Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!
My name is Catharine Riggs. Before my dive into thrillers, I worked as a banker, adjunct college instructor and nonprofit executive. In 2018, Thomas & Mercer published my debut novel, What She Gave Away, which tells the story of a young woman whose desire for revenge goes horribly wrong. The loosely linked sequel, What She Never Said, was released the following year and features a woman hiding a terrible secret who must stop an angel of death before the angel of death stops her. Both novels are set in my hometown of Santa Barbara, California.
What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?
Growing up in the wealthy enclave of Montecito, I’ve always been fascinated by family secrets, especially when they involve the rich. My Santa Barbara Suspense series explores the dark side of wealth and privilege and the toxic effects of denial. The plot for What She Gave Away revolves around white collar crime at a fictional community bank, while the plot of What She Never Said creeps through the corridors of a wealthy retirement home stalked by an angel of death. Corporate corruption plays a part in both novels as does body image, addiction and death.
How do you deal with creative block?
Whether the muse is with me or not, I force myself to write. To paraphrase advice given at a ThrillerFest conference by prolific author John Sandford: “Write. Just write. When you treat writing as a job, there’s no time for writer’s block.”
What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
Trying to write for the market rather than writing a story you love. You’ll be in bed with your book for a least a year so you may as well enjoy it.
Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
My publisher recently informed me they regretted their choice of covers for my Santa Barbara Suspense series. I had wanted to feature an iconic Santa Barbara scene such as palm trees or the mission, but they made the more unusual choice of using intense close-ups of my protagonists’ faces. I don’t hate my covers; they are unusual and easy to locate. But in hindsight, I wish I had been more insistent about my rather conventional choice. The moral of the story? If you don’t like your publisher’s concept for your cover and/or title, try pushing back. But not too hard. They do hold the cards.
How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
To date my trade reviews have been good. I seldom read my reader reviews but when I happen upon a bad one, I remind myself that even the most celebrated authors receive criticism. If I’m feeling extraordinarily upset by an opinion, I choose an award-winning book and read its one-star reviews.
What do you think of your audiobooks?
I love them. In fact, the actors are so strong the audio versions may be better than my original written words.
How has your creative process improved over time?
I don’t wait for the muse to strike but rise before five each morning and try to get in a full two hours of creative writing before I begin the rest of my day. After an exercise break, I get in a couple more hours. When I’m working on a novel, I set a goal of at least 1,000 words a day. I save the afternoons for editing, social media and the business of writing. When I’m between novels, I write articles or short stories. I find that writing every day keeps the creative process alive.
What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?
The best: The sense of accomplishment I felt seeing my debut novel in print.
The worst: Promoting myself.
Most surprising: The (enormous) span of time between signing a publishing contract and the date of publication. In my case, 18 months.
Do you have any creativity tricks?
First and foremost is early morning writing when my mind is blurry and open to the muse. After a couple of hours, I can rekindle the feeling by mining for endorphins through hard exercise, typically a run. The third trick involves imbibing a glass or two of wine. I try to steer away from the wine trick. I’m aware it could quickly devolve into a habit and lead to a place I don’t want to go.
What are your plans for future books?
I’ve just completed a near-future thriller about a young mother facing the apocalypse who goes to battle to save her child. I envision this book as the first in a trilogy. It was a lot of fun to write.
Tell us some quirky facts about yourself.
That I’m not very quirky. I wish I were because I so admire that quality in others. I do dress in writerly black to give the appearance of quirkiness. Does faking quirkiness count?
How can we learn more about you and your books?
Visit my website at www.catharineriggs.com. You can also follow me on Goodreads, Bookbub, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. No Facebook for me. You can purchase my books at your local independent bookstore or online at Amazon, IndieBound or Barnes & Noble.