I am very excited about this month's writer interview, because I don’t think I could have found a better suited candidate for a Halloween theme. So it is my great pleasure to introduce you, the well established horror writer, catt dahman.
Like last month’s writer showcase, I was lucky to meet catt dahman via the Facebook page called The Better Writer’s Group, and was kind enough to volunteer for my writer interviews. After taking a look at the list of books she had written, I immediately knew she had to be my October interview! Here are but a few of the nvels she has worked on.
Short Bio: catt dahman, a native Texan, is a prolific horror writer with Severed Press and J Ellington Ashton. She writes extreme horror (splattergore), mainstream horror, has a crime series, several prehistoric thriller novels, a zombie series, and historical horror. With degrees in psychology from Texas A&M, she delves into the personalities of her characters and the depravity of the human mind. She has over forty novels available, appears in several anthologies, and has more pending. One of her biggest accomplishments, over thirty years of writing, is working in the area of splatter punk and extreme horror, an area that she was once told was out-of-reach because of her gender. She participates in conventions and book-signings regularly where she speaks at panel discussions and likes meeting horror fanatics.
Current Projects: Cold Hunger (With D. A. Roberts), The Trident, Blood Tradition
Live podcat Friday nights at : http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wickedlittlethings
When did you begin writing?
In junior high school, high school, and some of college I wrote but I was involved in speech-writing/competition, journalism, and debate. I wrote novels in my 20s, 30s and early 40s but put them in boxes. I began my true career all one year when I hired an editor, released a few things, and sold 9 books of a series to Severed Press. I was very fortunate to find a publisher right out of the gates. From there, everything exploded for me and I almost had too much too soon and nearly fell into that mindset of immediate expectation.
Did you receive any special training or attend a school?
I have almost a PhD in psychology with criminology background with a sociology minor. Besides that I have a teaching license in art and English. Besides the many research papers I penned, the psychology trained me for writing more than almost anything else. I taught English grammar and literature for grades 4-8 and college. I am qualified to teach psychology at the college level as well.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I generally take ideas from real life stories or three random ideas and then combine them. History and science usually influence my main stream horror and criminal psychology influences my crime series. I can’t think of many of my books that the three have not been a part of. In style, I think I have been inspired by Stephen King, Richard Laymon, Iva Levin, and Thomas Tryone. All of the horror writers I read inspired me. I was a great fan of the short story collections popular long ago as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and was always a fan of both literary and pop horror.
Do you use any special resources when writing? (other books, computer programs, etc)
It helps to have tons of books covering themes to include scuba diving, poisons, serial killers, science, and history. I do a great deal of research on the computer, interviews, and have more strange experiences that I should admit.
What is (in your opinion) the most important thing to remember when writing, and why is it so important?
There is a huge difference between story-telling and writing and each can be modified or they can be merged for written product. Writing is work. I also don’t put a schedule on my work. At times I can crank out a novel in weeks with long days of writing 12+ hours a day but at other times, may not write for a few weeks at all. Pushing myself to write never benefits me and I have learned to write then I feel the ideas are fresh. The biggest idea here is that no one writing style is the best and that we all operate differently. Some writers get dressed, sit in a quiet office and write in the morning; I write in sweats with a crime show on television, and during the late night hours. It doesn’t matter what we do to get there as long as we arrive on time.
What is (in your opinion) the most challenging part of writing, and how do you overcome it?
For me, it was in finding that not everyone who wishes to write is truly a writer. I read a lot to keep up with trends and compare styles and themes and there is a huge difference between learned writing (and the dreaded unlearned writing) and a true gift for writing. My challenge has been to stop doubting myself and my abilities and to just let the books roll out. My biggest fear was that I would only have one or five book ideas but I am (thankfully) over that fear with more than forty books available already. My biggest trial has been learning to say no. The second I found the smallest success and to this day, I get a lot of people who want to “edit me”, want me to beta read, mentor them, rewrite their books, review, etc. I don’t have the time and legally, it’s best to not do most of those things.
Did you use an agent? (why or why not?)
For film right, yes. For writing, no. The former is impossible for me to understand and the latter is something I learned myself. I can sell my work.
Did you use an Editor? If not, what process did you use to edit your work?
A million times: YES! I think I toss 99% of the books I see on Kindle now due to shoddy content (story, characters, style) and poor grammar. Many claim to have beta readers and editors (I suspect spouses, friends, people who made an A in English) and the mistakes are horrific. Having a true editor for content and grammar is necessary for ANY writer. Period. Unfortunately, everyone feels he is an editor and I have had readers write to me and complain about issues that are correct but suddenly up for debate. These people have read mistakes so often that they think the mistakes are the right form. I have learned to write for writers and editors (and thus readers as well) but a few individuals write for readers or for themselves. Want-to be editors are cheerleaders and urge writers to write the story for themselves and any way they want while quoting pop rules; this is a disservice to any aspiring writer. I am edited by professional editors and skip beta readers and friends who wish to help. While I have read that some people claim editors “ruin their voice”, I have never seen that for myself or for any other writing with clean grammar and content. At this stage in my life, I don’t think I ever wish to read works unedited by professional editors and I sure would never subject a reader of my work to anything less than polished.
How did you get your book published? (self-published, Vanity publishing, Mainstream publisher).
I have fifteen books with Severed Press and a dozen with J Ellington Ashton Press, and a half dozen independent. Medium to large presses are my only options now but for newer writers, small presses are wonderful and a definite way to get a foot-hold. Make sure the press is at least a few years old, has a good contract, and represents authors who you compare with.
Do you handle your own marketing?
Yes. No one can market a book like the author can. I do interviews, social media, a website, and have done several conventions (booths, panels, etc.). Marketing is less vital than good editing and a professional book cover, but more important is building a strong reader base and a solid branding of your name. It all depends on the goal. If for pure sales, branding and a reader base is all an author needs and even the worst writing can sell enough to make a half-salary a month; it’s probably short term. If a long-term career is desired, the first five to ten years are all about getting quality books released and not worrying about short-term markets.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
A ton, but no one listens to me. Get an education, take Latin, and find out if you are a story teller or a writer and if you have what it takes. Learn about publishing from someone other than pop-sites, learn to read contracts, research publishers, and learn basic grammar. Submit to anthologies (paid and unpaid both help branding). Buy a domain name and host a real website. More than anything, develop a brand that includes being gracious and professional. I can list a dozen mediocre writers who are considered to be pretty great simply because they are gracious and have branded themselves in positive ways. I can list three times that many who are probably fairly good writers and are unpublishable because of their poor branding and social problems. Social media rants, accusations, cursing, and fire-throwing has destroyed many potential careers faster than anything else. Being a writer does not mean we should say certain things and it doesn’t give us a pass. Be gracious, be honest and polite, or be quiet. That helps me.
Hopefully everyone found this interview helpful and informative. I know some good points have been brought up, making me question some aspects about my work. I know I still have a lot to learn, but this interview has made me realise just how much more work I still need to do. The road is long and success is not a guarantee, but then again success is not the reason I started this journey in the first place.
I would also like to give a bloody, gooey heartfelt thanks to catt dahman, for taking the time to take this interview.
Until Next time,