Heya, nerds! we had some questions for our Featured Storyteller, Catherine Schaff-Stump, about her writing background as well as her most recent novel, the Vessel of Ra.
Tell us about yourself, Catherine.
I write speculative fiction for children and adults, everything from humor to horror. I write young adult Gothic historical fantasy. I live and work in Iowa with my husband. During the day, I teach English to non-native speakers at a local community college. My most recent fiction has been published by Paper Golem Press, Daydreams Dandelion Press, and in The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk. I’m also a co-host on the writing and geek-life fan podcast, Unreliable Narrators.
You just recently published “the Vessel of Ra”. How would you describe it in 20 words or less?
The Klaereon sisters fight for control of their family in 1837, Venice against Egyptian gods, wily alchemists, and each other.
What genre of fantasy fiction would you describe the book, “Vessel of Ra,” as fitting in?
The Vessel of Ra is a Gothic dark fantasy.
Your protagonist’s name is Lucy Klaereon. Is there a story behind the name?
Lucy’s real first name is Lucia, but the people who love her have always called her Lucy. Even though her father uses the name Lucy to emphasize her small, childlike body, Lucy sees using her diminutive name as a way to remain close to her departed mother, and her sister Octavia, who loves Lucy in her own way.
Why should people root for her throughout the series?
Lucy’s family has told her she is destined to lose her Trial and become possessed by Ra, but in reality, she is the strongest of the two Klaereon sisters. After the ultimate hardship, Lucy finds her strength and confidence and saves her sister in spite of what her family has done to her.
Where does your inspiration from these stories come from?
These stories started because I was curious about a character from another fantasy series, and I wondered how such a character was made. A voice in my head told me he would tell me a story about that. That character was the grandson of the characters I am writing about now. This story spans 90 years and four generations.
You also have a story about Hercules. Given this story follows Egyptian gods, do you have a strong fascination for ancient mythologies?
Not only ancient mythologies! I love folklore and legend, as well. In 2006, Fulbright was kind enough to send me to Russia to study Baba Yaga. I have read as much of myth, legend and folklore as I could get my hands on growing up. In addition to the Klaereons and Hercules, I’ve also worked on projects about trolls and with djinn.
You described your writing process as “dogged” in one word. Um…what? 😛
You might have noticed I’m a little bit older than the average debut author. I have this other career as a professor who teaches English to non-native speakers at a community college, which is a full career. Over the years, balancing that career and this writing one has required persistence, an almost (here it comes!) dogged dedication to carving out time to write, attend writing workshops, revise, and so on. I love writing, but finding time for it can be challenging. Still, I find the time. Stubbornly, doggedly.
How do you go about connecting to readers who enjoy your stories and ensure that you’re giving them the stories they love to read?
I am very grateful for a terrific community of writers and readers who are kind enough to support my work and get the word out about it in a kind of grassroots way. I think the best way to connect readers with the stories they like is to talk about books and writing in general and talk about your book as part of that, not as the center of that. We all love books, and we all want to find books we love. That said, when someone likes what I have written, I want to hear how it worked for them. I can’t guarantee I’m going to do what they want, but I am very interested in sharing the experience of story excitement!
If you want to learn more about Schaff-Stump, be sure to tune in to our upcoming podcast.