I met Cavanaugh Lee at the Printer’s Row Lit Fest in Chicago back in June. She was part of the Women of the Write panel — and she was funny and smart with more than a hint of a Southern accent. When I learned more about Cavanaugh and her book, I knew it would be great to have her as part of our growing community on Women’s Fiction Writers. It’s a brave new world of books out there — written and read in so many ways. Cavanaugh’s book — written in emails, Facebook statuses and texts, braves that new frontier with gusto!
And, yes, I’ll admit that every time I hit “Save Draft” while working on posting this interview — I chuckled. It doesn’t take much, you know.
Cavanaugh’s interview and book are sure to inspire and invigorate you! Please welcome her to Women’s Fiction Writers!
Interview with Women’s Fiction Author, Cavanaugh Lee
ASN: Welcome, Cavanaugh! To start, can you share with us your writing and publishing journey?
CL: My writing and publishing journey was a whirlwind. I wrote my first novel, Save As Draft, from January to May 2009. I sent out my query letter to a zillion agents from May to July 2009. On July 4 (a day I’ll never forget), I signed with my agent. By early September, I had a book deal with Simon & Schuster. Save As Draft was released in hard cover on February 1, 2011. Like I said, it was a whirlwind!
ASN: Your novel, Save As Draft, is a combination of emails, texts and Facebook statuses. What challenges (if any) did you encounter while writing and turning electronic communication into a novel with all the components novels need — the arcs, the multidimensional characters, the subplots etc?
CL: The “novel” is a constantly evolving literary “form” so it seemed only fitting in this digital day and age to write Save As Draft in electro-epistolary style, especially given the subject matter of the book, which is that the over-saturation of the internet has both inhibited and improved our communication skills in interpersonal relationships. The only challenges I encountered along the way were in regards to character development. I had to be a little more creative in how I introduced my characters to the reader since I didn’t have the luxury of simply saying, “Izzy had brown hair and hazel eyes…etc. and so forth.” It made me work harder in that I had to expose more by saying less. I also had to pick and choose the most important characteristics I wanted to describe since I only had an email or text message to convey what I wanted. I didn’t have paragraphs; instead, I had word limits, LOL! This said, I had to make sure I knew what was most important.
ASN: When I met you at Printer’s Row Lit Fest in Chicago, a lot of talk that day was about women’s fiction being “feminine tosh.” Would you share with WFW how you combat — and if you combat — this perception of women’s fiction?
CL: I really don’t see women’s fiction any different than any other type of fiction. It’s a genre, like any other genre, with the same messages. When you get right down to it, books are about characters – people – all of whom share the same vulnerabilities, flaws, and idiosyncrasies, be they women, men, animals or even superheroes. It’s all about their quirks. That’s what makes a story interesting.
ASN: I also learned at Printer’s Row that Save As Draft is based on your personal break-up experience. How did you make fact into fiction? Did the lines blur? Do people “believe” it’s fiction?
CL: Save As Draft is loosely based on real life events, whether readers want to believe it or not. Either way, the only thing that matters to me is that people in their own unique way “relate” to something in it. It’s also important that they are entertained. I spelled out in my acknowledgements: “I hope you enjoy Save As Draft. More than that though, I hope you can learn from my mistakes. All of us (yes, even the most cynical) really are in this to fall in love – to find the one. It’s certainly not easy, but a few helpful hints along the way make it a little easier. I hope I’ve provided some tips or, at the very least, a fun heartfelt read for a few moments out of your otherwise crazy high-tech life.”
ASN: Can you share with us what you’re working on now?
CL: I just finished writing my second novel which is, believe it or not, a legal drama. A writer has to write what she’s inspired to write and shouldn’t feel pigeonholed by genres. I needed a break from writing about love. I wrote Save As Draft when I was curious about love and why it’s so hard to find it in this modern electronic day. I answered a lot of my questions by writing Save As Draft. The past year, I’ve been curious about my experience as a prosecutor. So, I’ve written about that – justice and the law and what it means to be guilty and not guilty. Recently, however, I’ve been curious about love again so…I have no doubt my third book will be a romance. 😉
ASN: Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you have writing rituals?
CL: I’m such a plotter. I take copious notes, I plan things in advance, I prepare a structure. Then, I completely improvise within that structure. Having an outline gives me the freedom to experiment and let my imagination run. All writers are different though…
ASN: What is women’s fiction to you — and what is it not?
CL: Women’s fiction is a novel that seemingly addresses “women’s issues.” I’m still trying to figure out what “women’s issues” are though…giggle giggle…
ASN: What’s your best advice specifically for aspiring authors of women’s fiction?
CL: Write what you are curious about at all times. Kathryn Stocket said it best in The Help: “Write about what disturbs you. Particularly if it bothers no one else.”
After graduating top of her high school class in San Francisco, Cavanaugh Lee decided to “go for it” and moved to Los Angeles to become an actress. After graduating from UCLA School of Theater, she worked steadily as a “wactress” (waitress/actress) for four years, writing and producing an autobiographical play called ROCKSTARNERD and authoring a screenplay. True love (or so she thought) then led her to the deep south of Mississippi, but when the relationship crashed and burned she changed course and soon found herself graduating from UNC School of Law.
Now, by day, she works as a prosecutor in Savannah, Georgia. She writes, of course, by night. After recently toying in the world of cyber-dating, finding true love, becoming engaged, and then becoming unengaged (yes, he’s got the ring, she’s got the dress), she decided to parlay her modern romance experiences into a hilarious, heart wrenching novel that all young women (and men) will relate to and enjoy.
Oh, and by the way, this girl’s still very single so count on a sequel!