Interview with A.J. Cattapan
A.J. Cattapan is a writer and teacher who lives in the Chicago area. Today she answers questions about herself and Angelhood, a young adult supernatural/fantasy book. Angelhood won a Gold Medal in the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards for Young Adult Fiction—Religion/Spirituality and an Honorable Mention from Readers’ Favorite Book Awards.
How did you choose the title?
The title came to me the day the idea for the story came to me. The whole thing came tumbling out pretty quickly. I was in the shower of all places, and by the time I stepped out of the shower and onto my purple bath mat, I thought, “And the book will be called Angelhood.” Considering how few authors actually get to keep the title of their book, I was pretty excited that the title came right away, and that my publisher liked it!
How would you describe the book to someone in a text message?
“It’s a Wonderful Life” for teens: one guardian angel, two missing wings, three souls to save.
Who is your main character and what problem does she face?
Seventeen-year-old Nanette wanted a life on Broadway but when her dream college rejected her, she begins to believe the world would be better off without her. However, the afterlife offers less than a heavenly situation. She becomes a guardian angel to another teen contemplating suicide, and she must find a way to reach her even though she’s missing not only her wings but a tangible body and voice with which to communicate.
What might draw someone to your character?
Nanette is a very down-to-earth girl. She’s not perfect, she’s a bit snarkey, but she tries to do what’s right, and she’s very protective of those she cares about.
What prompted you to write this book?
I was facing a difficult point in my writing career. Although I’d had some success in writing for children’s magazines, my two previous attempts at a novel had failed. I wondered if I’d ever have a writing career. That’s when I suddenly got an idea for a story about a teenage girl whose acting career seems over before it’s begun.
What did you bring to the book from your own life?
Well, Nanette is a theater geek, and I was a theater geek in high school. In fact, I did a fair amount of community theater after college, too.
What makes your book stand out from other books like it?
There are many books about teen suicide, but I wanted a book that would offer hope for teens. A lot of books on teen suicide don’t leave you any better off than when you started them. I wanted to show that our faith gives us any chance, gives us hope.
What is one thing you learned from writing this book?
Sometimes the best ideas come at the last minute!
When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A teacher (did that!), then a writer (did that!), then a psychicatrist (haven’t done that!), then back to a writer and a teacher.
Do you still want to be a teacher, writer and psychicatrist?
I’m still a writer and a teacher, so I guess it worked out, and I’m working on an Ed.D. (an education doctorate) so I guess I’ll be a doctor one day too, just not the psychiatrist kind of doctor.J
When did you know you wanted to be an author?
In the sixth grader after reading Anne of Green Gables. I wanted to write something that would affect others as emotionally as Anne’s story affected me.
What books have influenced you most?
Anne of Green Gables, Harry Potter, A Wrinkle in Time, The Westing Game.
What’s the most times you’ve read a book and why?
I’ve read all the Harry Potter books at least twice (the first in German, too!), but I think I’ve read Anne of Green Gables at least three or four times.
What are three unusual things about you your readers might not know?
· I’ve taken all the Wilton cake decorating classes, so I can make you a tiered masterpiece.
· I didn’t get on a plane until I was twenty-four, but now I love to travel, and if I had more time and money, I’d travel the world!
· I have four brothers and no sisters, and I actually loved growing up that way. They didn’t treat me like a princess, and they didn’t tease me (too much!). They treated me like one of them.
What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?
Ziplining from one mountain to another in Guatemala. Either that or traveling by myself to Italy for two weeks to study Italian.
Do you have life philosophy? Favorite verse?
To quote from the movie Auntie Mame: “Life’s a banquet and most poor fools are starving to death.” I refuse to starve. God has given us a wonderful planet filled with amazing adventures. Let’s make the most of our time here together.
What advice would you give a teen who wants to be a writer?
Keep writing and keep reading. Writing is something you get better at with practice. Read the kinds of books you want to write and then practice, practice, practice. Then read some books on the writing craft and go back and revise, revise, revise.
Want to connect with A.J.?
To buy Angelhood