Wednesday, March 9, 2011

An Interview with Kathy Cano-Murillo, Author of Miss Scarlet's School of Patternless Sewing


1. When and why did you begin writing?
The first time I had that rush, or sense of belonging with writing was in fifth grade. Around that time I used to love to read Erma Bombeck's humor essays in the newspaper. My language arts teacher gave us a weekly assignment to write a story and then draw a matching picture. I looked forward to that assignment every week. I observed my family and took little scenarios and made them into humor essays. I knew I had a good one when my teacher would invite me to read it in front of the class. Of course my parents were horrified when they went to parent-teacher conferences and had the teachers tell them all about it. On the drive home, my folks were like, "I can't believe you wrote that for a school paper!"

I went on to journalism and yearbook all through high school. My dream was to be a features reporter for The Arizona Republic. It took a lot of work (almost 9 nine years), but I did it! I loved writing articles, reviewing movies, books and concerts. I also started blogging in 2003, where I wrote essays about crazy things that went down in my life. Happy, funny things. I just love to write, any outlet I can find, I go for it. Around the time I started my blog, I knew I wanted to write a novel. I always wanted to, but didn't have the confidence. I'm a very project-oriented person. I put my mind to something and go full force. After outlining for a year, I knew I needed a kick in the butt, so I joined National Novel Writing Month. It worked! That was in 2004. My book finally hit store shelves last year!

2. I'd venture to say that crafting is your first love.  What was it that drove you to combine your love of crafting and writing?
Many people think that. Writing was my first love. That's what I excelled in at school, I used to get Cs and Ds in art class! Never in a million years did I ever think I would make a living by being an artist and crafter. I think that's why I spent 13 years as a newspaper reporter, I did my crafts on the side. I didn't think I was good enough to do  it as a "real" job. I do know I enjoyed it immensely and I often think of my grade school and high school art teachers that discouraged me. That's why I preach to people to create because they want to, and not to think about being judged, just let yourself be happy and enjoy the process.

Combining writing and crafts came so natural for me, I love both. I love the stories I hear about the ladies who are in the craft industry, and art enthusiasts in general. They make things because they are releasing emotion and passion! My books are about what happens before the jar of glue is opened.

3. Your lead characters in Waking Up in the Land of Glitter and Miss Scarlet's School of Patternless Sewing are such strong women, much stronger than women we usually see in chick lit.  Would you classify your books as such?  Are Star and Scarlet based on people you know?
Thank you! I call my style contemporary Latina fiction, or else "crafty lit." I want to show positive, creative role models. Star is a little bit of me when I was her age in the book. I started off judgy and 'all talk' and had to be humbled. As far as Scarlet, at first I didn't think I had anything in common with her, but now that I've had time to step back,I do see some of my experiences in her story. Like the way her family never seems impressed by what she does, and how she refuses to give in to the easiest route. And the coffee! I really did taste VIA coffee grounds to get more energy, just like Scarlet.

4. Have you seen a lot of crossover between your crafting fans and readers of your books?
With this second book, I really am. I did have a lot of crafters who didn't have time to read novels (because they were crafting!) take time to read mine. I love when they tell me how reading my book motivated them to read other books. That was always my goal - to get crafters reading and readers to try crafts! I was worried there would be snobby book people that would not respect me as a novelist because of my craft background, but luckily I've only encountered one or two of those. They assume I started crafting and then tacked on a writing career like Snookie or Lauren Conrad. It feels good to tell them, "Actually, I spent 13 years as a newspaper reporter and have almost 10 years of essays on my personal blog!"

That's why I always tell people, in order to stay relevant you have to reinvent yourself every so often to keep the interest. Try new things, challenge yourself, make people raise their eyebrows at your accomplishments because they underestimated you. Show them what you can do! As far as crossover - so far it's working! I think anything we, as authors, can do to build the book market and keep it thriving the better - especially if glitter is involved!

5. Is there a message in your novels that you want readers to grasp?
My messages are always about honoring family, having your girlfriend's back, not settling for easy, letting go of your fears so you can fly and have a magical, wonderful life...on that journey you may encounter heartbreak or tragedy or set backs, but the only choice is to move forward and learn from it! I love happy endings!

 About the author 
With a life motto of “Crafts! Drama! Glitter!” Crafty Chica Kathy Cano-Murillo is a creative force of nature. A former syndicated columnist for The Arizona Republic, she is the founder of the award-winning Web site, and the author of seven nonfiction craft books and a Web series on Kathy has a Crafty Chica line of art supplies that are sold nationwide. She also has been featured in numerous media outlets such as The New York Times Magazine, NPR’s Weekend Edition, USA Today, Bust, and Latina magazine.

For more on Kathy, visit her website The Crafty Chica, like her Facebook page or follow her on Twitter @CraftyChica.

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