Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Author Interview: Katya Dillon, Author of The Cookie Club (Part 1)

Jersey Girl Book Reviews welcomes Katya Dillon, author of The Cookie Club!

Welcome to Jersey Girl Book Reviews Katya!

Before we get to Part 1 of the Author Interview, can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

I've experienced a lot of sad things in my life but by nature I'm an immature optimist, so these two aspects are always fighting each other both in my life and in my writing. One minute I'll be all fired up about writing a fun, chick-lit or children's book, the next minute I'll be in the grip of a dark, heartbreaking story. So my life, and my writing, are about balancing this strong yin-yang aspect of my personality. My sad book, Sad Moon, has humor in it, while my fun book, The Cookie Club, the women are coping with the aftermath of tragedy.

How long have you been a writer?

I've been writing and telling stories since I was a six-year old kid in baseball boots. I used to set up a puppet theatre for my friends and I loved it when I made them laugh, then I loved it when i tweaked it some more and they laughed louder. My friends loved one particular character I invented, a tiny little boy, and his friend, and these two got into all kinds of scrapes. I had my first stories published when I was seven years old in a children's magazine and I got paid in books, which I thought was heaven. I got accused of plagiarism, which wasn't as much fun as it might have been if I'd had thicker skin. Still working on the thick-skin thing.

Do you have a "day job" or is being an author your full time career?

I think most writers wish they could just write and make a living that way. The arts are one of those endeavors where you have to put in the hours to become good at your craft, you have to have the dream, you have to keep going, all of it pretty much on your own. And all of it without getting paid for it. But all writers want to do it, and eventually, they hope, they'll get paid. I'm one of those. 

What inspired you to become a writer? Describe your journey as a writer.

I have always had two loves in my life. Language and biology. All of my teachers at school told me I'd be a writer, and stories just came tumbling out of me. I did become a scientist for several years, too, and that was wonderful. But I'm not fulfilled if I'm not writing. So writing is really who I am, at that deep level, where you feel most real and contented.

Please give a brief description of the storyline of The Cookie Club and Sad Moon.

The Cookie Club is the story of four friends, breast cancer survivors, who met in the hospital and meet up for support and cookies. One of their relatives is murdered and they solve the crime, assisted by their camaraderie, strength and passion.

Sad Moon is the story of Ralph Tyler, a man of God, who falls madly, obsessively in love with a beautiful, wild woman, Leah Herne. The obsession unravels his life and destroys everything he once thought was important, bringing him to his knees, and turning him into a hero, who sacrifices his life for the life of a lesser man and his rival in love.

What were the inspirations for these stories?

In The Cookie Club I was really excited by the kind of support and friendship that develops between women who have a shared tragic history. I was going through a tough time when I wrote the book and it was a real pleasure to 'be' with these courageous women and experience with them and through them the journey from darkness to light. I think it's a lot like one of my favorite quotes by G.K. Chesterton: "Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist but because because they tell us that dragons can be beaten." The Cookie Club was my way, at that time, for making myself realize that dragons can be beaten.

The idea for Sad Moon came to me as the voice of the old man, the narrator, who is wistfully watching the autumn days of his life, then compelled by his admiration for Ralph Tyler and by his own infatuation with Leah Herne, to be a witness to their passionate love story. I was fascinated by the battle between Ralph Tyler's heart and his morality, pulling him in opposite directions, tearing him apart. I think the book is dark and sad, but ultimately redeeming. He followed his heart and it was the right thing to do. I think, for me, it was the only thing to do. To love as wildly and passionately as he could, without a safety net.

How did it feel to have your first book published?

I've had a rather colorful history with agents so far. My first experience of publication is Kindle and I love Kindle. I think it gives an author the permission to find out what he/she wants to do, to try different genres, to be brave. Not to have to wait for months for a rejection. I know rejection is part of being a writer. I also know that writers write because they are sensitive, delicate souls. Rejection hurts. It also sets you back, because you have to make yourself believe that it's not you, and maybe not even your writing that's being rejected. And that's really hard to do. You always think that it has to be your writing. I guess it's goof for your perseverance muscles. Kindle is also wonderful because it pushes your books out there. 

Do you write books for a specific genre?

I think I'm still working on that. I've moved away from the realistic dark aspect of Sad Moon and more into women's chick-lit areas, but with a twist. I find I'm always looking for a bit more than just a will-they-won't-they love story, which is why I started writing my Lipstick Crime Series.

The Cookie Club is the first book in this series and centers around women dealing with breast cancer, mastectomy and solving a crime. So I would say I write women's chick-lit with a dark center. Kind of like a milk chocolate filled with coffee liquor. 

My second book in the Lipstick Crime Series, The Belly Dancing Club, involves the heroine, Chrissie, unraveling a family tragedy in which her twin sister died. The twin sister is in the book as a ghost and helps Chrissie comes to terms with the emotional aspects of the tragedy. Her other helpers in this task are two belly dancers, who provide lightness and fun. 

That's why I call it Lipstick Crime. It's crime and mystery, so that's the darkness, but it's also lipstick, belly dancing, cookies and fun. 

What genres are your favorite(s)? What are some of your favorite books you have read and why?

I really don't have a favorite genre. I have read, and loved, Twilight, The Deep End of the Ocean (I have read this twice), Of Mice and Men (I periodically re-read this one, just to wow myself again with the depth and humanity of Steinbeck), Requiem for a Nun (which is a play by Faulkner and an incredibly moving and powerful work of literature). I love the word-trapeze-artistry and inventiveness and love of language in Invisible Cities, by Italo Calvino. I am moved to tears by the simplicity and beauty of the marvelous Adventure of Cabeza de Vaca by Haniel Long which is really a meditation on what it means to be human. A really good human. I love Tennessee Williams and Neil Simon, and The Crucible by Arthur Miller. I read plays for pleasure, which is supposed to mean that I should write plays but I prefer writing fiction. Plays do have great dialogue, though it differs from the kind of dialogue you need in a novel. I love Neil Simon for that reason. He is a master at tweaking a line so perfectly you guffaw till you cry. I also love the poetry of Pablo Neruda, which is inventive, original and breathtaking. I love George RR Martin's muscular writing and JR Ward's dark world. I love Amanda Hocking's sweet heroine. I don't know if she meant to write her so sweetly and my choice of the word is not intended to be patronizing in any way. I mean sweet in a good, noble way, the way a heroine ought to be. And I love, love, love, Charlaine Harris. I think in some ways she is my writer-sister and reading her books has helped me clarify my own direction. I tend to write funny without even thinking about it, a fact that has been both criticized and admired by agents and readers. Readers like it, agents mostly like it. Only one agent criticized it, come to think of it. Funny how the criticism sticks so much more than the compliments, which I tend to think are really criticisms that I have misunderstood!

Do you have a special spot/area where you like to do your writing?

I write anywhere. At the moment I am tied to my PC but I can write in the middle of the street and frequently do. Ideas come to me anywhere and I have written whole paragraphs while crossing the street or walking around a supermarket. Of course, then I forget most of what I came to buy ...

How do you come up with the ideas that become the storylines for your books?

Ideas are not a problem. I can sit down and outline ten books in ten minutes. My major problem is having the confidence to stick with an idea. I'm always hurtling here and there. I could do this, I could do that. And what if ... But what if ... So sitting down and just finishing a book is important for me. And the ideas come in all kinds of ways. A feeling that is important to me, as in Sad Moon, where I was really fascinated by great passion. In The Cookie Club I was yearning for a happy ending. And for friends. And they came into my life fully formed, talking and laughing, every one of them different, every one of them strong. The kind of women I would like as friends. I see everything in my books playing out in front of me as I write, so that makes the process particularly delightful. It's like having my own movie, right there.

* Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Author Interview on Wednesday 6/13! *

About The Author:

Katya Dillon was born in Slovakia, nourished by the air breathed out by rocks and mountains. She had her first stories published when she was seven years old and her payment came in the form of a huge box of books, which was heaven. Her first brush with fame brought an early reality check, an accusation of plagiarism by a jealous classmate, an injustice which wasn't as much fun as it might have been, had the young Ms. Dillon had thicker skin.

Katya spent her childhood hiding in trees, watching people, and telling stories to her her friends, who refused to go on car journeys without their pocket-sized storyteller.

Apart from language, Katya was obsessed with biology and went on to study at the world-famous Institute of Neurology, where she discovered with horror that most science isn't the mystical mixture of poetry and magic she longed for. She changed direction and followed her passion for herbs, vitamins and health, while continuing to write fiction, with much swearing and yelling at the typewriter, which always seemed to come up with drivel after she had tapped in the most sublime, profound sentiments into the damn thing only moments before!

So what's next? Katya Dillon's Lipstick Writing on Kindle. The future is here!


BUY THE BOOK: The Cookie Club

Book Description: The Cookie Club

The Cookie Club is about four friends who met in a hospital, each a breast cancer survivor. They find love, solve a crime and provide mutual support while munching their way through a range of delicious cookies.

The Cookie Club is the first book in the Lipstick Crime Series, books and groups of women tackling crime and having fun.

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