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WesternSFA
A Chat with Beth Cato
September 2014
By Catherine Book

Beth Cato is a writer with her debut book just coming out from Harper Collins this month.  It’s a young adult/adult fantasy steampunk novel titled “Clockwork Dagger.”  I met her at her first signing at Changing Hands bookstore in Tempe on the book’s launch date.

She was feeling pretty fine, nervous and excited – it was obvious.  She’d already scored on a couple interviews with local papers and was still feeling somewhat boggled at the attention.  I asked her how it happened that she came out of the gate so strong.  She attributed it to the magic her publicist employs.  I wondered if she felt like she had to live up to her own hype.  She laughed and said it was really all about the book and the readers.  She just hopes people like her book.

It took her only about two months to produce a rough draft but she ended up editing it heavily over the next six months with the help of her agent.  And shortly after that, her agent was able to successfully sell it.  Beth told me that she needs quiet and solitude to write but acknowledged that that might need to change in the future.  She likes to use outlines for both her short stories and the novel but not her poetry.

So, what is Beth reading these days?  Cross-genres, she replied, a bit of everything:  fantasy, SF, westerns, YA, cozy mysteries.  I wondered if she chose to write steampunk or it just happened.  Steampunk, she shared with me, combines a lot of things she loves: mystery, western and a bit of fantasy.  I commented that it didn’t hurt (her new book) that steampunk is a very popular genre right now.  She agreed but added that there’s always an element of luck.  She wrote an urban fantasy before Clockwork Dagger that still hasn’t sold.

On her website, a synopsis of Clockwork Dagger described her main character as a healer and that she chose that from the pantheon of gaming/DragonLance type characters deliberately.  I asked her if she thought she might be limiting the character rather than having chosen a more heroic character type.  Oh no, she answered.  Those side characters can have a lot of oomph and passion; fan fiction often uses those side characters to good effect. 

What is in Beth’s future?  More novels, she laughed.  She’s working on the second book now and after that she has an idea for another steampunk story.  I wondered if she had anything else in her besides steampunk.   Quite a lot, she assured me.  Her short stories span many genres; no reason why her novels can’t do the same.

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