Welcome to another edition of Couch Convos with your girl, Lisa W. Tetting. Today we’re chillin’ with new author Cat Meyers about her compelling novel “Boy Toy”. Cat is a very busy lady who writes and teaches; and as if that wasn’t enough, she’s also a lawyer. Let’s find out more about this fascinating young lady and her book.
LWT: Welcome to Couch Convos, Cat! Let’s get started. You make a living as an Assistant Professor at Temple University and you are also an Attorney. How did you find your way into the world of writing?
CM: Actually, writing found its way to me before I started practicing law or teaching. I had been in school for nearly the first 30 years of my life (including undergrad, grad school and law school); so I’ve written a ton of academic papers. And I hated it. My professors would complement my writing skills, but for me writing was just a means to an end. I got no joy from it. It wasn’t until my final year of law school that I wrote my first work of fiction. I had this story idea and I was so intrigued by it that I had to write it down. I noticed that whenever I felt bored or restless I started writing. I found such joy in creating new worlds and developing characters, that I was hooked.
LWT: Wow, you have spent a major portion of your life as a student, so tell us how long have you been teaching?
CM: I had been teaching on a part-time basis for about seven years, while working full-time in the private sector for a law firm in Philadelphia. I really loved teaching, so last year, I was blessed with the opportunity to teach full-time and I jumped at the chance.
LWT: That is a blessing. What type of courses do you teach at the university?
CM: I was hired to teach a writing intensive course called Planned Change & Criminal Justice. The university wanted to put more of an emphasis on improving students’ writing skills. I also teach Intro to Criminal Law, Courts & Criminal Justice, and Psychology & Criminal Justice. This fall, I’ll be teaching a new course for me called, Criminal Behavior.
LWT: As a professor in Criminal Justice, do you plan to write a crime thriller in the future?
I have some adult romance, YA, even a sci-fi in my treasure chest of future books. And I actually do have a crime thriller in the works, which I have written the notes for. I’m just waiting for when the time is right to sit down and write it.
LWT: If they are as good as “Boy Toy”, I can’t wait. On your website, you share an interesting story about finding some books in a box. Can you please share that story with the readers?
CM: It was during the summer before my final year of law school. I had never been a big fan of writing, but I had this story idea that I was intrigued by, so I wrote it down. I enjoyed the process so much, I kept revisiting that story. When the summer ended and school resumed, I put the writing aside and really didn’t think much about it after that. However, when winter break began, I found myself with the same urge to write. I found it so strange because more writing was definitely not how I planned to spend my break from school. Finally, one night when I was saying my prayers, I said: “Lord, every time I’m feeling restless I get the urge to write. What’s up with that?” He didn’t answer me at the time and I went on to sleep. The next day, when I came home, I saw this box in the lobby of my apartment building. Whenever people moved out of the building they often left unwanted items by the elevator for someone else to take. I like free stuff, so I usually stop to take a look to see if there’s anything I can use. This time was no different. I saw this shoe box that had some books in it. Upon closer inspection, I saw that the box had a message written on it: “To someone who will give these a good home.” Inside was a box of writing books: How to Write Mysteries, How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, How to Write Romance; How to Write Christian Fiction and How to Write Action and Adventure. I thought: Surely God left these here for me. I scooped up that box and never looked back!
LWT: I am a believer in signs and that sounds like a major one. Your book “Boy Toy” focuses on an abused teenage girl who is placed in the foster system. How did you use your experience as a former social worker to write your book?
CM: I drew upon my experience as a social worker to discuss the procedural stuff, i.e. the mechanical inner-workings of the foster care system in Pennsylvania. I also called upon my experience to talk about the dynamics of the relationships between the foster parent, foster child and natural parent. Foster parents often express frustration that all they want to do is provide a good home for the child, and sometimes find themselves in the role of the bad guy in the eyes of the foster child. “I’m not the one who abused her or abandoned her, why does she take it all out on me?” was a common concern they would raise. Natural parents sometimes feel hostility toward the foster parent because they feel like the foster parent is trying to take their place; and guilt because the foster parent has been able to do what that natural parent has not been able to do, so far—take care of their child. Finally, even if the natural parent has abused or neglected the foster child, that child often feels a loyalty toward their natural parent. Many long to live with their natural family even if they know it is not a safe environment for them. They also experience guilt if they come to love their foster family because they feel like they are betraying their natural family. So there is a lot of tension and conflict in these relationships, some of which I’ve tried to portray in the book.
LWT: I believe you did just that. When your protagonist is in turmoil, she learns to turn to God for help. What prompted you to make this her path instead of turning to drugs or something worse?
CM: As a survivor myself, I could only write about what I know has helped me. I’ve been in that place of such emotional pain and thought: “Man, I could see why people get hooked on drugs.” It would be so easy to take something, a pill or inject something and just be able to escape. Leave that pain behind me. But I also knew that when the drug wore off the problem would still be there—as well as some new ones on top of that, due to the drugs. I just figured it’s better to face it head on and deal with it. The amazing thing about God is, once I surrendered that pain to Him, He was able to replace it with His peace. The Bible calls it “Peace that surpasses all understanding.” Having peace, when by all rights, you should be on the verge of losing your mind.
LWT: That’s very deep. Please explain what you mean when you say “Boy Toy” is your love letter to girls and women who got off to a rough start in life?
CM: I think for those of us who’ve experience rape or other forms of abuse, or were abandoned by one or both parents, or experienced some other setbacks early in life, it is not uncommon to come to the conclusion “I am not loved, not valued. That there must be something wrong with me, otherwise my father wouldn’t have left; or God wouldn’t have let me be abused…” Even if we don’t think it consciously, it may be a belief that operates on our subconscious. Whether it is a conscious or subconscious belief, it can have a tremendous impact on our lives, influencing our choices, our sense of self-worth, relationship decisions, career choices, even the choice to engage in high-risk behaviors, and other things that can have lasting consequences. I found many of the girls I’ve known through my social work days or personally, struggle with the concept that they are loved, valued and therefore, entitled to the best that life has to offer. I feel like God put this story in my heart to remind me, and others like me, that we are loved. We are not damaged goods. In fact, He has loaded us with all kinds of gifts and abilities, as well as a tremendous capacity to love and be loved. We are not forgotten or invisible. In fact God has great plans for each of us. All we have to do is believe it
LWT: Being a survivor of sexual abuse, why is it so important for survivors to not be labeled as having a ruined life?
CM: Imagine if I were to come to your house for a dinner party, and brought along a beautiful chocolate cake. Except, just before I handed it to you I said, “I should warn you, it’s been ruined,” what would you do? How likely are you to set it on the table, and serve it to your guests? Would you be more likely to tuck it away in the kitchen to keep it away from your guest,s and then throw it in the trash after everyone goes home? Perhaps you would be adventurous, and take a chance on the cake. You taste it, and discover that it’s not ruined after all. It was actually very good, and you were so glad that you gave it a chance. It was the label “ruined” that told you everything you needed to know about that cake; and therefore, how you would treat that cake. The same happens when we deal with people. When you hear the words “her life is ruined” or “she’s damaged goods” how do we respond? What are our expectations for that person? Even worse, what are that person’s expectations for herself? If she thinks her life is ruined is she going to set her standards high? Is she going to dream big? Is she going to believe she deserves to be loved, and in loving relationships? It all comes down to our perception. Keep in mind the content of that cake did not change. It was what it was when I gave it to you. The label said “ruined” so either it was perceived as ruined, and set aside to be thrown away later or someone said, “I don’t care what the label says, I want to give it a chance anyway”; only to find it was the best cake ever. Sadly, when it comes to people most of us are not that adventurous, and could be missing out on something really special.
LWT: That is the best analogy I have ever heard for this situation. Now, in “Boy Toy”, Toya goes through several different stages of emotions. Explain why it was necessary for you to show this range of emotions?
CM: I really wanted to take the reader on a journey. Toya was a complex person with complex issues. As a child in foster care, due to sexual abuse, she was not just dealing with the trauma of sexual abuse. She was also dealing with abandonment, separation from her family, the stress of moving from foster home to foster home, on top of all of the normal pressures, and changes that come with adolescence—the transition from girl to womanhood (school, sexuality, relationships, career decisions, etc.). As women, we’ve all had to go through this transitional phase—and most of us had our own additional stressors on top of it (even if it wasn’t abuse). I think it’s something we can all relate to in some way. That’s why, I believe, many of the adult women who have read this book have also been able to connect with it.
LWT: There was a definite connection for me. Tell us, what does the butterfly leaving a cocoon symbolize for Toya?
CM: Toward the end of the story, Toya says that she would never get a tattoo, but if she did get one, it would be the image of a butterfly leaving a cocoon. That is how she saw herself. For so long in her in young life, she felt shrouded by the weight of her past, which masked who she really was—it even masked who she really was from herself. Now, with the help of her new family and friends, with God’s help, she was finally starting to emerge from all of that darkness from her past—her cocoon. Like a butterfly, she was finally starting to blossom into her full beauty. The beauty of her personality, her gifts and talents, and the bright future ahead of her. It was undeniable. Everyone could see it, even Toya.
LWT: Your Pinterest page is very inspiring. What prompted you to make it like a scrapbook for “Boy Toy”?
CM: I was in the process of setting up my website and went online searching for ideas for things to include in my website. I came across this article: “Yes, Fiction Writer Can Develop Awesome Online Platforms, Too” by Lorena Knapp on the website, The Write Life. The article includes a ton of creative ways fiction writers are growing their readership. As an example, it pointed to fantasy author Justine Musk, who makes use of Pinterest as a “planning tool for her next novel.” Since I am a Pinterest junkie, I took a look at it and loved it. For a future book it can be helpful to generate images of things that you want to write about, which helps develop your idea and gives further inspiration. Then after the novel is finished, readers can look at those images on Pinterest and see what the writer envisioned or was inspired by. For example, Boy Toy, there’s a scene where Toya had bought a very sentimental gift for her mother, completely forgetting that her mother didn’t have a sentimental bone in her body. So she had to scramble to find a gift that really spoke to her mother in her native language: MONEY. Toya took her savings and gave the money to her best friend Dwayne to find the perfect gift. He came back with an expensive pair of thigh-high, stiletto, black, leather boots. Toya called them “hooker boots,” but her mother adored them. In searching for the boots on Pinterest, I was blown away by the variety of thigh-high leather boots out there: from the conservative to the out-of-control. In re-reading that portion of the book, it added a whole new level of imagery to my mind as I read about those boots and I hope it does the same for readers too.
LWT: Well your page definitely inspired me to update my Pinterest Page, and I have found it helpful when developing my stories, as well. Why did you name your blog “My Front Porch”?
CM: I had never blogged before, and I was struggling to think of what I would blog about. I thought about the things I enjoy writing about in general, and realized I enjoy writing about being a woman. No offense to men, but I love being a woman! And I think there is so much we can learn from each other. I think some of the best times for me, as a woman, is sitting down on the porch with a hot cup of tea on a cool, fall afternoon; or cool glass of lemonade on a hot summer’s evening, and just talking. Talking about everything from hair care to heartache, and everything in between. It’s where we let our guards down and connect with each other on the common ground of womanhood. I hope that people of all ages will come and share their own wisdom on my blog.
LWT: That is a nice way of looking at life and I think we need to do more sitting on the porch and talking to each other. In your bio you mention your goal is to visit as many beaches as you can. How many have you visited so far? Which ones?
Sadly, I’ve only been to 11 so far. I grew up in South Jersey so I spend a lot of time on the beach in Wildwood. I’ve also been to Stone Harbor, Long Branch and Ocean City. I had an amazing time in Myrtle Beach. In California, I lived right down the street from Venice beach, which I visited as often as I could. But also spent many wonderful days on the beach in Santa Monica, Long Beach and Malibu (breathtaking). Outside of the country, I’ve basked in the sun on the beaches of the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic and never wanted to leave either one. So as you can see, I still have my work cut out for me.
LWT: Indeed, but that’s the fun of it all. Let’s switch gears a little and focus on the business side of writing. Not only do you write books, you write plays. How does the writing process differ?
CM: For me, the play-writing process is a little easier, though it does have its challenges. For play-writing, I don’t have to be nearly as descriptive. In fact, I really only provide enough detail to serve as a road map for the actors and production team (me) to follow. I don’t want to provide too much detail because I want to leave room for the actors to interject their own creativity into the characters. For fiction writing, you have to be much more descriptive. The reader won’t have a stage to look at as the story unfolds. The pages of the book become the stage, so I have to paint the scenery, design the costumes, and portray the characters expressions with my words. The challenge then comes in not just describing but bringing the words to life.
LWT: There is a bigger difference than I realized. Besides novels and plays, do you have plans to write any other genres? If so, which ones?
CM: I’ve written screenplays. In fact, I moved to LA to sell my screenplay, and learn about how things work in “Hollywood.”. I LOVE movies; and I love writing screenplays too. I didn’t sell that screenplay—yet. But I did write a couple of short films (which were produced by some very good friends who are actors). I am confident that one day those screenplays will make it to the big screen. I believe God gave me those stories for a reason. And I’ll always treasure my years spent in LA.
LWT: That is very exciting. It is also a dream of mine to write a screenplay, sell it and see it come to life on the silver screen. Tell us, as an indie author, what has the publishing side of writing looked like for you?
CM: The publishing side of writing has been exciting. As a creative person, all I really want to do is write. I really don’t want to be dealing with marketing, copyrights and royalties. Just let me write. But the lawyer in me recognizes that this is a necessary part of the process. I also like having some degree of control in the decision making that comes with being an Indie writer. Having control over how my book will be marketed, priced, even the cover art, has been very empowering. Thankfully, there are so many other Indie writers out there that are willing to share their resources and lessons learned, which has made this process much more doable.
LWT: I have also found some great authors willing to help. What challenges have you faced along the way?
The biggest challenge I faced as a writer has been perseverance. When you write fiction, you put so much of your heart, soul and time into that book. You spend hours crafting the perfect query letter and researching publishers and agents, and then just put it all out there. Only to be rejected. In many cases, you get the sense that the person didn’t even read your next great novel. I say this not as a critique against agents and publishers: their time is limited and there are a lot of manuscripts out there for them to review. I say this to indicate that sending little bits of yourself out there and getting rejected can take its toll. If writing were dating, there would be a whole lot of lonely, single writers out there. Who could put up with all that rejection? There was a time when I stopped trying. I loved writing, so I was content to write and it didn’t matter to me if anyone ever read anything that I had written, just as long as I got the chance to create new worlds through my words. Then I realized that I was just playing it safe and my God is too big for me to be playing it safe. He wants us to be fearless, to trust Him and see what He can do with even just a little bit of our faith. So I’m back to putting myself out there. If I’m discouraged, I remind myself that it only takes one “yes” to change my whole world. Just ask JK Rowlings or Theodor Seuss Geisel (author of the Dr. Seuss books) and other great writers on literaryrejections.com, to see how many famous authors went through the rejection phase before finally breaking through.
LWT: I am glad you stuck with it. What was your editing process like?
After I finish writing, I put the book aside for a while: a few days or weeks, depending on what else is going on in my life, then come back to it, and edit with a fresh set of eyes. I didn’t have the budget to hire someone to do the editing, but I have been fortunate to have teachers, secretaries and other lawyers in my life, people that have good writing skills and attention to detail, who have volunteered to do some editing for me as well. It doesn’t matter how many eyes have reviewed a piece, multiple times, mistakes do slip through the cracks. It’s just a trick of the human brain that tries to help us out by fixing our mistakes for us in our minds instead of pointing them out to us.
LWT: Please give other indie writers 3 tips that you learned and used during this process?
CM: 1. Let as much time a possible pass between each reread, so that the piece is as fresh and new to you as it possibly can be, and the mistakes will stand out.
- Read it in as many different mediums as possible. Not just on the computer screen, but also print out a hard copy for review. Amazon also allows you to preview your book on an e-reader so you can see what it would look like on Kindle. Just something so simple can give you new perspective and, again make errors stand out.
- If possible, invest the money in a professional editor. I know you can also find them on a site like Craigslist too, but be sure to check out their references and reviews. It can be a pricey, but very worthwhile expense, and if you don’t pick someone of who really knows what they’re doing, you might as well have saved your money and done it yourself. So choose wisely.
LWT: I believe professional editing is worth the money and there are some reasonable ones out there. Share one unique thing you’ve done to market your book?
CM: I can’t say that I’ve done anything unique to market my book. However, I’m constantly on the lookout for ideas of things I can try. Like I said before, thankfully there are many writers out there who are willing to share their ideas, which has been a big help.
LWT: That is exactly why I started doing these interviews. I want indies to learn from each other. Tell the readers the one resource you can’t live without as a writer?
CM: Thesaurus.com. Since we deal in words, it is a writer’s best friend. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stuck for the perfect word to express an idea, just sitting there staring at the screen hoping the word will leap off the screen. I go to Thesaurus.com and Eureka! It’s there, the piece to the puzzle I had been looking for and I can get back into the flow.
LWT: That is a great tool. Name 3 writers who have influenced your writing style?
It’s hard to say what writers have influenced my writing style. I can’t say that I consciously try to emulate anyone’s style in my writing. I can say that I have read a lot of books and I have very eclectic taste in books: I love YA, sci-fi, mysteries, fantasies, legal thrillers, historical fiction, Christian fiction, etc. After reading this question, I went back to my Goodreads account to look back at some of my favorite authors who really stood out to me for their writing style. For example, I love Dean Koontz, because of his pacing. He is a very patient writer; and willing to take his time to allow the story to simmer and then come to a rolling boil. I admire Mark Zusak (the Book Thief), because of his excellent use of language. I find his writing to be imaginative and his ability to turn a phrase is very clever. Finally, I love Gillian Flynn and Karin Slaughter for the same reason. They both have the unique ability to create protagonists that are so flawed that you’re not quite sure you can always root for them, but you are also so intrigued by them that you can’t put the book down. In both authors’ books, I often find myself saying: “Aw man! I can’t believe she/he just did that!” and in the same breath I’ll say: “But hey that’s real. That’s what people do.” I love it!
LWT: That’s what makes a book a good read. What does success look like for you?
CM: Success for me, is sitting on the deck of my dream beach house with my true love, writing another book, inspired by the ocean, the sunset and the first stars appearing on the horizon.
LWT: That sounds like heaven, not success. Lol. What’s up next for Cat?
CM: I am currently process of re-writing my book, “Run Away Love”, which is the first book I ever wrote. It is so deeply personal to me, that I never really thought about publishing it. Yet, I revisit it from time to time and it always speaks to me. I’ve just recently come to the conclusion that if it speaks to me, maybe it will speak to someone else just as much. So I’ve decided to just put it out there. I also have the crime thriller I mentioned earlier that I want to get started on. Finally, I have two plays to produce. I usually produce a play during the summer months, but I took off this summer to focus on my novel. I’m looking forward to getting back into the theater next summer.
There you have it. Another episode of Couch Convos in the books. To find out more about Cat Meyers, please visit her author website and reach out to her on social media at the links below. To purchase her book, Boy Toy click the book cover below:
Author Website – catmeyers.com
Twitter – catresameyers
Pinterest – Catresa007