Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Author Spotlight & Interview: A.J. Cattapan, YA Fiction Novelist of Angelhood

Seventeen-year-old theater geek Nanette believes her life is headed toward stardom on Broadway. But when her dream theater college rejects her and her best friend dies in a terrible accident, Nanette decides the world would be better off without her. Unfortunately, the afterlife offers something less than a heavenly situation. Trapped between alternating periods of utter darkness and light, Nanette is stuck following a high school freshman around. Soon, she learns she's a guardian angel, and the only way she can earn her wings is to keep her young charge, Vera, from committing the same sin she did--taking her own life. 

Unfortunately, Nanette is missing more than just her wings. She has no tangible body or voice, either. Frustrated by her inability to reach out to Vera and haunted by memories of her old life, Nanette wants to give up, but then she sees what happens when another Guardian at the high school turns his back on his charge. The shock is enough to supercharge Nanette's determination. She's going to find peace in the soon as she can convince Vera that living is what life is all about.

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What inspired you to write a book about the tough topic of teen suicide?

Honestly, it wasn’t in my original writing plans! In 2011, I had planned on writing a middle grade mystery during November (National Novel Writing Month, a.k.a. NaNo), but that story required doing a lot of research in Catholic churches around Chicago. I’d done some research, but I didn’t have the whole storyline put together yet. Three days before NaNo began, I was feeling very discouraged. I had written two novels, but neither of them had sold. It seemed like I’d never get my writing career off the ground. Suddenly, I got this idea for a story about a girl who feels her acting career is over before it’s begun. The idea came to me in the shower, and before my hair was dry, I had the most of the plot outlined and the characters mapped out. By the time November rolled around three days later, I was ready to start NaNo with a story I had never planned on writing!

Why do you think Angelhood has been so popular (It’s been an Amazon bestseller, won two awards, and is a finalist in several other competitions)?

There have many young adult books about suicide in recent years, but they all seem to end without any hope. As readers, we aren’t any better off after reading these stories than we were when we started. I think people have related to Angelhood because it deals with a difficult topic without sugarcoating it, but at the same time, it takes the reader on a journey from the darkness of despair to the light of hope. And we could all use a little hope these days.

What do you hope teens will take away from reading Angelhood?

I hope they will realize that we all go through difficult times, but we’re never alone during these difficulties. God always walks with us, even when we can’t feel His presence. And we always have our guardian angels with us!

You’re from Chicago, and there’s a Chicago connection with this book, right?

Yes! The book takes place in a fictitious northern suburb of Chicago, but the guardian angels in the book meet at the very real Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica on Jackson. I first discovered this beautiful church on a tour of Catholic churches with When I needed a place in my book for the guardian angels to meet, I immediately thought of Our Lady of Sorrows. It’s gorgeous and uplifting, and if I were a guardian angel trying to help a poor soul, it’s where I’d want to go for spiritual guidance and comfort!

What’s next for you?

My second book with Vinspire Publishing releases at the end of August. Seven Riddles to Nowhere is the story of a seventh grade boy with selective mutism—he can’t talk with adults outside his home. After finally making some progress at his small Catholic school, Kam learns it may close due to financial problems. Then a letter arrives with the opportunity to change everything. Kam learns that he and several others have been selected as potential heirs to a fortune. All he has to do is solve a series of seven riddles that lead to a valuable treasure before the others do. If he succeeds, he’ll become heir to a fortune that could save his school. The riddles send Kam on a scavenger hunt through the churches of Chicago, but solving them won’t be easy. With the school’s bully as one of the other potential heirs, Kam and his friends must decipher the hidden meanings in artwork and avoid the mysterious men following them in a quest to not only keep the school open, but keep Kam’s hopes for recovering his voice alive.

Author Bio:

A.J. Cattapan is an award-winning, bestselling author of fiction for teens and preteens. Her young adult novel Angelhood, a guardian angel story in the tradition of It’s a Wonderful Life, has won two books awards (a gold medal in the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards and an honorable mention in the Readers’ Favorite Book Awards). Recently, it was named a Carol Award finalist in the young adult categoryCattapan’s second book, a middle grade mystery named Seven Riddles to Nowhere about a boy trying to save his school from closing, releases in August 2016.  Cattapan has also been a Chicken Soup for the Soul contributor and had numerous short stories and articles published in magazines for teens and children, including Highlights, Pockets, and Hopscotch for Girls. Her goal in writing is to empower young people so that they may live extraordinary lives filled with heart and hope.

Connect with A.J.

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Thanks for joining us, A.J.!

READERS: Do you have any questions for her? Leave them in the comments below!

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1 comment:

  1. Oh, this looks like such a good book! I'm going to have to check it out. =D And it's set in Chicago! My parents are from Chicago, and I have family that still live there.


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