Interview with Cate Masters

Today's guest is Cate Masters. She's here to talk to us about her novel, Cursed. Before we get started with the interview and excerpt, let's have a look at Cursed...

Ten days of freedom. That’s all Fate had allotted me each year. In the streets of Venice, I could walk among them. Mingle. Belong.

During Carnevale, they had no idea who I was. What I was.

For ten days, it didn’t matter.

Until I met her.

Bruno diCesare lives alone by necessity, not choice. An experiment performed by Leonardo da Vinci, who believed having a dual DNA would grant a person immortality, used magic to render Bruno a chimera – the head of a lion, body of a dragon. The only time he can mingle with people is during Carnevale, ten glorious days of masked anonymity, frivolity and intimacy.

Melina Weaver learned fire dancing to enliven her dull existence. A scientist, her long hours at the lab leave no time for a social life. For ten days at Carnevale, she can pretend to be someone else. Someone sexy and daring, who lives on the edge.

Once she meets Bruno, her wish comes true, but everything goes terribly wrong. Beneath Bruno’s costume lurks an alpha male, but is he dangerous? Worse, can she return to an employer who sells her research to the military to make an army of efficient killers? Her only hope may lie with the man she’s just met and never seen.

Tricia: Welcome, Cate. Can you please tell us a little about yourself?

Cate: Hi Tricia! Thanks so much for having me at Authors to Watch. I'm your average writer - I live inside my head with a bunch of crazy characters, lol. My supportive hubby of 36 years and I are tucked away in the scenic orchards of central PA. We're blessed with three adult children and three beautiful grandboys.

Tricia: When did you begin writing?

Cate: Long, long ago in a galaxy far away.... lol It feels that way sometimes. In grade school, my friends and I wrote poetry. After writing for school newspapers, I wanted to be a journalist but those plans fell by the wayside. In my twenties, I began writing short stories. I fell in love with fiction! Except for the years spent raising my kids, I haven't stopped writing since.

Tricia: Describe your writing process. Do you plot or write by the seat of your pants? When and where do you write?

Cate: Generally, I begin with a story's starting point and an end point. What happens in between is determined by the characters -- their motives, their flaws -- that's what drives the stories.

Rather than strictly plotting, I have an outline, but it's very sparse. I keep what I call a Spec Sheet with all the details about the characters and the story. It's especially helpful after I've subbed the story and moved on to another - that way I don't mix up the characters' hair color, etc. :)

I jot notes anytime and anywhere (I recently counted 17 notebooks!) but for focused writing, I have a spare room upstairs and a laptop with no internet access.

Tricia: Can you tell us about your most recent release?

Cate: Thank you for asking! My paranormal, Cursed, is set during Carnevale, the 10-day masquerade in Venice. Bruno, the hero, is an unusual sort of alpha male - cultured, intelligent, tortured and damaged. I love him, he's amazing! I love my heroine, Melina, too. Her work as a genetic scientist consumes her life, and she travels to Carnevale for excitement and to practice her firedancing.

As you might have guessed, Cursed mixes elements of paranormal, fantasy, science and history into an exciting novella.

Tricia: How did you get the idea for the book?

Cate: Cursed is one of those stories that feels like a gift. It first started when I read an article about Leonardo da Vinci and his iconic Vitruvian Man sketch – you’ve seen it, the man inside the circle and square. I dug a little deeper into Leonardo and found some interesting tidbits that hinted at a darker side. As always, my imagination kicked in, and the all-important ‘what if’s started: what if Leonardo conducted experiments that turned a little darker as well? Another article about studies of the hormone oxytocin added a new layer. Then an article about Carnevale set it all in motion. I know, they seem like completely disparate topics, but strangely, they all fit. (Thank you again, universe, for sending me just what I needed, just when I needed it.)

Once I began writing the story, I couldn’t stop. After finishing Cursed, I knew it wasn’t the end. This world kept calling to me. I had to go back! So I wrote the second book, Charmed. And I’m thrilled that Decadent accepted that too!

Recently I finished the third book, Claimed. There may yet be more, we’ll have to see. It’s a very unique world, and the characters and story line keep surprising me by adding elements I didn’t see coming. I hope you’ll love it as much as I do!

Tricia: Of all your characters, which one is your favorite? Why?

Cate: Oh, tough question! It's like being forced to choose a favorite child. The hero of Cursed is more complex, I think, than any I've written before. Bruno has a terrible secret, a tortured past and an, um shall we say, interesting history. :) Not to mention he's smoldering hot.

Tricia: What was the most challenging aspect of writing your book?

Cate: The research. Because it mixes so many elements, I learned as much as possible about Venice and the surrounding islands, the Carnevale festival, and Leonardo da Vinci. I looked for more articles about oxytocin, the love drug (not what you might think!), and found some scientific articles that played into the third story. I also bought some magic books because it's such a big part of this series.

Tricia: Which authors have inspired your writing?

Cate: Wow, too many to list. In my teens, Tolkien, Ray Bradbury and H.P. Lovecraft. Later, Alice Hoffman, Michael Chabon, T.C. Boyle, Lorrie Moore and many others. More recently, I've fallen in love with the writing of J.R. Ward, Kelley Armstrong, Gena Showalter, Nalini Singh and so many more. There are always great writers out there to discover.

Tricia: What projects are you currently working on?

Cate: I'm in edits for the second book of The Vitruvian Man series, Charmed, and as I mentioned, have subbed the third, Claimed, to Decadent. I'm also in edits with Decadent for a historical novel set during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, Betting It All. I recently finished a contemporary holiday novella, Blue Moon Over Bliss Lake, and have started a second contemporary in this Blue Moon series. Decadent's accepted three more 1Night Stand stories, and those should release this year.

As usual, about a dozen WIPs are calling my name, lol. In addition to the Blue Moon story above, at the top of the list is the third book in The Goddess Connection series, with a few contemporaries and paranormals impatiently waiting their turn.

Tricia: What advice would you offer to new or aspiring authors?

Cate: Read and write as often as possible. Join local writers' groups and find tough but caring crit partners. And never give up!

Tricia: Thanks for speaking with us, Cate. I can't wait to read your excerpt. But, first, lets list a few links so my readers can find you...

Catch up to Cate:


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Melina should have stayed in her room. Finding him had seemed like such incredible luck. Now she wondered whether luck had turned against her.

That sound—almost an animal sound—had that come from him? Had she imagined it? Strange things went on during Carnevale, her online friends had said, some so inexplicable no science could explain them. She’d laughed when they warned her she might get in over her head.

The sheer strength of his muscles, the raw power beneath his clothes, thrilled her. His pace conveyed the same urgency.

Pressed to his side, nerves jangling, her foot slipped on the stone step.

In one fluid motion, he scooped her into his arms and continued hurrying along. “Are you all right?”

“Unless embarrassment leaves a mortal wound. I’m normally not so clumsy.” She settled against his broad chest. Such incredible stamina. An image pierced her mind: his muscular, naked torso above her, his hips rocking against hers. His presence overwhelmed her, and she was acutely aware of every motion, every breath.

At the bottom of the stone stairs, he set her on her feet but maintained his firm hold. “Dampness has a habit of lingering here. You’d best allow me to assist you.”

“Please.” She fitted herself against him, acutely aware of the way his body moved against hers.

“In these calle of San Samuele,” he said, “Giacomo Casanova spent his youth.”

“Calle?” She should have brushed up on her Italian.

He dipped his head closer. “Narrow alleyways.”

“Narrow and dark. I wonder how many trysts Casanova had in these alleys?” And Casanova had nothing on Bruno. Women probably flocked around him constantly. Acid flashed through her at the thought.

“Too many to recount.” He paused, then added, “If one believes the writings in his diary. His mentor, the poet Giorgio Baffe, lived just down there.”

“Mentor?” She didn’t recall Casanova writing poetry. Did Bruno as well? Or was he not romantic that way?

“Of a sort. The man who introduced Casanova to worldly pleasures.”

The way the last two words rolled off his tongue, so enticing. She glanced at the dark steps that led to deeper shadows beside the canal.

She surprised herself by steering him down there, tugging him to an abrupt halt. “Do such mentors still exist?”

He whirled her against a wall. “Why? Would you be interested?”

She let her hands wander across the contours of his chest. “You did offer to introduce me to the delights of Venice.”

The same growl as earlier rumbled in his throat, unmistakable this time. “You do like to play with fire, don’t you?”

And he knew how to ignite one.


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