Today we have a very special guest! Cait Reynolds is here to talk about all things writing, mythology and dreaming big! Her debut, Downcast, is available now and is absolutely a must-read!
About the book: What would you do when faced with an impossible truth? Written with heart and passion, Downcast by Cait Reynolds is ripe with twists you never saw coming and love that defies the odds in this intense new Paranormal Romance retelling one of mythology’s greatest love stories.
It’s the start of Stephanie Starr’s senior year of high school, but sadly, this is no life of the prom queen. Stuck at the bottom of the high school social totem pole, Stephanie is forced by her domineering mother to wear lumpy linen dresses and eat organic tofu for lunch in a world of mini-skirts and pizza.
What Stephanie doesn’t anticipate is gorgeous and cocky Haley Smith, who breaks social convention and pursues her with a determination that is both terrifying and flattering. Afraid that Haley is simply trying to set her up for massive humiliation, Stephanie does her best to push him away. But the more attention he pays to her, the more she runs, and the more everyone else begins to notice.
Instead of a loving family to support her as the mean girls make their play, Stephanie’s mother begins to unravel mentally, her possessiveness of Stephanie spiraling to new and frightening extremes. Stephanie is forced to grow up, find herself, and learn the truth about her past in order to save her mother, her friends, and her town. When the truth is revealed, nothing can prepare her for the outrageous reality of her existence…and nothing can save her from her fate.
Now, let’s get down to business!
Downcast is an interesting mix of Greek mythology and a high school coming of age story, with a noticeable focus on bullying. How did all of these story elements come together for you?
For a very long time, I wanted to write a story about the realpolitik of high school social structures. In fact, the other day, I was going through boxes and came across a paper I had written for anthropology in college. I had focused my paper on the ritualized rebellion of honors convocation, and how it upended the dominant social hierarchy, thereby letting off “steam” from the pressure cooker and preventing revolution.
However, I also knew I really didn’t want to write a glum, navel-gazing, pontificating manifesto that ended tragically or was just plain depressing to read. I wanted to write something that would show off the spirit, humor, and courage of teenagers, while at the same time respectfully acknowledging their very real problems.
By the time the first ideas for the book really solidified in my brain, vampires had been done…definitively. So, I started thinking about things that hadn’t been done, and eventually, my inner geek landed on the idea of the Greek gods. And the rest, literally, was history.
If you could take a writing/craft lesson from any of the greats in history, who would you choose?
Junichiro Tanizaki. He was a 20th century Japanese fiction writer. His novellas and books are so full of sharp, yet compassionate wit and observations of the human character. It’s like he’s a 20th century Jane Austen…set in Japan. But, more than that, there is an elegance and sparseness to his prose that renders description light and effortless to read.
I would specifically recommend starting with A Cat, a Man, and Two Women. That’s how I accidentally stumbled onto him. I was studying in Paris at the time, and being a poor college student, I could barely afford lunch (I used to trade English lessons for crepes at the off-track-betting bar that used to be near the Jardins du Luxembourg). Feeling rather homesick one rainy November day, I wandered into Shakespeare & Co. just to see some familiar English (I took classes in French, lived with a French host family, and spoke French basically 24/7).
In the absolute-must-go-bargain bin was this little Tanizaki anthology, and I spent my last centimes of the week on it. One of the few really good impulse spending purchases I’ve ever made!
Which character has been your favorite to write? Which character has been the most challenging?
I think almost every single character has a moment where they were my favorite. It’s easy to love Stephanie, Helen, Morris, Haley, and Zack. But I actually invested a lot of thought and emotion into characters like Rob Furlong and Katie Jones.
Stephanie is second nature to me. I’ve been in her head for so long, it’s second nature to me to know what she’s thinking and feeling. Her scenes with Haley are definitely some of my favorite. Haley required a great deal of restraint in writing. I wanted to say so much more for him, but he would just give me “the look,” and I’d have to back down.
Helen and Zack surprised me with their chemistry (literal and figurative), and writing their interactions was a guilty pleasure like ice cream on a Tuesday night. Morris will forever have a soft spot in my heart, and even Rob Furlong had revealed his vulnerability to me.
Deborah, Stephanie’s mother, was the hardest character to write. While it might not come through in the story (and there are many, many deleted scenes that would illustrate this), she is not just a one-sided character. I had to draw her in three dimensions before I could choose exactly which sides to show. As difficult as she was to write, I respect her as a character that has her own purposes, reasons–flawed or not–and strengths.
If there was an interview question you wish that someone would ask you, what would it be and what is the answer?
Oh! This is delightful! Finally!
Question–what is it about writing that you don’t like?
Answer–I don’t like the actual process of writing a book. I love dreaming up the ideas, doing the brain work to figure out the plot, the thinking/walking/dreaming/talking about the story. But, when it comes to putting in the hours to do the typing? I hate it. I hate having to sit at my computer and type. I hate having to edit. I don’t like the agony and exactitude required during typing time. Basically, I want my stories to spring from my brain, fully-formed and written like Athena from the brain of Zeus (Zack denies everything).
What advice do you have for anyone in high school or university who wants to become an author?
Don’t publish right away. Keep writing in crit groups and with crit partners who love you enough to give you blunt, honest critiques. Read voraciously–not just fiction, but non-fiction as well. Read genres you’d never consider. Read writers you aspire to emulate. Live your life. Watch everything around you. Learn. Observe. Experience.
Experiment with different styles and genres. Write fan fiction. Read fan fiction. Seriously. Fan fiction is amazing, and you can learn both what to do with writing, and what to avoid.
But, most importantly, live your life, and life itself will bring you to a point when you absolutely know it’s time to write the story inside you.
Fill in the blanks. If you love ________, ________ or __________, then you’ll love Downcast.
1. Twilight, Jennifer Armentrout, Eleanor Herman
2. Tom Holt, “Candide,” “Pride & Prejudice”
3. Tumblr, Thug Life videos on YouTube, Judy Blume
4. The truth about your high school experience, impossible love, happy endings
If you couldn’t be an author, what would your dream job be?
I would be an astronomer. Or, an animal rescue worker. Or, professor of ancient history/archaeology.
I guess I never grew out of the fireman/ballerina phase.
From concept to completion, how long did Downcast take to write and publish?
Downcast has had a long and torturous history, one I hope never, ever to repeat…yet seem to be repeating on a micro-scale with Thunderstruck (book 2). I’m about to embark on the second draft and can only hope I’m a little more efficient, and life is a little kinder this time around.
I started writing Downcast in October of 2010, and I turned in the final draft in April 2015.
Wait. Don’t jump.
This timeline includes three drafts, two years of avoiding the manuscript altogether, moving four times in two years, my father’s death, four miscarriages, five major hospitalizations for my kidney transplant, a day job in financial services, and various other bits of real life.
Obviously, this is not the average story of writing a book. Life got in the way…a lot. But, I was bull-headed determined that I would not give up, no matter what.
There were times I didn’t believe Downcast would ever get published. There were months when I thought it wasn’t good enough. There were days when I threw private inner tantrums at having to rework yet another twenty pages.
But, I kept listening to the advice of every writer on Pinterest (insert laugh here) who said, “FINISH.”
I would take that “FINISH” and amend (edit, if you will) it to read, “FINISH AND FIGHT.” Because finishing is only half the battle.
You have to fight through edits, proofreading, marketing, and launching. And that is way more than half the battle. Avoiding the lures of the shiny new thing and the plot bunny was not easy. But, it’s so worth it when you hold your book in your hands. And squee. Embarassingly.
Just finish and fight.
Cait Reynolds lives in Boston area with her husband and four-legged fur child. She discovered her passion for writing early and has bugged her family and friends with it ever since. When she isn’t cooking delicious meals, running around the city, rock climbing like a boss, or enjoying the rooftop deck that brings her closer to the stars, she writes. Reynolds is able to pull from real life experiences such as her kidney transplant, and her writing reflects her passion for life from having to face the darkest places and find the will to laugh.