A.J. Cattapan is an author, speaker, and middle school English teacher living in the Chicago area. Her published works include the young adult novel Angelhood, a story in Chicken Soup for the Soul: From Lemons to Lemonade, and numerous short stories and articles in magazines for teens and children, including Highlights and Hopscotch for Girls. She will also be featured in a recipe and corresponding story anthology due out this summer.
Seventeen-year-old theater geek Nanette believes her life is headed toward stardom on Broadway. But when her dream theater college rejects her and her best friend dies in a terrible accident, Nanette decides the world would be better off without her. Unfortunately, the afterlife offers something less than a heavenly situation. Trapped between alternating periods of utter darkness and light, Nanette is stuck following a high school freshman around. Soon, she learns she’s a guardian angel, and the only way she can earn her wings is to keep her young charge, Vera, from committing the same sin she did—taking her own life.
Q&A with A.J. Cattapan…
Maddie F. asks, “What made you want to become a writer?”
A little literary character named Anne Shirley. My sixth grade reading teacher, Miss Sipiora, was giving us suggestions for books to read for a book report. Anne of Green Gables was high on her list, and Miss Sipiora was high on my list of favorite teachers, so I took her advice. I remember being daunted by the 350 pages. See, we didn’t have any Harry Potter books back then, so 350 pages sounded like an awful lot. But when I was finished, I felt like I’d taken an emotional journey with people that I cared about deeply. I wanted the story to continue. I felt that somehow author L.M. Montgomery had worked magic to get me to care so much about people who weren’t real. I wanted to weave the same magic: create stories and characters that touched people’s hearts.
Becca P. asks, “Was your first book ever rejected? If so how many times?” (Sara Ella adds: Any advice for how to deal with rejection?)
Oh yes! My first novel was going to be epic. It was Harry Potter meets Star Wars, a surefire middle grade sci-fi of blockbuster proportions! Yeah, it never sold. I have no idea how many times it was rejected. Somewhere I have records of how many literary agents I tried, but I don’t even want to go and look that up now. My second novel, a cozy mystery for adults, was also rejected by many literary agents. Angelhood was my third novel. It was also rejected a lot. I consider myself fortunate to have found the publisher Vinspire, who was willing to take a chance on a book that deals with such a dark topic (teen suicide) but still offers hope at the end.
How did I deal with so much rejection? By just pressing forward. I found new stories to write about, new writing ventures to try. In between writing novels, I wrote pieces for children’s magazines and Chicken Soup for the Soul, and then each time I sold a piece, I celebrated. When you are working on a writing career, you have to celebrate all the little victories, whether it’s winning a pitch-writing contest online that gets an agent’s attention or selling a short piece to a magazine. And then you get back to work and write something new.
Daniela D. asks, “Where did you come up with the idea for your book?”
Where? Well, that’s a bit embarrassing. I was actually in the shower when I came up with idea for Angelhood. It was October 29, 2011. I had been planning to spend November (also known as National Novel Writing Month) working on a middle grade mystery. However, after months of research, I was still unable to piece together the necessary parts of my mystery puzzle. I was feeling down about my two previous unsold manuscripts and my inability to plot out my middle grade mystery. Suddenly, I got the idea for a story about a girl who feels like her dreams for the future are hopeless as well . . . and voila! Angelhood was born. The whole idea (except for the very ending) rushed forth quickly. I had the plot outlined and character maps created in time to write Angelhood during NaNo, and by the end of November I had all 54,000 words of the story written out. It still took months to revise and then a couple years to find a publisher, but I still consider it a miracle I got the idea in the first place. And in the shower nonetheless!
Laura P. asks, “If you could hangout with your characters for the day, what would you want to do?”
Now that’s an interesting question! Most of my characters are guardian angels who can’t be seen by us, so I guess I could be hanging out with my characters right now and not even know it! Ha!
But for the sake of this question, let’s pretend that I could see them. I’d ask them to fly me around the world to visit all of God’s beautiful creation. I recently made a trip to Guatemala and went ziplining for the first time. As I was flying hundreds of feet above the jungle canopy in the mountains of southern Guatemala, I got a sense of what it might be like to fly, so I think I’d really enjoy it if my characters would fly me around the world and we could marvel at all the beautiful things God has created: the mountains, the deserts, the jungles, the Arctic, the Grand Canyon, the sweeping prairies. I love to travel, and flying via guardian angel sounds like a nice way to do it, does it not?
Sara Ella (me) asks, “What is your most anticipated read of 2015 and why?”
Another great question! So many to choose from. One I know I’m really looking forward to is Capturing Today, the second book in the TimeShifters series by Jess Evander. I really enjoyed the first book in the series, Saving Yesterday. It’s the story of a girl who learns that she belongs to a special group of people with the ability to shift through time. Their mission is to save humans and history itself. I love a good time travel story, and Jess does a wonderful job of creating this thrilling story.
Thank YOU for chatting on the blog today, A.J! It was a treat to have you!
A.J. Cattapan has graciously offered to give an ebook copy of Angelhood to one lucky reader! Leave a question or comment for A.J. below to enter.
Be sure to record you entry via the Rafflecopter, and earn extra entries there too by following and sharing on social media. Enter through Sunday, May 31st. One random winner will be chosen and announced in my June newsletter, so be sure to sign up via this form:
Tell us in the comments below why YOU want to read Angelhood. I love hearing from you! Connect with me here or tweet to me @SaraEllaWrites. Until then, happy reading!
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