Cat Connor has the coolest covers I've ever seen and I like looking at covers so I was pleased when Cat answered my plea for authors to interview.
Author Name/Pen Name:
Cat Connor - it’s easy to remember. (There is no e in Connor)
Tell us about your latest novel or project:
My 9th book in The Byte Series is now available for pre-order on Amazon.
METABYTE: Her niece is abducted and her in-laws disappear. Long-deceased agents turn up in garages across the city - dead again. No wonder SSA Ellie Iverson’s internal alert goes off the scale.
Enigmatic clues and codes from a missing colleague and brother-in-law about the seepage of sensitive FBI data, lead to the sudden death of a team member and leave Delta A spinning. Two new agents, with special talents akin to Ellie’s, join the team and ramp her alarm sensors even higher. Her niece’s social media life offers clues to a horrifying network and its activities.
Working under a directive from the Director of the FBI and with the Wayward Son Protocol, Ellie and Delta A work to disentangle leads from the darknet, stem the flow of death, and bring her family home.
I’m currently working on the 10th in this series - Crashbyte: While SSA Ellie Iverson and Delta A in Lexington Virginia investigating an incident that leaves the Director of the FBI fighting for her life, the sudden violent death of a colleague in Washington D.C. sends ripples of terror across the city. A massive power failure provides fifteen minutes of darkness and masks a world-threatening crime.
What got you started writing?
When I couldn’t find a book with a strong yet human female main character to read I decided to write my own. (We’re going back to the mid 90’s here!)
What challenges did you face when you first started writing?
Time. I had 5 young children. Also, being in New Zealand was a challenge. We were a long way from the world and Agents and Publishers weren’t using email. So everything was snail mailed- posting a 350 page manuscript to England or New York was very expensive. Just sending off query letters was painfully slow and everyone wanted stamped addressed envelopes or international mail coupons. I’m so glad things have progressed to email for everything and the internet came along to bridge the gaps in the world.
Who in your life is your greatest cheerleader or support in your writing?
My kids are amazingly supportive. Especially my eldest daughter, she always reads everything I’ve written, she shares everything I do, she’s right there in the front row at every book launch giving me hell :). My dad is super supportive too - he particularly likes my poetry. I’m very lucky to have wonderful family and friends. Also, Upper Hutt Library - they’re amazing.
Do you ever get the opportunity to travel for your writing? Either to market or to research.
I do, but it’s an opportunity I create for myself. 99% of my books are set in Washington DC and Northern Virginia. Travel was required. And a hell of a lot of fun. I’m pretty sure I’ll be setting some stories in Perth, WA before long.
What is it like writing in New Zealand that would be different if you lived anywhere else?
We’re a long way from the world. If I was in the USA (for example) I’d have a lot more opportunities to meet with other authors and readers at the many conventions they have over there. We just don’t have that here. Our population isn’t big enough to support such things.
Where do you get your ideas? Is there anything about New Zealand that has inspired you to write?
My ideas spring from almost everywhere. Nothing gets your creative juices flowing like a few death threats. Not even kidding.
Ideas can grow from a partial overheard conversation or something I saw/heard in the news or from being at a Bon Jovi concert.
I have a mystery/crime novel set in Upper Hutt (Nothing Happens Here by D J Lane) which was very much inspired by life in a small New Zealand city and garden gnomes. Go figure.
Why do you think readers are fascinated by books written about New Zealand?
I honestly don’t think readers are that fascinated by books written about NZ especially if they’re NZ readers. For overseas readers, I imagine it’s the novelty aspect of a small island nation that would interest them.
Who is your favourite New Zealand author and why?
I very much enjoy Trish McCormack - her Philippa Barnes series is set on the West Coast (that’s the South Island if you’re not a kiwi). Trish’s characters are believable, interesting and so like the rest of us! Plus the books are set in National parks - so that’s pretty cool.
Also, Nick Spill, Brian O’Sullivan, Brian Stoddart, Bruce Melrose, D A Howe, Nicole O’Connor, Blair Polly, Lee Pletzers, Mike Johnson, Writers Plot, Andrene Low. This could go on all day.
To be honest I nearly skipped this question because I co-run a unique bookshop that stocks only NZ authors, so, it kinda feels like being asked to choose a favorite child!
What advice would you give for other writers in New Zealand?
Find a writing group that meets regularly. Join as many online groups as you can. Get cracking on your social media platform. Seek out other writers and get to know them.
Do you get to network or meet up with other New Zealand authors?
Yes I do now. I come across a lot of authors via the bookshop. I’ve done four Ngaio Marsh Award ‘Murder in the Library’ events over the last few years and I’ve met some fantastic kiwi writers that way and made some good friends.
What was the first thing you did after your first book was published?
Had a party. :) Finishing a book is huge. Having a publisher love it as much as you do and finally seeing it as an actual published book is mind blowing. (Even now, with book 9 coming out, it still takes my breath away.)
Do you read your book reviews? How do you handle the good and the bad ones?
I try not to. They’re not for me, they’re for readers. It’s best to leave reviews alone so I never respond to any reviews publicly (that’s what tequila and friends are for). When it comes down to it, everyone gets mixed reviews simply because you can’t please everyone. I was given some sound advice by fellow author Sara Gruen a few years ago, she said ‘Don’t read reviews’. I listened.
It seems like everything has Easter Eggs (surprise reference to your other work) do you have any Easter Eggs in your books?
I mostly write a series - so - any references aren’t so much a surprise as they are just part of my characters pasts and remind the reader of something relevant to the moment.
Although in saying that, I wrote a NZ book and the pen name I used is the name of an author character from one of my other books. (Not sure if anyone noticed.)
And in my series there is a poetry book referenced occasionally - that book exists, because one of my daughters thought it would be cool if Mac and Ellie’s book was real. So it is.
How long does it take you to write a book? Do you have any secrets to productivity?
It can be as quick as 6 months. Or it can take 18 months. It very much depends on what’s happening in my life and how fast the story comes together. The last two books have taken almost 18 months each because writing time is now harder to carve out.
I used to write almost two books a year plus many short stories but that’s changed a lot since we opened the bookshop. To get any decent writing done I need to go away, so I do.
I have to do the same. And I don't even have the excuse of being busy.
Where did you get the idea for your first or latest book?
The idea for my first book (killerbyte) came from some death threats I received. The idea for my latest book (Metabyte) came from a question: What if fresh corpses of long dead agents were turning up in garages all over Virginia? The book I’m currently writing (Crashbyte) came from this: What if there was a 15 minute total power blackout in D.C?
Do you have any writing rituals?
I listen to music when I’m writing, can’t write without it. It’s mostly Bon Jovi that’s my work music. No one interrupts me when Bon Jovi is blaring.
Also - I’m a bit fan of notebooks. Each book has it’s own dedicated notebook (or 3) full of research, comments, scenes, and whatever I scribble during the writing process. I’ve kept them all.
I have some students in my class who would wholly approve of your music choice because apparently cool music is 80's music.
What is your best experience meeting a fan?
I’ll let you know.
If any of your books was to be made into a film, which one would you pick and who would you have play the main characters?
I’d pick Killerbyte, because starting at the beginning seems smart then they could do the whole series! I’d like Emily Wickersham to play Ellie, LL Cool J as Sam Jackson, Noah Wylie as Kurt Henderson, Josh Holloway as Lee Davenport, Kevin Costner as Caine Grafton, and later on Mark Valley as Mike Davenport. Not that I’ve given it any thought at all. :)
It’d be pretty cool to see my kiwi novel as a movie … imagine a movie set in Upper Hutt? That would be amazing. I have no clue regarding cast for that though.
How important do you think marketing is for authors today?
Marketing is pretty darn important, hard to sell books if no one knows who you are.
Do you have any book you have written that won’t ever see the light of day and why?
Yep. The first four I wrote, that’s where I learned my craft and they’re not for public consumption. They’re also back story for a character in my series. Those four books are about Cait O’Hare who is the Director of the FBI in the Byte Series, so it definitely was time well spent.
Many authors have a word or a phrase they automatically use too often. Do you have one?
Every author has several, mine change from book to book. If I don’t see them before I submit the manuscripts to my publisher then my editor finds them and we deal with them. It often causes amusement.
What quirk or trope of your genre do you like or dislike?
I don’t know that the crime/thriller genre has any quirks. We all like the good guys to win, but it doesn’t always happen. One of the reasons I like this genre is because pretty much anything goes and that suits me as a writer.
Often writers get to approach some serious subjects. Which serious subject are you most proud to have written about or was the hardest to write about?
Each one of my books deals with a serious subject at some point within the story. I’ve written about safety online, human trafficking, terrorism, serial killers, teen suicide, PTSD, life with brain injuries, bioterrorism. Of all the subjects so far I think teen suicide was the hardest to write about because of the ripple effect felt through all the books that followed that one.
Thank you so much for sharing your story and part of your process. Good luck on your latest book.