I’m so excited to welcome Catherine Egan to the blog today! Catherine is the author of a novel that I am going to really be recommending this summer(fair warning!) – Julia Vanishes. Catherine I chatted about everything from writing habits to whether coffee or tea reigns superior so this is definitely a chat I’m excited to share with y’all! This post may contain affiliate links.
Hello Catherine, thank you so much for agreeing to this Q&A session! I truly enjoyed reading the first book in the Witch’s Child trilogy – Julia Vanishes – and so I’m quite excited to talk with you about it and share our chat with my readers.
To get us started, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the inspiration behind this exciting new trilogy?
Thank you so much! I’m delighted that you enjoyed it!
I grew up in Vancouver, on the west coast of Canada, where I spent my childhood writing stories and trying to cast spells. Since then I’ve lived in England, Tokyo, Kyoto, two tiny volcanic Japanese islands, Beijing, an oil rig in the middle of the Bohai Bay, New Jersey, and now Connecticut. I’ve given up on casting literal spells, but I’m still writing, which I guess is another kind of spell-casting.
Julia Vanishes began with the image of a servant girl in a nightgown creeping downstairs in the middle of the night and picking the lock on a door. I wanted to follow her and figure out what she was doing. I brought the image together with a few other ideas, like witches who could only do magic by writing, and salvaged parts of a failed novel, and all these pieces clicked together, making the book a huge joy to write.
Q: Can you share with us your writing process? Are you a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, go-with-the-flow type, or do you have to have more structure and use tools like outlines? Maybe even a bit of both?
I am absolutely an outliner. Once an idea has really gotten under my skin, I do a ton of brainstorming, make lots of notes, and when I have an idea of the whole, I make a very detailed outline. That said, once I start drafting, I do often find myself deviating from my outline. Because I’m incapable of writing without an outline, once I deviate too far I have to stop and make a new outline before I can continue. I do this several times until I get to the end of the book, and then I make an outline of my finished draft, which sounds ridiculous and sort of is, but I find it useful for revising.
Q: Do you have any quirky writing habits?
Besides my slightly obsessive outlining and re-outlining, I think I’m stunningly ordinary as far as my writing habits go. I want a quiet, comfortable place to work, coffee, dark chocolate, and time – then I’m completely happy.
Q: What are some of your own favorite books?
Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi, Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link, Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro, How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood, Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, Frog Music by Emma Donoghue, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki, Graceling by Kristin Cashore… I meant to keep it under ten and couldn’t but I guess I have to stop eventually…
Q: I know this question is subjective (and I kind of hate asking since I believe every book is unique – Julia Vanishes especially) but for the sake of helping the readers out a little bit: Name five books that if readers enjoy, they’ll likely enjoy Julia Vanishes, too.
It feels very presumptuous to compare my book to these great favorites of mine, but here goes…
- Graceling, by Kristin Cashore (because powerful girls making complicated choices is awesome)
- Legend, by Marie Lu (for those who love high-octane action and a mystery with huge stakes)
- Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman (because sometimes your protagonist’s secrets go deeper than even she realizes)
- I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith (which is not fantasy or even a contemporary novel, but at the heart of Julia Vanishes is the unconventional family, the secrets we keep even from those that know and love us best, hard moral and romantic choices, and the discovery of self and strengths we don’t know we have until we need them)
- The Witch Hunter, by Virginia Boecker (which is the closest comp I can think of, and also involves a tough, street-smart girl forced to work with people she’s not sure she can trust, questioning her old alliances and long-held beliefs)Q: Do you find that the world around you often provides inspiration for your own work?
I’m sure that everything I experience seeps into my writing in ways I don’t even recognize, but the most obvious inspiration is in the settings.
Spira City is a fantastical version of Paris, and I expect I chose that city because it was the setting of my own first solo adventure when I was 18 (not much older than Julia). I spent six weeks by myself in the city, made some unusual friends and had some very peculiar and sometimes scary experiences. You can sort of map Spira City onto Paris geographically, but it’s much more a depiction of the city filtered through my intense experiences and emotional reactions.
The second book in the trilogy is set in Yongguo, a fantasy version of China, and I was definitely drawing on my experiences living abroad, especially in Beijing, and the disorientation of being outside of your own context.
Q: For readers that want to connect with you, what is one social media that you enjoy and are most active on?
I have a Facebook page and will certainly reply to messages there, but I check in on Twitter more reliably. Come find me! @bycatherineegan
Q: If there was a television or movie adaption of Witch’s Child Trilogy who would you cast if you were given the option?
I find this question impossible, because my characters are still too themselves in my head. My fantasy cast would be a group of unknowns who look and behave exactly like my characters!
Q: What has been the most rewarding experience on your road to publication for this trilogy?
Having so many brilliant and passionate people caring about my book, brainstorming titles and plot points with me, discussing cover images. Writing is such a solitary activity, but it has been amazing to work with my agent, my editor, and so many others, and I’m constantly in awe and gratitude that they actually really truly care about my book!
Q: Money is no object, time is standing still – what is one thing you’d want to do in this situation?
Travel, travel, travel! But if time is standing still, does that mean that other people are frozen in place, waves stilled on their way to the shore, dragonflies suspended in the air, and so on? That would be cool for a few hours, but really I want to move through a world that is also in motion. I like the “money is no object” part, and I would go everywhere – early on the list would be climbing Kilimanjaro, the Annapurna circuit in Nepal, an Antarctic cruise, and the Trans-Siberian express. Even though I always feel that time is moving too fast, I don’t actually want it to stand still.
Q: Do you have any book tour plans? Where might we be able to see you this summer or fall?
On June 11th I’ll be at the Barnes & Noble in North Haven, CT, at 11am. I’ll also be doing a panel at Oblong Books on June 12th at 4pm in Rhinebeck NY with a fabulous crew of authors – Marie Rutkoski, Kimberly McCreight, and Kara Thomas! The rest of my summer / fall plans are still TBA, but I’ll be updating on my website as soon as I have fixed dates.
Q: Can you sum up Julia Vanishes in one tweet (140 characters or less)?
Hedonistic thief & spy for hire is forced to make a terrible choice that draws her into a conflict with powerful forces & her own conscience
Print or Ebook or Audiobook? Print
Coffee or Tea? Coffee
Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter? Autumn, but I like ‘em all
Inside or Outside? Outside
The Book or the Movie? The Book
Star Wars or Star Trek? Star Wars
#TeamCap or #TeamStark? #TeamBuffy (sorry)
Cats or Dogs or Both? Cats
Music or Quiet when Writing? QUIET! SHHHHHHH!!!!
Facebook or Twitter? Twitter.
Instagram or Pinterest? Neither.
Cake or Pie? Both.
Thanks again for chatting with me today, Catherine! I hope you enjoyed the questions. If you have anything else you’d like potential Julia Vanishes readers to know, feel free to leave it here.
About Catherine Egan:
Catherine grew up in Vancouver, Canada. Since then, she has lived on a volcanic island in Japan (which erupted while she was there and sent her hurtling straight into the arms of her now-husband), in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Beijing, on an oil rig in the middle of Bohai Bay, then in New Jersey, and now in New Haven, Connecticut. She is currently occupied with writing books and fighting dragon armies with her warrior children. You can read more about her at catherineegan.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ByCatherineEgan.