Sunday, February 3, 2013
Blondies, Books, and Beth Cato
When you meet Beth Davis Cato, she appears quiet and humble. You wouldn't know that behind wire rimmed glasses and really funny t-shirts lies the heart and soul of an up and coming science fiction and fantasy writer as well as amazing baker. She will never tell you that she's been published in multiple magazines (online and off) or that when you read her stories you will be gutted while your heart warms simultaneously. It's all revealed when you read her work. I had the fortune of participating in a critique group with her at Cascade Writers in the summer of 2012. Her guidance on writing was well appreciated. I also enjoyed her story so much I've toyed with the idea of creating an anthology around it just so EGM could publish it. I remember telling her this, "As a woman, this is the perfect combination of science fiction and fantasy that I want to read. I hope to see more of it".
Here's our interview:
Beth, have you always been a geek girl or discovered sci-fi as an adult?
I had no choice but to be a geek girl. When I was a baby, my first spoken words were, "Mom," followed by "Daw Wahs" (Star Wars). Throughout my childhood I was obsessed with horses, but I was always surrounded by Star Wars, Star Trek, Back to the Future, and lots of other fantasy and science fiction. I met my husband because of our mutual love for the Final Fantasy video game series.
When did you start writing and why?
I wanted to grow up and be an author from the time I was about four. I wrote a lot as a teenager, but didn't have the nerve to submit my fiction anywhere. For about a decade, I stopped writing at all. Then when my son was a baby and my husband was deployed in the Navy, I realized I was miserable and unfulfilled. I wasn't being true to myself. I needed to read and write again. My son is now seven, and my writing career has kind of grown up along with him.
What are you working on currently?
I'm in the very early stages of researching for a new steampunk novel.
Where can readers find your work?
Here, there, and everywhere! A lot of my stories and poems can be found for free via the bibliography on my website, BethCato.com. I'm also in a number of anthologies available in most any bookstore, including numerous Chicken Soup for the Soul books.
Have you had any moments where you just wanted to hit delete and walk away from writing?
Absolutely. I can tell you about my absolute lowest moment. I have a novel that I adore beyond anything. Writers aren't supposed to have a project become their baby, but this was my baby. I rewrote it and edited and poured my everything into it for a year and a half, and yet I kept getting feedback that it was intrinsically flawed and just plain did not work. After some especially honest feedback, I spent days in a deep depression, wondering what to do, wondering if it was all worth it. Then I faced the question: if I'm not writing, what am I going to do? I tore apart my novel plot and stitched it back together, rewrote it almost from scratch, and seven months later I had two agents offer representation for it.
Can you tell us a little about your baking and maybe share a recipe?
Ah, my baking. That's my creative outlet away from the computer. I'm of a personality type that loves to feed people. Unfortunately, my family is small and relatives are far away, but this is a boon for my husband's co-workers, as I send them bundt cakes and cookies and fudges galore.
And I love sharing recipes! It's the next best thing to feeding people the actual food. This is a recipe for Irish Coffee Blondies, modified from a recipe in Martha Stewart Living:
Irish Coffee Blondies
For the Blondies:
2 sticks unsalted butter, plus more for pan
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups packed light-brown sugar
3 tablespoons freshly ground coffee
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sliced almonds, skin on
For the Glaze:
1 tablespoon melted butter, warm
1 teaspoon almond extract (or vanilla)
1 teaspoon + water
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan, and line with parchment so that it overhangs on all sides. Butter parchment. In a big bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and baking soda.
Melt butter, and pour into a mixing bowl with brown sugar, ground coffee, and salt. Stir to combine.
Add eggs and vanilla extract. Stir in flour mixture until just combined. Pour batter into pan and even it out. Sprinkle with almonds.
Bake 27 to 30 minutes, depending on how chewy you like your blondies; they'll be harder and less chewy the longer they bake. Let cool completely.
Whisk together butter and extract. Gradually whisk in confectioners' sugar. Add teaspoons of water, as needed, until the glaze is thick but pourable. Using a pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip or a sandwich bag with a corner snipped off, drizzle glaze over blondies in a rough crosshatch pattern. Let glaze dry 1 hour. Cut blondies into 2-inch squares.
If you're stacking these for storage, I suggest using wax paper between the layers, especially if you live someplace warm.
Is there any advice you have for those trying to live a creative life?
Just because you're doing something you love doesn't mean that it's easy. It's full of pain and rejection, but also moments of outright joy. Drag yourself through those sucky weeks and months of rewrites and rejections, because an acceptance will come, in time--just never the time you want!
Check Beth's work out at www.bethcato.com or follow her on twitter: @BethCato
Best Wishes Always,
An Evil Girlfriend with a Pen