Cathy Maxwell's checkered career includes stints as a manager of a watch factory, a tour as a news broadcaster covering Southwest Kansas, and six years as a naval officer. Originally from Olathe, Kansas, she married a guy from Connecticut because he made her laugh (and he could dance and, hmmmm, do a few other things well!) and they now live in the Richmond, Virginia area with their children. Recently, she threw her golf clubs away and bought a pony. No, not for her but for her daughter's 4-H project but Cathy has gone completely whacky over the animal. The pony is a palomino paint named Champagne and Wishes. What writer could resist a name like that?
Cathy started writing in 1991. Her first book ALL THINGS BEAUTIFUL came out in 1994 and was nominated for the prestigious RITA award by Romance Writers of America. Her last book MARRIED IN HASTE (the first book of the "marriage" trilogy) hit the NEW YORK TIMES extended list the week of August 29, 1999. Cathy now plays 829 religiously in the Virginia lottery. She hasn't hit yet--but she will. Then she will buy a horse for herself and name it Jackpot, another name no writer could resist!
When she isn't writing or perusing horse catalogues, she bickers with teenagers, cheers the kids on atsoccer games (one of her passions), and drives carpools to horse shows. As she says, "Life doesn't get any better than this!"
Get to know Cathy better - read on as we asked her about villains, love scenes...and men.
Interview October 1999
What was the most challenging aspect of writing for you?
All of it. Every last single word. I am harder on myself than any critic could ever be.
What process do you go through in coming up with your main characters? (i.e., what they look like, their background, mannerisms, etc.)
I start with an idea or a theme. The characters devolve from there. Occasionally, I have to write a good part of the book before I have a complete feel for who these people are and what makes them tick. I'm a student of the theater so character motivation and development comes naturally by now.
How do you create your villains.
I rarely use villains. I find there are rarely villains in life. Usually the best conflicts rise from people trying to do what they think best and discovering it pits them against each other. Even the characters we don't like are actually only doing what they think is best.
Do you prefer to write stories with Alpha or beta males?
I do not buy into the Alpha/Beta stuff. I believe each of us carries elements of both. Consequently, you won't find a true "type" in any of my characters.
What was it that inspired you to write historical romances, as opposed to contemporary romance?
FIERCE EDEN by Jennifer Blake. I always wanted to write a book. I knew I would write one but it wasn't until I read Blake's book that I said, this is what I want to write. She completely captured my imagination. I don't know that I won't write a contemporary romance someday. I'm waiting for the right "voice" to appear. I sense it developing.
What are your thoughts on love scenes in romance novels? Do you find love scenes more or less difficult to write than other types of scenes?
When I start to write a love scene, the first thing I type is "Sex is rarely about sex." The act of coupling is so much more than just sex. It is a form of communication and of companionship. We use sex to express anxiety, anger, happiness, stupidity, contentment, joy, and even sadness. It can be a way of showing love or a quick release of the life force that verifies we are still alive.
In the romance novel, sex is also a sign of commitment. For women, it is the ultimate commitment and very much part of the myth and beliefs surrounding love in our culture. I hate it when a love scene feels forced. I know I have it in the wrong place when that happens. It should be part of the natural progression of a meaningful relationship. Personally, I also think sex should be fun.
What's the most interesting fact you've learned during researching your historical novels?
That in England a man could sell his wife instead of divorcing her provided he had her permission. There are cases of wife selling all the way up through the Regency. I don't know if anyone has tried it recently.
What was your inspirations for your main characters in your newest release, MARRIED IN HASTE.
One of the great truisms is that all men lie. Every one of them. They do this for a number of reasons. Some men are truly evil and must lie. But the majority just wants the women in their life to be happy--so they lie a little. It's easier than telling the truth and facing the consequences. My friend the socio-biologist tells me that it is ingrained in them for reasons of promulgating the race. I'm certain we all have stories of lies men have told to get us in bed. But even those men we trust and adore will lie. You can almost see the thought process in their eyes. You ask a question and they think "should I tell her the truth or tell her what she thinks she wants to hear?" Almost always, the latter outweighs the former.
Women lie too. Only the skinniest don't shave five or ten pounds off our driver's license and I am not about to tell my husband what size I really wear. Or what I'm really thinking about when I'm day dreaming!
MARRIED IN HASTE is about those lies we tell each other...and about how love comes when we learn to forgive and trust each other. Trust and forgiveness are big themes in all my books. Acceptance is another one. I do not believe it is possible for one person to truly love another without an understanding of those qualities.
Have you considered a spin-off of any of your books?
I'm doing it right now. MARRIED IN HASTE is the first book of a trilogy about the loves of three debutantes who meet on London's famed Marriage Mart.
How do you feel the romance genre has changed in past ten years? What changes do you foresee for the future?
I love this genre. I love its versatility, originality, boldness, and freedom. I believe we will continue with much of what we see right now... a diverse genre with many subgenres. Many people fear publisher consolidation but I sense that what with the Internet and books-on-demand, it will be possible for minor voices to be heard and published.
The book industry is going through a lot of changes especially the advent of e-published titles. What are your thoughts on e-books.
I'm watching to see what happens, just like everyone else. I gave up calling the shots when it came to the marketplace years ago.
I do believe that a book is more than just something to read. It is a possession and I can't foresee a future where people will not have books around them. A book really is the conveyance of information in its simplest form.
What are your pet peeves in reading romance novels?
The same pet peeves I have for any other form of literature. I like believable characters and stories that capture my imagination.
When you're not reading romances, what else do you like to read?
I read everything! Every single blessed thing. Love Dick Francis and I'm enjoying mysteries by Sajata Massey. Wonderful stuff. I also like non-fiction, especially biographies. Oh, yes, and I just read the most wonderful children's book, LYDIA, QUEEN OF PALESTINE by Uri Olev. Delightful.
Who are some of your favorite romance authors?
Maggie Osborne, Jennifer Blake, Robin Lee Hatcher, Bonnie Tucker, Kinley McGregor, Elizabeth Grayson (no one does prose like her), Jenny Crusie, Linda Howard, Judith McNaught, Georgette Heyer, Nora, Patricia Gaffney, Anne Marie Winston, Mary Kay McComas, Susan Anderson, Judith Ivory, Laura Kinsale, Anne Avery, Judy Garwood, Felicia Mason...the list goes on and on. We have many gifted, wonderful writers in our genre. I've just finished Pattie Berg's next book, which was great fun..
What is the most valuable lesson you learned as a published author.
The reader is all-important.
Tell us about your next book.
A SCANDALOUS MARRIAGE is Leah's story. Leah was the debutante in MARRIED IN HASTE who pushed the boundaries. I am fascinated by that--women who want a little too much. Who attempt too much. Who break a few rules. Course, sometimes those women get burned. I am also believe that sometimes, things--even the bad ones--happen for a purpose. A SCANDALOUS MARRIAGE is my exploration of those themes.
Do you have any hobbies?
I swim and play with the pony. We just got a pony for my youngest's 4-H project. Her names is Champagne and Wishes but we call her Honey and, oh, she is a honey. I'm going to start riding in December once I turn in the third book of this trilogy. It will be my gift to myself. I did not expect to go ga-ga over horses. And I adore Honey. While my daughter grooms her, I stand off to the side like a three year old begging to brush Honey just once and can I hold the reins and here let me feed Honey a treat. The animal is spoiled...but then so are my children!