Folks, I don’t know how else to introduce this next author other than by saying that she is an absolute force of nature in the independent publishing world. She founded the marvelous website, Functionally Fictional, and uses it to highlight indie authors on a daily basis. Her support of the self-published writing community alone makes her a-okay in my book! So without further adieu, let’s gets to know Cait Marie!
(Editor’s note: This interview was completed prior to the release of her debut novel, The Lost Legends. If some of the responses don’t line up with the timeline of reality, that would be why.)
How important is research to you when writing a story?
I’m one of those people who researches random topics in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep. However, when it comes to writing specifically, I admit there’s not a whole lot done. I did look up stuff about ships, plagues, and various swords/daggers while writing The Nihryst books, but a lot of it I already knew from past research and reading. I do, however, do a lot of word research. I love picking a language and using it for inspiration for names, places, etc. For example, in this trilogy, there is a lot of Welsh inspiration. Cyfrin is the lost island that the cursed group was stranded on, and the word translates to secret.
How particular are you with spelling, grammar, etc? Do things have to be perfect from the beginning, or are you more worried about getting the idea on paper, then leave the proofreading to the editing?
I cannot just write and not worry about spelling and grammar. I wouldn’t say it’s perfect from the beginning, but it’s not atrocious. During editing, I mostly have to revise content and expand on descriptions.
When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
This one made me chuckle because most people I know would say when they were kids or teenagers, and I’m thinking, “like 10 minutes ago.” I started writing in 2015 without any intention of actually being a writer or doing anything related to writing ever. In 2017, I randomly joined an online writing group, which led me to Coffee House Writers, and I fell in love with editing. Then, I started up Functionally Fictional and started working with indie authors, and the more involved I became, the more I realized this is what I want to do. In 2018, I decided I would continue with psychology and just write on the side. In 2019, I decided to finish my psychology degree, but then focus on editing, writing, and expanding my website. I also decided that I wanted to pursue self-publishing in the fall of 2019.
What inspires you to write?
Other books and working in the indie community. I’ve always loved reading and coming up with stories in my head, but I never thought to do either professionally. I’ve fallen into a couple wonderful groups of writers who inspire and encourage me.
How often do you write, and how long is a typical writing session?
One of my goals for the year is to write more often. In the past, I’d write a lot all at once, then go sometimes weeks without anything. Now, I’m working on writing at least four days a week for an hour.
Do you write for a certain time period, or do you set a word count and write until you reach that goal?
Usually it’s just until I lose motivation. I do writing sprints with a group for set times though.
Do you outline an entire plot, or have a few highlights in mind then let the action dictate the rest of the story?
Yes. Haha I do both. I have a kind of weird process. I start with a basic outline, then I start writing from the beginning. After a couple chapters, I go back and make a more thorough outline and write a brief sentence or two of what I want to happen in each chapter. Then, I jump around filling in the chapters as motivation strikes. I do let action dictate the story in a way, but I also know how I want it to end.
What do you think is the hardest thing about writing?
Getting started. I have a hard time figuring out the beginning of a story—where to jump in, how much background information to give, what I want the tone of the story to be, etc.
What is the easiest part of writing for you?
Once I know what I want to write, I can write a lot fairly quick without a lot of trouble. Usually the last half of the book is easier for me, so I jump there and get a majority of the book done that way.
What are your thoughts on “writers block?” Do you think it’s a real thing? If so, how long does it usually last and what methods do you use to get past it?
I do think it’s a real thing, but I don’t really struggle with it. Not when writing fiction at least. I don’t consider my issues writers block because I know what the story is going to be, I just have a hard time with the literal beginning of the book.
What do you like to read (genre, titles) and who are your favorite authors?
I read mostly young adult fiction—usually fantasy, contemporary romance, and I’m a sucker for dystopian. Some of my favorite authors are Cassandra Clare, Sarah J. Maas, Tahereh Mafi, C. J. Redwine, M. Lynn/Michelle MacQueen, Melissa A. Craven/Ann Maree Craven, Becky Moynihan, Maggie Dallen, Becky Albertalli, and Kasie West.
If you took the chance to rewrite one of your books, which one would it be and why?
The untitled book I first started with in 2015. It’s still not finished (the first draft is being written by hand because that’s how I started and am determined to finish that way), but I have learned A LOT in the last four and a half years. I still very much love the story, but it will need a lot of work to be published.
Any advice you’d like to give your younger self? Any advice you’d like to give to aspiring authors?
“Hey, you should try writing down some of those story ideas floating around inside your head.” – My advice to my younger self who hated writing academically and never considered writing fiction. To other aspiring authors, if I can do it, you can do it. Don’t give up. Keep working hard for what you want.
Do you read any of your own work? If so, are you a harsh critic, or do you get wrapped up in the story?
I do read my own work. I love going back and reading parts of stories I’ve started the last couple years (as I’m writing this, I only have one full-length book and one novella finished) because I essentially write what I want to read. I’m usually wrapped up in the story, but I can be a harsh critic at times too. I always say I have a reader mode and an editor mode, and sometimes it’s hard to get out of editor mode.
Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into any of your stories?
I actually started an Alice in Wonderland retelling, and the main girl has spinal muscular atrophy like me. She uses a power wheelchair and has the same abilities as me. Her experiences in the beginning of the book are based off my real life.
What are you currently working on/What’s your next project?
I am always working on a dozen things at once. Right now, I am finishing up things for the release of The Lost Legends in March, and I am working on writing a YA contemporary romance, The Last Summer, which I’m aiming to come out in June.
How many ideas do you have at the moment for other stories?
So, so many. I keep a notebook to write all the ideas down as thoroughly as possible so I can get back to them at some point. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least 11 or 12 that are started and probably just as many ideas written down.
Who are your books mostly dedicated to?
I only have the one book finished and ready to publish, and it’s dedicated to my best friend who passed away in 2012. My other books will likely follow suit and be dedicated to family and friends who have impacted my life.
Do you have a day job other than being a writer? If so, what is it and which do you prefer?
I am a freelance editor, and I offer a number of other author services. I love both. I love writing, but I also really love being able to help other authors too.
Is it true that anyone can be a writer?
Yes and no. It takes a lot of work and dedication, but it is possible. I think everyone has stories inside them, and if they put in the time, it can become something great.
Which of your books would you most like to see adapted into a motion picture?
Again, I only have the one full-length book and novella finished. However, even out of the ones started and all the ideas, I think The Lost Legends would be an amazing movie. It’s got pirates, romance, curses, strong friendships and sibling relationships, betrayal, and an impending war.
Are you involved in marketing your books? If so, what are your favorite tips/tricks?
I do all my own marketing. My biggest tip is to plan. Plan when you’re going to do different types of promotion and work ahead. For example, for my book coming out in March, I sent it to the editor in November, then immediately started planning the marketing. I decided to begin promotion January 1st, with the cover reveal and pre-order opening a couple weeks later. After that, I did a different teaser graphic or book-related post every Wednesday and will continue to until the release, which is also on a Wednesday. However, I didn’t just plan this first book. I planned out the whole year, with a book coming out every four months. And each book will follow the same basic marketing timeline.
Have you ever worked with other writers on any of your projects?
No, but I do have a friend who’s very involved in my writing process. She is always the first to read my work, and I go to her when having trouble with part of the plot or something. We have talked about doing a new adult contemporary romance series together in the future, but it hasn’t been started yet.
What do you like to do in your free time?
When I’m not working on editing jobs, homework, or website stuff, I read and write. Outside of that, I also enjoy creating spreads in my bullet journal, watching cheesy comedy shows, and going to concerts.
How did you celebrate the publishing of your first book?
As I write this, my first book isn’t out yet. It’s releasing March 18, and I’m planning a launch party at the local library to celebrate. Which my mom has officially taken over the planning because I’ve been in panic mode about everything.
What kind of mementos do you have in honor of your published works?
Nothing yet. However, I am getting a couple things made, such as a mug with the background of my cover and the title.
Have you ever abandoned a manuscript for any reason and not proceeded with publishing?
Not completely, but I did stop working on the series I initially wanted to publish first to focus on The Lost Legends. I feel like this series has more potential, and I’ve been very enthusiastic about it since I first got the idea.
Have you received any awards for any of your literary works?
Not yet… 😉
Do you need silence to write, or do you prefer some background noise? If you need noise, what is your preference?
I always have to have background noise for everything—usually music. With writing, it’s especially required. I used different songs to inspire certain emotions or action scenes.
Where did you do your first book signing?
It will be at the launch party at my local library.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? Why or why not?
Well, my full name is Caitlin Marie Haines, and I write under Cait Marie. Apart from my personal Facebook, I’ve always gone by that on social media, so I felt it would be best to continue using it. I already have a following this way and can build from there. I did consider another name completely for books that aren’t YA, but I think I’m just going to stick with the one for now.
Is your goal to offer a unique writing style, or to provide a more conventional story that readers are more geared towards?
My books are more conventional. They’re somewhat unique in that they’re written like YA but most have characters in their 20s. The stories, however, are what you’d expect in their given genres. I do try to change things up and throw in twists though.
What is the best purchase you’ve made as a writer?
I don’t know if it counts as a purchase per se, but I did pay for a writing retreat last year that was pretty life changing. It was incredibly inspiring, encouraging, and I learned a lot. Plus, it was a blast, and I met a lot of other amazing writers.
Who’s your favorite author that nobody knows about?
I wouldn’t say nobody knows about her because I’m pretty sure she’s built up a large readership in the indie world, but Michelle MacQueen/M. Lynn is one of my absolute favorites.
How do you select the names of your characters?
Naming characters is soooo hard for me. So hard. I go through baby naming websites and name generators a lot, and I do this thing where I try combining names or random sounds, especially for fantasy books. Then I usually just end up going with basic, common names because I am so bad at it. For The Lost Legends, the only ones with actual stories/meaning I have are:
Adalina – I was going through A names and sounds, thought of Thumbelina randomly, and this was the result
Shane – His role was inspired by Tadashi from Big Hero 6, so I went with an ‘sh’ name. Shane was initially a placeholder until I could think of something more original, but then it just became him.
Loxley – Inspired by Robin Hood… Robin of Loxley… I’m surprised more people haven’t made the connection honestly.
Gwyn – Inspired by Princess of Thieves, a Disney movie from 2001, where Keira Knightley played Robin Hood’s daughter.
Emyr – Welsh for king… I know, clever. He’s the king and his name is king. What can I say? I was the kid who named teddy bears Beary. I call my cat Baby Kitty. Names have always been hard.
Have you ever Googled yourself? What was your reaction to the results?
I have! I was surprised I actually came up. My name isn’t exactly unique. A lot of my Twitter stuff comes up, and now my Goodreads page appears too.
How can fans reach/find/follow/contact etc?
Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/caits.inner.circle/
Functionally Fictional: https://functionallyfictional.com/
Newsletter Sign-Up: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/v1d5i1
What is a piece of trivia about your books (or one of your books) that most people wouldn’t be aware of?
The Lost Legends was originally just about Ada looking for the Nihryst (the legendary immortal warriors). I started writing some chapters in Shane’s point of view so I could know what was going on in the kingdom while Ada’s off on her adventure. I needed to know what her father was doing and what she was coming home to. Next thing I know, Shane has his own story arc that ends up driving the rest of the series. It’s what truly developed the story into something great, in my opinion.
Thanks to Cait for taking the time to answer my questions! The Lost Legends – Book 1 in the Nihryst Series just released a couple days ago, and I encourage you all to check it out! If you still aren’t convinced, but would like an idea of what her world is like, you can find a prequel short story in the Fun Size Anthology. Look for more announcements and updates from her other upcoming projects in the near future!