Interview with Cathryn Chapman

How do you approach cover design?
This was a long road... The first thing I did was hire a cover designer through an online freelancing website. I posted a 'job', and had over fifty proposals in about two hours! I ended up choosing a lovely young lady from Eastern Europe, and we spent a week or so emailing back and forth about ideas, and she created about four different concepts, some involving life rings and anchors, and others with ships and girls. At the time, the working title of my book was actually 'The Lust Boat', and we ended up with a picture of a girl in a g-string bikini, standing on the beach, with a ship on the horizon. I can't remember exactly, but it cost me very little. Like, under $20.

But I didn't love it. It still screamed 'SELF PUBLISHED!' to me... So then I contacted a professional book cover designer online. His portfolio was impressive (much more so than the girl I'd previously worked with on it), and luckily, he was prepared to work on it as a 'pro bono' job, in exchange for being able to display it on his website. He came up with a range of covers, and I ran a little survey on my Facebook page, asking my friends to vote on those, and the best two from the odesk girl.

If that exercise taught me anything, it's that covers are totally subjective. Almost every single cover I posted received votes, and although a couple of them received quite a few more votes than the others, there wasn't a runaway winner.

At the same time, a reader of another author's books contacted the second cover designer to inform him that another author named Roz Lee had JUST released a book called 'The Lust Boat'. I contacted Roz to apologise, as when I had originally researched my title (a long time earlier), her book hadn't been released yet. Roz was totally lovely and gracious, and said she actually didn't mind at all... BUT, given my book is kind of humorous and 'chick lit', that perhaps The Lust Boat wasn't actually a good title. She writes erotica, after all (check out her books for some steamy sex!)... She also said the cover I had chosen didn't indicate it was a chick lit book, and might not attract, or even turn off, my desired audience.

So I went back to the drawing board... with the title AND with the cover. Phew!

I studied chick lit book covers and saw that they were all illustrated. I contacted a few illustrators whose work I loved, and realised I totally couldn't afford them :(

So I contacted a really good friend of mine, Jo Kuipers, who also happens to be a kick arse graphic designer, and asked her if she'd be interested in giving it a go... I told her I wanted a girl on the cover, but didn't want to show her face, as I like the idea of readers picturing their own characters. She did some concepts, we both did some searching of stock libraries for photos. I found a photo I liked, and sent it to my other designer friend in Tunisia, Wasfi Hfaidhia, who I had employed to create all the fabulous banners you see on my website. He recoloured the girl's hair (it was red, I needed brown), and added some pink colour to her lips... Jo compiled it with background and text, and voila! My cover was born.

Other people possibly aren't quite so drawn out and particular in producing their covers, but I work in marketing and public relations in my day job, so I knew it was something I wanted to nail. Hopefully I have!
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Without a doubt, 'The Bronze Horseman' by Paullina Simons is my absolute favourite book of all time. When I was working on my last ship, I was doing my weekly stint in the library, and a grey-haired gentleman came up to me, placed a massive hardback book on my desk, and said, "If you want to read the best book you've ever read and the greatest love story of all time, read this book!" I started reading it, and had trouble tearing myself away from it to work, sleep, or do anything else, until it was finished!

I also love 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin'. The movie is terrible (sorry, Nic and Penelope), but the book is awesome. The first few chapters are slow, and I nearly abandoned it a few times, but friends convinced me to persist, and I'm glad I did. I plan to write an epic historical romance in the next couple of years, but I need a lot of writing practice before I tackle that!

I don't know if it's an all-time favourite, but a book I really enjoyed recently was 'The Power Trip', by Jackie Collins. Jackie is the ultimate in sexy Author success for me. She's on the cover of Vanity Fair, which is something I have on my vision board... so I wanted to see what made her so successful. Once I started The Power Trip, I knew why. She created the characters brilliantly, the plot was perfect, and the payoff was fabulous. I had no idea 'who died' and 'who dunnit' until the moment I was supposed to. Perfection!

Another book I really loved, and probably a symbol of a favourite genre, is 'The Firm', by the talented John Grisham. I love a good action/thriller, and when I first read this, I had already seen the promotions for the movie, so I naturally pictured Tom Cruise as Mitch, which worked well. It's a really great read, and a benchmark of white collar thrillers for me!

In a departure from all that, I really love the autobiography 'Almost French' by Sarah Turnbull. For many years I was obsessed with the idea of living in France, and I did actually end up living in Paris for a while... but this book was the ultimate inspirational memoir for me, written by another curly haired Aussie girl!
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I read on my Samsung ativ tablet-thingy. It's like a laptop where you can separate the screen, which is also a touch screen. I can't remember it's proper name. But when that isn't charged, or I'm out of the house, I read on my Samsung Galaxy phone. If I'm reading a textbook about writing/publishing (and I read a lot of them), I often read them on my computer, so that I can flick between that and my browser or Word doc.

Sometimes I read on my husband's iPad, especially if I'm reading magazines.

So yeah, I'm just flexible like that :)
Describe your desk
When we moved into our new house in December 2014, I convinced my husband that I deserved a writing room all of my own. He was allowed to claim the garage as a 'man cave', so he felt it was fair. It was the first (and still the only) room to be decorated, and I sourced items from ebay and fairly cheap furniture places.

My desk is plain, white and fairly small, and I've got a fake plant, an empty vase, and it still has Valentines Day cards from my husband and son on it. There's not much room for it to become messy.

Behind my desk I have six framed pictures, which form my 'vision board'. After reading 'The Secret', I decided a vision board was a good idea, but I wanted a sexier version. I photoshopped six pictures indicating what I wanted in my life, and put them in six frames behind me. I bought a hot pink coloured 'traditional' rug, a comfy armchair, cushions, a throw, and a beautiful oil painting of rainy New York with a pink sky, which I see every time I look up from my computer.

It's much prettier than it sounds though! It's all hot pinks and feminine touches... I love it so much.
When did you first start writing?
This is a hard question to answer... I know I had a diary in primary school, and I seem to remember writing poetry, but not much else. I read an awful lot though! I was that kid up at 5am every day to read for 2hrs before I had to get ready for school. In the first year of high school, I wrote a poem, and my new English teacher didn't believe I'd written it - because it had adult concepts and themes. I was so upset, I threw it in the bin! I think I lost a bit of enthusiasm for writing then... but two years later, she declared I was a great writer, and should consider being an author for a living. I went to a small, Catholic girls high school, which didn't support the arts AT ALL. They were all about those of us with high grades becoming lawyers or engineers... So her comment was a bit out of left field, and basically was ignored. So after studying a Bachelor of Business (majoring in Film and TV production, minor in Marketing) I ended up spending about 17 years doing other things -- like marketing jobs, travelling, singing, dancing, and working on cruise ships -- before I started writing 'Sex, Lies, and Cruising'.
What's the story behind your latest book?
I worked on cruise ships for a while in my twenties and again in my early thirties (I know, I don't look that old, right? hehe). It was a great experience in many ways, but the environment 'below the waterline' was quite morally absent. People were cheating on their partners at home, and partners on the ship! I was no angel, but I was quite horrified by what I saw. The cruise lines did draw the line at getting involved with passengers, so that's good, but obviously they can't do anything about what goes on between crew, who are essentially stuck in a confined space together for 6-9 months at a time.

People often told me I should write a book about my life. I decided that, as a 'nobody', it wouldn't sell well... but perhaps I could write fiction, somewhat inspired by real life... so Sex, Lies, and Cruising was born!
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I really vacillated with this decision. When I first started writing the book (in 2012), I'd just returned from living in South America and we had a six week old baby. I hadn't kept up with the publishing world, and didn't know self-publishing really existed. The only option in my mind was to get an agent. A mentor helped me through the writing process, and he was quite old-school, and admittedly unaware of self-publishing. When I finished the book, I edited it numerous times, got feedback from about seven beta readers, edited it a few more times, and then sent it to a hideously expensive developmental editor in London. When I was happy with it, I sent it off to a bunch of agents in London and NYC. I had one full request and a couple of encouraging rejections, but none of the queries went anywhere. I was quite devastated...

So I took some time away from the book and looked at my options. I had a scriptwriter friend read the book whose opinion I really valued (but wasn't available the first time), and basically his feedback was that the book was great in many ways, but also had a few significant problems with structure, plot 'payoff' and character depth. I read a bunch of textbooks and edited the book again... then I hired a fantastic American editor living in London, and she really whipped it into shape. We had a really collaborative editing experience, and she's the only editor I ever want to work with!

Anyway, I digress... during this time, I had been speaking to another author friend, and became quite convinced I should actually self publish. After all, my day job was in marketing, so I already had knowledge and ideas about selling my own work, which many other authors may not. At the last moment, I decided to send it out to agents again, because let's be honest, that's what MOST authors really want -- the support of someone who can go into bat for you, and get your book into bookstores... BUT funny enough, although I had a couple of full requests, I decided mid-way through querying to just stop. I had been waking up every day during that time with a loud voice yelling in my ear, "YOU NEED TO SELF-PUBLISH THIS BOOK!" It was hard not to listen :) Also, I did a lot of reading about the pros and cons of getting traditionally published. You still need to do lots of publicity as a newbie author, and the profits were really low, if any at all.

I'm so happy I made the decision. It's been exhausting and stressful at times, but I thrive on it. I just can't wait to get my book out there! Now I hope that people will read it!
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I like the days when the writing just flows... those are the days when I think, "THIS is what I was born to do..."

When I finished the book, one of my beta readers was going through a difficult time in her life. She had previously agreed to read the book for me as a favour, so she wanted to honour her promise. She started reading it in bed the first night, absolutely exhausted... and told me she'd said to herself, "I'll just read one paragraph of the next chapter, and THEN I'll stop..." She ended up reading nine chapters before she fell asleep! She did the same the second night, and finished it on the third.

Another beta reader was a friend's husband. He's a Major in the Australian Army, who's served in the military for over 25 years, and was stationed in Afghanistan at the time. He'd heard about my book being finished, and as a grammar fanatic, he offered to read it. I dreaded his feedback, because my friend told me he would tear it to shreds if it was awful. I reluctantly agreed, but I wanted balanced feedback... but he read it in TWO nights before sending it back with very few comments and demanding I write book two immediately!

So apart from the story flowing well at times, I do love positive reader feedback. It makes it all worth it.
What are you working on next?
The second book in this series, entitled LOVE, DRUGS, AND NEW YORK.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I don't have much choice. My three year old wakes me up around 5am. It's tough when you've been at the computer until after 11pm! So I do try to shut down the computer at 9.30...ish.

But apart from that, it's really my son. I feel bad when I've had to occasionally spend time during the day/weekend in my office, when I've got (self-imposed) deadlines. I do go out and play with him for breaks, and obviously there are other people at home for him to spend time with... but he's just the light of my life. He's incredibly cheeky, smart, and such a dramatic actor. I don't know where he gets it from.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I currently work four days a week marketing for a non-profit. I work quite a distance from home, so I sometimes spend an hour and a half a day commuting. I also do freelance marketing consultancy work on occasion, to supplement my awful income! Outside all that work stuff, I attempt to do pilates twice a week, and throw in a walk and a skipping/boxing session (I sometimes fail at this). I spend a bit of time on social media, and very occasionally I get to read for fun. I like to go to the movies or dinner with my husband once a week, and I try to cook all our meals from scratch. Obviously I also have to clean the house, but I'm lucky that my mother lives with us (in a self contained area downstairs) and helps out a lot. I performed in a musical a while ago, playing Sister Margaretta in The Sound of Music... but it just took up way too much time. It was much easier to do shows when I was single, with no kids! I'm already way too over-committed.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I usually look up something I've heard about... or I also look by books from authors I've enjoyed. Sometimes I just look through what's new or recommended on one of my reading/retail apps.
What is your writing process?
I've only written one book, and just started the second, so my experience is limited to that... I like to plan a detailed outline before I start. Then I have a rule that I have to sit down for a minimum of 15 minutes EVERY day to write, whether I feel like it or not. That way, if I feel lacking in creative juices, I can walk away after 15 minutes, knowing I did my best. Sometimes that 15 minutes on a low night turns into 3 hrs and 3000 words.

When I finished this current book, I went through at least nine rounds of editing, including incorporating beta reader feedback and working with a professional editor.
Published 2015-04-09.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Sex, Lies, and Cruising
Price: $6.99 USD. Words: 94,210. Language: English. Published: July 16, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Women's fiction » Chick lit, Fiction » Humor & comedy » General
Landing her dream job on a Caribbean cruise ship, Ellie soon discovers the truth about the exotic locations, sexy men, and crazy crew parties. Described as 'Bridget Jones' Diary meets Sex and the City, on board The Love Boat'.