Terminally Cheerful: an interview with Kathy Holzapfel


We know awesome when we see it. But sometimes, awesome comes up and slaps us in the face, kicks us down the stairs and then nurses our wounds. That's been our experience with Kathy McManis Holzapfel, who writes and publishes under the pseudonyms Cate Noble and Lauren Bach. She moved to Georgia about a year ago, and has very quickly become a favorite of the Crossroads family, whether it's been her blogging on our behalf, supporting the Indiegogo for the Crossroads Guide to the Writing Life, guest speaking for our friends at the Macon Writers Group or just being the kind of person you know has your back. So we thought it'd be nice to share a little more about Kathy with the rest of you here. That way you'll get to know someone you'll undoubtedly enjoy hanging out with at the conference in October.
Chris September 17, 2012 No Comments Interview The Writing Life

Kathy writes and publishes as Cate Noble and Lauren Bach

Crossroads: Why do you write?

Kathy: Compulsion. I am published, but midlist. Wanting to write in different genre for larger audience.

C: How’d you get started and where do you think you are in relation to your goal?

K: I started writing seriously (translation: actively seeking publication) in my early twenties. I’d grown weary of mysteries and a friend gave me a romance novel to read. I knew immediately that I wanted to write a combination of those two genres. I’m largely self-taught (translation: I single-handedly invented half of those rookie mistakes all new writers are warned to avoid) so my journey felt long and arduous. (translation: it took twenty years of trying/quitting/whining/trying again before my first novel was published in 2001.)

My initial goal was simply to sell a book. That goal morphed to selling another and another. But somewhere around book seven, my drive switched back to growing as a writer, which means moving beyond my familiar genre of romantic suspense. I’m still in the midst of that new goal, so it’s hard to judge where I am…but most days it feels pretty awesome.

C: You really seem supportive of other writers and organizations, and we’re just curious where that comes from.

K: Part of it’s just my nature. I’ve been told I’m one of those terminally cheerful people who others want to strangle when they’re down in the dumps and enjoying a good wallow. I want to haul you out of the mud and feed you cookies and give you pep talks and ask if you’ve tried this or that, while simultaneously checking my bag of tricks and remedies for something that will inspire you. (I’m also a Life Strategies Coach and passionate about personal development and creativty.)

But most of that drive comes from remembering the pain and loneliness of chasing my writing dream for years and years with no support – or worse, with belittlement. When I finally took a creative writing class at a local college, the instructor said he thought I had what it took to be published one day. I was so shaken I couldn’t drive, but I will always remember how it felt to be encouraged. When I finally went to my first writers’ conference in the mid 80s, I felt reborn. I believe that only a writer can truly understand another writer’s joy and frustration.

C:  Who are your biggest influences? What have you learned from them? What have you learned NOT to do from them?

K: My best influences have been a handful of big name, contemporary authors – like Nora Roberts, Suzanne Brockmann, Sandra Brown, et al – who’ve been actively writing and hitting the bestsellers lists with consistently great stories. These are writers with 20-plus-year careers that I could study; people who could serve as ”virtual” role models. Even though I’d never met them, I could read their backlist and see how their writing evolved. I could read the scores of interviews published over the years and glean advice from them. And I could dissect their novels and examine the storytelling elements they used.

What I’ve learned NOT to do is to think that once you’re published, you’ve made it. That you don’t have to continue growing as a writer.

C: What are your roadblocks?

K: Too much isolation from other writers – writers with common goals. I just relocated to Georgia a year ago and underestimated the impact of being so rural. I have been in a “mastermind” type group before, with like-minded, serious writers, and only now realize how valuable that was. Hearing “pros” talk inspires me.

C: Is there anything at the conference that you’re especially excited about experiencing? Is there anything you want to ask our guest presenters?

K: Both of Saturday’s Talk Blocks have amazing panelists. If something strange happens – say, the ballroom doors becoming locked and barred, forcing everyone to stay put for an extra hour – don’t look at me.

I want to know if Chuck Wendig wrote outrageously back in grade school and high school. (Was he born that way?) And I’d like to know Sarah Domet’s take on character-driven novels versus plot-driven ones.

C: Why did you register for the conference?

K: Wanted to commit to being there, which was really more a commitment to myself as a writer.

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