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Interview with Author Catherine MacDonald



1) Please tell us about what you like to write? List your websites, what you do and anything else you'd like our readers and writers to know about you. (Please list your accomplishments too).

I like to write stories about women who overcome odds, who look struggles squarely in the face and go forward. My own website is and my daily blog is where I illustrate my struggles with following the seven steps of The Way, which was a number one best seller on Amazon in July 2010. A former teacher for twenty-five years, I have taught everything from first grade to English 102 in college. I created the first novel writing course at Truckee Meadows Community College and taught the Artist Way. I was the former vice-president of the Romance Writers of Nevada, before we disbanded. I have a Masters Degree in Education, which has come in handy, as I own, operate, and manage (along with my husband) Sierra RV Super Center. I write my own radio commercials, and am known around the industry as the RV Lady.

2) Tell us about your new book, Seasons of the Vineyard.

Seasons of the Vineyard is about a woman coming home to herself, her family, and coming to terms with her past. Like all of us, Francesca has parts of her past she doesn't want to acknowledge, but life is funny. It puts them in our face, whether we want to deal with them or not. She must deal with the failing vineyard, her father's dementia, her old lover, and her teenage son. Francesca is a collector of famous quotes, and she gathers her daily strength from them. Francesca rediscovers that the rhythms of the vineyard are deeply restorative and she becomes convinced she wants to resurrect the vineyard and prove everyone wrong. She is willing to do just about anything to prove she can be a world-class vintner--even if that means sleeping with the bad boy of the Sonoma Valley. Of course this develops problems with Enrico, the foreman and her former lover. He abandons her and the besieged vineyard and she is left to fend for herself, but is determined to uncover the secret of the Zinfandel wine that once made the vineyard famous. This wine will allow her to become a renowned vintner, but the secret is buried with her mother. The progression of the book follows Francesca as she saves the vineyard, uncovers the secret of the Zinfandel, deals with the past, and comes to terms with her true love.

3) Do you have anything else in the works? Can you tell us about that?

Yes. I have been working on a book called The Divorce Ranch, set in Nevada in the 1930s. Not far from my house, are several former divorce ranches. Divorce was big business in Nevada in the 1930s and the time period fascinates me. I've also started thinking about a sequel to Seasons of the Vineyard: Bella Serrano, The Tale of the Zin. For the moment, it's marinating in my mind.

4) Can you tell us a bit about yourself? What are your interests and what do you do for fun?

My interests are varied. I love to hike. I practice yoga. I love to play in my art studio and of course I'm always reading. I own and operate my own business, and in my free time I love to spend with my family. I've been happily married for thirty-five years and I am the mother of two grown children. I have a wonderful son-in-law and two adorable grandchildren to which I am Nana.

5) I am excited about a possible sequel to Seasons of the Vineyard. I really enjoyed that book. The Divorce Ranch sounds fascinating. Can you tell us a bit more about it? Was the ranch for getting divorces?

The Divorce Ranch, set in the 30s, is set on a ranch where people did come and wait out their six weeks to obtain a divorce. Nevada passed a law in 1931 (I think) that required six weeks residency to obtain a divorce. This was during the depression, and was a huge boom for the economy. An entire cottage industry developed. Many famous people came from around the world to get a quickie divorce. In my novel, I have three main characters: an actress, a New York socialite, and a woman from San Francisco. The owner of the ranch accompanied women (and men) to the courthouse to inform the judge that the person was indeed in residency for the required six weeks.

6) What kind of challenges do you find in writing?

Time proves to be a challenge for me. In the slower season, I take writing Tuesdays when I don't leave the mountain and stay up there and write. Currently, it is prime season and writing takes more effort. I find I am more creative in the morning before the noise of the day gets me.

7) What do you find more difficult about the writing process? Characters? Dialogue? Setting? Etc.?

I know it might sound funny, but for me, I need a working title. My subconscious flows when the right cornerstone is in my mind. Then, the "shitty first draft" (Anne Lamott) is the next hurdle. Once I have a template, it's easier. I think of the first draft as the frame of the story. It changes from there.

8) What writing processes do you like the best?

Writing Processes: making the time to "sit". Which I interpret, is spend the time actually writing. Many people want to write. We all have "that story" inside us, but we need to take the time to write. Yep--that self-discipline. Thank God for the nuns!

9) Do you have a set formula you use? Outline?

No. I don't use a formula, although, the hero's journey, for me, has followed the story arch for some of my novels. Maybe I'm a three-act layperson, but Joseph Campbell's work has been a template.

10) What advice would you give a first time writer?

WRITE! Many years ago I told a person I wanted to be a writer and she suggested I carve out a half hour a day and start writing. At that point, and I was very young. I had two little kids, a full time teaching career, a husband and business, and I couldn't wrap my head around that profound statement. But several years later, I read The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron, and I started writing. My life didn't change, but I changed.


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