Meet Debut Novelist Cathy Bryant

Cathy Bryant’s debut novel, Texas Roads, was a 2009 finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis competition. Her contemporary romance is available in e-book format through Smashwords and will soon be available through Amazon.com and other online retailers.

A Texas gal by birth, Cathy lives with her music minister husband and a phobia-ridden cat in a century-old Texas farmhouse, complete with picket fence, flowers, butterflies, and late summer mosquitoes the size of your fist. She’s the mother of two grown sons, welcomed the daughter of her heart to the family three years ago, and became Nana to “the most beautiful grandson the world has ever known” last year.

A teacher of voice and piano, Cathy has been teaching privately for over twenty years and taught music in public schools for eighteen. She’s had a number of children’s songs published. When not writing, teaching, or battling mosquitoes, Cathy enjoys anything that gets her outdoors away from the hustle and bustle, including walking, hiking, swimming, canoeing, camping, and gardening. She hosts a popular blog, Word Vessel, where she reviews books.

Join me as we learn more about Cathy and her journey to publication.

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Cathy Embarks on Her Journey

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•When did you first experience the call to write?

I was an early reader and lover of stories, so my first writing was grade school. In high school, I won school-related writing contests and worked at my hometown newspaper. While my children were young, I started (but never finished) several novels and even took a course in writing children’s books. As far as being called to write, it was a process for me. Health issues and some eye-opening experiences made me realize that if I was going to follow the dream God had put in my heart, this was the time (from 2004 through 2008).

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•When did you begin writing with the goal of publication? What were some of the first steps you took, and what did you learn from them?

I attended my first writing conference in 2007, but was working a full-time job and two part-time jobs at the time. After attending my second writing conference in 2008, I joined ACFW in 2008, began studying every book on the craft of writing fiction that I could get my hands on, and wrote Texas Roads during NaNoWriMo of 2008.

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•What sparked the idea for Texas Roads? Did you begin with a name or place? Did scenes begin playing in your mind? Or perhaps your characters began chatting?

Texas Roads was built on a spiritual lesson I learned. I’ve always had a strong nesting instinct and longed to find a place to call home. With my husband’s line of work, it seemed our family would start to put down roots just about the time God would move us elsewhere. Through that process, God taught me that our only home is Him—the spiritual theme of my book.

Also, in 2004, my hubby and I moved into our fixer-upper farmhouse. One day I was out working in the flower beds when a car drove by very slowly to check out all the improvements we’d made. It kind of irked me for some reason—I guess because I’m a very private person. As I dug in the dirt, I started thinking about how much the situation bothered me as someone who had lived in small-town Texas her entire life. I wondered how it would bother someone who wasn’t used to small towns, say a city gal from a high-society background. How would she adapt to rural living? My heroine, Dani, was born. From there, scenes began to play out in my mind much like a movie.

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Cathy Meets with Success

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•You experienced the joy of seeing your name in print even before your book was out. What were your first published pieces, and how did they come about?

I have several devotionals published both online and in print. My online devotionals were published at ChristianDevotions.us, and through that connection two devotionals were chosen for publication in the books, Spirit and Heart: A 30-Day Devotional Journey and Faith & Finances: In God We Trust. Another devotional will be published through The Upper Room Magazine in their July/August 2010 issue.

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Your debut novel, Texas Roads, finaled in a prestigious contest. Please tell us about this experience, what it meant to you, and how loud and long you squealed when you received the news.

After I wrote and re-wrote (and re-wrote again!)Texas Roads (then titled These Roads Lead Home), I decided to enter the book in the 2009 ACFW Genesis contest. My reason for entering was to get feedback from professional writers and editors. You can imagine my shock when Jim Rubart called to tell me the book had finaled (top 5 out of 75 in the contemporary romance category). The first words out of my mouth were “You’ve got to be kidding!” I couldn’t believe it then, and I still can’t believe it.

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Texas Roads was released in e-format in January and is now available in print. You took a different path to publication than many, using the services of Smashwords. How does their program work, and why did you choose to use it?

Smashwords is more than just an e-book publisher; they’re also an e-book distributor and have agreements with Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Sony and Kobo (formerly Shortcovers). There is really very little to publishing an e-book. It’s mainly a matter of formatting the document. I went with Smashwords because they didn’t charge me to publish my book like some e-book publishers. They also had the best royalty rates (85%), I retained rights to my work, and they offered distribution.

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•You’ve already received a number of glowing reviews. Which have meant the most to you, and why?

Asking people to read my book for review was tough for me, but the whole purpose of writing is to share it with readers. A lot of readers want testimonials before they pick up a book, so I feel they’re necessary.

While it’s always affirming to receive kind and positive feedback about your writing, I try to keep my heart and head in the right place. I truly believe that I can’t let the opinions of others (whether good or bad) carry too much weight because then my writing becomes focused on me. That’s the last thing I want.

Though it was nice to have other writers offer endorsements, the reviews that meant the most to me were from people who are readers. After God, those are the people I want to write for.

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Cathy’s Story Planning Process

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How do you go about creating your stories?

For me, stories start first with a spiritual truth, then with characters. Once the characters start to reveal themselves to me, I create pretty elaborate character charts for each of them. I take personality tests as the characters so I can better understand what makes them tick.

I’m a huge plotter. (The thought of just sitting down and starting to write makes me break out in a sweat. Scary!!!) As a big believer in story structure, I type up an extensive outline of the book, to make sure that I have all the stuff that makes a story work. (Example: The Big Lie, The Dark Moment, The Point of No Return, The Call to Adventure, The Inciting Incident, etc.)

Once I have my character charts and extensive outline (probably close to one hundred pages at this point), I sit down and get the story out as fast as I can. I like doing this during NaNoWriMo and with a word count widget for motivation. Because of the extensive pre-writing I’ve done, this part of the process is relatively painless and short.

Next comes the tedious process of revision. Ugh. (Some people actually enjoy revision? Um…why?) While I enjoy the finished product, the process of cutting no-no words and unimportant scenes, followed by layering in sensory details, descriptions, transitions, etc. is like pulling teeth for me. In fact, I’m not so sure I don’t enjoy a good tooth-yanking better!

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Cathy’s Best Tips for Writers

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•What suggestions do you have for other writers?

First, study the craft of writing fiction. Pretend you’re in Fiction Writing 101, buy some gently used writing books (Half.com is great for this, as well as PaperBackSwap), and drag out the highlighters and sticky tabs. Apply what you learn to your writing.

Second, read, read, read. Oh, and did I mention reading? Yeah. It’s that important. Read new Christian fiction releases, both in your genre and outside of it. Read the classics. Read secular novels. Learn what works and what doesn’t.

Last, you’ve got to write if you want to be a writer. And I’ve discovered that all kinds of writing count. Every word you type makes you a better writer. If nothing else seems to be working, pull out your favorite novel, crack it open and start typing—not to plagiarize, but to get the feel of how it’s done.

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Cathy’s Debut Novel

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•Please tell us about Texas Roads.

Dani Davis, a disillusioned widow, wants a place to call home. With quaint country charm, quirky residents, and loads of business potential, Miller’s Creek seems like the perfect place to start over . . . except for the cowboy who gives her a ride into town. Then malicious rumors and a devastating discovery propel her down a road she never expected to travel.

Cowboy mayor Steve Miller is determined to rescue his dying hometown. When vandals threaten the Miller’s Creek renovation project, he can’t help but suspect Dani, whose strange behavior has become fodder for local gossips. Can he and Dani call a truce for a higher cause, and in the process, help Dani understand the true meaning of home?

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Cathy’s Journey Continues

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•What projects are you working on now?

I’m working on getting the news out about Texas Roads, and working on book two in the Miller’s Creek series, tentatively titled: A Path Too Narrow.

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Five Things That Inspire Cathy

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~ I find inspiration all around me, but first and foremost, I’d have to say God’s Word and my relationship to God. The spiritual truths I learn in my journey often make it into my stories.

~ Next, would be my family, because they are so supportive and encouraging.

~ Nature has a way of quieting my soul to tune in to that “still, small voice.”

~ Great stories are inspiring to me, producing in me a desire to write stories that touch people’s hearts and lives.

~ Last, but definitely not least, my friends are a great source of inspiration to me. God always sends me encouragement and strength for the journey through my friends.

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Five Accomplishments That Have Meant the Most to Cathy

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~ First on the list would definitely be snagging my amazing husband and raising two awesome sons, though I’m not sure I can take credit. My husband is my biggest cheerleader and fan. My oldest son is an attorney in Arkansas, and my youngest is an outstanding musician in Dallas. All three of them (in different ways) have a heart for God and for sharing His love with others.

~ Next would be the fruit of my prayers in the form of my beautiful daughter-in-love and grandson.

~ Finishing Texas Roads was a major accomplishment, because lots of people have a desire to write a book, but few ever do.

~ Hearing children sing the music I’ve written is indescribable, so writing music would be an accomplishment I’m proud of.

~ Though I entered the ACFW Genesis contest to garner professional feedback, being a finalist continues to be a “pinch me” accomplishment.

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Cathy’s Question for You

At the heart of every book I write will be a scriptural theme. For Texas Roads, the theme deals with the spiritual meaning of home. Do you have a special Bible verse or faith-inspired topic that you think would make a great theme for a book?

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Learn More About Cathy

Visit her website ~ www.CatBryant.com

Visit her personal blog ~ Word Vessel

Friend Her on Facebook ~ Cathy Bryant

Friend Her on ShoutLife ~ Cathy Bryant

Follow her on Twitter ~ CathyBryant

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About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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12 Responses to Meet Debut Novelist Cathy Bryant

  1. Keli Gwyn says:

    Welcome, Cathy! I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about you and your debut novel.

  2. Virginia C says:

    Hi, Cathy & Keli! The “Dynamic Duo” together again! I’m in the middle of reading “Texas Roads”, and I am very much enjoying the developing relationships of the characters as the story unfolds. Each person has their own issue to deal with, as well as facing the issues affecting the entire community. I love the fact that the hero, Steve, is a down-to-earth man of faith.

    For me, the true meaning of “home” is having a living faith and carrying the love of the Lord in your heart every day. My family is gone, and I am pretty much on my own. Life is uncertain, and that is why strong faith is so important. I know that one day, I will see my family again when I go “home”.

    This is my favorite Bible verse:

    “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. … And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

    I Corinthians 13:4-8, 13 NIV

  3. Cathy Bryant says:

    Good morning, Keli & Virginia! Keli, thanks again for the opportunity to be here on Romance Writers on the Journey. I enjoyed answering the questions you sent.

    Virginia, I’m glad you’re enjoying the book. I’m happy to announce that the book is now available at Amazon. YAY! (Pardon the rejoicing, but that’s a major hurdle crossed.) The verse you mention is one of my favorites, too. My hubby and I used those verses in our wedding ceremony. Without love, everything else is meaningless. Thanks so much for dropping by to leave a comment, Virginia. I appreciate it! =)

  4. Laura Frantz says:

    Oh my, three of my favorite people here this morning – Keli, Virginia, and Cathy! Poor Cathy is going to think I’m stalking her all over the web as I tend to leave a comment whenever her name comes up as I’m such a fan! Honestly, whenever I do see her name I always smile. She has that effect on people.

    There are so many great verses. I think one of mine for my writing journey personally is Psalm 138:8: The Lord will accomplish what concerns me; Your lovingkindness, O Lord, is everlasting…

    Bless you for such an uplifting interview.

  5. Cathy Bryant says:

    Laura, you can stalk me anytime. Words can’t express how encouraged I feel because of you and your kindness. (I always smile when you show up!) I love the verse you mentioned. It takes the pressure off, doesn’t it? Knowing that He will accomplish with my life what He purposes brings comfort and joy! And everlasting lovingkindness–what more could we ask or long for?

  6. Julie Gorman says:

    I think this would be a great verse to write a novel around:

    Song of Solomon 8:13-14

    13 You who dwell in the gardens
    with friends in attendance,
    let me hear your voice!

    14 Come away , my lover,
    and be like a gazelle
    or like a young stag
    on the spice-laden mountains.
    NIV

    It takes my breath away to think how great of a love God has for us. He calls to us to listen. He goes to great lengths to reach out to us. And He loves us more deeply than we can ever begin to imagine.

  7. Julie Gorman says:

    Or maybe a couple of verses before would even be better:

    Song of Solomon 8:6
    Place me like a seal over your heart,
    like a seal on your arm;
    for love is as strong as death,
    its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
    It burns like blazing fire,
    like a mighty flame.
    NIV

    I’ve always avoided Song of Solomon…thinking it weird. But I see such a depth of God’s love in it today for some reason. What do you think? Could you write a novel around it? I wish I wrote fiction…alas, I’m a non-fiction kinda girl!

  8. Cathy Bryant says:

    I can definitely see a story built around these verses, Julie. Hmmm, I’m thinking an allegorical novel. This may sound weird, but I often think of God sometimes calling to me with the words, “Come away with me, my beloved.” He loves us so much He longs to spend time with us. The last verse you mentioned was used by my son and daughter-in-love in their wedding, so it holds a special place in my heart.

  9. Hi all,
    I was one of the blessed ones – to read Texas Roads and be an influencer! It is truly a delightful book.

    I also adore the Song of Solomon and teach a class based on the entire book. One of my favorite scriptures from that book: Chapter 4:9 “You have stolen (ravished) my heart, my sister, my bride; you have stolen my heart (made my heart beat faster) with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace.” Just think…one glance from us is all it takes to make God’s heart beat faster. That is so amazing to me.

    Blessings to all!

  10. Cathy Bryant says:

    Wow, Edwina! What an amazing thought. What is even more amazing is that our ability to understand His love for us is limited by our finite minds. Yes, His heart beats faster, and it’s even more and better than we can comprehend. He IS an awesome God! Blessings!

  11. christicorbett says:

    Cathy,
    Such a great interview! Thanks for sharing about your writing process (I too love structure and planning).

    I really liked hearing your reaction to placing high in the writing contest, so funny and so real 🙂

    Christi Corbett

  12. Cathy Bryant says:

    Thanks, Christi! My husband often comments about my tendency towards organization and structure by calling me CDO (OCD alphabetized)! I confess, my files are color coordinated…but I can find anything in a few seconds! =)

    My reaction to the contest call was hilarious. (I think I got carpet-burns on the bottom of my chin, from where it hit the floor.);)

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