In recent years, Travelers Rest has attracted innovators and entrepreneurs. In many cases, fired up by enthusiasm, youthful energy and the desire to strike out and try something new, our community has been enriched in surprising and unforeseen ways. Part of this innovation is coming out in art and stories.
Catherine Labadie, who works at Leopard Forest, and lives locally with her husband and two dogs, is building on this creativity with her recently released second novel, Long Grows the Dark, which is in the young adult fantasy genre. In the works for nearly ten years, this new novel is set in a realm with magic and battles. But what sets this story apart is how one of the central characters is able to have the emotional intelligence to sort through challenges and her own flaws, while eventually meeting up in time and place with another facet of her character.
But for Catherine, the author, much has come together to get to this point. “I’m a twenty-something writer starting out and trying to build my author following. Self-publishing isn’t easy, but I’m enjoying the ride so far and eventually all the work should pay off. “
While a transplant of about ten years now to Travelers Rest, she has been influenced by our climate, culture and land. “I grew up in the Chicago area until my freshman year of high school, which was when we moved to Travelers Rest. A lot of stress and planning went into that transition, and many people who have moved to South Carolina from any of the more northern states will tell you that it’s a huge change. Aside from missing some of the cold and the snow (I am very much an autumn/winter person) I’ve loved my time here. Most of my books have autumn settings (past and future projects) and I think part of that is due to living here. In Illinois, the cold and the leaves changing color happens more quickly, but then the snow arrives and kind of kills everything off before the really vivid hues show up. Fall takes a while to start up here since summer is the dominant season, but once it changes it sticks around long enough for the most beautiful colors to come out. Weather aside … Carolinians are much more welcoming, and as a shy person – this welcoming spirit really helped me learn more about people and how they work.”
Becoming a writer has been somewhat of a natural process for her, “I’ve always been a writer. Maybe that’s weird, but I’ve never really wanted to be anything else. I may struggle with preparing content at times, as all writers do, but I’ve never had problems getting ideas to come to me. My head and heart have always been quite full of stories and concepts of characters I’d really like to meet.” And notable fantasy works have really influenced her. “The books I read – in particular the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini, Tolkien’s works, Robin McKinley’s works, and so many more – were my teachers, in a way.”
For a twist for her readers, Catherine has created a strong female protagonist from a different perspective. “I really wanted to write a flawed character who knew her own shortcomings without beating herself up about them constantly. It’s not easy, but writing characters who show their flaws through the poor decision making that often defines us as human is so worth it in the end. Nowadays a lot of writers focus on creating ‘a strong female protagonist’ without realizing that strength involves more than punching things really hard or acting rude to boys all of the time. I’m truly not saying I’m better, because I still have so much to learn about writing and about making believable characters, but I think with Gwendoline I made her strong without making her stereotyped or boring. For now, that’s enough for me.”
Catherine enjoys writing to challenge herself as much as she enjoys challenging her readers. “Surprising a reader without including improbable ideas or killing characters just for shock value grows more difficult as time passes, but again, when a reader picks up my books I want them to know that they’re going to find something in this book they’ve never found elsewhere.”
If you would like to read Long Grows the Dark, or her first novel, Vixen, you can pick up a copy at the following locations:
While stopping for coffee at Leopard Forest – and perhaps meet Catherine there as well.
Her website: Catherine Labadie.
As the Page Turns right here in Travelers Rest.
Find Catherine on Instagram and Twitter too.