interesting people and fellow authors through connecting online, in places far away, like Australia and Slovenia. I may one day get there, and it is great to connect online instead of not at all. But wouldn’t it be wonderful to just teleport over for a one-on-one chat in New Zealand and pop right back to Orlando to pick up my son from school, then later have a nightcap with my sister in Hawaii before bedtime?
You visit your local library and the book you pick up turns out to be enchanted. The next thing you know, you’ve been sucked into the pages of the book and are now one of the characters. What book is it and who are you?
I’m Alice, in Alice in Wonderland. I have read the book and seen the movies countless times, and enjoyed the artwork and poetry ever since I was little. It looms so large in my childhood that I feel like its me and my sister’s own personal fairytale. If I ever got a tattoo, it would probably be of the Jabberwocky.
“Twas bryllyg, and ye slythy toves
Did gyre and gymble in ye wabe:
All mimsy were ye borogoves;
And ye mome raths outgrabe.”
What can we expect from you in the future?
Lots more from Shirley County! This fictional small town is the setting of Catchpenny, and I’ve only begun exploring it. Catchpenny is actually an offshoot of my first book in Shirley County, The Tramp, and readers have described the town as a strange, quirky, mildly disturbing place. One reader compared it to the town in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, to my extreme satisfaction! I’m already working on another offbeat romance, expanding minor characters from both books. The town is really another character itself and I want it to be as vivid as possible.
About the Author