Beth Cato Interview, The Sequel, This Time It’s Personal!

You probably remember Beth Cato. I interviewed her in April for the release of Final Flight. Well, she’s back with another new release. Breath of Earth comes out August 23rd, and while you’re picking up a paperback copy of The Returned, (which comes out the same day) you should totally get Beth’s book too. I did convince her to bring something extra to the pub for this interview though. She’s promised to share the recipe for one of her amazing treats which earned her the (well-deserved) title of High-Priestess of Churromancy by Kevin Hearne.


So, another book. Already. Really? Are you just trying to make the rest of us look bad? Or is this a clever attempt to shame Patrick Rothfuss and/or George Martin to get the next book in their series out?

Ha! Well, we’re not talking about books here that are sizable enough to bash intruders over the head–and I’m pretty sure GRMM and Rothfuss books would be excellent for that purpose. In my case, Final Flight was a longer-length short story. Breath of Earth is a full 400-page novel. It’s in trade paperback, so it’s not that effective for head-bashing purposes… unless you buy a full box. Which I totally endorse.

Don’t sell yourself short. Book bashing is all ability technique. I once disarmed a group four ninjas with nothing buy a battered paperback copy of Nine Stories, true story. Moving on, Breath of Earth is a departure from your Clockwork Dagger series, was it hard abandoning turning away from the characters you created and got readers caring about?

This is where the whole space-time continuum of the publishing industry makes things weird. I actually wrote Breath of Earth three years ago, during the limbo time when I had a verbal book deal for Clockwork Dagger but not an actual contract yet. I then had to wait until Clockwork Dagger and its sequel were written and done before my agent could submit Breath of Earth to my publisher for consideration. Are you still following me? It messes with my head, too, because I have been hopping back and forth between these steampunk worlds for several years now.

Ah, the dangers of time travel. Been there, done that, am I right? Tell us a little about this new book. And will it become a new series, full of characters we grow to love who will then be abandoned by their author in favor or something new and shiny?

Breath of Earth does indeed kick off a new series, and I hope to stay with these characters for a few years more (HINT: buy this book so I can finish the series). This world features some heavy duty alt history: America and Japan are allied and in the process of taking over China. Magical creatures exist. Airships and advanced technology are powered by captured energy from earthquakes. My heroine, Ingrid Carmichael, is a clandestine geomancer. Women aren’t supposed to be geomancers. This complicates her life, especially when someone is trying to assassinate geomancers in San Francisco–and the fault lines emit waaaay too much energy for one person to hold in check.

You heard her, buy this book! Do it! Right now! And certainly not because she’s bribed me. So this story is set in 1906 California, what drew you to that era?

I’m a native Californian. I have experienced my fair share of earthquakes. As a historical fiction buff from an early age, the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire always fascinated me. When I was trying to figure out a new series to write, I realized no one had used that era and place for steampunk. I decided to take on the challenge.

Fire, mass devastation, crushed hopes (and people), what isn’t fascinating about that? No, I’m not moving away for any special reason. This is a historical fantasy novel, so how much did you keep to historical reality and how much did you make your own?

Even when I consciously twisted history, I tried to make it as accurate as possible. Same with my use of mythological creatures–I wanted to keep it as authentic as possible, relying on native sources wherever I could. This has been downright daunting. I have included a bibliography in the back of the book and also have it on my website because I really want to encourage people to delve deeper into the real history, especially when it comes to the Chinese immigrant experience in America. The amount of erasure on that subject is shameful.

A book with homework, interesting marketing idea. Is the rumor I made up about you and John Hodgeman being caught in a closet playing seven minutes in heaven at the Nebula awards true?

I’d never play any game in a closet during that particular block of time. That dinner was expensive, man. I wasn’t going to miss out on a single crumb!

Sorry, I just got the timing of the closet rendezvous wrong. Sorry, my bad. In your last interview you mentioned this book had geomancy and mythology. Care to expound? I know that interview was ssssoooooo long ago it might be hard to remember way back then.

Sure! Geomancy is earth magic. In Breath of Earth, such energy is released through earthquakes. The rare folks who are born as geomancers act as mediators with the earth. They take in energy and can stop earthquakes–but that power also quickly overwhelms the human body with a fever. They can overheat and die in minutes. The only way to release that contained power is to be in contact with a crystal called kermanite; it siphons the power and holds it for later use as a battery.
I bring in mythological creatures from around the world, too. Even fairies. (Yes, THAT spelling.) Garden pixies are common, and things like unicorns or pookas might be seen in use by rich men about the city. There are also major creatures called Hidden Ones–demi-god level beings that are either well hidden or extinct.

Since we’re friends, I’ll ignore that grievous spelling error. Name four of your favorite fictional characters, and you don’t get to pick Laura Ingalls, your Little House on the Prairie love is well documented.

I couldn’t choose Laura anyway–she was real! Let’s see. Raistlin Majere from Dragonlance, Hermione Granger, Flavia de Luce from Alan Bradley’s delightful mystery series (11-year-old girl who loves poison and investigating murders!), and Paks from Elizabeth Moon’s Paksenarrion series.

An excellent list! Just what I’d expect from a fellow awesome author. Speaking of which, I personally don’t really struggle with remaining humble while being so awesome, what about you?

I feed cookies to people and desperately hope said people will like me, so I think it’s safe to say I have difficulty accepting any kind of self-awesomeness.

Cookies are always a sure fire way to make friends, and a trait I would assuredly assign to the awesome. I’ll give you some pointers in awesome acceptance. Moving on, I’d ask what you’re reading but you’re probably too busy baking, working on your next three novels, six novellas, two screenplays, and cookbook to have time to read. Okay, fine, what are you reading right now?

A nonfiction tome about the Hawaiian Revolution and an old holiday baking issue of Cook’s Illustrated. And for the record, I have never written a screenplay. Publishing industry rejections are bad enough, I don’t even want to mess with Hollywood!

You heard her, Hollywood, she has no interest at all in you buying the movie and/or TV rights to her stories. Tell us about the main characters of your new book.

Ingrid Carmichael is a young woman of color and a geomancer. She keeps her magical prowess secret with the help of her adoptive father and mentor, Warden Sakaguchi, and works as a secretary for the Earth Wardens. She’s not happy being constrained in such a role.
Then there’s Cy. He’s a southern gentlemen and a mechanical genius with a few secrets of his own. His business partner is Fenris, an acerbic and likewise brilliant mechanic. Fenris is going to gain a large fan club following, and Lexie Dunne has already been declared president of this club. Send her your membership dues, folks.

I don’t know how loudly I’d proclaim Lexie’s interest in your book. Her sister is really the gifted judge of literary excellence. You went viral not just once, but twice (I’m not counting that unfortunate event while researching a 12 monkeys fan fiction story). Tell us about it? Was it as satisfying as we’re all told?

It is pretty cool when a tweet goes crazy like that, though it’s also maddening if you have alerts and sound effects set. My “most viral” experience was one of my #TwitterFiction stories last year, which you can see here: https://twitter.com/BethCato/status/598567939533471745
Maybe you can wield your inherent awesomeness and make it go viral again!

I make no promises. I must wield my inherent awesomeness judiciously. But if it happens, I reserve the right to take full credit. Alright, time to cough up a recipe! Hand it over and no one gets hurt!

Let’s do a recipe that YOU have actually eaten, Bishop! Chewy Honey Maple Cookies! These things are like crack. The smell alone drives people crazy.

Chewy Maple Honey Cookies6_sm

Originally posted on Bready or Not: http://www.bethcato.com/bready-or-not-chewy-honey-maple-cookies/

Honey and maple team up to create sweet and chewy cookies that last for days… unless you eat them all right away.

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons maple flavor
  • 1 cup bread flour (or all-purpose flour, but cookies will be less chewy)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • maple sugar or turbinado sugar for the tops, optional

In a large bowl, beat the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and honey and beat until creamy and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then mix in the egg, vanilla extract, and maple flavor.

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients: bread flour, all-purpose flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt. Sift together.

Slowly stir together the wet and dry ingredients until just combined. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and stash in the fridge for several hours or days.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350-degrees. Use greased stoneware, parchment paper, or silpat mats. If you want to add some sparkle to the cookies, place some maple sugar or turbinado sugar in a saucer and dip in the tops of the dough balls. The cookie dough, even straight from the fridge, has a soft Play Doh-like consistency, so it will spread some when it bakes; keep this in mind when you space the cookie dough balls.

Teaspoon-sized cookies need to bake 9 to 12 minutes; Tablespoon-sized take 11 to 13 minutes. Let set on cookie sheets for 10 to 15 minutes before moving to a rack to cool completely.

Cookies will keep in a sealed container for at least a week. They are excellent for travel or shipping.

OM NOM NOM!


I can indeed vouch for the cracky-deliciousness of these cookies. Make them, make lots of them and I promise all who partake will forever follow you blindly*. Thanks, Beth. As always, a delight to have you, especially when you bring cookies. Breath of Earth is available right now, everywhere.

BreathofEarth_500x332

AmazonB&NBAMGoogleiTunesKoboIndiebound

*Not an actual promise.

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