Q&A: Wowing with Westerns with Cat Cahill

Cat Cahill is the author of historical western romances. She will chat about what inspired her to write her series, how she does her research, and how she markets her books to a voracious readership.

Q. Hi Cat! Thanks for joining me today.

A. Thanks for having me!

Q. I checked out your Amazon author page and loved your author bio. It starts with “A sunset. Snow on the mountains. A roaring river in the spring. A man and a woman who can’t fight the love that pulls them together. The danger and uncertainty of life in the Old West. This is what inspires me to write.” So pretty! Are you in Kentucky?

A. Thank you! And yes!

Q. I love KY. When my 24 year old daughter was 14, I had the privilege of taking her to Lexington for Breyer Fest. As you can see, ten years later, I still remember that area fondly. Those rolling hills and horse farms. And I was not even the horse crazy person. Do you have horses?

A. I don’t, unfortunately. One of my longtime writing friends told me once she imagined me living on a horse farm. I had to break her heart and tell her I live in a suburb of Louisville, about 3 miles from the mall.

Q. Ha ha ha. I went to Louisville too. We drove our rental car to “see” the place where the Kentucky Derby takes place, only to not find parking. We got out of the car and took a photo. I can’t remember the name of the landmark for the life of me…

A. Oh no!! Churchill Downs. It’s a gorgeous racetrack. I love the history there.

Q. Yes! Churchill! Thank you. How long have you been publishing, and what do you write?

A. I write clean historical western romance (although I’m beginning work on a contemporary series too). I started publishing my own work just last year, in May. So I’m still a relative newbie in the romance world!

Q. Well, for a relative newbie, your books seem well-received. I remember being impressed with some of the reviews on your books. How did you get into historical western romance?

A. Aw, thank you! 😊 I love American history. I even got a masters degree in it! I’ve always wanted to write something historical, but never could settle on what, exactly. I wrote contemporary middle grade and a YA for years (and I still do!) but I found myself really wanting to try something different. I started reading romance again, and gravitated toward the historicals I always loved. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Old West, and it finally occurred to me that maybe I should try writing one, just for fun. Of course, one led to another and another… haha!

Q. That is awesome! Do you care to share the name you write under for MG and YA?

A. Sure! It’s Gail Nall. They’re fun, lighthearted books. Very Babysitters’ Club!

Q. Fun! Did your college studies revolve around American history or something else? And what time period are your Western romances set in? (Duh, you just said so in your answer. Let me rephrase that…) Did your college studies revolve around a particular period in American history?

A. I did most of my work on women in the Progressive Era—mostly focused on the bigger cities. And then I did my thesis on one particular social worker in Louisville. So basically, night and day from the Old West. 😂 My books are set in 1875-1876 Colorado.

Q. Why that time period? Is it a series you started, or if not, who did, and how did you get involved? I am thinking specifically of Gilbert girls.

A. I liked that it was far enough after the Civil War, but not too close to the “closing” of the frontier, if that makes sense. The Old West as we think of it was a very narrow time period. The Gilbert Girls is my series. It’s inspired by the real-life Harvey Girls.

Q. Who were they?

A. Women hired by the Harvey Company to be waitresses at Harvey House restaurants in depots and hotels in the southwest from about the 1870s through the 1950s. They were thought to be a “civilizing” influence in a wild area.

Q. Wow! I love that. I can already see lots of potential conflicts and romantic plots. How did you do the research?

A. In bits and spurts. Haha! I did a lot of reading on the Harvey Girls to get an idea of how I wanted to create my setting. For everything else, I look it up as I go.

Q. Do you feel that living in KY, amidst that horse-centric culture, give you a leg up writing Westerns?

A. In a way, I suppose. My sister rode when we were younger, but she rode English style. So I know a little, but not tons. I’ve gotten good at researching, and what I don’t know, I’m pretty good at writing around.

Q. What is your GG setting’s town? Did you make it up or use a real one? Why did you choose the route you did?

A. It’s a made-up town called Crest Stone. It’s set in the Wet Mountain Valley, which is a real place. I drove through there on a road trip several years ago and fell in love with it. (Fun fact—the town was called Crestone until I found out that was the name of a real town in Colorado! I changed it pretty quickly.) A made up town gives you more leeway in making up facts. 😉

Q. Aww fun! I set many of my books in a fictional Colorado town, too. Sunnyridge. I love CO too. How many books do you have out now as Cat Cahill, and how often do you publish? What is the average length?

A. I love your town name! There are 7 books out now—six in the Gilbert Girls series and I wrote one book in the multi-author Proxy Brides series. The Gilbert Girls books are mostly between 40k and 50k words, although the first is longer. I aim to get a book out every other month.

Q. What is your drafting to publishing timeline like?

A. I try to write a draft during one month, then editing and proofreading for about another 3 weeks. So I’d say it winds up being a two month process. Usually!

Q. Regency is famous for doing well. What kind of market are you finding with clean historical western romance? (Feel free to decline answering) What kind of monthly income can one expect writing in this genre?

A. Let’s just say I still have a day job. 😉 It’s a good, specific market with devoted, wonderful readers. It’s not as big or as popular as Regency or clean contemporary. Most historical western authors write another genre too. Amazon doesn’t even give it its own category, so that’s challenging. But the readers who love the genre love it fiercely!

Q. What is your day job?

A. I’m a grant writer for a nonprofit. So basically, I write all the time!

Q. Cool! I am on our city council and I write grants too for our city; nice to meet a fellow grant-nerd. LOL What do you do to market your books, and what has given you the best bang for your buck?

A. I love genre-specific Facebook reader groups. Those are the best for announcing a new release or a sale! My mailing list has been invaluable. I also get a lot of return on paid mailing lists (Robin Reads, Book Cave, etc) for free days. I’ve had good luck with Amazon ads too.

Q. Cat, I wish we could keep chatting as this has been fun but our time is up. One last question. How do you balance a day job with your publishing career?

A. I don’t sleep! Haha. Not really, but I have a very structured day. I’m up at 5 to write for 1 to 1.5 hours, then it’s all kids and day job. I do marketing throughout the day as I can. It’s tough but absolutely worth it!

Q. You are amazing! More power to you. You deserve your success.

A. Thank you so much!

Check out Cat Cahill’s books here.

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