This week on the podcast, we’re sitting down with Catherine Spader to chat about her career trajectory from ER nurse to journalist to fantasy writer. Catherine explains how her medical background brings realism to her writing, and talks about the tips and tricks she learned as a journalist that shape her fiction writing.
- Catherine explains how she originally honed her craft writing medical case studies, and how she shaped the narratives of her patients’ stories
- She used some of what she learned as a nurse to teach other writers how to write about medical trauma and injuries in a course called The Nuts and Bolts of Blood and Guts for Writers.
- Catherine also talked about Germanic and Viking folklore, and why she finds these stories so inspiring
- Catherine spend many years as a journalist and ghostwriter, and she explains how this helped her hone her craft as a fiction writer
- Rachel and Catherine discus all things hockey, and how hockey resembles a battlefield!
Catherine Spader has made a lifelong career out of a passion for stories and service. A veteran ER nurse, she transitioned into journalism and became an editor for a string of Gannett-owned medical publications. In the late 90s, she went freelance as an author entrepreneur, offering editing, writing coaching, and ghostwriting services. She has published over 1500 articles in nursing and healthcare journals and other media and has recently taken the leap into full-time fiction writing.
Catherine writes dark fantasy steeped in legendary history, forgotten folklore, and the quest for self and a greater purpose. She is the author of The Wulfhedinn Series. Her latest novel, Mask of the Soul Eater, was a 2021 Amazon #1 New Release. Two of her books have been named as a Notable Book by BlueInk Review, and she has won multiple awards for fiction and editing from the Colorado Independent Publishers Association.
Transcript provided by Speechpad
Rachel: Hey writers. You’re listening to the “Kobo Writing Life Podcast,” where we bring you insights and inspiration for growing your self-publishing business. We’re your hosts, I’m Rachel, the author engagement coordinator at Kobo Writing Life.
Joni: And I’m Joni, author engagement specialist at Kobo Writing Life.
Rachel: On the podcast this week, we spoke to dark fantasy author Catherine Spader. Catherine started out as an ER nurse before transitioning into journalism and writing medical articles for medical journals. And then she became a freelance author entrepreneur offering editing, writing, coaching, and ghostwriting services before becoming a full-time dark fantasy author.
Joni: Meanwhile, what are we doing with our lives, Rachel?
Rachel: That’s an excellent question, Joni.
Joni: Catherine was awesome. I thought that the mix of different things she’s done and all of them have informed her writing. Like she talked about how her time in the ER and her familiarity with gruesome wounds and injuries really helps her, like, write about characterization and dark fantasy. And she talks about her experience playing hockey, and how that informs her writing of battle scenes and fights and that kind of thing. And I thought that was really cool. And she also talked to us about how she takes a lot of inspiration from Germanic folklore and Viking folklore, and that kind of thing. So, yeah. Fascinating chat. Really, really cool author, and we hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
Joni: We are delighted to be speaking to Catherine Spader today. Thank you so much for joining us, Catherine.
Catherine: Oh, it’s wonderful to be here. Thanks for having me.
Joni: So, we’re excited to talk to you. You have a really, really interesting backstory and journey to publishing. We’d love to hear a little bit about your career and how you got to where you are. You started as an ER nurse, is that right?
Catherine: Well, if you wanna go way back, I started as a high school dropout who later went back to school and became an ER nurse.
Catherine: Yeah. I went from that. I decided after a few years of working all kinds of jobs, including some nefarious-type positions I won’t go into, that maybe college and schooling was a good idea. So I went back to school and I got my nursing degree, and was immediately drawn to the emergency room. And I eventually transitioned into…I became an editor for three of Gannett-owned medical publications. And I got that job because I had no journalism degree or no real publications to speak of to get that job, but I was hired on the basis of a short story I submitted to them, a fiction story. So, that was kind of an interesting twist back in the day when you could maybe get into jobs that way. But I was given like an unbelievable amazing chance by somebody who…she said my short story I submitted was better than the other stuff that other people were submitting for writings. So she gave me a chance. And I learned the rope and spent two years as an editor and did a lot of the feature stories too in a very, very corporate environment, which that part of it I didn’t like. So, after two years, I went back to the emergency room and went freelance as a writer and contributing editor. And it took me about 10 years of that, and I started picking up occasional clients to work with to help them get published in medical magazines and stuff, and put about 10 years of that before I could go full time as a freelance editor, author, entrepreneur, I guess you could say, ghostwriter, taking clients, as in clients that eventually worked into fiction, too, taking clients who are learning how to write fiction. And then a couple of months ago, I retired from taking all client work and doing freelance writing and I’m just working on fiction.
Rachel: It’s really cool. You said that you went into it with no experience at all, but obviously, a natural flair for writing. But how did you learn how to go from…because you said you submitted a fiction short story. And then I imagine medical journalism has quite strict forms to adhere to and styles. What was it like for you learning all of that?
Catherine: Well, and I have been writing fiction stories for my whole life. I was always a voracious reader and a writer. And I had been learning how to write. You know, there wasn’t that many resources available in those days, but I had bought and studied the book “On Writing Well,” and that was extremely helpful, and it was interesting. I also had a lot of experience in writing in the hospital setting, because hospitals are always looking for people willing to do stuff on their day off for free, especially in those days. And there was always policy and procedure that needed to be written up and in-services, and case studies, and I had a lot of practice writing doing those kinds of things. And like a medical case studies is an interesting thing because it’s a story. The main character is the patient. The secondary characters, you know, can be like the medical staff and the doctors, and the patient presents with a problem a conflict, and then you review what choices were made along the way in treating this patient, and then you review the outcome and what could have happened better. Well, that’s a story. You’re telling a story. You have a beginning, a middle, and an end. So, I think that helped me develop a good sense of like story structure, as well. And those kinds of things also helped me land that first job. The fact that I did a lot of in-hospital writing kind of uncredited.
Rachel: That’s really interesting. And it sounds like a very unique way to learn how to do character study by doing case studies. Before we get more into your writing, I just have a question about how you balanced working 10 years doing freelance and as an ER nurse, because those ER nurse shifts are long and brutal. I have an aunt who does that. And I’m just wondering how you managed to balance working as a nurse full time and starting a freelance career?
Catherine: Oh, yeah. They’re brutal shifts. Yeah, yeah. And they can be 8 hours, 10 hours, 16 hours. If your relief doesn’t come in, sometimes you’re stuck there for two shifts in a row because you just can’t leave. But the wonderful thing about nursing is that you don’t have to be full-time. So, when I decided to…when I did those two years working as an editor, I also kept down the hospital and picked up, you know, per-diem shifts, or PRN shifts, as they call them, meaning, you can call in and say, “Hey, I need a few bucks, what hours you got?” I’ll pick up a shift, as long as you stay current and all your certifications and your license and all that. So, I kept my foot in the door at the hospital when I was working as an editor in the office. And then when I went back to the hospital, I did that. I didn’t really take a full-time position. I just picked up as many hours as I wanted or needed to at that particular time to make enough money. And fortunately, in nursing, there’s always more than enough hours to go around if you ever wanna make money. So, there were times I was doing a lot of full-time weeks, and then there was time where I could only, you know, I only had to do part-time weeks, and I was working on the story.
Joni: It still sounds like you were super, super busy. Maybe this is a little off-topic. But I’m interested because I feel like a lot of the time…I heard this on a podcast recently actually about how patients wanna tell stories about their medical history and doctors just want to checkpoints. And it’s kind of interesting, because what you’re describing almost sounds like a bridge between like communication and kind of patient advocacy for getting what the doctor needs to know across while telling what the patient’s trying to convey. It’s quite an interesting position to be in.
Catherine: It is. And actually, as a nurse, you are in that position of listening. You’re the first one to listen to the patient generally. And they literally are telling you a story. And if you really,,, You know, there’s an old saying that if you really listen to what the patient is really saying, they will tell you exactly what’s really wrong with them, kind of a esoteric way of looking at it. They still need to run tests and all that kind of stuff. But a lot of times, you know, when you’re busy and rushed, you want those checkpoints. And sometimes if you’ve really listened more carefully, you’ll pick up some of the subtleties of their story and they’ll really be telling you what really the problem really is underneath, you know, those major checkpoints kind of thing. So, yeah. It’s interesting and, you know, not to mention the reason… Part of the reason I was drawn to the ER, especially when I was younger, I was kind of an adrenaline junkie. So, it was like, you know, running on adrenaline all the time. And, you know, the tics are just, you know, were eating our sandwiches while we’re working on a trauma patient. That did happen [inaudible 00:08:31]. There was no lunch breaks, and, you know, if something came in and you had to eat and yeah. So, yeah. I was drawn there because of the adrenaline, but also because of the stories that come through there. And the kind of stories you can tell. But in the end, I really didn’t wanna write about the ER anyway.
Rachel: So, you went from writing medical journals or writing articles in journals about nursing, and then you moved on to writing dark fantasy, which is such a big shift. How did you find that shift? Did it come quite naturally?
Catherine: It did, because that’s what I’ve always been in love with. You know, back in the ’70s when I was in high school, you know, the fantasy thing to read, of course, was “Lord of the Rings” and, you know, loved it dearly. And then in the ’80s came along “The Mists of Avalon,” which put a whole new spin on fantasy. It was told from a female perspective and kind of a whole different thing. It wasn’t full of like epic battles or anything. It was kind of a different spin on fantasy. So, yeah. I’ve always loved that. And I’ve found that the experience I’ve had in injuries and, literally, in blood and guts, just naturally helps my search and writing when my stuff is pretty dark and it’s pretty, pretty bloody. So, yeah. I am able to pull a lot of very realistic things out of that.
I’ve also done some consulting work with some authors where I’ll…and I’ll still do that…read a passage of theirs that takes place in some kind of medical setting or involves injuries or, you know, trauma of some kind and help them evolve that to be more realistic, but then also how to use, like, true realism to actually improve the story or the character arc too. Because there’s so many cliches in, you know, injuries that you see in books and movies all the time that aren’t very accurate. And actually, you know, fact is more interesting than fiction sometimes. So, injecting a little more of the reality of some of what happens in a serious injury, like a stab, you know, or a gunshot, for example, can actually enhance the story instead of, you know, bang, bang, your character falls down dead, you know. And it’s like, “You know you can make your story way more interesting because people don’t usually fall down instantly dead.” You know, because you get a chance to explore how that character happens or reacts and acts and, you know, the choices they make, and that kind of stuff when they’re, “I’m seriously injured,” versus they’re instantly dead. That instantly dead story’s over, for that character anyway.
Rachel: That’s really cool. And as somebody who has watched both “ER” and “Grey’s Anatomy” with family members who worked in medicine, you are correct that fiction is usually not as interesting as reality. But how did you start as a consultant for this? Like, how did this come about? I’m so curious.
Catherine: Consulting on like injury for fiction?
Catherine: You know, it just came about when I was working with authors. Almost everybody at some point has either an injury scene, an illness scene, a hospital scene, mental health, too, as well. We do a lot of mental health work in the ER. So, I started working with author saying, “Hey, you know, you can make the scene a lot better. You know, I used to be an ER nurse. Let me tell, you how, you know how you can make it better by exploring this injury or this disease a little further and how it can actually influence your character more,+ and add depth to the character.” And then after a while, I started… They have to make a presentation for a local conference. And they asked me if I would do something about injuries, because the local writer community had gotten to know me a little bit and stuff. So, I came up with a thing I do, “The Nuts and Bolts of Blood and Guts for Writers.”
Joni: That’s such a good name.
Catherine: …presentation. And, yeah. I kind of used a very light-hearted touch with it. So, it’s not just throwing up a bunch of grisly slides for people to see of stuff you could see on the internet. Any time you want it, you can Google it. But, yeah. So, it’s kind of funny. It kind of evolves. And I’m still happy to work with writers, you know, if they have a quick question about, like, something to do with injuries, or trauma, or illnesses.
Joni: How did your writing process change when it comes to…like when you’re writing journal articles versus fiction? Do you have a sort of a similar process for both?
Catherine: Not at all. In some ways, yes, in some ways, it’s totally, totally different. I published so many journal articles. Like I lost count at 1000, then I did so much other freelance writing too that, after a while, that just got so second nature, and, you know, nonfiction is a whole different animal than fiction anyway. So, yeah. fiction, I’ve struggled much more with all the things that, you know, new fiction writers tend to struggle with, with procrastination, and resistance, and rewriting. You know, my first book, I rewrote chapter one it must have been 50 times. I don’t know. And I finally broke down and got a good writing coach and helped me through that process so I could actually finish a draft. So as far as fiction goes, I’m still…you know, I think with fiction, I will always, always be a newbie. And I kind of like looking at it like that. Like, I’m always a baby when it comes to that, because there is always a way to get better and there is always something new to learn, whereas in journalism, you kind of develop a style and process, and it does come sometimes a little easier. And it also in some ways is easier because you are given a framework a lot of times exactly, you know, “This is the type of magazine it is, or journal. This is the type of readers they have. These are the kind of articles they publish,” and they assign you something with parameters. So, it makes it a lot easier in some ways, because, you know, you can only work within those parameters then and you don’t have like any possibility to throw in [inaudible 00:14:34].
Rachel: When it comes to writing your fiction. I’m always curious speaking to fantasy authors, how much world-building and plotting you do ahead of time before you start writing the story. Do you do a lot of, like, plotting, and planning, and world-building, and lower building before you jump into the writing process? Or do you kind of just start writing the book and it all comes to you?
Catherine: Oh, no. I am not…you know, just getting into the pantser versus plotter discussion, which is kind of funny. I’m somewhere in between, but I do believe in knowing… I’ve had the most success and I always picture…it’s like I know the ending, at least in a general way. I need to know the ending and I need to know who my protagonist is and what they really want. I kind of need to have like that pitch line for my protagonists before I start, and where they’re gonna end up in a general way. I need that much. When it comes to world-building, right now I’m writing within the world. It’s kind of a combination of history and folklore and mythology of 8th century northern Germany and Denmark area, which is basically Germanic mythology or Viking lore, as people probably would be more familiar with. So, I do a lot of research into that. At this point, I’m starting the fourth book in the series, so I’m pretty well versed in what I need to know about the world that I’m working with, and it does make the books go a little easier to some degree. But then you always wanna push yourself to be better and maybe add more complications in the next book, or more characters. And so, every book just ends up being just as difficult in some ways, but only because for a different reason, you know. You tend to master one part of the fiction-writing process, and then you find yourself challenging yourself with something new.
Joni: I really like what you’re saying about that, though, because I think those are the best writers, the ones that recognize that this is a lifelong thing, and that you’re never gonna be the perfect writer. And so, it’s always a learning journey and you’re always improving. And I think that my favorite writers, you can tell that, as you’re reading their books, their style does change, and they do adapt it and improve it and all of that kind of thing. I think it’s something that’s really worth keeping in mind when you’re writing is that you’re never gonna feel like you’ve accomplished it.
Catherine: I think if you perfect it and you completely master it, you know, like the god of writing or something, then in my mind, it’s time to die, right?
Joni: Yeah, probably.
Catherine: If I ever wrote the perfect book, then I would be done, you know, I mean, and that’s it.
Rachel: Quillstone Press is your publisher, right? You founded this yourself?
Catherine: Yeah. That’s my imprint that I founded. Yeah.
Joni: À la Virginia Woolf. I think she also did this. But I wondered, what was it that made you decide to publish independently? Was that always part of the plan?
Catherine: Back in 2014, ’15 or so, when I was really wanting to get serious about getting out of chapter one in my first book, and really finishing a book, I did a lot of research looking into…I was obviously very aware of independent publishing as being an option, but I didn’t know much about it. And I did look a lot into there’s a lot of services out there to help you publish independently, and some are not as good as others. And I did find myself a very good company that helps you learn the ropes of independent publishing and helps you to create your own imprint, your own press. They don’t do the publishing. They just provide whatever consultants you want or need. If you need somebody to help you with marketing, then you can hire that consultant. You know, and then they have editors, vetted editors, and that kind of thing. And mostly, I just was looking for a really good editor just to get the book written and help me get that book finished in a decent way. And then I kind of went from there as to what to do with it.
Rachel: How did your own experience as an editor change the way that you approached editing your own writing? Because I assume that you don’t do all the editing for your own work, but how did it change your approach to writing?
Catherine: Well, that’s the beauty of working with other authors, whether it’s sort of informally through a critique group or actually offering services is that it’s really…it helps me in my writing tremendously too, because oftentimes it’s very easy to see what other writers are missing in their work or glossing over or could be better. It’s very hard to see it in your own. And the more you work with people and help them improve their work, the more sometimes I think it’s helped me become more objective in my own work. And also just working with stories on every level from just doing a lot of reading to, you know, working with these authors, and especially with new writers and stuff. It’s just wonderful to have them take such a kind of a rough idea and really work hard at it and transform it into something that is fully fleshed out that appealing to a reader. And that just can only help me too.
Rachel: So, in addition to your work with clients, your own fiction writing, you also have been ghostwriting. And I was wondering if you could kind of tell us how ghostwriting works and how you got into it?
Catherine: Well, I can’t even remember how that started coming about, I did a couple of freebie ghostwriting things because friends asked me to help them. I had a couple of acquaintances who were actually had interest from a publisher in England to write a biography of a famous rock group from the ’70s, for Jethro Tull, and they approached me and asked me if I would help them write some of the sections and edit some of them. But I wasn’t credited as an author. They did say thank you in the acknowledgments. So, yeah, little projects like that would come my way. And that was really fun to do, just because I had an interest in the topic matter too and it was working with friends who are really passionate about it.
And then through a company that I…the company’s called My Word Publishing, and they’re out of Denver. And that was a company I used to publish or helped me to, you know, self-publish, indie-publish my own books, and I was so impressed with them. And that company was so, you know, ethical, and the consultants were all highly qualified and were so helpful, and personality-wise worked well with writers and everything. And I got to know them really well. And the owner, eventually asked me to work as a consultant for her as an editor. And I said, “Yeah. Well, and I’d be happy to do some ghostwriting too.” So, I got some contracts through them, through that company, through My Word Publishing. I also just in my freelance years, I had worked for a variety of companies. I had gotten contacts with like Healthgrades and some other companies. Nonfiction-wise, I wrote several medical encyclopedias as a ghostwriter, that kind of thing. Some pretty tedious work there. So, yeah. It’s kind of come down to basically, taking any writing, editing client gig you can for a while until you establish a reputation. And then, by word of mouth, you know, people would start coming to me, or they would refer a friend, or they would refer someone else they know from this company who needs a medical writer or needs an editor or needs someone to do some ghostwriting or some marketing copy. I wrote a lot of marketing copy. And, you know, that kind of stuff too. So, when it comes to that, don’t turn anything away until you can afford to turn things away.
Joni: That’s good advice. As a ghostwriter, are you normally…like you said, you’re not normally publicly credited. Your name is probably not on front of the book. How does that work in terms of having a portfolio of work? Are you allowed to say what books that you’ve ghostwritten or is that something that you’re not supposed to do? I always wonder this?
Catherine: Well, yeah. Because if you’re not credit, even if you’re allowed to say it, if you’re not credited or somebody looks it up, they’re gonna say, “Well, your name isn’t on that.” So, that’s one of the downsides of being a ghostwriter, right? Is that you don’t really have, in a sense, that portfolio that you can really say, “Hey, this was my work.” And in the case of like a memoir, someone I wrote a memoir for, and I interviewed them for hours and hours and days, and it was a memoir. And they have their names on it and stuff. So, that can be kind of sometimes a tough pill to swallow for ghostwriters that you put, you know, kind of your heart and soul into making the book as good as it can be, and then your name is never really on it.
That being said, it can be a good way to make some money, too. So, with ghostwriting, I never agreed to like a royalty split or anything. I just would only say…with the paid jobs, I would just be, “You know, you have to pay me X amount to write this book, because I wanna get paid for the work I do in one…you know, basically, in one lump sum,” versus like thinking, “Will there be royalties someday and having to track that down over years and years.” So, yeah. It can be kind of almost emotionally tough, especially when writing a really tough… I wrote one traumatic, very traumatic experience into a memoir for someone. So, I literally felt like I had to go through the emotional trauma this person had gone through in order to write it effectively. And that was pretty difficult. I had been out of the ER for a while and I really wasn’t ready to go back into a lot of emotional trauma again. So yeah. It can be tough. It can be a good way to make some money, but it can also be, you know, tough to do. It’s also a great learning experience and, you know, great practice. All writing’s practice.
Joni: I think it sounds fascinating. I’m curious, like, I imagine when I think of ghostwriting, I think of mainly memoirs, like celebrity memoirs. Is that accurate? Is that most of the work that you do or is there more to it? Like, I mean, I never thought of a medical journals or encyclopedias for example as needing to be ghostwritten.
Catherine: Yeah. And I’ve done a lot of online website ghostwriting too of articles for the conglomerate medical companies and stuff like that. And I never, you know…it’s like, “Here’s your money for it. Bye-bye.” I never get any credit for it in anyway. Nobody ever knows, other than the person I sent it to. And, yeah. That isn’t as hard as writing something that is like a memoir or something. That’s kind of tough to put all that into it and then, you know, kind of not see your name on it, kinda thing, but I’m okay with it, you know. I got paid fairly and, you know, made the client happy, and I learned a lot in the writing process for myself too. So, it’s all good.
Rachel: I’m curious how the process actually works, especially when it comes to ghostwriting a memoir? Do you interview the person that you’re writing about? Do you write a draft and then do you have to go through the subject of the memoir and then through an editor? Like, how does it all shake out? I’m so curious.
Catherine: Well, I interview the client, or clients. Sometimes it’s a couple of different people who are co-authoring, you know, a memoir. And that takes a lot of time. And if it’s something that…as memoirs can be, if they’re trying to process through some traumatic event that they wanna write about, you end up kind of playing almost like a little bit of therapist. And they want to include a lot of things in the book. There’s a lot of teaching there, because they have the final say as to…it’s their book, right? They’re paying for it. It’s their book. They have the final say as to what they want the book to be about and what they want in there and they can…I can send them a draft, and they could take it all apart if they want. But, you know, trying to teach them too as nonwriters all about, “Okay, well, who are you writing this book for? And how are we going to shape this story, you know, to appeal to readers so that the book sells?” And you wanna help people with your story for the most part, so a lot of times what memoir writers wanna do is they want to share their story and they feel like it would be helpful to other people. And it’s like, “Okay, what are you presenting then as the help here? How are we going to, you know, instead…it can’t just be one scenario after another, after another, after another. And we can’t put every single thing in there from the day you were born to…. You know, what is the thing we’re going to focus on? What is the theme? Where did you come to? What place did you come to in your journey through this experience that has made you, you know, a better person, a happier person, that kind of thing? And, you know, how are we gonna share that with an audience?” So, that’s kind of a big part of that is having…teaching that to clients and having them start to really think about what their story is\ and who it’s for and what they’re really trying to say.
Rachel: That sounds like good advice, in general, for all kinds of writing. Do you feel like you’ve learned a lot from working with other…not even just writers, but just with other people and helping them how to write? Does it clarify your own process for you?
Catherine: Yeah, you know, helping other people is definitely something that can be very helpful to writers. When I was a nurse, we had an old saying and we had a…, You know, when it was time to learn a new skill, like starting an IV, for example, it was kind of…you know, you learn the proper technique, and blah, blah, blah, but, “You see one, you do one, and you teach one.” So, because not only just someone else needs to learn how to do that, but by teaching it, you learn it all that much better, the theory behind that. So, “The see one, do one, teach one” is really…it makes a lot of sense in writing too, where you can…it’s like well read a good book, then try and write a book, then try and teach how to write a book, you know. Long story, short story, whatever.
Rachel: I think that’s excellent advice. And one question for you. I’m taking this completely off-topic, and for that, I apologize. But in addition to all of your writing experience, and various different jobs within the writing and publishing field, you also play hockey. And I think this is fascinating. I am a huge hockey fan. And so I just need to know, are you also a fan of hockey? Or are you just somebody who, like, loves playing the game? And if you are a fan, who is your team? And I promise I won’t judge you too harshly based on this answer.
Catherine: Oh, I have to know who your team is.
Rachel: Oh, yeah. No, my team’s embarrassing. I’m a Toronto Maple Leafs fan. I know nothing but pain, so you can’t be worse than me.
Catherine: I’m originally…I live in Colorado now. I’m originally from Chicago. So, I’m a Blackhawks fan, of course. So, yeah. That’s my team is Blackhawks.
Rachel: Oh, well, Jonathan Toews is a good Canadian boy. So, well, yeah. Thank you for indulging me in answering that question.
Joni: Can you talk a little bit about your hockey time and does that come into your writing in any way at all?
Catherine: Oh, absolutely. Like I said, especially my younger days, I was quite the adrenaline junkie. And hockey’s just such an adrenaline rush. It’s a good workout. It was a good way to release stress after, you know, a busy week in the ER kind of thing. And it teaches you…in a whole different level, it has helped my writing because since I do write fantasy that has a lot of battles and war scenes and blood and guts in it, the thing… When I started playing hockey in the late ’80s, there was nowhere for me to play but with men. And let me tell you, you learn how to take a really, really hard hit and get right back up. And how that feels, how it feels to be hit that hard and then to get back up… And granted, I’m just playing a game, it’s not my life we’re talking about here anything. But it does give me…it really gave me some insight into, I think, like what it might feel like to have to, you know, get hit really, really hard with a war club and have to keep fighting. You know, what is that like? Most of us in North America anyway don’t really face that on a daily basis, unless maybe you’re in the military or something. But I think I did gain a lot of insight from that. And I also gained a lot of insight, especially since I was playing with men, and I still do actually, after all these years, but there’s a camaraderie and a teamwork and working together. I mean, sports really just came about as a substitute for war games, right? It was a way to keep, you know…sports were invented so that it kept men in good shape, so that they could go to war. And when there wasn’t a war, you know, sports are oftentimes could be a training ground to keep guys in shape. And there’s a lot of similarities, you know. You’ve got two teams battling out, you know, two opposing forces battling it out. You have to work together in team sports, especially. You have to learn how to work together, which doesn’t mean you’re always gonna be like the star or doing it the way you want it to be done, because that’s not always the most effective, you know, that kind of thing. And, you know, when you see one of your good buddies get hit in a dirty way, everybody wants to retaliate, right? So, fortunately, in hockey, you’re not really allowed to do that, but…
Rachel: Not anymore anyways.
Catherine: Yeah. Not, yeah. Not, yeah.
Joni: Do you think you’ll ever write a book about hockey? Like, a hockey story in any sense?
Catherine: I don’t know. You know, I’m such a history fanatic. And my world is just so, when it comes to fiction writing, is so, you know, entrenched in legend and history that, as of right now, I’m not too…I just haven’t, like, come up with something that inspires me to write about more modern times, like about hockey, or about the emergency room, or something and that could change, you know. I don’t know if something suddenly strikes me as, “Oh, I have a great idea for a story.” Then. yeah. I’m totally open to doing that. But not at the moment, I don’t have an idea.
Rachel: I’m just saying if you happen to drop a little like orcs versus elves five on five hockey in your next book, I’m there.
Catherine: Well, yeah. Could do like a new, like whole new weird fiction genre, you know, like [crosstalk 00:33:33]
Rachel: Real fantasy hockey.
Catherine: Yeah, right? That would be kind… Okay, now you got me going.
Rachel: Excellent. I’m so excited for this.
Joni: What was it that captured your interest about like Viking lore and the Germanic folklore that you were saying that your fiction is inspired by? Is that a family connection? Or was it just something that you…
Catherine: It’s like kind of a family connection, yeah. I’m a first-generation German American. My dad came here after World War II as a refugee actually. And so, my dad’s side, most of my family on his side still live over in Germany. And when I was growing up, he would go home to visit and take us. So, I was very fortunate that I got to go to Europe as a kid several times and have that experience. And he is very much a history nut. And he took me to all kinds of castles and just really cool places, you know, all kinds of historical places and castles. And he was a big reader and he read a lot. He liked legends and that kind of thing. So, all that really sparked my imagination quite a bit and I grew to have a love for that kind of thing.
Rachel: Yeah, it’s fascinating. I can fall down very long, dark holes, but mythology and traditional folklore, it’s fascinating. We would love to hear a little bit about what you like to read. Do you have a favorite book that you’ve read this year?
Catherine: Within the last year, I would say what jumps to mind first is “Gates of Fire” by Steven Pressfield. That’s just, you know…it’s war fiction, and it’s not mythology, but it’s about the ancient Greek battle of Thermopylae which that movie “300” was kind of based on loosely. But the wondrous thing about that is that there was just such a wonderful secondary theme going on in that book, besides what the obvious things would be going on in a war book like that. And he really pays the grace homage to the strength and power of women I’ve ever read, which is not what you would think a book about the Greek Spartans fighting a war that they were definitely going to lose and they knew it…you wouldn’t necessarily think that that is what would come out of that book. And so, I found it just very moving and fascinating on many levels.
Rachel: Do you have a favorite fantasy world?
Catherine: Favorite fantasy world? Wow. Now, that’s probably, you know, this is kind of cliche, but it’s probably a tie between “Lord of the Rings,” “Game of Thrones.” “The Mists of Avalon” world was great too, so that was very different. But, yeah, that was great.
Joni: And for somebody that’s new to the genre and wants to read a fantasy book, what book would you recommend they start with?
Catherine: I guess, these days there’s so many sub-sub-genres of fantasy. You know, a lot of people would recommend Robert Jordan, I would say “Lord of the Rings.” The style of writing that “Lord of the Rings” was written in has really changed a lot. So, it’s not the easiest read in the world, but it’s kind of where a lot of this all came from. So, it’s almost like you need to read this.
Rachel: Yeah, that’s fair.
Catherine: And many people have seen the movie now that it kind of makes reading the book a little easier if you’ve seen the movies.
Rachel: And you mentioned the sub-sub-genres of fantasy. Which sub-genre are you enjoying reading the most right now?
Catherine: Right now I’m reading…I’m kind of getting more into horror. I’ve been kind of a fan of dark fantasy quite a bit. I’ve read…Joe Ambercrombie is very, very dark. I don’t know if I recommend that for everybody because he’s quite dark. I’m also…like right now I just few days ago started “Dracul” written by JD Barker and Dacre Stoker, and it’s the prequel to “Dracula.”
Joni: And what can readers expect from you next? What are you working on?
Catherine: I’m working on the fourth book in the series. My series about 8th century Germany. It’s called the “Wulfhedinn Series,” and that I’m hoping to have out in the next year. I’ve also got another start on a completely different kind of book, a time travel thing. I’ve also been very fascinated with time travel and I really enjoyed “Outlander.” So, I’ve got an idea about a firefighter who does time travel. And so, I’ll be putting a little modern stuff into a book, actually.
Rachel: Oh, that’s cool. Well, we will look out for those for sure. And where can listeners find you online?
Catherine: My website is catherinespader.com. And that’s Catherine with a C. And I’m available on Amazon right now and seem to be going wide through Kobo.
Joni: Yes. We’re looking forward to this. Well, we will link to all of your social media, and book links, and all of that so that people can find you and look you up. Thank you so much for doing this. This has been really great.
Catherine: Yeah, thank you so much for having me. I really enjoyed it.
Rachel: Thank you for listening to the “Kobo Writing Podcast”. If you’re interested in learning more about Catherine and picking up her books, we will include links to her website on our show notes. If you’re enjoying this podcast, please be sure to rate, review, and subscribe, and recommend to your friends. And if you’re looking for more tips on growing your self-publishing business, you can find us at kobowritinglife.com, and be sure to follow us on socials. We are @KoboWritingLife on Facebook and Twitter and @kobo.writing.life on Instagram.
Joni: This episode was produced by Rachel Warden and Joni Di Placido, editing is by Kelly Robotham. I think music is provided by Tear Jerker, and big thanks to Catherine Spader for being our guest today. If you’re ready to start your self-publishing journey, sign up at kobo.com/writinglife. Until next time, happy writing.