Cathy Yardley has been a published writer since 2000, when Harlequin released her first romance novel, The Cinderella Solution. Since then, she’s written and published four romance novels, two romance novellas, and two Chick Lit novels, with more books pending publication. She has been the president of the Los Angeles and San Francisco chapters of the Romance Writers of America, and she has been a speaker at various writing conferences from Boston to Seattle, including two National RWA conferences and the annual East of Eden general writing conference in Salinas, CA.
After working in several fields and countless job titles since graduating from UC Berkeley in 1995, not to mention living up and down the California coast, she is now living in San Diego with her husband and son, achieving her dream of writing full time.
What made you want to become a writer?
I was always a voracious reader, and I read at an adult level fairly early. It didn’t occur to me that I could actually become a writer until I graduated from college and met actual published authors. It seemed like a fantasy, like being a movie star or the president, something that only a select few people attempted, much less where people found success.
Was the journey difficult? Any help? Any obstacles?
Writing itself wasn’t difficult, at least not initially. I think most writers can’t help themselves — they plink at plot ideas and concoct characters all the time, and usually find themselves scribbling before they realize what they’re doing. I was lucky enough to find a very supportive women’s writing organization, the RWA. I went to a local meeting, and met published authors. Soon, I was meeting with other writers once a week. It was very supportive. I think it’s much more difficult to sustain your writing without some kind of social support network, actually. The obstacles are in the business itself. They’re not insurmountable, but they are enough to knock you flat some days. Also, the writing itself can drive you crazy if you’re not careful!
Any lessons learned on your writer’s journey?
If you finish a novel, just one novel, it will change your life. Even if it never gets published. You learn things about yourself as you’re writing — the messages and themes you write about are often something in your own life that you don’t even recognize until you’re finished. And seeing that fat sheaf of paper on your desk and knowing you wrote all that is a tremendous rush.
Where does that inner drive to write come from?
I have no idea. As I’ve said, I think writers can’t help themselves. One of my favorite quotes is: “If you want to find out if you’re a writer, try being anything else.” I’ve tried a half dozen different occupations, but I always came back to writing.
How do you keep readers turning pages?
I’m very careful about plotting. (Actually, I’m insane about plotting!) I think you have to have a central goal for your main character, and everything in the book, in one way or another, needs to tie to that goal. You also need to have a lot of conflict, that increases gradually, until you hit on the very worst thing that can happen to the character in terms of that central goal.
How often will you revise and re-write your work?
It depends on the work… and on the deadline. I find that the bulk of my time is devoted to the up-front work, the plot outline. That, I can revise several times. Then, I’ll usually revise again because the most careful outline in the world will still have changes once you start writing the draft of the manuscript. Novels are organic. You can’t force them with too much structure.
What are some creative ways you’ve learned to generate ideas?
I love getting a title first, then coming up with a story that fits the title. I came up with the title for my second Chick Lit novel, “Couch World”, and I had an entirely different premise than the one I wound up writing. I also like using song titles and developing story ideas. I get a lot of ideas listening to the radio.
What are some practical solutions for writer’s block?
I’d say read writers you love, and writers you hate. The writers you love will remind you why you love writing in the first place. The writers you hate will remind you that if they can do it, so can you.
Do you have a favorite book?
I love way too many books to just choose one. I read across a wide variety of genres, as well.
Do you have a favorite time of day when you like to write?
I prefer to write in the morning, when my batteries are fully charged, as it were.
What is one saying or proverb you live by?
“Well behaved women rarely make history.” It goes for writing, too. Never write what you think is safe. Write what absolutely terrifies you. That’s where the real energy and power is.
What advice would you give kids who wish to pursue a career in writing?
First of all, read. Read everything you can get your hands on. Then, write every day. Try finishing a novel. Don’t worry that it’s dreadful — if it’s your first, it’s supposed to be. This is the book you learn from. The trick is to be able to get over the feeling and keep writing. Once you master that, you’ll have a career — because odds are good, every time you write, you’re going to think at some point that it’s dreadful.
Where can parents and kids find out more about your work?
My website is http://www.cathyyardley.com.
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