Interview with Catherine Spangler

Catherine grew up in Alabama and began writing when she was a teenager. She’s had a life-long interest in paranormal and metaphysical topics, the power of the mind, and the creative process. Her award-winning Shielder series is set on other worlds, and earned her a 2005 RITA nomination. Now she’s forging new territory with dark and sensuous paranormals set on current-day earth.

Catherine lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and a menagerie of dogs and cats. She loves reading, listening to music, taking naps on the sofa with a good football game for background noise, and eating chocolate (not necessarily in that order). 

Visit her original website at In September 2006, her new Sentinel website, will be up and running.

Kristen: Welcome to the Romance Divas blog, Cathy! We’re thrilled to have a groundbreaking author such as yourself join us. How about we start out by you giving us the details on your fab new book deal for Berkley’s Sensation line?

Cathy:  Thanks for having me. I love the Romance Divas! My new book deal with Berkley is wonderful—two Sentinel books, which are titled Touched by Darkness and Touched by Fire. And also a novella titled Street Corners and Halos, which will be in the Demon’s Delight anthology with MaryJanice Davidson, Emma Holly, and Vickie Taylor.

Kristen: What are your feelings about going with a new publisher?

Cathy:  I’m thrilled. I get to work with Cindy Hwang, who is a fabulous editor; and write for Berkley, which is an innovative and groundbreaking publisher in the paranormal romance genre. I think most people have a tendency to resist change, but change can be very good. By making the move to a new publisher, I’m getting the opportunity to write a different kind of paranormal, which will hopefully help me grow as a writer. And I’ll be making more money (let’s face it, this is a business), have larger print runs and wider distributions. It’s a great deal!

Kristen: This new series, with its dark paranormal elements and current-day earth setting, is quite a departure from the futuristics you’re known for. What was your inspiration for this series?

Cathy:  I think two personal interests inspired this series: Atlantis and metaphysical / spiritual studies. I really started down the metaphysical path when I was eleven years old, and read my first book about Edgar Cayce. That started me on a lifelong interest in the Cayce readings, which led to his 700 plus readings on Atlantis. I’ve also done a lot of meditation, which involves the spiritual chakras I mention in the new series. From there, it was an easy leap to speculate “What if Atlantis really existed, and what if there really were good Atlantians (the Children of One) and bad Atlantians (the Sons of Belial), and what if they really do start reincarnating into the Earth again in the 20th and 21st century (as the Cayce readings indicated they would)? My Sentinel story line came from there, and then I added the human conductors.  

Kristen: I think it’s a given that with these books you’ll reach not only long time fans but also make new ones. Would you say you’re reinventing yourself with this series? If so, was that intentional?

Cathy:  I do feel like I’m reinventing myself, and it was very intentional. First, because I changed publishers, as discussed above. Second, because I shifted to writing very different stories. Even though my new books are also paranormal romances, there are a lot of differences between the sub-genres in paranormals. My first five books were futuristics, set on other worlds, and required world building, and different cadence and language nuances. The new series are dark paranormals set on current-day Earth, with contemporary events and language. After five futuristics, I needed to do something new and different. I needed to stretch creatively. Plus I wanted to move forward in my career.   

Kristen: How do you feel romance is changing?

Cathy:  I think romance is changing very rapidly, opening up to many variations and less restrictions than the genre has ever seen. The guidelines are not nearly as strict, because readers are voracious for new and different romantic stories, and publishers are finally catching up with the trends. Just about anything goes now, probably a reflection of our diverse and light-speed-changing society. And paranormal romance, once shunned by the majority of publishers, is one of the hottest romance genres going. 

Kristen: Where do you think the paranormal genre is going? In your opinion, what’s next?

Cathy: As I said above, the paranormal genre is quite possibly the strongest romance genre. Readers can’t seem to get enough, and the variations are endless: ghost, witch, vampire, Sentinels , werewolves, angels, demons, demon-hunters, goddesses, reincarnation, SF, aliens, futuristics, gargoyles, fairies, time travel, etc. And each of those sub-genres can have variations. A good example of that is vampire, where each writer can create different vampire worlds with different rules. Paranormals can also be set in different time periods. I think with the flexibility and huge amount of diversity, paranormal romance will go strong for a long time to come.

Kristen: Want to talk about surviving a dry spell? What does that do to your writer’s psyche and how did you get out of it?

Cathy:  That’s a tough situation to be in. I went through a pretty long dry spell because I made the decision to change publishers. I sent out two different proposals that received a lot of rejections. Even the Sentinel books received five or six rejections before Berkley bought them. My other proposal, humorous aliens, never sold. It took a while to circulate those proposals, finally get a sale, and then a due date and a publication date. There will be three years between my last book, Shadow Fires, and my upcoming book, Touched by Darkness. Of course the rejections and the struggle are hard on the psyche, but no harder than when a writer is initially trying to get published. The dry spell tends to make you question your worth and your talent. But it’s really not a reflection of those things, because this is a tough, highly competitive, and subjective business. I believe you have to keep writing and submitting no matter what’s happening in your career. Everything you write, every action you take to sell a book, is sending out energy to the universe and the powers that be. If you send out enough energy long enough, it will come back to you. The catch is that you don’t necessarily know how or when, but it will happen. I’m a firm believer that perseverance is crucial in this business.

Kristen: To close, what words of advice can you offer for the unpublished writers out there who are still struggling with rejections and self-doubt (you know, all the fun things that come with trying to get published)?

Cathy: First off, accept that for the vast majority of pre-published writers, there are going to be rejections, frustrations, and doubts. I think highly creative people tend to be more neurotic than the norm anyway, so that just makes it tougher. But there are concrete things you can do: (1) Learn the craft. Join RWA, go to local chapter meetings, get involved with a good critique group (a positive upbeat group that helps you grow, but doesn’t tear down your stories or ideas). Read how-to books and magazines, listen to other authors, and let the information soak into your subconscious (believe me, it’s listening!)  (2) Read—a lot! Read books in your chosen genre to see what editors are buying and to get a better understanding of the genre. And read to get a feel for good writing, for language, character development and emotion. Also read books outside your chosen genre, to give you a broader feel for the ebb and flow of language (good writing is good writing, regardless of genre). (3) Write, write, write! Writing develops your skills and your voice, and sends out that all-important creative energy.  (4) Persevere! I believe that it’s not necessarily the most brilliant writers who succeed in this business, but the writers who never give up.     

Kristen: Thank you for your time and best wishes on a smashing new series! When can we look for the first book?

Cathy:  How about a complete time line:

Touched by Darkness (Book 1 of the Sentinel Series), Berkley Sensation, January 2007

Street Corners & Halos, Demon’s Delight anthology, Berkley Trade, March 2007

Touched by Fire (Book 2 of the Sentinel Series), Berkley Sensation, October 2007

Kristen: As an added treat, Cathy has graciously agreed to share an excerpt from her new Sentinel series!

(There’s an additional excerpt on Catherine’s website.)
Excerpt from TOUCHED BY DARKNESS, by Catherine Spangler
Note: This scene is a conduction, in which a superhuman Sentinel connects with a human conductor to magnify the Sentinel’s psychic energies, in order to track a Belian (another superhuman being, but evil). This particular conduction is non-sexual, although the vast majority of conductions include sex. But Kara Cantrell has already lost a Sentinel man she loved, and she refuses to go down that road again. So she agrees to do a conduction for Damien Morgan only if it’s non-sexual.
Kara felt a brush of heated energy behind her, knew Damien was there. Apprehension and physical awareness swept through her. She leaned down to smooth Alex’s hair and kiss his cheek before she straightened and faced Damien. He had returned to Doris’ house to finish examining the crime scene, while she calmed and fed Alex, and gotten him ready for bed. Damien returned in time to send boy and dog into a deep slumber, assuring her they wouldn’t awaken during the conduction.

Now he stood there, waiting for her, the unspoken expectation hanging between them like a pending execution. He was dressed differently tonight. She had been surprised to see him in full business attire when he’d shed his duster earlier—an expensively-cut black suit that made him look even bigger, his shoulders even wider. With it, he wore a white shirt and blood-red tie. He told her he had some official business earlier in Fredericksburg, and sometimes his work required a suit.

He’d removed the suit coat and the tie, and rolled up the sleeves, exposing strong muscular forearms. With his dark skin and five’o-clock shadow, and his midnight hair flowing freely about his shoulders, he looked like a modern-day pirate, threatening on many levels she didn’t want to probe. It didn’t help that he’d returned from Doris’ house radiating excess psychic energy which jangled her already-taut nerves. 

“Ready?” he asked.

She was mentally and physically exhausted. There was a gaping hole in her heart, created by the loss of a friend she couldn’t yet properly mourn. Instead, she had to hold it together for her son, subject herself to the trauma of a conduction, and at the same time maintain her dignity in front of this Sentinel. “Hell no, I’m not ready,” she muttered.

He held out his hand. “Come on.”

Willing her hand to remain steady, she placed it in his, felt the tingle of electricity.

“Alex’s room?” he asked.

“No,” she said firmly, although a bed was the standard setting for a conduction—along with tangled sheets and nude, writhing bodies. But she refused to cross those boundaries. “The living room.”

His brow arched at that, but he said nothing as they walked to the main room and over to the couch. “Sit here.” He indicated one end of the couch and pulled the overstuffed chair around to face it. “I’ll take the chair.”

They seated themselves, adjusting furniture so they fully faced one another. He scooted the chair forward until his knees touched the couch, with her legs sandwiched between his thighs, far too close for comfort. Her heart was jumping like a panicked frog in a net, and memories of Richard crowded into her mind. She shoved them away, stared into Damien’s mesmerizing silvery gaze.

“No intimacy,” she said again. “No unnecessary touching.”

“So we agreed.” He reached toward her, pausing when she flinched involuntarily. “Kara, we have to touch some.”

She felt like the naive, starry-eyed high school girl she’d once been, too shy and intimidated to say hello to the football quarterback on whom she’d had a huge crush. This is ridiculous, she told herself.

“I know.” She wiped her palms on her sweatpants (the most coverage she could find) and held out both hands.

He took them, turning her left palm face up and placing his right palm down against it. Then he turned his left hand face up against her right hand, completing the familiar, standard position for opening energy pathways between Sentinel and conductor. Leaning forward, he shifted their pressed-together hands to rest on her thighs. He inhaled deeply, exhaled; she knew he was centering himself and creating protective shields.

Already, without any other initiation, she could feel the flow of psychic energy beginning to cycle through their hands. She couldn’t believe that just a simple physical link could initiate the energy. Good thing she’d kept her bra on and donned a thick sweatshirt, because her nipples were already painful nubs. She felt another flare of panic, caught her breath.

“Easy now,” he murmured. “Close your eyes and breathe through it.”

Simple for him to say. She closed her eyes, managed a few deep breaths. The energy began pooling in her groin, quickly heating to an urgency that spread like fingers across her abdomen. On an intellectual level, she understood it was just the base chakra activating and expanding; this chakra controlled ovaries/gonads and reproduction and therefore sexual urges. But on a visceral level, it was an awakening of desire. 

With astonishing speed, the energy cycled upward to just below her belly button, bursting through the second chakra, setting her abdomen aflame. With it came the sexual surge, creating a physical need so violent, she had to clamp her thighs together to keep from crying out. The energies were rising fast, much faster than she remembered with Richard. She struggled for air, unable to assimilate the overwhelming rush of energy.

“Breathe!” Damien commanded. “Just breathe and go with the flow.”

The third chakra opened with an audible pop, energy pouring through her lower ribcage. “Too fast,” she gasped. It had been too long since she’d done this . . . . “I can’t do it.”

“Let go, Kara. Let it carry you along.”   

“I can’t—” She was vaguely aware that she had her fingers wrapped around his hands, that he had pressed his legs tightly against her thighs . . . it was too much.

“You don’t have to do anything. Just hold on, go with the current.” His voice was like steel, a command she was helpless to ignore. She felt tossed like a buoy in a stormy sea.

Another pop, and green filled her field of vision. Warmth flooded her fourth chakra, spread through her chest.

“We’re through the lower chakras now,” he said, sounding calm and impassive. “All you have to do is hang on.” He meant that symbolically, but her fingers convulsed around his hands, desperately seeking an anchor. She felt his fingers curl around hers in return, felt the solidness of his grasp. “It’s all right,” his deep voice soothed. “Keep breathing.”

The pressure eased somewhat, but her throat burned as the energy moved into the fifth chakra, the first of the higher three centers. They were in the Sentinel realm now, in the spiritual chakras that facilitated links with God and with the super-consciousness many referred to as the Universe.

The slight easing was short lived. There was a blinding starburst of light, followed by a sharp spear of pain in the top of her head. The sixth chakra was now open, but she had no time to process it. The light spilled into the center of her forehead, into the seventh chakra. An electrical tingling began there.  

With all the chakras open, the energy had a full range to flow and began racing through all seven centers in a figure-eight pattern. It created a rocking sensation along her spine. She felt like she was being jerked off the couch, but knew that was just her perception. She also knew her ‘third eye’, which was linked to the sixth chakra, was now engaged with Damien’s. Colors flashed behind her eyelids—red, orange, yellow, green blue, indigo, violet—alternating with light-speed images she couldn’t decipher. Faster and faster and faster. 

Clawing, sexual need permeated it all. Kara’s heart raced, her breasts ached, her vagina throbbed with basic, primal need. This was when most Sentinels and conductors came together physically. When the steady pounding of the male into the female set up a cadence that merged with the lower-based chakra energy signature of the Belian, slipping into that energy like a key into a lock. 
  This was when Richard would have entered her body, filling her, slaking her desperate need, as their energy merged to surround and pattern the Belian’s energy; culminating in an explosive climax and leaving strong mental images that would lead Richard to the identity of the Belian.

But there would be no relief for her this time. No physical release or the bonding of minds and souls, or the glow of the spiritual aftermath. No lying in bed afterwards and piecing together the parts of the Belian puzzle, then making love again, this time with leisurely tenderness. No Richard. Ever again.

Grief engulfed her, but not even that pain could dull the relentless sexual demands of her body. She wrenched her thoughts to Doris. For her, she could handle this—she would handle it. She’d come this far, and Doris’ murderer was not going to get away with his crime. Kara reached deep, trying to ride the waves of energy and focus on the stunning starburst radiating in the center of her mind.

The images flashing through her mind in a super blur meant nothing to her, but that didn’t matter. Damien would be able to interpret them. Her job as a conductor was to magnify and focus his psychic abilities, allowing him to chisel away at the Belian’s psychic blocks. She was simply a conduit, albeit a very powerful one. 

The energy began to slow, as did the rocking motion. The color and image flashes became weaker, began fading. She felt the surge receding, leaving behind a tingling sensation, like that of a limb falling asleep, then reawakening. But the sexual heat didn’t recede. The four lower chakras were tied to the Earth, encrypted with the instinct survival of mating. Her entire body reverberated with a now highly-charged libido.  

Mind over matter, she told herself, clenching her teeth. Or maybe a bath in ice water. She felt Damien withdraw, mentally and physically, and it left her oddly bereft. Blowing out a shaky breath, she opened her eyes. He had pushed the chair away a few feet, and lounged back in it, watching her. He appeared composed and completely unaffected by what had just transpired, while she suspected she was rumpled and wild eyed, with her hair going all directions.

Damn him. How could he be so impervious? He was in a human body, wasn’t he? She squinted at his lap, trying to see if he had an erection. He should have a raging one, if he was experiencing even one-tenth of the lust she felt right now. She couldn’t tell, not with the dark suit and the dimness of the room.

Stop it! she told herself. She was just feeling the after-affects of the conduction, not a true attraction. Fatigue and exhaustion seeped through her.

“You all right?” Damien asked.

“Just fine.” She tried to get up, found her rubbery legs wouldn’t support her.

“Careful there.” He was out of the chair in a single movement, his hands on her arms the only thing that prevented her from toppling over. “You’re shaking. Here, lie down for a few minutes until you get your balance.”

“I’m okay, really.” But she sank onto the couch and let him swing her legs up and settle her on her back as if she were a child. She didn’t like it, but it was better than pitching forward onto her face.

“Sure you are.” He pressed warm fingers against her neck, his gaze fixed on her face. “Your pulse is pretty fast.”

No kidding. That was late-breaking news. Reaching a sexual flashpoint tended to have that affect on a woman.

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