Recently, I got the chance to chat with Harlequin Desire author Cat Schield with whom I had the privilege to collaborate on our new Dynasties: Secrets of the A-List miniseries. (Cat’s Taken by Storm is out in June and my book, Seduced by Second Chances, follows in July.) Cat was gracious enough to share how she got her start in the business, the personal challenges she faces as a writer and some excellent tips for aspiring authors. —Reese
Reese Ryan: Hi Cat! I’d love to hear a little about your personal journey as an author. What brought you here?
Cat Schield: I’ve been writing romance since high school. For anyone doing the math, that’s forty years. I always wanted to write for Harlequin, but my learning curve for crafting a quality novel was three decades in the making. When I sold my first book to Desire in 2010, it was a major dream come true.
Reese: Same here! I started writing in middle school. I wanted to be a professional author but life got in the way. I sold my first novel to Harlequin’s Carina Press line nearly twenty-five years later. Was there any obstacle that felt too big for you to overcome?
Cat: Doubting that I could write well enough to be published was—and sometimes is—my biggest obstacle. Even when I entered unpublished writing contests and won, I worried about everything from my story ideas to my character’s conflict. And because I was always looking to improve, I took every bit of criticism to heart.
Reese: I struggle with self-doubt and imposter syndrome, too. I think a lot of authors struggle with those feelings. Now that you’ve had eight years under your belt as a published author, what’s the biggest challenge you currently face?
Cat: Being an author doesn’t mean you sit in a quiet place and write for hours on end. It’s a social media world where authors must interact with their readers and promote their books. I’m an introvert and sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the amount of posting I need to do to let the world know I’m here.
Reese: Promotion can be tricky for us introverts but it’s a necessary part of being an author. Connecting on social media can be tons of fun but it can also be very distracting when you’re facing multiple deadlines. How many books do you typically release each year, and how do you keep up with that pace?
Cat: Currently, I’m writing three books a year. I’d like to do more but in a different genre for variety. Someday I’m going to tackle a mystery or women’s fiction. I also love the world-building aspect of fantasy. It’s funny, but the longer I write, the slower I become. I think that’s because I’m more conscious of all the things I need to be doing as I craft the book. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. Before I was published, I had months and even years to think about the story, and then I would take an equal amount of time to write it. These days, I’m writing a book in a few months and then moving on to the next one with edits and promoting other books taking up the time between drafts.
Reese: The process once you’re published, are under contract and producing regularly is completely different than the process before you’re published and aren’t writing to any particular deadline. It’s a big adjustment, to be sure. Speaking of adjustments, in addition to your series, like Sweet Tea & Scandal and Las Vegas Nights, you’ve written in continuities like the Texas Cattleman’s Club. Since the characters you’re writing are already outlined for you in a continuity, how do you make them your own?
Cat: What I love about continuity stories is that the plot is already established so I can focus all my attention on the characters. In Taken By Storm, the description I received of Isabel indicated that she was the front desk receptionist for the fabulous hotel that is the setting for the story and that she grew up in public housing wearing thrift store clothes. Immediately I saw her as bubbly and capable. I changed her position to that of a concierge and made her an optimistic dreamer with ambitions to promote the hotel as a romance destination. This turned her into a free-spirited romantic destined to drive the career-driven Shane to distraction.
Reese: I love how you adapted your heroine’s character. Finding those special little sparks about a character and turning them up is my favorite part of working on a continuity. Now, for the final question, what advice would you give to an aspiring author?
Cat: Read both in your genre and outside of it. Also, read debut authors to see what other people are doing. Make use of critique groups and beta readers. While you write that first book, think about your brand. It’s how you’ll make yourself stand out and be remembered. And lastly, take your time and enjoy the process of writing. The ability to create is such an amazing gift.
Thank you to Cat Schield for telling us more about her journey as a writer and for sharing some of the lessons she’s learned along the way. Connect with Cat at her website: https://www.catschield.com/ or on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/catschieldauthor.
Connect with me online at ReeseRyan.com or on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram @ReeseRyanWrites.
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