Author Spotlight: E. Catherine Tobler

anubis_paperI’ve actually had the pleasure of working with this author once before when she had a short story published in Penumbra. I’m sure you can imagine how pleased I was to discover that she was on the list of published Wimos, and that you’ll understand why I was even more delighted when she agreed to this interview.

Please give E. Catherine Tobler a warm welcome and enjoy what she has to say about Nanowrimo and the process of writing a novel:

1. Can you tell us a bit about your books

The last four books I’ve finished all have one thing in common: they were started during Nanowrimo.

In 2011, I wrote “The Kelpie Book.” This became Watermark, which just saw publication (; it is the story of Pip, a fairy sent to the human world for punishment. But something larger than punishment looms on the horizon–both worlds stand on the brink of destruction.

In 2012, I wrote “The Circus Book.” While I reached 50k on the manuscript, it became evident there wasn’t quite enough happening within the plot to make it a successful book-length project. I cut it down to 40k, which whittled it to its heart; it turned into “The Kraken Sea,” a novella length work set in my traveling circus universe. This will be published in Panverse #4 next year.

And in 2013, I wrote “The Honey Mummy,” a sequel to Rings of Anubis (, which I wrote for Nanowrimo in 2010. These focus on the adventures of archaeologist Eleanor Folley and secret agent Virgil Mallory, set against a backdrop of turn-of-the-century Paris and Cairo.

2. When did you first decide you wanted to become a published author?

I’m not sure there was ever a distinct moment of insight as to this. Since I was a teenager, I’ve always written, whether it be in journals, school newspapers, or original fiction. These things led to fan fiction, which led to me wanting to create my own universes, because no one was ever going to publish my epic X-Files romances, were they? I suppose that was the moment, when I wanted to create more than already-existing universes could hold, and when I believed that content was good enough to share and send into the world.

3. How did you find out about Nanowrimo?

One of the first places I interacted with other writers was on LiveJournal, and I’m pretty sure information about Nanowrimo was posted within those circles. I remember being terrified by the idea of 50k. Fifty thousand words. When you’re new, you really have no idea what that looks like, or how to get there, so the very idea was daunting.

4. How much planning did you do before starting Nanowrimo?

This varies with every book, so it’s hard to say. Sometimes I find the idea needs more nurturing than others do. Rings of Anubis required a lot of research, because while I love ancient Egypt and Victorian Paris, I didn’t know nearly enough about them to write with confidence. The same with circus life; “The Kraken Sea” is set in San Francisco before the 1906 earthquake, and it was an entirely different world to learn and explore. But with every Nanowrimo, there is a notebook, that fills itself up over the course of the month — if not weeks before.

5. What was your first Nanowrimo experience like?

As I said, the idea was daunting, but because I was new, I leapt right in, disregarding the queasy feeling in my stomach. This was a time of darkness, when I didn’t know exactly what I was capable of as a writer (it’s a time I almost wish I could return to, because I think I was more likely to take risks then, but then again, looking at my bibliography…); I didn’t know how long it would take me to write 50,000 words. I didn’t know how long it would take me to write 1,666 words, so the first time was entirely a learning experience. I did reach 50k, but did that novel actually get finished and go anywhere? No. And that’s okay, because it was about getting over the terror.

6. What advice would you give people attempting Nanowrimo this year? 

I think “winning” Nanowrimo is a little misleading. It’s easy to get hung up on the idea of winning, of being a winner and not, oh my gosh, a loser. If you start writing, you’re a winner. If you write consistently over the course of a month (whether consistent means daily or not), you are a winner. If you end up with more than you started with, call it good. Don’t get attached to “winning.” Just write.

The best thing Nanowrimo gives you is a better understanding of your writerly self. Do you write well every day, or do you need a down day? The best thing Nanowrimo taught me is that consistent work gets you to The End. Whether that’s 1000 words a day, 1000 words an hour, 1000 words a week. I know a writer who does 200 words a day and calls it done. He consistently finishes and submits good work.

7. What are your plans this coming November? 

I am planning to leap once more into Nanowrimo, with an entirely new project. I spent the summer getting to know this idea and it’s ready to be written. The work will continue into December, I’m certain, and possibly beyond that. This November contains family birthdays, and Thanksgiving, but those are normal. Amusingly this November also contains the possibility of travel. So that will throw a new hitch into writing, won’t it?


E. Catherine Tobler’s fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and her first novel, Rings of Anubis, is now available. Follow her on Twitter @ECthetwit or her website,