Saturday, January 14, 2012

The First Cut Is The Deepest...

My life is full of serendipitous moments and so I believe that on May 31st, 2010, after responding to a posting, I received a warm response back from author, Shannon Catori. She is highly creative woman, along with a passionate spirit like no other and has an undeniable talent for writing.

Her first published novel called Papercut, the main character Zahra is confronted with her own demons, and so as painful secrets unfold, her journey of self-discovery begins. Friendships blossom as others fade and love shows up when everything else seems to be falling apart. Zahra soon realizes that the life-changing events that haunt her memory will be something precious to hold onto instead of letting all of them slip away. This is a story that everyone can relate to, complete with an inspiring variety of musical lyrics that heighten the emotion of every word written, which makes this particular book stand out from the rest.

Canadian author, Shannon Catori

Here is the Q&A that I did with Shannon below:  

1. Your first book from the Breadcrumbs series; Papercut is uniquely written with a diverse range of references to lyrics woven into each chapter. How did you narrow down the choices of which artists should be included?

At first I wanted to use the lyrics for all the songs in the playlist because each song is important to the scene, as it is linked to in the story. Then as I read through the manuscript, listened to the music, read the lyrics, and put it all together, I realized that there were parts in the story where it was more powerful to have the character saying something else and the music in the back drop as opposed to the character saying or quoting a lyric. With several sets of lyrics in each chapter, I felt the effectiveness and the purpose of the lyrics got lost. I think now, with just a few lyrics in the book, this helps the reader define some of the really important moments in Zahra’s story, coming from Zahra.

2. Some authors, like Stephen King for example, write under pseudonyms. Have you thought of creating a pen name for yourself?

Shannon Catori is a pen name! Well the Catori part anyway. I was back and forth on it for a while and ultimately decided to use a pen name and tribute it to my mother who has over the last 27 years reminded me that she wanted to name me Catori. She ended up naming me Shannon after the 80s singer, having gone into labour while dancing to a song by the singer in a nightclub when she was eight months pregnant. I figure this way, she still gets to see my name as Catori, in retrospect.

3. In the book writing process, do you lay out character development before writing, or does it just come to you with ease?

I always develop my characters first. Though I write fiction, I want my characters to seem like real people and so I always list their attributes in a separate file first; their name, middle name, nickname, last name, what they look like, favourite colour, food, song etc. After that is ironed out, then I give them a voice and a style, in which they speak, so that each character is completely unique and distinguishable on paper. I’m really into dialogue and the flow of that dialogue, I want the reader to feel like they are part of the conversation happening and it’s easy to follow along with.

4. What was it like holding a freshly-printed hard copy of your published book in your hands for the very first time?

Hmm, how can I describe it… It was surreal! You know, you work for so long and at times it seems like it will never be finished and you start to get used to seeing it on a screen. Then one day you come home and there are 15 huge boxes stacked up on top of each other in the hallway and you crack open a box and there it is, just waiting for you to run your fingers over the cover and flip through the pages. At first it doesn’t feel like it’s yours and then you begin to read the first few words and you just smile… and then jump up and down and dance around the house like a giddy school girl!!

5. A little bit of a personal question, if you don’t mind. In Papercut, the inseparable bond that develops between Zahra and Adrian seems like it was written as a young girl falling in love for the first time. Are you just a born romantic or were you reminiscing when you found your “Adrian?"

Hahaha, I am not a romantic…at all, but it’s funny how I’m able to write these parts convincingly. You know, the first scene I wrote was the scene when Zahra and Adrian meet. I didn’t have names yet or characters even, but I knew I wanted the girls name to start with a ‘Z’. I’ve definitely never had much luck with love, until I met Jonathan, my husband and though we did not meet in a club, we did go to one on our first date. Truth be told, I was so nervous that I spilt my red drink all over his ivory shirt. I used some of those nerves for Zahra and in turn, made Adrian the opposite, so that he was her balance. Jonathan is my balance, so I guess in some ways I use those personal emotions to fuel Zahra’s first love experiences.

6. It looks like from your website, your creative mojo is not limited to just writing novels and you are now dabbling into the publishing realm…tell me more about that!

Well, going through the process of finding a publisher, I’ve learned a lot of things, getting rights to lyrics, percentages, distribution, copyrights etc. Something important that I took from this process at the end of the day was that I didn’t want my creative ideas to be changed or compromised because it may not have fit the mould of an interested publishing company. I wanted the stories of the characters to remain the same because it is in fact their stories. So, as I was thinking about the process I decided that there must be other authors out there, who’ve had to change their stories to fit into certain publishers’ ideologies. Starting the site was a way for those authors’ voices and the voices of their characters to be heard too. I give publishing companies a great deal of credit. With this undertaking, I’ve come to understand how much work it is to successfully run a publishing company. In many ways, I still feel as a writer, I have a duty to help other writers get their ideas out there, to help them experience the joy of running their fingers across a page filled with their own words just as they envisioned it, without making any major sacrifices to their work. A large part in what made me decide to extend the post manuscript work to other writers was the fact that I have an extraordinary team of people that work with me that have given me so much confidence and security in my own work and I thought it would be great to introduce my team to other writers.

7. More books are on the way as the Breadcrumbs series continues… where can I pick-up a copy of Papercut?

Yes! Papercut is out now. “You Live You Learn” will be released some time in 2012 and then, “Waiting For The End” will finish off the third book. You can find Papercut online, which is an interactive website, with character pages that are frequently updated with music, art, fashion, lifestyle tips, recipes and more (depending on the character) You can also leave messages for the characters and you will get a response. It’s a great little community, centred on the series. Keep your eyes peeled because bookstores will have copies to sell sometime soon. Stay tuned!

Update: Shannon decided to take a different path in life and so perhaps she will resume her writing career at another time.