Dragon Soul Press presents an interview with Catherine Butzen, featured in Imperial Devices.
1. When did you first consider yourself a writer?
My thirteenth birthday. That was the day I first registered for a writing site. I was scared stiff: the site’s TOS said you had to be thirteen, and I was convinced that if I registered too early, I’d be in trouble! Fortunately, the Writing Site TOS Police didn’t track me down. Now I’ve been writing nonstop for twenty years.
2. What is the most difficult part about writing for you?
Staying on track. I’m apt to fall down a subplot rabbit hole and end up focusing on something completely different. I’ve written whole books while struggling to edit other books!
3. What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your book(s)?
I discovered that no matter how bizarre and alien one of my characters is, it’s important to have something small in them I can identify with. Particularly with villains: I never want to write a villain that I have no connection with at all. They’re infinitely more fascinating and threatening when you find yourself saying “He’s wrong, but I can see why he might think that way …”
4. How many plot ideas are just waiting to be written? Can you tell us about one?
Dozens. Narrowing the ideas down is the real problem! But after writing “The Lightless World” for Dragon Soul Press, I found myself bombarded with ideas for more short stories in the same universe. The world of Virgil and Rachel is one of clockwork golems, fuel wars, snow-spider Legionaries, and—the really wacky, fantastical idea—a well-adjusted married couple who support each other against all of the above. Right now, I’m writing the story of how Virgil got his clockwork leg.
5. Who is your favorite author and why?
I can’t pick just one! Currently, I’m giving extra reading time to John Maddox Roberts, who wrote the “SPQR” series of mysteries. He’s fantastic at painting a portrait of a very different era and making it feel alive.
6. What do you like to do when you are not writing?
I work a full-time job, read, cook, and spend time with family and friends. If there’s a museum nearby, chances are you’ll find me lurking there, spending an afternoon among the dinosaur bones and buying way too many novelty magnets in the gift shop. I might also be shooting (blunt) arrows in the back yard, building LARP props, or sprawled on the couch with another sewing project.
7. Share something your readers wouldn’t know about you.
When life is hard, I take notes. For example, I took reference notes while the ER doctor was setting my broken ankle. I was in pain and trapped, so I did the one thing I COULD do: write down what it felt like. The notes did end up being used in a book a few years later.
8. What does success mean to you? What is the definition of success?
To me, success means independence. I’ve spent years struggling with my mental health; being independent, self-supporting, and free of outside influence is extremely important to me.
9. Describe a typical writing day.
Not so much a writing day as five writing minutes here and there. By the time I’m done with work for the day, I’m pretty tired of computers, so I write on paper whenever I have some spare moments: like before I go to sleep or while waiting for dinner to finish cooking. And whenever I go out, I have a notebook in my bag. I’ve written on planes, at professional conferences, on a muddy English hillside, during a blackout, in the hospital … If someone sends me to the moon, I’ll have a notebook tucked in my astronaut pants.
10. Where can readers learn more about you?
Bonus question: How do you do research for your books?
I fall into Wikipedia. Approximately fourteen hours later, I emerge from the morass of facts battered, bruised, and clutching one relevant piece of information that I somehow acquired while getting sidetracked reading articles about George IV or jai alai or the history of the word “antimony.”