Johnny, I know a bit about you, but please, share some information with our readers.
Since I was five years old, my dream was to be a writer. I never thought I could write anything more than a grocery list, but I’ve managed to put together enough words to make a novel. In fact, what was once a short story I wrote in High School, has now blossomed into three interconnected series of books.The first of these is Sally Singletary’s Curiosity, receiving rave reviews from early readers! Be on the lookout for my next book, Elements of Eaa: Tears of Destiny, due out in March 2013. I also run the Eaa Learning Foundation, a site devoted to all things education and how to improve our classrooms for our children. If you’re interested in teaching materials, I have some great educational lessons and activities for your classroom. You can find them here.
It looks like you are involved in a lot of great things. Can you tell us about your book, Sally Singletary's Curiosity?
Sally Singletary is a bit of a throwback to the days of Nancy Drew, yet set in modern times. She is meant to show the same spirited, yet independent character as Nancy Drew did in her
Our story begins when Sally Singletary is faced with the strange disappearance of three students and a teacher. As chief editor for the school’s high-tech online newsletter, she’s determined to get the scoop on what’s really happening and what it means for the students at Hidden Lake Prep School. With the help of a little magic and a few new friends, she discovers a scheme that’s far bigger than she could’ve ever imagined. Can this teen sleuth find a way to stop a plot that may have far-reaching consequences for all of mankind, or will Sally Singletary’s Curiosity lead to the end of humanity?
What sets this book apart from other books of the same genre?
Sally Singletary is part of the Elements of Eaa saga, an interconnected series of books that weave the overall story together of humanity’s struggle with its distant past and the whims of a very powerful race of beings known as Akaadians. Sally’s story focuses on the events that take place on Earth as she investigates James Van der Haak, a prominent business man and occult leader. He is somehow connected to the events that were responsible for Billy’s disappearance and it’s Sally’s job to find out how.
I think this book does a great job of exploring the world through the eyes of young people who are more
than just a group of spoiled teens. Many books portray teens as helpless and meandering through life, but I feel there are many with more focused goals and are aware of the world around them. Most often, they just lack the tools with which to properly interact with the world.
Sally’s story does tackle some real world issues, but treats them in a true-to-life manner. Jake is gay, but rather than turn his homosexuality into a joke or a source of drama, he deals with real issues with an un-accepting father and troubled past. I think that these things give Sally Singletary’s Curiosity a sense that teens are capable of making their own choices and can be responsible and that often it is society that would judge otherwise.
Any future releases reader should be aware of?
Yes, we are working now on the first book of the Elements of Eaa series which will tell the story of Billy Martin and his discoveries after his disappearance from Earth. It is scheduled to come out in the spring if all goes well.
Are you reading anything right now, or have you read anything recently that is worth mentioning?
I am currently reading the Wool series and am enjoying so far.
Are you one of those people who don’t own a TV? Do you have any favorite TV Shows? Favorite movies?
[Laughs] I do own a television, but I do not currently have cable. We cut the cord a couple of years ago and have been getting our entertainment on demand through services such as Hulu, Netflix, and iTunes. I have to admit, it has freed up much more time for writing when you’re not just idly watching whatever happens to be on the screen.
At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
My mom has told stories about when I was little I would staple paper together and make books. I guess that it has always been my dream, but I never thought I would be able to do it. I grew up with ADHD so sitting down long enough to write and keep so much stuff in my head seemed impossible. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed as an adult and treated that I ever felt confident enough in my writing abilities.
Tell us about your writing process.
I’m a bit of a cross between a pantser and a plotter. I tend to plot out some of the things I want to accomplish in the novel, but many of my scenes flow from a natural progression of my characters. I generally steer them toward the plot and just let them get there on their own. I feel that this really gives my scenes a “life” of their own. Something I am diligent with is creating my characters. I first must really get a sense for who they are before I can write them into a book. This allows me to react to things within scenes from each character’s point of view and give a natural reaction to what’s happening to them. That’s what drives the forward momentum of my books.
Are the names of the characters in your novels important?
Sally Singletary was chosen by my partner while we were brainstorming ideas for the book. It has no real
significance other than it was different and had a certain “ring” to it. Some of the characters are named for friends or supporters who have helped to drive this dream forward. Many of my beta readers find their first names in my characters.
How do you define success as a writer? Have you been successful?
Success to me is when people can hold my book, read it, and enjoy it. I’m not looking to be the next J.K.
Rowling and I’m certainly realistic in the task of self-publishing. My goal was to get my work into the hands of readers and begin building a fan base. Hopefully, in time, my work will be good enough that it can become a full-time endeavor. Until then, I write when I can and enjoy knowing people enjoy what I’ve written.
Do you have words of wisdom about writing that you want to pass on to novelists and writers out there who are starting out?
The industry changes daily. Don’t make assumptions, don’t take anything you hear to heart. Agents and
publishing professionals will tell you all kinds of things. Just remember, they are biased toward the traditional industry. It’s how they’ve made their bread and butter for years. They’re not anxious to see it change. The ones who are most successful, however, are the ones that are embracing the changes and
figuring out a way to use it to their advantage. Any advice you get as a writer should be taken with a grain of salt. You never know what will be the next big thing and no one can tell you that your writing isn’t good enough. J.K. Rowling got told that for two entire years. She was turned down by countless agents
because her book didn’t fit into a traditional genre and most thought it would never sell. Remember her if you ever get discouraged with your work. If you believe in your writing and you put the time and energy into it that is necessary (writing classes, beta readers, editing, proofing, etc..), then you can expect that someone somewhere will want to read your work.
What should readers walk away from your books knowing? How should they feel?
That, I leave up to my readers. Each person will probably walk away from my books with a different perspective and that, to me, is what writing is all about. I don’t tell my readers what to think and feel. I lead them on a journey. What they take from that journey is up to them.
Is there anything else you would like to say today?
My challenge to you. Never underestimate a person’s potential to do things you never thought they could. I never thought I could become a writer and, while it’s way too early to guage my success, the fact that I was able to complete a novel at all still amazes me. We should all know our limitations, but don’t be afraid to test them every once in a while.
Thank you so much for stopping by today Johnny, it has been a pleasure. Where can people connect with you?
www.jmcataffo.com & www.eaalearning.com
Last, but certainly not least, where can people buy your book?
Amazon US & Amazon UK