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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Author Interview: Caitlyn Hunter

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Caitlyn Hunter, whose newest book Winds of Fate will be coming soon from L&L Dreamspell. Winds of Fateis based on the Cherokee legend of the Blowing Rock in North Carolina.

Caitlyn is one-sixteenth Cherokee, with a full-blooded great-great-grandmother. She grew up hearing stories about the Cherokee people and most of her books feature at least one character that is Cherokee. All of her paranormal romances are based on one or more of the legends.

"It fascinates me that I share in that heritage and I love discovering new legends and details of their history," she told me.

She and her sister, author Christy Tillery French, are working on a fact-based fiction book about their great-aunt Bessie, who grew up in Hot Springs, North Carolina, at the turn of the 20th century.

"This is a first for both of us," Caitlyn revealed. "Neither of us has ever co-written a book before nor have we written historical fiction. We’re relying mostly on stories we heard from both Aunt Bessie when she was alive and stories our Dad is still telling us that he heard from her when he was a child. She was a fascinating woman, very independent and determined to live life her own way so we got the title of the book from an old southern saying, 'A whistling woman and a crowing hen never come to a very good end.' It means to be who you’re meant to be and we feel that’s exactly what Aunt Bessie did so we titled the book, Whistling Woman."

She's also working on the third book of her Eternal Shadows series, tentatively titled Sun Shadows. It's the story of the third blood-brother, Lucien Tassel.

"Hopefully it won’t take me as long to write this one as it did to write Storm Shadows, the second one in the series!" she said.

Caitlyn tends to have more than one WIP (work in progress) going at a time—normally three or four—and has found if she gets blocked on one, she can switch to another.

"The important part, at least for me, is not only to go to another WIP but to move to one that’s in a completely different genre," she explained. "Say from paranormal romance to a YA or a children’s book. I have several of those in my Word files but I don’t expect I’ll ever do anything with them since they’re like my lifeline when a block hits. Still, maybe one day…

"If switching to another book or WIP doesn’t work I usually try working a puzzle of some sort which sometimes gets my brain working again. If it doesn’t, then it’s the dreaded housework cure. I hate cleaning and will do just about anything to get out of it—even forcing myself to sit down at my computer and stare at the screen until something shakes loose.

"I’ve also been known to argue with my muse of one of my characters. When I do that my poor dog leaves my office and hides behind the dining room table because he knows things are likely to get ugly before the block is broken."

Normally, a character will come to Caitlyn and, since she believes in letting the characters drive the story, the plot follows along behind.

"My main character in Unwilling Angel is based on a favorite author who passed away in 2005. Shortly after his death, I had an 'Elvis' sighting of him while I was out getting coffee one day. I hurried home to write it down and once I had the opening scene—which is pretty close to the opening scene in the book--Mac wouldn’t shut up so I continued writing 'his story' as he calls it. The book was finished in record time and it’s probably the best time I’ve ever had when writing, I just sat back and let him drive and I enjoyed the scenery, so to speak. Of course, once the story was finished, there were tons of revisions to do and since he was a best-selling author in real life, I tried my best to follow his direction."

"What books or authors have most influenced you in your own writing?" I asked.

"Two authors have influenced me in different ways," she replied. "The first one is Harper Lee, the author of my all-time favorite book, To Kill a Mockingbird. I love her voice and although she only wrote the one book, I think she’s the author I’d most like to emulate. The other one is my sister, Christy Tillery French, author of the Bodyguard series and several other romantic suspense books. She’s the one person who has influenced me as far as getting my work out there and she refuses to let me give up on myself. Suffice it to say, if it weren’t for her guidance and support, I wouldn’t have ever written the first book, much less have submitted any for publication."

That first book was inspired by depression.

"When my husband and I were living in Maine, I got really sick and after scads of doctors and tons of tests to find out what was wrong with me, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis," she explained. "My neurologist warned me about the depression that most MS patients feel on their diagnosis but since I’d never suffered from depression in my life, I ignored his warnings. Well, it wasn’t long before I ended up severely depressed. It was a horrible time made even worse because my family was so far away. Thank goodness for telephones and more than that, for my sister, Christy. I’m convinced she’s not only my sister, she’s my guardian angel here on earth. And she’s psychic too! At least where I’m concerned. She had a knack of calling whenever I was feeling really down and she always cheered me up enough that I could face another day. Then she told me to write about what I was feeling so I did. The result was a lot of bad poetry that will probably never see the light of day and my first book. Well, really, my first two books, a romantic suspense and a YA."

Caitlyn has four books published ("five," she added, "if you count the first one which was with a publisher that's no longer in business") with Winds of Fate coming out soon.

So far, she would consider Unwilling Angel her favorite.

"I had such fun writing it and the circumstances that prompted the story fascinated me," she told me. "It’s the first time I’ve ever had a character from real life move into my writing world and refuse to let me not write his story. Which reminds me, I have finished the second book about Mac but it too needs to be cleaned up before submitting it so I guess I’ve completed six others. Too many books and too little time!"

On a personal note, I asked Caitlyn, "Do you really, really want a dog?"

"No thanks, I already have two. On second thought, I’d love to have a few more but there’s only so much room in our fenced-in backyard. Des, my black lab mix, whose first owner died of cancer, is very clingy and he’d probably have a hard time dealing with another dog taking my attention away from him. Fletch, my beagle mix, is very laid back and as long as the other dog didn’t interfere with his meal time or try to take his bed, he would probably be okay with it. Fletch is also deaf so he would expect the other dog to alert him when there’s anything to bark at. As long as the other dog did that, they’d probably be friends for life."

Caitlyn was an elementary school teacher and admitted to me that once she stopped teaching how to write cursive correctly, she quit paying attention to her own handwriting.

"I can still form every letter properly if I take the time but these days I tend to mix printing with cursive when I write so it’s a mishmash of printed letters and cursive ones. For instance when I sign my books, I print half of my name, the lyn and ter and the Cait and Hun are always in cursive. I’m not sure why I do that but I know if my former students ever saw it they would have a good laugh at how much their teacher’s handwriting has gone downhill."

Her strangest habit? Counting everything! She counts her steps when she's walking, the number of items she puts in a load of clothes, how many steps it takes her to iron one of her husband's shirts, even the number of strokes it takes to shave her legs. And, she never, ever lets herself stop on thirteen.

Her favorite animal?

"Domesticated, I’d have to say dogs. Wild, it’s a toss-up between polar bears and penguins. Oh, and cougars, wolves, moose—that comes from living in Maine—and puffins too. In other words, I love most animals but don’t care for snakes or lizards. Too creepy for me!"
You can keep up with Caitlyn on her website,

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