This month, Romance author Caty Callahan has graciously agreed to do an interview with us.
COLLEEN: Welcome, Caty.
CATY: Thank you, Colleen. Thank you for having me.
COLLEEN: So why don’t you tell us a little bit about how you started the whole Bride Lottery series which as I understand it encompasses more than a hundred novellas?
CATY: Well, that’s a long story. I came from a family of farrmers with no books. I ended up spending a great deal of time at the local library where the librarian had an entire bookcase full of Harlequins. I read more than 200 books that year, including lots of westerns I picked up at garage sales. The thing I loved about the westerns was the men. Something about a guy who always does the right thing, even with a gun staring him straight in the eye, and those jeans and cowboy boots and cowboy hats really stirs my heart. Then there was this weekend when television ran an old series called The Quest. It was a western with Tim Matheson and Kurt Russell about two brothers who were raised apart but banded together to find their sister who was kidnapped. They only ran four episodes that weekend and since it was a very old show, it never ran again, but I fell in love with western romance. That was when I was eight. It was also the year I started writing western romances that all somehow revolved around a lottery. I had a horse themed lottery, a race themed lottery, and many other lotteries that eventually evolved into the series I have today.
COLLEEN: Wow. I didn’t realize you started writing so young. Were you writing short stories or novels or novellas?
CATY: They were short stories. I had friends I would write with. I’d write for a while and then pass it to a friend and she’d write for a while and then pass it to the next person, etc. But I also had boxes of notebooks of my own stories. The typical story lasted 200 pages but they were all handwritten, so I would say they were novella size. The thing about short stories is that they don’t usually have an entire relationship in them. One to three chapters is about the size for a short story. I prefer novellas because it gives me more room to show the relationship that evolves between the two protagonists.
COLLEEN: Which one is your favorite?
CATY: Oh wow. That’s a hard choice. I think it would have to be a tie between Cat and Caleb and Brianna and Colin.
COLLEEN: Why those two?
CATY: In both cases the heroine is older than the hero. That in itself is an obstacle to overcome. But also the heroines are strong and independent and caregivers. In Cat’s case, the man she loved was murdered on Lottery Day in front of her when she was 18. So she started making baskets to give to the other women in town whose lottery days didn’t turn out the way they intended either. What she didn’t realize was that the nephew of one of these women was heavily influenced by her charity and became a Brennanmen, a peacekeeper, because of it. So when he enters the lottery and she’s standing right there, it’s kismet. In Brianna’s case, she’s an orphan but ineligible for adoption because she has living relatives who don’t want her. As a result, she longs for a family. When she is the last woman at the lottery and a 21 year old draws her name, she falls in love with his family at about the same time a flu epidemic strikes. She’s the one who takes care of them and saves them. I also love these two because they have other subplots. With Cat, there’s a killer and a bear. With Brianna, it’s a little three year-old orphan named Hank. Which one is your favorite?
COLLEEN: That’s tough. I like Montana’s story, but I also like Hannah’s. I like Megan’s story too. It’s a tough decision.
CATY: That’s one thing I love about fans, when they start reading them they get hooked and want to read all the series. Even the Brennan Brides series which reads more like a western than the others because of the Brennanmen.
COLLEEN: Ah, the Brennanmen. Those are men I love to read about.
CATY: They’re very popular among my beta readers. Something about a guy with a knife, a gun, and a hatchet.
COLLEEN: So if you had to describe the differences between the series what would you say?
CATY: The Bride Lottery series is geared more toward young adults and younger women. The Marriage Lottery series has more serious topics that some mothers wouldn’t want their teenage daughters reading about. The Brennan Brides has a lot of action, but also crimes including murder and rape. The Christmas Lottery are the race lotteries geared toward tomboys. I was a tomboy for the longest time. I spent my days climbing trees and riding horses. The Angel Lottery is a little dark with angels as the brides. They come when the female population is so decimated that the world needs super-women who are invincible, so God sends angels (who are actually seraphim). The Divorce Lottery is not really about divorce. It’s about the couples who are struggling to stay together. Before they can enter the divorce lottery they go through a series of marriage therapies which is actually kind of cute because they fall in love with each other. There’s a lot to be said for shared experiences. Too many young people expect to experience love at first sight when it’s usually shared experiences that bond us together.
COLLEEN: That actually brings me to the next subject, shared experiences. You’ve been part of two different publishing groups now. And it’s clear you’re very close friends with all of them. How did that come about?
CATY: Oh, other than saying I adore them as people and authors, I don’t really talk about the other authors in my groups much. We’re a very close, very quiet bunch who happen to share the same work ethic and the same values. That’s a difficult thing to do in the current publishing environment.
COLLEEN: Could you explain that a little?
CATY: Well, most of us in one way or another has been touched by domestic violence. That shapes a person. We’re also devout in our beliefs and our values. Before I joined Bite Me Books or Three Cats I was part of two other writing groups, RWA and Absolute Write. Unfortunately both were filled with unethical authors who did all manner of things to get people to read their books. I find it very unethical to buy reviews or to use emotional blackmail to get friends and family to buy my books when they can get them from me for free. Things like that. I finally left RWA when I found out the Golden Heart Awards were rigged. The judges were sharing the names of their writing partners so they would get through to the final round. It wasn’t based on writing ability, pacing, or plot, but on who knew who. Absolute Write, in particular, was very vicious. I was shocked at some of the comments to new authors, telling them their writing was awful when actually it was quite good. Most of these trolls who insulted everyone were older white males who dominate the publishing industry. We’ve had many interesting conversations about that, the fact that both domestic violence and the publishing industry are dominated by white males. That will get people’s eyes rolling. 🙂
COLLEEN: Speaking of values, I know that you were the victim of plagiarism and trademark infringement. Did that eventually work itself out?
CATY: <laughs> Uh sort of. Kristin Holt’s attorney apologized for his client breaking the law and I reserved the right to sue her. But she never came out publicly and apologized. I think that might be because she doesn’t want to make the lawsuit easy and if she publicly admits she plagiarized and infringed on my trademark, those are two very serious crimes that would ruin her career as an author, particularly since she frames herself as a wholesome sweet romance author. There’s nothing sweet about plagiarism or trademark infringement. There’s a blog post on my site that lays out some of the things she copied. I put that there for the head attorney at Barnes and Noble who eventually pulled all of Kristin Holt’s books from their site. Kudos for that, but Amazon never did and they really should have.
COLLEEN: Is that why you steered clear of Amazon for so long?
CATY: That’s part of it. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many places to sell books these days. Amazon has put everyone else out of business. Even on Amazon there are so many really awful books published by authors who don’t know how to write that my titles are buried from the beginning. If you go to Amazon, enter the exact title of one of my books and my name you’ll be sent to a completely other book, not mine (the one you searched for). That’s bait and switch, something Amazon excels at and it’s illegal. Amazon also has an unethical arm, Kindle Select. Kindle Select is the only way to run sales on Amazon and authors use this to give away thousands of books. So most of Kindle’s readers expect their books to be free. Try competing in that market. It’s certainly not easy.
COLLEEN: Do you think you’ll stay off Amazon?
CATY: I don’t know. Our team is trying different marketing strategies, but we limit them to only those that are ethical. If you go to any Kindle authors Facebook pages or websites you’ll find lots of advice on how to get your books noticed but they are unethical in one way or another. Honest reviews and honest book sales are hard to come by.
COLLEEN: Well I for one will continue to enjoy your series. I love all of them. Thank you for letting me interview you today.
CATY: You’re very welcome. It’s very nice to see a site that’s devoted to free reviews and free marketing for authors. the world is truly changing and I’d like to see it be a better world for my children. I write novellas that I would be comfortable with my own daughters reading.
Reprinted from May 13 2016