Sunday, October 25, 2020

Cat Russell and the End of Days: An Interview

Cat Russell is a northeast Ohio writer whose first book I had the honor of publishing last year through Crisis Chronicles Press. Recently, she has also provided invaluable assistance keeping our Cleveland Poetics literary event calendar [see above] up to date. Now Cat has a brand new book out through Venetian Spider Press, and I wanted to talk with her about it.
JB: Thank you so much for agreeing to a brief interview for the Cleveland Poetics blog. Tell me a little about your new book, An Optimist's Journal of the End of Days and Other Stories. Was the title inspired by the Covid-19 pandemic?

Cat Russell: No, it wasn't, although present circumstances certainly make it seem that way! My book is actually a collection of my favorite short stories, mostly flash fiction, that I've written over the past thirteen years.

The title is taken from the first story in the book, which was inspired by the fact that I actually do keep a "Favorite Things" journal. The idea behind the practice is to help you focus on things you appreciate each day, and
as you can imaginewhen things aren't going so well, it's harder to find good things to fill those pages. So I started wondering what I would write in the event of an apocalyptic event.

JB: Well, it certainly feels a bit prescient. One of the many things I find interesting about your book is that it is printed in a font that makes it appear as though it was all written on a typewriter. To me, this makes it all feel more intimate, like I'm getting to read a private manuscript of yours that no one else gets to read. Whose idea was this, yours or your publisher's?

Cat Russell: I always use Courier New font when I'm turning in a manuscript, because of the monospacing. I also have a second reason that's more personal: I use a typewriter-style keyboard, so the aesthetics appeals to me. But my publisher decided to keep the font in the finished book, which I think works really well with the mottled journal-style cover; it gives the impression that each story inside is a journal entry typed on an old fashioned typewriter. In fact, Venetian Spider Press, especially William F. DeVault, deserves full credit for how beautifully the finished product came out!

JB: 2020 has been a tough year for small presses and for authors with new books coming out. Most events have had to be either cancelled, moved to 2021 or conducted online. I know when your previous book, Soul Picked Clean, was released last year you did an impressive array of readings, signings and book fairs around northeast Ohio. How are you adapting with your new book? What are your plans when it comes to An Optimist's Journal of the End of Days and Other Stories?

Cat Russell: I have looked into readings at different libraries and other venues for when restrictions ease and people feel safer gathering for events, but in the meantime I'm mostly doing online events. Last month I read some stories for SpoFest Poetry & Prose, and I also shared my unboxing video online when I received my author copies. I made my readings from other events available on my YouTube channel and promoted on Patreon and social media.

My biggest event that I have planned for 2020 though is Halloween-themed. On Friday, Oct 30th I'm doing a joint reading with three other authors called the "Spooky BOOKtacular." James Bryant, the host of SpoFest, will kick the event off at 7pm EST, and then I will pick up the baton at 7:30, followed by horror writers Faryl (8:30) and S.T. Hoover (9:30). It's set up like a blog tour, but for FaceBook Live, so people can join by clicking the individual event link for each author, with 15 minute breaks between readings. Since so many authors I know can't do a traditional book launch this year, this seemed like a fun way for us to mutually promote and support each other.

I also have some tentative things lined up for later in the year, but I'm honestly not sure how things will work out for any in-person events. I would like to do some online holiday sales though. Since the book has a lot of stories in different genres, I think it would make a nice gift for other bibliophiles of pretty much any taste.

JB: I look forward to the Spooky BOOKtacular! Thank you again, Cat, for agreeing to this interview. It's always a pleasure to chat with you. Is there anything else that you'd like to add before we sign off?

Cat Russell: Thank you so much for this opportunity! I really appreciate it, and I hope everyone is getting through these difficult times as best they can.

I know it can feel lonely with all the social distancing and event cancellations, especially for those of us who get our energy and inspiration from being around others, so it's nice to know we can reach out to each other online or even with just the phone. This is such a supportive community, I'm very thankful to be a part of it. And it's a pleasure talking to you too!

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Don't forget to tune into the
Spooky BOOKtacular on October 30th 2020.

Buy a signed copy of An Optimist's Journal of the End of Days and Other Stories direct from the author: ($29.95 and please be sure to include your mailing address).

And for more Cat Russell, check out these links:

Amazon Author Page:
Cat's Patreon:
Writing Blog:
Personal Twitter:
Author Twitter:
Author Facebook:

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The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau