Five Questions: Cai Emmons, author of Weather Woman

Weather Woman book cover
Weather Woman, by Cai Emmons

My Five Questions series is back after a hiatus, and I’m excited to present the answers of Cai Emmons, author of a fascinating new novel, Weather Woman. Climate change plays a big role in this story of a young broadcast meteorologist who discovers a unique talent: she can not only predict the weather, she can make it.

Apart from its take on a fantasy just about everyone has at some point in their lives, Cai’s energy for promoting her book also caught my attention. Her unique approach includes a road trip to bookstores in most of the western states. You’ll notice that I had to expand this post to six questions, including one about her promotions, because I found Cai’s commitment to getting the word out about her work so inspirational.

How do you like to use climate-related themes? Why is this important to you?

I have been worried about climate change for years and think it is the pre-eminent problem the entire world currently faces. But until now it has not come up in my fiction. My novels don’t begin with issues as much as they begin with a particular character facing a difficult situation. As soon as I had developed a character who could change the weather it was inevitable that she would have to think about using her power to address the changing climate. In the latter part of the book she realizes that she cannot deal with the problem alone, it must be dealt with in collaboration with others. I don’t expect the book to change the minds of climate change deniers, but I do hope to spark thinking about how we can grapple with this enormous challenge.

Do you remember the first character you created?

Wow, that is a difficult question. I wrote a terrible novel shortly after I graduated from college—I shudder to think of it now—and the character in that book was very loosely based on myself, as I had no idea how to go about shaping the life of another person and making it seem credible. I can’t even remember the name of that character!

I don’t expect the book to change the minds of climate change deniers, but I do hope to spark thinking about how we can grapple with this enormous challenge.

How did you feel when you saw your work in print for the first time?

Cai Emmons headshot
Cai Emmons

Holding in hand the copy of my first book, His Mother’s Son, was a truly magical moment. There was a feeling of having achieved a dream, of having arrived in some way. Of course, that moment was quite short-lived, as I was immediately dealing with issues that had to do with getting the work out into the world for others to read. But I remember the freedom associated with that moment. It was as if the world had given me permission to do whatever I wanted with my work.

What unique promotional activities are you trying?

My first two novels were well-reviewed, but not read as widely as I would have liked. I realized, with Weather Woman, that I needed to participate more actively in the promotion. Jane Friedman, the wonderful woman who helps authors deal with the “business” of writing, said that you should not force yourself to do things you are not good at or hate, but instead do the things you like and do well. It occurred to me that I am not bad at talking to people, and I like booksellers. I had also recently seen the owner of my yoga studio in a yoga pose on the side of a city bus. It occurred to me that I could do something similar. So I had my book cover put onto the side of a van, and I drove throughout the Northwest, then into Idaho, Montana, Colorado, and Utah, visiting dozens of independent booksellers and giving them advanced readers copies of my book. I had so many inspiring conversations with passionate booklovers. It was very energizing and empowering, and I felt good about taking matters into my own hands, regardless of the impact on sales.

If you were queen, what would you change about the publishing world?

I think my biggest issue with the publishing world is the fact that they are so bent on making books into blockbusters. Most books are not going to appeal to everyone, rather they have a more specific and narrow readership. I would love it if publishers could get behind those books too. A corollary of that would be to commit to developing authors they like, rather than dropping them if their sales are not stellar.

What is your next project? Timeline?

I am currently working on a novel called Hellion. I am too superstitious to say much about it. I will say that it is the first first-person novel I have written. And I have been writing scenes from three converging storylines that will eventually entail a huge stitching task. I have been sidelined—and will be for the next few months—as I promote Weather Woman, but I hope to be back at work on Hellion by the end of this year. I have a story collection called Vanishing coming out in 2019, so that will divert me a bit too, but my goal is to complete Hellion by the end of the summer of 2019.

Weather Woman is scheduled for release October 9, 2018. Read more Five Questions posts.

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