Gail's Book Nook

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Looking Out the Window: Amy Cattapan Talks about Her New Book, Angelhood. Gives Away a Copy.

A Warm Welcome to Amy Cattapan
Amy will give away an e-book. To enter to win leave a comment and an e-mail address below

First, tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a middle school English teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. I’ve wanted to be a writer since the sixth grade. In fact, by eighth grade I boldly declared in the yearbook that I would be the author of teen novels. What do you know! It actually came true!

I have four brothers, so I was well steeped in Star Wars, Star Trek, and Chicago Cubs baseball growing up. While a lot of people ask if my four brothers teased me when I was little, the worst I can really complain about are the plastic spiders. Mostly, I remember them twirling my pigtails in Princess Leia buns.

As an adult, I’ve spent my spare time pursuing my many interests and passions. For example, I’ve taken a variety of dance classes, including tap, jazz, salsa, and ballroom. I love to run and have completed many 5Ks and 10 Ks, along with two half marathons and one full marathon. I started baking when I was in junior high and took all the Wilton cake decorating classes when I was in my twenties. (Anyone in need of a multi-tiered wedding cake?) I also love to travel. I’ve been to Europe several times (Italy and England are two of my faves!), and last month I traveled to Guatemala for the first time and felt like Indiana Jones as I climbed ancient Maya temples and traversed suspension bridges dangling over waterfalls in the jungle.

Were you an avid reader as a child? What did you read?

I was the kid who eagerly joined in the summer reading program at the library and competed in the Battle of the Books while I was in junior high. The selection of middle grade and young adult books was nothing compared to what it is now, but I remember reading lots of Bobbsey Twins mysteries. (Anyone else remember these? I mean, they were old even for my time, but I loved mysteries!) I read a lot of Sweet Valley High books in junior high as well as some classics, like the entire Anne of Green Gables series and A Wrinkle in Time.

Tell Us about 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. If she’s going to find peace in the afterlife, she’s going to have to discover what living is really all about.

This sounds like a great read. What is your writing schedule and where do you write?

I’m the kind of person who writes in furious spurts. In other words, I do really well with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) as long as I have my story outlined—or mostly outlined—before I begin. In fact, Angelhood was my 2011 NaNo project. I was planning on writing a different story that November, but I didn’t have the outline ready. Then three days before November began, I got the idea for Angelhood. The plot outline came so quickly that I hit the ground running on November 1 and finished the whole book by the end of the month. It took many more months to revise, and then several years to find a publisher, but it all worked out in the end.
As for where I write, sometimes it might be on my couch at home. However, often I simply have to get out of the house, so I’ve written in many coffee shops as well as my local library.

It must be great fun writing in a coffee shop. You're inspiring me. Do you put yourself in your books?

Not intentionally, but I can’t seem to help showing up in my characters. I was a theater geek in high school myself, and my main character Nanette is a theater geek. I studied ballet for two years, and Nanette’s little sister is a ballerina. I wrote bad poetry in high school and college, and Nanette has to guard a high school girl who writes poetry. Since I’m a teacher in real life, I’m sure my personality shows up somewhat in the main teacher in the book, too.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

I have a big Facebook launch party happening on April 30, and I’d love for everyone to drop by. We’ll have fun games and lots of prizes (including copies of my book as well as Laura Jackson’s Worth the Wait and Worth the Time), so come check it out. (

Angelhood is now available on Kindle for only $1.99 and in paperback on Amazon for $10.99. (

Amy shares a neat story about her Speech Contest Brownies

In my novel Angelhood, my main character Nanette remembers when she used to win oral interpretation contests at forensics competitions. Every time I get to that scene in my book, I remember the years I taught in small parochial schools where I would hold speech contests with my students. These would be very similar to the forensics or speech and debate contests held in high schools. To reward the kids who made it to the finals, I always made these caramel brownies. I waved them like a carrot on a stick. “You can have this yummy brownie as soon as you finish performing your poem or speech in front of the judges.” They were always so nervous, but looked forward to the brownies at the end. In fact, some students told me they competed simply for the brownies! So famous did they become that they’ve been nicknamed “Speech Contest Brownies.”

1 ½ sticks margarine, melted
1 German chocolate cake mix with pudding
1 small can of evaporated milk
1 package of caramels
1 12-oz. package of chocolate chips

Unwrap all the caramels and put them in a small microwave-safe bowl.  Then preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the margarine in a large microwave-safe bowl.  Then add the cake mix and 1/3 cup evaporated milk (that’s about half of the small can).  Spread ½ mixture in bottom of an ungreased 9 x 13 pan.  You will have a very thin layer of batter, and you may want to use a buttered spatula to help spread it out.

Bake at 350 degrees for six minutes.  Meanwhile, melt caramels and 1/3-cup evaporated milk (the other half of the small can). 

After the six minutes are up, take the pan out of the oven and spread the chocolate chips over the cake.  Then drizzle the melted caramel mixture on tops of this.  Finally, drop the rest of the cake mixture by teaspoonfuls on top.

Bake another 15-18 minutes at 350 degrees.  Let cool completely before attempting to cut them.  I find it helpful to refrigerate them or even throw them in the freezer for 15 minutes before cutting them.  That way the caramel mixture has a chance to solidify and they won’t be quite as messy to cut.

Oh my goodness. These sound delicious!

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Sonja said...

The book sounds good and so does the recipe. Would love to read this. sonja dot nishimoto at gmail dot com

A.J. Cattapan said...

Thanks for stopping by, Sonja! The brownies really are yummy!

D Jess said...

Yum! Heaven is reading a good book accompanied by yummy chocolate brownies.
Great interview Amy.

Heidi Schussman said...

I loved the Bobbsy Twins! I read all of them and some of the Hardy Boys too. I tried to get into Nancy Drew when I got older, but somehow she didn't interest me by then.

Anonymous said...

That is awesome about the brownies! I would compete too just to get some! :) Great interview and looking forward to the FB party!
Sylvesternator AT yahoo DOT com

A.J. Cattapan said...

@D Jess, you're so right! Heaven is books and brownies! Although my main character Nanette would tell you heaven involves Three Musketeers bars. :)

@Heidi, my brothers were into the Hardy Boys, and I read a little Nancy Drew. Mystery must run in my family!

@Laura, looking forward to "seeing" you at the Facebook party!

Finbar said...

Tough subject matter for a newer writer, congratulations on taking the challenge !! The brownies look good also... keep it up, writing is fun and can lead to many other things.

A.J. Cattapan said...

Thanks, Finbar! I can see now why God didn't let me write this book until I had two "practice novels" under my belt. I certainly wouldn't have been ready to write this book when I first starting taking my writing career seriously.

Deanna Stevens said...

This sounds like a great book! The recipe looks delish...
dkstevensneAToutlookD OtCoM see you at the FB party :)

A.J. Cattapan said...

Thanks for stopping by, Deanna! See you at the Facebook party. It's going to be a blast! Tons of games and giveaways (books, gift cards, fun swag). :)

Larry Hammersley said...

Hi Amy: Sounds like a very interesting story line. My Indiana Jones hat is off to you for cranking it out in a month. I've often thought of that challenge too but so far I'm a chicken. I'm a runner too but slow at age 76. Keep it up and my best to you on writing and making yummy sounding brownies.

A.J. Cattapan said...

@Larry, I love your comment about your Indiana Jones hat! :) I definitely recommend giving NaNo a try. Even if you don't make the 50K, it's a great way to get into a habit of writing and should at least get you a nice kickstart to your novel. Best of luck to you!

Larry Hammersley said...

Hi Amy: Thanks for the encouragement on writing. I did buy an official Indiana Jones hat when they came out years ago. Its moth eaten but I still dare to wear it to church occasionally. I keep doing research on a favorite Bible character, The Shunammite Woman, and intend to write a novella or novel about her.

Miss Mae said...

Hi Amy,

What a recipe! Yum! And what a plot for a storyline! Yes, we all hit those dark moments, don't we, wondering if Life itself would be better without us. (rather like George Bailey in "It's a Wonderful Life") Wishing you the best. :)

A.J. Cattapan said...

@Miss Mae, it's a good thing we have God to pull us through the dark times. Here's a little inside scoop on the cover design: See that light pouring down from the upper right corner out of the dark sky? Yep, that was done on purpose as it highlights a pivotal scene in my book. Don't give up. The light of God is always there, even when it's hard for us to see.