This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Today we're talking to Cathy Marie Buchanan author of The Painted Girls and The Day the Falls Stood Still. Her most recent book, The Painted Girls is set in belle époque Paris and is 'inspired by the real-life model for Degas's Little Dancer Aged 14 and the era's most famous criminal trials'.
Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
I generally try to put fingertips to keyboard to work on my novel in progress at 8:30a.m. five days a week and write for at least four hours before moving onto the many other tasks—posting on facebook, tweeting, organizing in-person and skype visits to book clubs, preparing for events, participating in interviews, etc.—that can easily fill up a writer’s day,
When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
My two novels and my work in progress are all inspired by lesser known historical figures—The Painted Girls by Marie Van Goethem, the model for Edgar Degas’s sculpture Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, The Day the Falls Stood Still by William “Red” Hill, Niagara’s most famous Riverman; my work in progress by an Iron Age druid, preserved in a bog until modern times. None qualify as celebrities.
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
I’m a huge fan of Margaret Atwood, and if I’m forced to pick a favourite title of hers, it’s generally The Blind Assassin.
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
For The Painted Girls I had a three-page bullet-point outline and about six months of research under my belt before I began writing. I do countless drafts, perhaps fifty, though it could be more.
What was your journey to being a published author?
I’m often asked if I always wanted to be a writer, and I answer is a definitive no. My teenage years were spent disgracing myself in high school English, often getting upwards of twenty percent deducted for spelling mistakes on exams. When it came time to head off to university, one of the criteria I used for picking my courses was that no essay writing—that is spelling—was required. I graduated with a degree in biochemistry and went on to do an M.B.A. I spent the bulk of my non-writing work life at IBM—ten years, in fact—at first in finance and then in technical sales.
Given my education and early work life choices, you probably would not suspect it, but there was lots of evidence early on of my creative leanings. In high school, I was quite serious about classical ballet, spending four or five nights a week taking class or performing, and I sewed and designed most of my clothes. I think now that I was able to satisfy my creative yearnings through the dance and the sewing.
While I was working at IBM, I was always enrolled in a continuing education course, always something with an artistic bent, no doubt an effort to fuel my creative side. I took drawing and painting and art history and woodworking and interior design. Eventually I hit on creative writing, and right from the first class, I was smitten. Long last, I’d found what I was meant to do.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
Well, it’s true that we’re slightly crazy and drink far too much caffeine, but it is not true that we make lots of money.
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Write every day. Don’t wait for inspiration. It might never come.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a third historical novel, one set in Iron Age Britain on the eve of Roman conquest.
What are your top five writing tips?
Read broadly. Write every day. Rewrite. Rewrite more. Grow a thick skin.