Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today: Cathy Pegau grew up in New York reading horror, science fiction, and fantasy novels, and playing RPGs. Writing seemed like a natural progression, adding a touch of romance to her favorite types of stories. Her science fiction romances have won RWA Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal (FF&P) Chapter Best Futuristic Romance and Best of the Best Prism Awards and a Golden Crown Literary Award for Science Fiction/Fantasy. Her writing has garnered such rave reviews as “This was a treat to read,” and “I didn’t hate it.”
Cathy lives in Alaska with her spouse and critters, preferring to hunker down in front of the woodstove with a good book to outdoor activities. You can find her on Facebook and on Twitter more often than she should be there. You can also visit her website for more information.
Thanks so much, Cathy, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: Do you use a pseudonym? If so, why? If not, why not?
Cathy Pegau: I’ve considered using a pseudonym, but decided I wanted to be known for my stuff, as I am, who I am. Also, I have a hard enough time dealing with social media and the like with one name. Trying to juggle a second? No thanks. I would suck as a superhero who needed to be incognito. Also why I’m not a spy.
JSC: Do your books spring to life from a character first or an idea?
CP: A little of both. I tend to come up with a plot and the characters who can best bring the story to life pop into my brain relatively early in the process. The plot and character development for The Demon Equilibrium, the premise of an order of demon-hunting women, pretty much happened simultaneously. I knew this would be a story with a sapphic romance. Grace and Maggie made themselves known from the get-go.
JSC: What are your favorite parts of publishing?
CP: Editing. Seriously. I am a slooooooow writer, and I get frustrated with myself. But once I HAVE written, I love seeing the story through a different person’s eyes. I’ve been blessed with fabulous editors who have asked me all the right questions and made suggestions to improve my stories in ways I wouldn’t have seen. A good editor is crucial.
JSC: What are your least favorite parts of publishing?
CP: Marketing and promotion. I love talking to folks about writing and my books, but asking them to buy them? I stumble and get insecure.
But don’t let that stop anyone reading this! PLEASE buy my books!!!! 😊
JSC: How did you choose the topic for The Demon Equilibrium?
CP: I’d wanted to write about a secret order of nuns/nun-like women for a long time. There are a number of books with such characters, of course, so I needed to come up with one with a different enough plot and characters. A few years ago, the idea of the order being demon hunters hit and off I went.
JSC: What was the hardest part of writing it?
CP: As much as I love the editing process, it was probably the hardest part because of the dual timelines. Rearranging events so they reflected each thread as I needed took a bit more time than I’d anticipated. But so worth it!
JSC: Who did your cover, and what was the design process like?
CP: Ann McMan is the creative mind behind Bywater covers. She is amazing!
Ann sent over her first idea and I didn’t think it fit. It was super cool, and I would love to have it for a story at some point, but it didn’t feel right for TDE.
Then she sent her second cover. I was blown away by how on the nose it was. With a few tweaks, Ann gave me a cover that fits beautifully with the visuals and atmosphere of The Demon Equilibrium.
JSC: What secondary character would you like to explore more? Tell me about them.
CP: I’m going to cheat and name two: Sister Thomasina and Mrs. Wallace.
Sister Thomasina because she is a True Believer in her vocation and the Order of Saint Teresa. Perhaps I should have made her habit black rather than gray, but she has some depths that are worth looking into.
Mrs. Wallace makes a brief appearance in The Demon Equilibrium, but plays an important role in helping Grace and Maggie. She has a love-hate relationship with the Order though she isn’t a practicing demon hunter anymore. The sequel I have in the works brings her to main character status. We even get to learn her first name 😉
JSC: Let’s talk to some of your characters: What’s your core motivation in this book?
Grace: Find Maggie and get the hell away from the Order and demons.
Maggie: (covers Grace’s hand with hers) But we have a duty, a responsibility, to use our power to protect people from evil, love.
Grace: Yeah, I suppose.
JSC: What are you working on now, and what’s coming out next? Tell us about it!
CP: Currently, I’m working on two stories, both historicals. The first is a cozy mystery (not a romance) set in New York in 1912 with a food company president/heiress and a lady private investigator looking into shenanigans. It’s in the early stages, so not on any schedule. The other is a WLW magical realism romance set in 1932 Seattle with a lady gangster and a blood mage who ran together when younger and reunite to protect the gangster’s interests. Something goes sideways and someone ends up dead (not one of them, I promise). That one will be out next year if all goes as planned.
I’m also drafting a sequel to The Demon Equilibrium.
And now for Cathy Pegau’s new book: The Demon Equilibrium:
Grace Carter, a “source” of magic, has spent the last nine months searching for Maggie Mulvaney, her “catalyst.” The joy of reuniting with her partner—and her lover—is thwarted by her worst fear: Maggie remembers neither Grace nor their life together in the Order of Saint Teresa, the centuries-old organization that trained them to be the strongest demon-hunting duo in generations.
When Maggie and Grace unexpectedly come face-to-face with the demon Horde, they are forced to team up once again. As they begin to piece their lives back together, they discover that their memories have been masked by someone within the Order. Should the Horde succeed in their plan, those who have committed their lives to slay worldly demons will be relegated to little more than minions as humans are completely enslaved.
Now, Grace and Maggie must sacrifice everything, possibly even their love, and their lives, in an all-out battle to save humanity.
catalyst • noun
cat· a· lyst | \ ˈka-tə-ləst \
One who provokes significant change or action; the spark that ignites a blaze.
Harrington, WY, October 1903
Wide-brimmed hat pulled down to shadow her face, Grace Carter avoided a steaming pile of manure in the middle of the dirt street as she crossed from the Harrington livery stable to the wooden walk fronting stores and establishments. The hardened-mud wheel ruts were from wagons and carriages, not motorcars; she hadn’t seen one of those since she’d been in Denver the week before. Ever since she’d left New York, it felt as if years of innovation dropped away for every hundred miles she’d traveled west.
If only it was several years ago, she mused. Things had been a helluva lot easier then. At least she’d thought so at the time.
Now was not the time to be distracted from what had brought her to Wyoming, of all places.
Stopping to flick muck off her trousers and adjust the saddlebags over her shoulder, Grace surreptitiously glanced up and down the street. Was anyone watching her, too interested in her arrival? It was hard to hide newcomers in such a small town. Hard to hide demon activity too, so they should be easier to spot, which was to her advantage.
No one seemed to be paying her much mind. Just folks going about their business. But like demons, the Order of Saint Teresa was also pretty damn good at concealment. She couldn’t let her guard down.
Her gaze fixed on the freshly painted Amberly Hotel sign hanging in front of a building separated from its neighbors by narrow alleys on either side.
She’s just ahead.
Her pace quickened, the staccato of her boot heels sounding along the walkway.
Impetuous! Impatient! Impudent! Sister Thomasina’s description of her rang in her head.
Grace hesitated. Maybe she should slow down, be more cautious.
Impossible. Not if she was this close.
Her heart pattered hard against her sternum as she hurried toward the sign like it was a beacon against the darkest night. If her information was correct, then a nearly yearlong search was about to come to a happy end. Even the pungent bite of horse shit in the autumn air couldn’t dampen her mood.
The weary voice in the back of her head did: What if it’s like the last time?
Grace’s step faltered, her hand seeking support against the nearest wall as the patter in her chest became a painful twinge. Her fingers curled into a fist, catching the faded, loose edge of a poster announcing last spring’s western tour by President Roosevelt.
Jaws clenched, she took a slow, calming breath. No, this couldn’t be like last time, when her contact seemed sure but had been wrong. Disappointment had crashed through Grace, leaving her wrecked. Two days of hard drinking became two weeks of misery, until she’d been contacted by Mrs. Wallace.
And if Mrs. Wallace was wrong? Grace had nowhere else to turn. She would keep trying, some way and somehow, because she’d spend every day until her last seeking her catalyst.
Steady on her feet once again, she shifted her full saddlebags to a more comfortable position and moved forward, focused on the sign. Absentmindedly, Grace tipped her hat to a pair of passing ladies. Some folks were startled to see a woman wearing men’s clothing, but Maggie was used to her inclinations, and all that mattered now was Maggie.
She has to be here.
It had been nine months since Grace had woken from a fevered sleep, reaching out to find nothing but sweat-damp sheets. Sister Thomasina had shushed her when she asked about Maggie. Then a man, whose features she couldn’t focus upon, had brushed his hand over her face, the calluses of his fingertips rough on her eyelids as Grace fell into dreamless slumber.
When she awoke again, disoriented, aching, and nauseous, something told her not to mention Maggie. Sister Thomasina seemed to be waiting for her to do so, anticipation in her hard gray eyes, but Grace’s body prickled with a nameless fear. They hadn’t wanted her to talk about Maggie. They hadn’t wanted her to remember Maggie at all.
But she did.
In a fog of illness, Grace had escaped the house, later finding herself in a train station in northern Long Island, New York. How she’d arrived there, she couldn’t say, but at least she was away from Saint Teresa’s. It was no longer a place she could trust. Maybe it never had been.
With no idea of where the Order of Saint Teresa’s might have hidden Maggie, Grace went in search of her catalyst, the one person in the world who could help her control and amplify her magic. The one person in the world who truly knew her. Without Maggie, Grace was as lost as a rudderless ship in a storm.
Now here she stood, before the solid door of the Amberly, wood and pale green paint the only things between her and the most important person in her life. She hoped.
Grace let the saddlebags drop to the walk, catching the worn leather between them as they thudded at her feet, catching her breath. She wiped her other hand on the stained canvas of her trousers. Sweat trickled between her breasts despite the cool October day. Her racing heart thrummed in her ears.
Please be here. Please, oh, please, oh please.
She turned the latch and went in. The lobby of the Amberly reminded her of the parlor at the Order’s house on Long Island, with its striped upholstery on the padded benches and lace doilies under vases of wildflowers on the tables. Dappled light through filmy curtains warmed the linseed oil-scented room. The aroma of baking bread wafted from the back of the hotel, another reminder of the house back East. She half expected to hear Nan’s off-key singing accompanied by clanging pots.
“Good afternoon. May I help you?”
The voice to her right sent a familiar thrill through her. Grace immediately recognized it as Maggie’s, the lightness and sweetness of her Irish lilt unmistakable.
She’s here. She’s really here!
Grace turned, her smile growing and her body tingling as she set eyes on one of the few people who’d been able to see past all the flaws and accept Grace for who she was. Because she was from the same mold herself.
Maggie stood behind a carved mahogany desk, her dark auburn hair pinned up in a bun rather than in the braid or tail she’d sometimes sport, though Grace liked it best when loose about her shoulders. A few tendrils curled around her ears and at the nape of her neck, framing her oval face. Her bright, coffee-brown eyes fixed on Grace, mouth turned up in a slight smile. Her blue floral print dress flared out over voluptuous hips, with long sleeves and a high collar that covered all but her face and hands.
Not the fashionable frock she normally would have worn, or the functional riding skirt and blouse she’d often donned for their hunting sessions, but Maggie could have been wearing a flour sack for all Grace cared.
Grace pushed the door closed, letting the saddlebags drop to the polished hardwood, and swept the hat off her head. “It’s me, Mags. I look a sight, I know.” Her voice tangled around the emotions that filled her—joy, relief, love—and the rest of her words came out in a rough whisper. “I can’t believe I’ve found you.”
Maggie tilted her head, the smile turned bemused. “I’m sorry. Do I know you?”