the farm girl from ontario
Interview by: Cesar Portillo.
You don’t want to mess with Cathy Walker. She’s got the spirit of the wilderness, the wisdom of the trail, the talent of several authors, and two arms practiced in martial arts—and all that with a rod in her back. The images she’s allowed me to use, while fixed in time, only offer the transient trail of a comet-like tail as it passes by, and yet draw a piece of the world she lives in, and the character that it takes to live it.
Within the icy images we see a daughter of the snow, with a mental constitution as hardened as the crystal ice clinging to her horse’s eyelids. If this doesn’t recommend her enough, this Ontario, Canada, native, author of A Witch’s Lament, is also a book-cover designer, a rider of horses, and a lover of animals.
She gave me the opportunity to ask her a few questions, and agreed to share with us a little of what creates these pictures, and to fill us in on what that comet tail is missing. Besides the deeper questions, I took the liberty to ask some basic ones as well.
Hi, Cathy, thank you for agreeing to share a little about you with us. How is life these days?
Not bad considering everything that is going on in the world. I lost my job with this pandemic, but it gave me the initiative to work on building my book cover design business and work at my writing and marketing the books that I currently have published. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do, so I’m happy being home on the farm and working.
Is it true that most Canadians live within a hundred miles of the U.S. border? That must leave most of Canada quite desolate, if true.
Honestly, I had to look this one up because I wasn’t sure, but it does seem to be fact. LOL. Canada does possess a lot of uninhabited land…at least uninhabited by humans, but plenty of wildlife. Personally, I don’t like cities or built up areas, I far prefer nature, trees, wildlife and the natural beauty of nature. Humans tend to destroy everything that is beautiful in nature, so desolate isn’t a word that I would use to describe the uninhabited areas. Untouched, natural, beautiful, would be words that would be much more appropriate.
“Animals are my heart. I adore them. I can read their energy and they read mine as well.”
What made you settle in Ontario?
I was born in Ontario and life’s circumstances have never been such that I’ve ever considered moving. Though, I will admit, when I was a teenager, I went through a phase that I desperately wanted to live up in the mountains. You know, like Jeremiah Johnson and Grizzly Adams. I even went so far as to write to the government to get information on Squatter’s Rights on crown land. We didn’t have the internet back then, so it wasn’t something I could research online. To this day, it is one thing in my life that I kind of wish I had done.
Do you have children?
My husband has 3 children who were all grown when he and I got married.
This gets us into intimate territory. What got you and your husband together?
Pure chance. I was at a home show in my town and happened to fill out a ballot for 2 free weeks of karate lessons at the local dojo. I won and it turned out that the dojo owner was my future husband. If I hadn’t filled out the ballot, we may never have met.
What was your job before you became an author?
Mainly worked retail until I met my husband. We owned and operated a martial arts dojo. I also worked part time on a goat farm and in a laundromat/dry cleaners.
So, a writer and martial arts expert?
I suppose some would think that I have a varied life. To me it just seems normal, but, yes, martial arts practitioner, writer, and book cover designer. I have studied Iaido (Japanese sword), karate, tai chi, archery, trained my own horse, and rescue animals (sic). Of all the above, closest to my heart is my animals. I also love writing. Designing covers helps to pay the bills, but it is my books and writing that I want to focus on to make that my one career.
Do you have a religion?
No specific religion, but my beliefs are very nature-based and all encompassing.
Where do you find is the best place for you to write?
I usually sit on the couch in the living room as I have a beautiful view out our front window.
What inspires you?
My animals. Reading books that evoke emotions that make me want to do more, do better.
What is your biggest dream?
Honestly, if I’m going to dream big, I want to win a lottery then put up shelters and fencing and rescue as many animals who need a home as I can.
What three things do you like to do on your free time?
Ride my horse, spend time with my animals, read.
What is a talent that you have that surprises you or surprises other people?
I guess just the fact that I can write books and people love them is still amazing to me.
What is a personal motto you live or strive to live by?
I try not to judge others as I have no idea what is going on in their life.
Do you have a favorite book?
One of my favourites is The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.
What book or author has been your greatest influence?
Far too many to list them all, but Walter Farley, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Mary Stewart, Bertrice Small, Virginia Henley…oh, so many.
Cathy and one of her dogs
cathy and her pony
Do you have a favorite color?
Earth colours are my favourites (sic).
Do you have a favorite song?
Any song by Gordon Lightfoot. Maybe by Thom Pace. Viva la Vida by Coldplay. Annie’s Song by John Denver. The Mission by Ennio Morrocone…the list goes on.
What is your favorite food or restaurant?
Cheese lasagna, pizza, hamburgers, spaghetti…all vegetarian, of course.
What is your favorite drink?
I am afraid that I have a weakness for Coca Cola, but I can control it….honestly.
What is your birthday?
December 28, 1959.
Do you listen to music while you write?
Does music impact the way you write a story?
How tall are you?
5′ 6″ I grew an inch when I had a steel rod put in my back and my spine straightened a bit.
Tell me a little bit about the rod in your back.
I have a curved spine and after attempts to correct it or keep it from getting worse, the result was putting a steel rod in my back. I was in my teens when the problem started and ended up having the surgery in my early 20’s. I had cautions from some doctors to be careful and not do anything physical, but decided to listen to the one doctor who told me to do what I wanted. If it hurt, stop doing it, if it didn’t, then keep doing it. He told me I needed to keep moving and use the back muscles to keep the strong and supple or I’d end up with problems as I got older. I’m happy that I listened to him because I know others who listened to the doctors who said not to do anything physical, and they are having serious back problems as they get older. On the other hand, I have managed to earn my 3rd degree black belt in karate, train and ride my own horse, do all my own barn chores…pretty much anything that I want to do, I do.
Many people can trace their origins way back. How far back can you trace yours?
Not far. I would love to know more about my ancestors, but just have never had the time to do the research. I know my family came mainly from Scotland with some from England.
About your dojo, did you give up the business to become a writer?
No. I wrote my books while we still owned the dojo and the reason we sold the dojo and property was because martial arts was dying in our area and my husband was ready for retirement anyway, so it was time to get out from under. Having 2 mortgages and paying bills on a property that was no longer paying for itself, was too difficult from a financial point of view. Selling out does take a lot of stress and pressure off and allow me more time for writing.
Which was your first book?
Sword Across Time
How long did it take you to write it?
A couple of years
Must have felt pretty great putting the word “End,” at the last page.
Yes, it was an awesome feeling. Of course, that first manuscript is still sitting on my computer and has never been published, which is a good thing as it really needs editing. Now that I have a lot more experience and understanding of writing, I am going to revisit that manuscript and publish it as it is a story that I really love.
A Witch’s Lament
I read the blurb for your book “A Witch’s Lament.” It takes place in Massachusetts. What is a Canadian author doing in Massachusetts? What inspired you to write it?
Well, witches are always a popular theme and I have always been fascinated by the varying viewpoints about the Salem witch trials. In my book, I do allude to the actual historical events and have some excerpts from the trials as part of my story, but the book itself is fictional and does wander into the realm of fantastical with an evil force of darkness. LOL. I loved writing the story and am currently finishing the series by writing the 3rd book now.
Give me an expanded blurb of the book for those who haven’t read it. What about talking a little about your characters?
Salem’s history of darkness and death isn’t over yet, a fact Skye discovers upon purchasing a house in the infamous seaport. Her presence ignites events that began centuries ago during the witch trials and stimulates her formerly benign powers into a force beyond earthly bounds.
The discovery of a skeleton in a secret room in her house leads her to local police officer, Jerome Phips, whose mother disappeared 30 years earlier during a ritual in Skye’s new home. Determined to uncover the truth of his mother’s disappearance, Jerome’s suspicion falls to Skye’s mom, whose presence at the ritual is revealed.
Past and present collide as Skye struggles to fulfill a birth-task to protect an ancient knife…the same one Jerome believes played a role in his mother’s disappearance. And an ancient evil returns to fulfill its own long-awaited task.
Rated 86 times. 69% 5 stars.
There are five elements integral to your story. You add “spirit” to earth, fire, water, and air. Do some witches worship the spirit and see it as an element?
I am not sure if worship is the correct word to use. Respect is how I would describe how witches view the elements, which all work together, and, yes, I believe that spirit is an element. It is the intangible presence of energy that lives in everything. It is palpable to those who are aware enough to believe in and feel its presence.
Skye is a girl who seems to me to live in constant limbo. She strikes me as someone who says yes/no in the same breath. It appears her mind is always in a state of chaos. But yet she is always determined, as if she didn’t allow the chaos to truly control her. Was that deliberate or did the character come alive on her own as you wrote the book? Tell me something about Skye in your own words.
I am what is called a pantser, which means that I write the story as I go. There is very little thought to an outline or plot. It can be difficult to write this way as I often get stuck as to what is going to happen next, but I’ve tried outlining and I just can’t do it. Until my characters start doing things, then I don’t know how they will react, which also means I don’t know what direction the story will take. They grow and evolve as I write them and they tell me how the story will go. So, basically, not much is deliberate, I just go with the flow.
Did any bit of your life make its way into the story?
I think a little bit of me and my beliefs always makes its way into my stories. I don’t see how I could do anything other than that. My view of the world, people, events, etc. is what it is. Of course, I also want to write a varied cast of characters, so I do look at things from other points of view and try to have characters act differently than I would in any given circumstance.
What would you like people to take from the book?
Hmmm, I would say that I want people to enjoy the story. I didn’t write it to preach or try to make people pay attention to lessons within the writing. Having said that, though, I think there should be something of a learning experience within any book for people who want to read between the lines. I think the story shows how history has been very cruel and, hopefully, we can learn from those mistakes and move on. Try to be non-judgmental and accepting of what others believe.
Part 2 is also available. Your new heroine there is Cassandra. Would you mind telling me a little about it?
Cassandra, like Skye, is thrust into a role that she doesn’t want and isn’t prepared for, but it helps her grow and helps define who she is as a person. Circumstances help strengthen her character and give her a surety in herself that was missing before coming to Salem and fighting (and defeating) the dark evil.
I saw some of your book covers. It’s pretty awesome. Tell me a little about what inspired you to create book covers? You obviously are possessed by a creative germ.
Thanks for your kind words, Cesar. As much as I love writing, I do also enjoy designing covers. My cover design career happened quite by chance and was brought on by a period of financial desperation. A friend and cover designer knew I needed money and she offered to help me learn how to use Photoshop and design covers. She got me started and taught me the basics and I’ve grown from there. I am a good cover designer, but not at the level of some of them out there and never will be as I don’t have the time to spend learning everything that some of these amazing designers know. Of course, my prices are about 1/4 of what they charge so it’s all relative.
You are also an animal lover. You have horses and other animals. Can you tell me something about them?
Animals are my heart. I adore them. Going back to the energy we talked about in an earlier question…I can read their energy and they read mine as well. My horse, Ginger, is so tuned in to me, that I swear she reacts to my thoughts before I even ask her to do something or make a move. I have to be careful and control my thoughts and emotions when I’m near her because she responds so quickly to me. All my animals are aware of me and I know them so well, it’s almost as if they speak to me. If more people would just be aware of their animals, they’d be amazed at how much animals actually do feel and think and communicate with us. The more you pay attention to them, the more they open up. If I ever win a lottery, I am going to put up fencing, shelters, and rescue as many animals as I can. For now, I have my 2 dogs, 4 cats, Welsh pony, mini horse, and 3 goats. I used to have 12 goats, but they’ve died over the last few years, mainly from old age.
You are certainly a person who has a lot to give to the world. What advice do you have for those struggling to write their first book or get any project underway?
Yes. Please don’t hesitate to ask questions of other authors who have experience. There are so many groups out there that offer advice. You need to RESEARCH. I’m amazed at how many people don’t know the difference between self-publishing, a vanity press, and a printer. How to submit to an agent or publisher. The fact that even if you get a deal with a trad publisher, you still need to market. That it is possible to make money self-publishing and there AREN’T only a handful of big name authors doing so. A quality book cover truly IS an important thing thing to invest in for many, many reasons. Putting out a book filled with spelling and grammatical errors is not a good thing. If you want to be taken seriously and make money in this industry, you need to approach it like a business and invest time, money, and knowledge to do it right. The competition is fierce as there are something like 3000-5000 books published daily on Amazon. You need to work to make yours stand out. Having said all of that, it is like walking through a minefield because about 75% of the advice given out in some of these groups is just wrong. So, I tell you to research and join groups, but I also caution you to really think through what you are being told. You need to know that the source of the information you are getting is a valid source. A writer who actually knows what they are talking about. Honestly, it’s not an easy thing you are trying to do, but listen to the people who have done it, not the people who are wannabe’s and just do a lot of talking about doing it. Hopefully that makes sense. It took me a long time to get to where I am and I’m still only at the bottom rung of making my writing a valid source of income. Of course, I went for quite a few years of just giving up and doing nothing with my books or writing. I’ve really only revived my career since last July, so I kind of count that as the beginning. I don’t mind answering questions or helping anyone out, so please don’t hesitate to join my Author group and contact me with any questions. I’ll list links below, I think Cesar will allow that.
Thank you so much, Cathy!
Check Out caThy’s books!
Cathy’s other links:
Author FB page – https://www.facebook.com/cathywalker.author
Author website – https://writesbooks.wixsite.com/cathywalker
Book Cover FB group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/cathyscovers
Book Cover website – https://cathyscovers.wixsite.com/books