Caitlin Berve is an award-winning fantasy author, editor, and speaker. She teaches creative writing, and founded Ignited Ink Writing, where you’ll find her upcoming events, including information on how to book her to speak at an event. If you’re a fellow fantasy lover and reader, check out her collection of modern fairy tales, When Magic Calls and follow her on Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok for fantastical books, crafts, and stories. When not writing, Caitlin runs the trails in Colorado or does P90X workouts and drags her boyfriend and roommate to all of the festivals in the area.
When did you first decide writing would be your career or hobby – did you find writing, or did writing find you?
Writing found me. I didn’t want to take the general English courses required by my biochemistry undergraduate degree, so I took creative writing instead. I was determined to become a doctor but continued to write after college. When I got on the medical school waiting list and they didn’t pick me, I was relieved instead of disappointed. That’s when I realized the book I’d written on my lunch breaks was my true calling.
What is a perfect opening paragraph that you’ve written?
The best opening line I think I’ve written so far is “Babies aren’t meant to remember their births, but I do.” That’s from the first story, “Letters from a Wu” in my book When Magic Calls.
What are you currently reading?
I just finished The Second Bell by Gabriela Houston. It’s about a village that occasionally has babies born with a second heart and magical abilities who are cast out. The main character is one of these babies. Her rebellious nature helps her survive and thrive. I really liked the magic system and use of weather in the story. The pace was a bit slower than I’m used to, but not problematically so.
What are some of the most important books you’ve read?
The books that had the greatest impact on my fantasy/fairy tale style are everything by Patricia Briggs, The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne, Denis L. McKiernan’s Once Upon a Time series, and R.L. Stine’s’ Fear Street books. Books like Shooter by Caroline Pignat, Europeana by Patrik Ourednik, and Words Overflown by Stars (a collection of essays) influenced my form choices. If you meant which book on writing was the most important to my growth as an author, that’s Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont.
Do you hide Easter Eggs in your work just for fun or the pleasure of a few savvy readers?
If you like original fairy tales, there are tons of Easter Eggs in my collection of modern fairy tales When Magic Calls. I reference many of the lesser-known details of popular fairy tales and some unpopular tales.
What is a work that made you think in a different way?
Other than the books I mentioned above, Newcomer by Keigo Higashino. The way he circles around the detective and mystery is very different from the structure of Western detective stories. It made me rethink my approach to story structure.
Are there half-finished projects in your files that you mean to come back to?
Lots. I have three stand alone books, a trilogy, and a series I’ve started or drafted completely. They all need plenty of revision and will be published eventually.
Do you have preparational practices to help you get in the proper headspace to write?
For me it’s more about writing daily. If I’m in the habit of sitting down to write for an hour every day, it’s much easier to get into the flow of writing. Exercising first also helps get my creativity flowing.
What is it that helps you stay focused when you sit down to write?
Knowing what I’m writing that day. I don’t outline, but I do plan ahead at least one day. If I know which scene or project I need to write next, it’s so much easier to focus. I also don’t allow myself to revise or research during my writing time. I make a note for later.
Do you have a favorite writing style?
My favorite genre to write is fantasy, but I also love playing with point of view and perspective. So I switch up the main character a lot to see what the villain or side character’s story is.
Do you like the editing process, or would you rather leave that to others?
I’m a professional editor, so I definitely like editing. What I don’t always enjoy as a writer is having to rewrite large sections.
Do you prefer to write off the cuff, or do you take a more methodical approach, such as using an outline?
I’m more of a pantser than a plotter. However, my initial story idea is the climatic moment. Some authors first see the beginning or a specific character. I see the climax. Even though I don’t know the whole story, I always know where I’m going. I write to discover what lead up to the climax. And I don’t write the scenes in chronological order. I write what’s calling to me that day.
In what ways do you think social media can help writers? Where does it fall short?
Social media is one of the easiest ways writers can reach new readers. It’s also a great way to misuse your writing time. If you’re going to be on social media as an author, you can’t just shout “buy my book” at your followers. You need to actually be social by commenting, liking, and sharing other people’s posts as well as creating content readers want to see. Sometimes that’s “My next book is coming out tomorrow.” Other times it’s sharing a funny story about your pet or running a character naming contest.
What are some of your favorite resources for writers?
Writing Excuses is a great podcast about writing by professional authors. The Colorado Independent Publishers Association, Boulder Writers Alliance, and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers are excellent organizations that writers can use to learn, network, and build their careers. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont is the first book on writing that left an impact on me and I still use her one-inch picture frame idea. And my blog Ignite Your Ink is written to answer questions authors ask me such as “when should I use italics in my book” and “what does ‘show don’t tell’ actually look like.”
What are the biggest challenges in the publishing industry?
Old advice. The way that author you know got an agent ten years ago is not how you get an agent today. Self-published authors are NOT people who couldn’t get a traditional publisher. They are some of the hardest working and most successful authors today who chose complete control over their book’s design and story over marketing help from a traditional publisher. Listen to authors who are getting agents and publishing NOW, not the famous authors who started over a decade ago. Like other industries, technology has forced the publishing industry to rapidly evolve. Old advice is no longer applicable.