Editor. Author. Publisher. Deadhead. Voracious reader. Adventurer!? This edition of Fistful of Questions goes to the inspirational Catherine Lundoff.
What is your full name?
Do you have any aliases?
I do! I also write erotica and erotic romance as Emily L. Byrne. I split Emily off for marketing purposes and to avoid chats with HR (I started writing under my own name before search engines existed).
Do you currently or have you ever played any musical instruments?
I played the flute for a couple of years in high school. I “had some promise,” to quote my music teacher, but also read that as “don’t quit your day job.” I have occasionally sort of played the pennywhistle and I made a short-lived and ill-fated attempt to learn how to play the accordion a number of years ago.
Tell me about one of your first musical memories?
This was a tough one. Probably listening to my parent’s distinctly eclectic record collection? It ranged from opera to Broadway show tunes and sundry Irish music. And Tom Lehrer, who continues to be pretty great.
Do you recall one of the first books that you read?
The first book I read on my own was Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. My mother wasn’t reading it fast enough and I wanted to know what happened next!
Did you enjoy reading as a teenager?
I have read voraciously since I learned how to read—-and have a handwritten journal listing every book that I’ve read since I was 10 years old, including rereads. It’s up to 2 volumes now.
Was there an “aha” moment when you decided you wanted to be a writer?
I was in the midst of an accelerated law school semester and every time I walked into the kitchen, dishes would slide off the countertop and break without anyone touching them. I was worried that misery was making me telekinetic and my wife suggested I try writing a book (nonfiction). I decided I would also try writing some fiction. The first story I wrote got accepted and I quit law school the next day.
What inspired you to start Queen of Swords Press?
It was a combination of being a thing that I really wanted to try and various issues I’d had with other publishers. My exact comment when I started talking to people about it was: “I cannot possibly be more dysfunctional than some of the people I’ve been dealing with.”
What inspired the name Queen of Swords?
The Queen of Swords is a tarot card and I once saw it described as “a woman who is not to be trifled with,” which is very much me. I don’t have any intentions of publishing anything tarot-related at this point in time, but you never know what might show up. But basically, it’s my signifier, the “Me” card when I get card readings from other people or do tarot readings for myself. The fact that there wasn’t another publishing company using it when I started was also helpful.
What are some upcoming releases from Queen of Swords?
My novel, Blood Moon, will be out on 3/15/21 – with more menopausal werewolves! This is the sequel to my novel, Silver Moon, and I’m really hoping that people like it as much or better than the first book. Later on this year, we’ll be publishing Foxhunt by New Zealand author Rem Wigmore and Obviously, Aliens by Minnesota author Jennie Goloboy. Foxhunt is set on an Earth that’s experienced ecological collapse is a century or two into rebuilding itself; “postapocalyptic hopepunk,” to use current genre terminology. It’s charming and hopeful and beautifully written and I think people are really going to like it. Aliens is Jennie’s first novel and it’s about an artist who goes on a roadtrip with aliens, full of body switches, evil plumbing executives and a bunch of other fun things. I’m very happy to be adding to my roster of Minnesota authors too!
The release of your book Blood Moon is just over the horizon. How long did it take you to write it?
A while, she says hesitantly. I started it back in 2013, but then a bunch of things happened, so I didn’t really get back to it until 2018 or so. I did put out several collections of short fiction, edited an anthology, put out a different novel under another name, wrote a bunch of short stories and started my own publishing company in the meantime though. Plus day job, family stuff and a bunch of other things. Given all that, super excited and feeling very accomplished to have finally finished this book.
What inspired you to write a book about werewolves and did you envision it as a series of books from the beginning?
Well, werewolves rock and back in 2010 or so, I got invited to write a story for anthology of queer female werewolf novellas. A lot of the female werewolf stories at the time focused on young women who were either hereditary lycanthropes or who were bitten and changed pretty early in their lives (Ginger Snaps, etc.) and I wanted to do something different. I ran across an online medical site that made menopause sound like lycanthropy and went from there. Then the original novella grew into a novel and then I realized it needed a sequel (polite reminders from fans helped clarify that too!). I’ve already seen two early reviews asking when book three will be coming along, so I’d better get moving on that!
Can you take me through your writing process (how does an idea become a short story/novel… do you write daily)?
*Giggles exhaustedly* Um, no. I write when I get a chance to write and try to carve out a few hours a week. Between day job, publishing tasks and teaching classes, I’m already putting in anywhere from 50-70 hours a week to keep a roof over our heads and keep all the other stuff I’m juggling from collapsing. A lot of my short fiction is commissioned (requested by an editor) for specific markets so it’s very deadline driven. These days, if I’m writing for funzies, it’s either very short stories or something I’m hoping will be a novel when it grows up. I just finished a historic pirate/spy in the 17th century Caribbean story (commissioned) for a podcast and am working on a novel in progress for our Patreon and a couple of short stories for different publications. How can I tell the difference? Practice! It gets to be pretty obvious when there isn’t enough story there for something bigger.
How important is a book’s cover art?
Very important. People will buy a book based on the cover art alone so you want it to be as good as you can possibly get. I use cover art to tie series books together (same artists for each book, similar style and colors) as well as to make a book standout. We’ve gotten to work with some great artists so far and I’m looking forward to what this year brings.
What’s the best thing about being a writer?
Writing! In a good session, when the words are really flowing and you can see the story taking shape, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I enjoy rewriting too because it’s a great opportunity to make a story better.
What’s the worst thing about being a writer?
Not writing! Like most writers, I spend most of my time doing other things: day job, teaching, publishing, etc. I would love to be able to spend more time writing.
You seem to have irons in a lot of fires. Do you consider yourself to be an organized person?
I used to be? I sometimes am? There is always a plan, with many divergent tributaries. And there are spreadsheets and pages of notes and a reminder system. And checklists. I like a good checklist. I also have a real live human assistant who reminds me about things.
Can you give some tips and tricks that you use to stay organized?
I did just get a certification in Project Management; I’m waiting for it to take, as it were.
If you could insert yourself into any one band what band would it be and why?
Well, that would involve me kidding myself about my musical talent, but as long as I could slink about in the background, maybe steampunk Goth band Abney Park. I’ve been watching their streaming shows this year (I saw them live before that) and they always seem to be having a good time. I also like their sartorial style.
Have you ever heard a song or album and been inspired to write because of it? If yes.. What was the song or album?
Definitely! I do almost all my writing to music and have been inspired to many a story at live shows. For writing purposes, I really like rocked up folk so Boiled in Lead, Garmarna and Hedningarna, Fiamma Fumana, Steeleye Span, Richard Thompson, Stan Rogers, The Decemberists, etc. I’ve written a story based on Archie Fisher’s “The Witch of West-Mer-Lands” and probably something else that I’m forgetting about.
The year is 1979. Where are you at and what are you listening to?
I am sixteen years old and I’m sneaking into Grateful Dead concerts with my stoner friends. 4 years later, I’m into Adam Ant and the New Romantic thing and the Talking Heads. And painting stripes on my face and doing the whole 80s thing.
What advice would you give writers that are just starting their writing journey?
Rewriting is your friend and loves you and wants you to be happy. Write the story, rewrite the story as much as is required, then stop and do something with the story. Take a chance, see what happens.
What are two things that people need to know about Minneapolis?
1. The creative scene is incredible, even during a Plague Year: so much art, storytelling, writing, music, painting, snow sculptures, you name it. People keep making things and sharing them.
2. It has its own weird magic, even under current circumstances. There’s a fantasy novel called War for the Oaks by Emma Bull about musicians and a Fae war and it’s set in Minneapolis in the 1980s and it probably comes closest to capturing the glamour of the place. I mean, apart from sitting through Purple Rain again. We moved here because I read that novel and wanted to live somewhere that would inspire me to write my own version of that.
What’s the longest time you’ve gone without bathing?
A couple of days, mostly due to facilities not being available when I was living on a campsite (I used to be a professional archaeologist and traveled around a lot) or being nonexistent (I’ve spent some time traveling outside the U.S.)
What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?
Probably that I’ve gone days at a time without bathing?
Is the Fistful of DOOM show in the top 10 of your favorite music podcasts?
Do unicorns sleep standing up?
Sure, why not?
You’re driving cross-country and you can only listen to one album the whole time. What album will it be?
I have done a version of this. ABBA’s Greatest Hits – you never stop singing. Even when you want to.
You’re trapped on a deserted island for a year. You can only take one book with you. What book will it be?
How to Survive on a Desert Island. I can, after all, create my own fiction.
You are writing a book about your life thus far. What is the title of that book?
Burn Before Reading: The Catherine Lundoff Story.
What are five Steampunk titles that everybody should read?
Murder on the Titania and Other Steam-Powered Adventures by Alex Acks
Wireless and More Steam-Powered Adventures by Alex Acks
Pimp My Airship by Maurice Broaddus
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
Clockwork Cairo edited by Matthew Bright
(interviewer’s note.. I’ve read three of the five and they are delightfully good)
Do you have a favorite fictional pirate?
She was probably fictional, but may have been based on a real person or several. Jacquotte dela Haye was sometimes known as “Back from the Dead Red,” due to an incident where she faked her own death. Possibly biracial, possibly a pirate captain, possibly the founder of her own freebooter republic, the list goes on. I have a series of stories up on the LHMPodcast about her and hope to write some more!
What is your favorite song by Prince?
Depending on my mood, 1999 or Let’s Go Crazy.
Billy Joel or Elton John (if you had to choose)?
Elton John. Though Billy is something of a hometown favorite (I’m originally from Brooklyn, NY), so he is the soundtrack of portions of my youth and all that.
Doobies or Boobies (if you had to pick one)?
Boobies. My dooby days are long past. Welcome to middle-aged queer straight edge.
Waffles or Pancakes (if you had to pick one)?
Waffles. With lots of fruit and whipped cream
Star Wars or Star Trek (if you had to choose)?
Mad Max: Fury Road? I mean, I like the original 3 movies and I like some of Star Trek, particularly Deep Space Nine, but it’s not like either is my all-time favorite thing.
Favorite band t-shirt you own?
My friends’ two teenage daughters formed a punk band called “Loki’s Folly” and before lockdown, they opened for Soul Asylum on the main stage at First Avenue. I am the proud owner of a Loki’s Folly t-shirt with their logo spray painted on with a stencil and their signatures written in silver marker. The kids, as they say, are all right.
I like a lot of different things, but chicken wings from a moderately seedy bar are always comfort food.
I have a LOT of favorite books! They morph and change and things get added on as I go. Top five by authors who are no longer with us: Persuasion by Jane Austen, The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, The Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer, Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini and The Adventures of Alyx by Joanna Russ.
Got a lot of favorite movies too! Top five, this week: Cold Comfort Farm, Wing Chun, Impromptu, The Assasination Bureau and The Lion in Winter (1968).
Guds spelemän by Garmarna.
Great questions! Thanks for hosting me!
This has been by far one of the favorite interviews that I have done (and to think that I was a little nervous about doing it…). I marvel at what Catherine has been able to accomplish thus far. Big thanks to Catherine for taking the time to answer my questions. I’m deeply appreciative. Be sure to check out Queen of Swords Press. You are guaranteed to find a well crafted adventurous read with memorable characters. Also, grab a copy of Catherine’s latest book Blood Moon because…. werewolves.
~El Pedo Caliente (aka Uncle Jameson host of the Fistful of DOOM show)