Amy Cattapan is the latest inductee into our author hall-of-fame with her debut novel, Angelhood. And as you know, we non-adults at the Scriblerians do our interviews old-school slam book style.
Amy writes – So excited to join the slam book! Here are my answers:
I write under the pen name A.J. Cattapan, but nobody really calls me by my initials. I just like following in the footsteps of other children’s writers like J.K. Rowling, L.M. Montgomery, and C.S. Lewis. I’ve had a few close friends who have occasionally referred to me as “Ames.” An even smaller circle of friends in high school who ran cross country with me could get away with calling me “Bulldog.” Our coach gave me the nickname. I asked if it was a reference to my looks. (I was very self-conscious of my pimples, frizzy hair, and thick glasses.) But Coach said he called me Bulldog because I wouldn’t quit, so I was okay with the nickname.
I like the philosophy of the character Auntie Mame by the play of the same name: “Life’s a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death.” Auntie Mame didn’t believe in starving, and neither do I. God has given us a beautiful world with many wonders to behold. Why not appreciate all He’s given us?
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe, plans to give you a future full of hope.”
See Auntie Mame quote above. 🙂 Side note: It was also a favorite quote of my high school theater teacher, and for those who’ve read Angelhood, you can guess what she meant to me.
In high school I was a…
theater geek! But we can discuss that more in your later questions.
Do you see yourself a Christian author or an author of Christian fiction? What do you think the difference is?
This is a tough one. I didn’t set out to write a Christian book. In fact, when I wrote Angelhood, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as Christian fiction. My faith just seems to seep into my writing one way or another, whether it comes out pretty directly or symbolically. That being said, I guess I’d consider myself a Christian author, meaning that I’m a writer who happens to be Christian, and if that influences my writing, so be it.
Angelhood is about a girl who commits suicide. What inspired you to cover this tough topic?
In the eighth grade, we had to write a research paper. We could write about anything: the history of our favorite sports team, an important event in history, our favorite animal. I could’ve written about the legend of the unicorn or how rainbows are formed. But no. I chose teen suicide as my topic. Seriously, I don’t know what was wrong with me. Or maybe nothing was wrong with me. Maybe when we’re young we just have morbid fascinations. I’ve seen plenty of my middle school students reach for the books about teen suicide and child abuse. I guess I just wanted to offer a book about suicide that also offers hope. So many contemporary books on the topic end simply with more sadness. I always have to believe there’s hope for something better.
Nanette is into drama. As a former theatre geek, (GEKE) I have to know is this something you share with your heroine?
As mentioned above, yes I was a theater (or should I say theatre?) geek in high school. My fascination with the theater began in the sixth grade when my mom took me to see Guys and Dolls at our local high school. It was all so magical to me. When high school rolled around, the theater program was the one thing to pull me out of my shy shell. I worked stage crew, acted in many plays and skits, and even directed a one-act play my senior year. After college, I did a number of community theater shows and even performed a small role in a professional production of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, so I can cross “Get paid to act” off my bucket list. 🙂
Warren is an interesting character. Is there something you can reveal about Warren that doesn’t appear on the pages?
Oh, I know how you love Warren! Okay, here’s a couple little tidbits. I picked the name Warren because it means “Guard.” Good name for a guardian angel, right? And then for his looks, I went to Google images and just started looking up pictures of guys named Warren. I found a photo of the actor Warren Beatty when he was young, and I thought, “Yep. That’s it! That’s my leading man.” LOL! That’s why Warren has such a throwback look. He’s based off a 1950s photo of Warren Beatty!
Speaking of Warren, is there a chance we’ll get his story?
My, you really do love Warren! Oh, Gretchen, if God ever sends me the right story idea for Warren, I’ll write it just for you! In the meantime, as I told a teen who interviewed me on a podcast, I’m not going to write a sequel just to write a sequel. I’ve seen too many authors write bad sequels just for the sake of “cashing in.” If the right story idea comes along for a sequel, I’ll write it. In the meantime, you may have to use your imagination for Warren. 🙂
How long have you been writing?
I have evidence of stories I wrote back in the third grade (really bad stories), and I’ve written a variety of things (poems, screenplays, stories) here and there over the years, but I would say that I’ve only gotten really serious about publication for the last 10-11 years. That’s when I started taking classes on writing for children. That eventually led to a few magazine pieces being sold, and that led to trying my hand at novel writing. Angelhood was my third novel. I have four in total, but only Angelhood has sold so far.
Angelhood takes the perspective of a person dying and becoming an angel. This isn’t scriptural and yet the story is otherwise orthodox. Without spoiling it, what would you tell a reader to who wants to put the book down because of this?
This is a tough but excellent question, and I’m glad you asked. Even my oldest brother, who wrote to me after the first few chapters to tell me he was enjoying it, said that he could “nit-pick the theology” because people don’t really become guardian angels, but hey it worked for “It’s a Wonderful Life,” right? Yes, you have to take my story as it is . . . just a story. If people are willing to go along with Clarence Oddbody becoming an angel for the sake of that story’s message, why not play along with the same idea for mine? In the end, my story is fiction. It’s not meant to be a nonfiction explanation of angels. Rather, it’s a symbolic story of God’s unending mercy and His unfailing presence in our lives–if only we’re willing to seek Him.
Thank you A.J. for sharing some details about Angelhood! I loved Angelhood. It’s a Wonderful Life is my favorite movie. Anyone who likes this movie will like Angelhood. While the plot is different, it’s a similar story showing the value of every life.
What is your favorite book and/or movie about angels?