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MP! Interviews: Cat Winters author of the gothic, victorian YA fiction ‘The Cure For Dreaming’.


Cat Winters chats with us about her historical fiction ‘The Cure For Dreaming’, women’s rights movements and hypnotism. This is the perfect ‘Halloweek’ book.

Winters Cat_Author ImageWithout giving too much away what can we expect from ‘The Cure For Dreaming’?
The book opens on Halloween night in the year 1900. A seventeen-year-old girl named Olivia Mead attends her first women’s suffrage rally on the same day that a young stage hypnotist named Henri Reverie comes to town. Olivia’s father is terrified of “modern” women and fearful his daughter is heading down the wrong path in life, so he hires Henri to cure Olivia of her rebellious thoughts and dreams . . . but the cure doesn’t go quite as planned.

What was your inspiration behind the story? Have you always been interested in historical events?
Yes, I’ve definitely been fascinated by history for a long time, especially the parts of history that don’t get talked about all that much. As far as the inspiration for the story goes, in October 2011 I was listening to eerie, dreamlike Halloween music by a musician named Kristen Lawrence, and one of her songs made me envision a girl floating to the ceiling. The music put me in the mood to write something Gothic, Victorian, and magical. I came up with the idea of writing about a young stage hypnotist at the turn-of-the-twentieth century, and a question popped into my head: “What would happen if a man hired a hypnotist to rid his daughter of her “unladylike” ambition to be her own person?”

Have you always had a strong interest in the women’s suffragist movement?
I became interested in the movement when I saw a movie called Iron Jawed Angels, which chronicled the physical and emotional pain real-life U.S. historical figures such as Alice Paul and Lucy Burns endured in order for women to obtain the right to vote in the country. It moved me to think that these women went to jail, suffered through hunger strikes and force-feedings, and risked being shunned by their families in order for future women like myself to enjoy equality.

Have you ever been hypnotised yourself or been to see someone be hypnotised?
A stage hypnotist performed at my high school when I was a teen. I remember being quite impressed with him, and what stood out the most was that he hypnotized my Spanish teacher into believing she was Madonna. At my university, I was hypnotized as part of a theater class in which a drama professor wanted to see if hypnosis would allow people to become better actors. I remember the experience as being highly relaxing.

CureforDreaming_finalcover

What gave you the idea to put photographs from the era of the book inside?
It all started when I included historical photographs and illustrations in my debut novel, In the Shadow of Blackbirds. Early-twentieth-century spirit photography plays a large role in the plot of that book, so it made sense to me to include actual photos from the era. I didn’t initially intend to include any images in The Cure for Dreaming, but then I found the picture that appears on the front cover: the photograph of an actual hypnotized woman in the year 1900. I knew I absolutely had to put the photo in the book, and before long I was collecting over a dozen images and historical quotes to add to my literary time machine.

Is there a character in the book which you can really see yourself in?
I relate well to my protagonist, Olivia Mead. Like her I was a shy, bookish teen who found strength through writing. Thankfully, unlike Olivia, I did not have a father who wanted to hire a hypnotist to make me obedient.

Can we expect a follow up to find out what happens to the characters?
I’m not 100% sure if I’ll write a sequel. My next young adult novel will be The Steep and Thorny Way, a Hamlet-inspired story about a biracial girl in 1920s Oregon. That one is expected to release Spring 2016. I’ve had some ideas for a follow-up to The Cure for Dreaming, but I haven’t yet written anything related to a sequel.

Have you always known you wanted to write for a living?
I’ve been writing stories ever since I first knew how to form words on a paper. People encouraged me to become a writer from an early age, but I originally wanted to be an actress—mainly because I was always creating full-length movies inside my head. It took me a while to realize that what I was actually doing was creating the plots of full-length novels. After I graduated from my university, I realized writing for a living was what I wanted to do most with my life.

What is your writing process? If you have one.
I generally come up with a basic idea for a plot based on an intriguing, overlooked piece of history that I’ve stumbled upon. Then I conduct research and allow more ideas to form and marinate. Typically, I don’t sit down and write an outline, but when I embark upon the actual writing of the book, I usually know exactly where I want everything to go. Everything is outlined in my mind, but surprises and unexpected twists often show up as I’m working on the novel and its characters.

I try to write a little each day, but if I can’t, I don’t beat myself up about it. Sometimes the words aren’t coming; sometimes I’m busy with my family or other obligations. I don’t set word count goals for myself like many writers do. I simply write as much as I can as often as I can.

What advice would you give to someone if they wanted to become a writer?
Keep persevering. I know struggling writers get sick of being given this advice, but I’m a prime example of the rewards of perseverance. It took me close to fifteen years of writing and submitting my work before I was offered a publishing contract. If writing is your passion, write the best book you can possibly write, get it critiqued by helpful and honest early readers, and polish the work until it’s even stronger. If that work doesn’t sell, but you still passionately want to be a writer, then write something new. Keep writing. Keep bettering your work and sending it out to agents and contests (as long as they’re legitimate agents and contests).

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