Thanks for being on the blog today, Catherine. I'm excited to showcase your newest title, Heaven is Paved with Oreos (releasing today!)
Here's the book blurb:
Fourteen-year-old Sarah Zorn intends to spend the Wisconsin summer with her “boyfriend” Curtis, waiting for a dead calf named Boris to decompose in time for the science fair. Her plans upend, however, when her fake-boyfriend strategy goes seriously awry just as her hippie Grandma Z invites her on a last-minute Roman holiday. As Sarah explores Italy’s ancient wonders, she can’t stop “boy-liking” Curtis . . . or puzzling over her grandmother’s odd behavior. Written as Sarah’s journal, this satisfying middle grade novel navigates the murky waters of first love, friendship, and family with heart and good humor.
CM: thank you. And I didn't come up with it -- I saw it posted on a fortune-cookie fortune taped to a wall, just as it's described in the book. This must have been, oh, 20+ years ago, but the phrase always stuck with me. And now I get to use it in a book!
RH: You are a master of voice. Football playing DJ is one of my all-time favorite voices and I'm thrilled she's plays a roll in Heaven is Paved with Oreos. I'm excited to get to read the younger voice of fourteen year-old Sara. How do you find the right voice for your MC's? Was it harder to write a younger voice?
CM: Again: thank you! Voice is something I take very seriously, so I'm thrilled you noticed. I'm always a bit flummoxed when asked how I "master" a voice . . . It makes me feel like I should be reviewing Italian (ha) or practicing my figure skating (ha ha ha ha). Voice, to me, is something that you *say* -- the character is in your head and you need (recognize that I'm figuring this out as I type) to move your lips to let the character out -- not simply come up with the right words but develop the right tone, because the tone makes the words . . . I suspect that this sounds ridiculously flaky and also useless: "aspiring writers should simply speak with their characters' voices," but, yeah, that's what I'm saying. Equally important: if you can't speak with your character's voice, don't. Use another voice (omniscient narrator is always good) to tell the story. Otherwise it's a terrible distraction . . . at least it is for me.
RH: Have you had a Roman holiday like Sara (or are you planning one)? I know you've been learning Italian this summer.
CM: Yes, I've been learning Italian -- or more properly I *was* learning Italian, because I've forgotten it all already. Languages are so difficult! A trip I took to Rome years ago with my sister planted the seed for Heaven is Paved with Oreos, then I returned in late 2011 to research the book, and last fall to fact-check it . . . Obviously I love the city! The hardest part was trying to look at Italy from the POV of a fourteen-year-old girl who isn't terribly worldly. I had to keep remembering my own first travel experiences, when the tiniest things (trash cans, for example, or dogs) left huge impressions.
RH: I know your inspiration for Dairy Queen came from from a dream. Is that how you typically find inspiration for your stories?
CM: I wish! No, recently I've had to come up with books the hard way, by actually creating them. Much more challenging.
RH: Can you tell us what you're working on now?
CM: I feel like I'm not done with Rome quite yet. What comes out of this feeling . . . Everyone will have to wait and see. Including me, I'm afraid. Sigh.
RH: Since writing DJ's story you've been involved with sporty girls. Can you tell us about some of those interactions?
CM: I've had the great joy of emailing and meeting girls who played boys' football -- girls who sometimes played because of Dairy Queen! That's huge. I'm awed.
RH: Thank you for your support of sporty girls and for writing the types of characters we crave to hang out with.
To find Catherine's favorite sporty read check out this previous post.