Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Catherine Lane, whose second lesbian romance novel, Heartwood, has been published today.
Since I was Catherine’s editor for Heartwood, I’m already familiar with her fascinating cast of characters and the great way she’s interweaving present and past. I think many of you will enjoy the novel too, so read on to find out more about it.
Can you tell us a little about your newest book, Heartwood?
Heartwood is about four very different women who find themselves in The Springs, a women’s resort town up the coast from San Francisco.
Beth, a famous lesbian author who has retired behind shut doors in order to block out her mysterious past with a gorgeous movie star.
Nikka, an ambitious lawyer who is asked to close her eyes to what is really going on to advance her career
Maggie, a free spirit who takes the right path, no matter what the cost
Josie, a mysterious stranger who just may hold the key to everyone’s secrets
Their stories collide one wild summer on the banks of the Tall Tree River when all of them are forced into unthinkable decisions that will change their lives and forever.
What was your favorite part about writing Heartwood? And what was most difficult?
I love how the different timelines and stories collide at the climax of the book—both at Fern House. I love the way actions in the past parallel those in the present.
The most difficult part was right after that climactic moment. Before I started writing, I had only charted the plot out to the climax. So after I was done with Chapter 11, I was in the exact same boat as the characters. We were all thinking: What have I gotten myself into? And what on earth is going to happen next? Luckily, as it turned out, it was a happily-ever-after for all of us.
One of your main characters, Beth, is a writer. Do you identify most with her? How much of you is in your other characters?
I wish I could identify with Beth. She writes a national best-seller that is read in college courses as a seminal work of the LGBTQ movement. Actually, I took inspiration for Beth from Patricia Hightower and her book, The Price of Salt.
As for me, I made it into the novel in much less glamorous ways. Like Nikka, I’m a little obsessed with to-do lists. My wife and I just bought a brand-new Subaru Outback—yes, it’s white with tinted windows, like Nikka’s in Heartwood. And Nikka and I both like granola and yogurt for breakfast as well. She, however, has much nicer hair than I do.
How long did it take you to write Heartwood?
From rolling the idea around in my head to sending the last draft back to my editor, all in, it was around ten months. This timeline was pretty short for me. As some of you might know, I work full-time and have a son, a wife, and a nutty dog, so my time often isn’t my own. I want to thank my family since they gave up all their vacations this year to pretty much watch me disappear into my office. We’re saving up for a big trip next summer, so it wasn’t a total loss.
Heartwood is the second novel you published. Many authors struggle with the second book because they feel the pressure of having to live up to readers’ expectations. How was writing your second book compared to your first for you?
I knew from the beginning I was tackling more with Heartwood than I had with The Set Piece, and that was, without a doubt, very scary. But I also knew that I had learned a lot while writing and editing my first book, and so I was excited to see if I could put that knowledge back onto the page. I often joke that I am getting my MFA at Ylva University. I’ll be sure to send out announcements if I ever graduate.
Do you have a favorite line (or paragraph) from Heartwood that you’d like to share with us?
This is about Nikka, soon after we first meet her.
“For now at least, she had sworn off love. There would be plenty of time for that when she made junior partner. Besides, a drawer full of anatomically correct toys thankfully had no opinions on penalties against a defenseless receiver on the football field.”
Just a throw-away really, but for some reason, I always chuckle when I reread this as if the sex toys would actually start talking about football strategy. Hey! Wait a sec. Talking sex toys – there’s a story in there somewhere!
Let’s say Nikka and Maggie, the main characters of Heartwood, would decide to pay Starbucks a visit. What sort of coffee (or other beverage) would each order?
I’m going to have to bring in my wife on this one. She frequents Starbucks much more often than I do…
“Nikka is all about the caffeine and the efficiency,” she says. “She’d order an espresso and be done with it. Maggie, well…” She purses her lips while she thinks. “Maggie would bike down the street to Blue Bottle Coffee and get a Hayes Valley latte with the steamed milk design on top.”
As usual she’s right. My wife and I spend a happy moment talking about how smooth Blue Bottle coffee is and how we want a latte now. We’re both highly suggestible.
What projects are you working on right now? Any upcoming releases?
I am working on an urban fantasy called Tread Lightly which I think is scheduled for release in early spring 2017. It’s part of the Ylva Window Shopping series, where authors are given the same first paragraph, and then we get to take the story wherever we want. Mine strays into demon territory and the two magical women who get to save the world. Big, big departure for me…I’m a little scared… once again.
And where can readers find your new book?
All Nikka thinks about is making partner in the law firm she works for. So, when the firm sends her to the Springs, a women’s resort town and home of famous lesbian author Beth Walker, Nikka jumps at the chance to prove herself to her sexy boss, Lea.
But nothing in the Springs is as it seems. Beth is hiding secrets about her mysterious past with movie star Dawn Montgomery. Lea may only be out for her own gain and keeping Beth a prisoner in her own home. And the only person who might see the truth of the situation is adorably impulsive Maggie.
Will Nikka stay true to her life’s ambition, or will she dare look into the mystery—and into her own heart?