Today I’d like to extend a warm welcome to Sharon Cathcart. Welcome to The PBS Blog! Let’s get started.
What is your name and where are you from?
I’m Sharon E. Cathcart. I was born in Portland, Ore., but now make my home in the Silicon Valley, Calif. In between, I’ve lived in Lawrence Township, Indiana, and literally all around the San Francisco Bay.
Are you employed outside of writing?
I’m the global grant coordinator for a major medical device firm.
Wow. That’s neat! What was your childhood dream?
I wanted to be a veterinarian. I love animals, and that was the best way I could think of to help them. However, I have dyscalculia (which is like dyslexia, but with numbers) and so my math marks were not high enough to qualify. I still help animals, though, by volunteering with our local humane society and caring for a colony of feral cats. I also donate all of my royalties from “Hugs and Hisses” to Humane Society Silicon Valley.
I love that. Speaking of writing, when did you publish your first book? What was that like?
In 1995. I was still working for the DoD and was tasked with writing the history of Sixth U.S. Army, which was decommissioned that year. The resulting work, “Born of War … Dedicated to Peace,” was given as a souvenir during the closure ceremony. It was kind of amazing, to be honest. I’d said for years that I wanted to write a book and suddenly I was holding one in my hand. However, when that job went away, I stopped thinking of myself as a writer for a very long time. I didn’t publish anything again until 2009 (that’s when my first novel, “In The Eye of The Beholder,” was released).
I’m glad you got back on the wagon. What skill would you like to master?
I would like to be able to draw (I can manage stick figures, and a passable horse head, but that’s about it). I would also like to be a better swimmer. I get claustrophobic when my face is in the water, so I’m really lousy.
I get it. What state or country do you never want to go back to?
Indiana. I lived there whilst attending the Defense Information School (I used to work for the Department of Defense as a public affairs specialist), and I tell people the same thing whenever they ask: “There were three things I loved about Indiana: the Connor Prairie Living History Center, the Indianapolis Zoo, and seeing Indiana go away under the airplane.” The main thing that sticks with me about living there was the day I looked something up in the phone book (remember those?)
Lol. I do.
…and found the KKK openly listed. I don’t remember what I was trying to find, but I sure remember that. It colored my feelings about the entire state – and not in a good way.
Doesn’t surprise me. Since you brought it up let’s go there. What are your views on racism?
Racism is a systemic thing, to me. It is about policies and laws that punch downward against people who are not in the majority. Any damn fool can be prejudiced/bigoted, but it takes political power to create racism.
By the way, I firmly believe that any white person who doesn’t recognize that the US is a white supremacist system is deluding themselves with willful ignorance. We all need to speak up against injustices like racism. If “social justice warrior” is an epithet, it’s one I’ll wear with honor. I spend a little time tackling racism in “Bayou Fire,” where my hero is an abolitionist in Jacksonian-era New Orleans – an unpopular position at the time, to say the least. I firmly believe we need to be speaking out today, and that’s why I created that personality trait for him.
Nice. I’d like to read this book. You said it takes political power to create racism. How so?
One has to be in a position to create systems designed to keep others down … and that means political power. We see numerous voter suppression laws being enacted, and attempts to roll back hard-won civil rights … because those holding the power are afraid of losing their hegemony. Holding the power to back up bigoted beliefs with action is what creates racism.
What songs have you completely memorized?
Just about everything by The Beatles and David Bowie. I’m not kidding.
So I guess I don’t have to ask what kind of music you like…
I have found something to like in every single genre except Chinese opera (which, even according to fans, is an acquired taste). My love show tunes, classical, bluegrass, just about everything you can imagine. My favorite artists are David Bowie, Ramin Karimloo, and The Beatles.
What’s your favorite color?
My long-time favorite is purple. However, I’m also fond of teal, which is the color of most of my author branding.
Are you married Sharon?
My husband, Jeff, and I have been together for 18 years and married for 16. It’s a second marriage for both of us.
Congrats! What’s your favorite TV Show? Movie?
My favorite film of all time is “Tom Jones,” starring Albert Finney. It’s the story of an 18th Century English rake, and is absolutely hilarious. You need to watch it just for the scene where he and one of the female characters are eating dinner; no one says a word, but the tension is fantastic!
What TV channel exists but really shouldn’t?
Please don’t get me started on TLC. I remember when it was “The Learning Channel.” Now it seems like it’s “The Lowest Common Denominator.” I’m not a fan of so-called reality TV, with the exception of cooking competitions.
I love cooking competition shows! I have to ask. Top Chef or Hell’s Kitchen?
Hell’s Kitchen. I kind of adore Gordon Ramsey. He puts on an enormous display of temper, for sure, but you can tell he really cares about food.
Ha! I am in the middle. I love Top Chef but I just got into Hell’s Kitchen and I can tell Ramsey is fair in his decisions.
Speaking of Ramsey’s temper, what do you think of the bullying in our schools? How can we do better?
I was one of those kids who was bullied, pretty much from 6th grade on until high school graduation. Teachers need to take it seriously rather than blowing it off as “they’re just jealous” or “they’re teasing you because they like you.” Kids are not stupid; they know the difference between a buddy teasing you and someone being actively cruel. Parents need to teach their children to be kind rather just laughing off their aggression as “kids will be kids.” The teaching has to begin at home, and classrooms need to reinforce it.
We agree there. What advice would you give your younger self?
It is going to get better. Find the drama kids sooner. Don’t hold people at arm’s length because you’re afraid; everyone is struggling and you will discover that most people are genuinely kind.
Thank you Sharon for spending this time with us. We enjoyed you!
Sharon E. Cathcart is an award-winning author of fiction featuring atypical characters.
A former journalist and newspaper editor, Sharon has been writing for as long as she can remember and always has at least one work in progress.
Sharon lives in the Silicon Valley, California, with her husband and an assortment of rescue pets.
Be sure to follow Sharon on Social Media!