Monday, June 11, 2012

Cathryn Grant brings menace to suburbia with stories, novels

1.) Cathryn, you write in the suburban noir genre. Can you describe suburban noir for those of us not familiar with the genre?

Just like classic noir, Suburban Noir stories always involve a crime, although sometimes I have a loose definition of that word. I’m interested in exploring the circumstances that might drive a seemingly normal suburbanite to commit homicide. One of the themes, obviously, is the dark side of suburban life. On my website, I describe it like this:

Classic Noir focused on the subterranean stream of discontent, a sense that the so-called “good life” wasn’t really that good — that it was actually quite toxic, because it was based on envy, greed, and materialism. Those things lurk behind the suburban veneer of manicured yards, designer furniture, and exotic vacations, fast-paced careers and super-children. Beneath that? Fear.

I’m interested in the slow, inevitable descent into crime. Although they’ve been called psychological thrillers, my novels and stories are more centered in a character’s mental state rather than a typical psychological thriller where the action is driven by someone in jeopardy. My novella series is slightly different, partially because those stories involve encounters with spirits from beyond the grave, but still explore similar themes of the disconnect between characters’ internal worlds and what they reveal to others.

I don’t know whether it’s a recognized genre, but recently the collection of short stories, Long Island Noir, was characterized as Suburban Noir, and Megan Abbott labeled her latest novel Suburban Noir.

2.) What do your books bring to readers that is unique?

My fiction peels back the walls of suburban homes to reveal the truth within. Instead of pulse-pounding suspense, there’s a mood of dread that builds slowly. A guy who read my first novel said I make the mundane menacing.

3.) Which one of your novels or short stories makes you the most proud? Why?

One that hasn’t yet been published … yet! – "I Was Young Once."

The story was prompted by a vivid experience I had when thinking about my grandmother after she’d died. I was washing one of her pans, looking at my hands in the soapy water and thinking of her hands washing the same dish. Of course, as they usually do, my thoughts turned to crime.

It’s a fairly short story, less than 3000 words. It received an honorable mention in the 2007 Zoetrope All-Story short fiction content. Joyce Carol Oates, one of my favorite writers, judged the contest that year. Knowing she enjoyed my story still gives me a thrill, almost 5 years later.

I had taken the story to my critique group and received a wide range of feedback. One person in the group gave it high praise and suggested not changing a word, but I re-wrote it based on the other responses, which were much less positive. My husband said I’d ruined it. I decided I agreed with him and submitted the original to the contest. That experience taught me a lot about being true to my voice.

4.) Which do you feel is most important: characters, plot, theme or setting? Or something else?

It’s difficult to separate those components. I think the best fiction has all four so tightly integrated they become one thing – the setting is a character, character is action (plot), characters are molded by their environment, and the theme reveals itself in the characters, plot, and setting.

5.) Professionally you work in marketing. How has that influenced your writing? Or has it?

The high tech industry inspires me to tell dark stories! Seriously, sort of, Silicon Valley is the setting for most of my fiction. Other than that, my day job hasn’t influenced my writing much. It does influence the business side of being an indie author because I’ve learned a lot about running a business, marketing, and all that fun stuff we writers would rather not do.

6.) Where can I find the world's best martini?

I can’t say I’ve tasted martinis the world over, so I’ll stick close to home – The Distillery restaurant in Half Moon Bay, California, offers excellent martinis, a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean, and their very own ghost.

For more about author Cathryn Grant
Cathryn’s website:
Amazon page
Smashwords page


Charles Gramlich said...

Evocative cover. I like when writers can make the "mundane menacing."

Cathryn Grant said...

Thanks for asking such great questions, Ty. I enjoyed our interview.

Cathryn Grant said...

@Charles Thanks. The mundane is very menacing at times!