From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Cursed by a Gypsy: Catherine Cheek

Catherine Cheek is a graduate of Clarion San Diego, class of 2007. She has published short fiction and essays, and her novels are represented by Kate Schaefer Testerman of KT Literary. She has a BA in Linguistics, a brown belt in karate, and a garden that doesn’t yield nearly as much as she would like. When not writing, she throws pots, paints, binds books, and plays with molten glass. She keeps an artblog on: and a webcomic about chickens at

What was the inspiration for “Voice Like a Cello”? How easy was it to write?

The inspiration for “Voice Like a Cello” came from two different sources. First, someone said disparagingly that American cities in general and those of the Southwest in particular were inferior in that they had no history behind them. It seemed to me that if you were the sort of person who could see or hear the dead, you might seek out a city with no history just so you could get some peace and quiet. Second, I read somewhere about an African language that divided people into three categories: the living, the dead, and the not-yet-born. Since I already had a character who could hear the dead, and I’d been ruminating about the “three categories of people” idea for years, I decided to make her hear the not-yet-born as well.

What is the first piece of writing you ever completed? Are you still proud of it?

The first piece of writing I completed was a 20,000 word overblown romantic adventure story involving one of my old D&D characters. I won’t show it to anyone. It was a learning experience. Am I proud of it? Um, the spelling and grammar are mostly intact. I’m more proud of the urban fantasy novels I’ve completed since then. I’m looking forward to sharing them with other people once my agent finds a publisher.

Do you still play D&D or other roleplaying games? Do you find you enjoy playing the same sorts of stories and characters that you write, or something different?

I haven’t played D&D since college. That was a while ago, so I can’t really remember what sort of characters I favored, except that my favorite race was elf. I’d like to DM a game for my children, but sadly I cut off a Gypsy on the freeway one day and she cursed me so that my children are only interested in make-up, princesses, and Hannah Montana.

What other creative projects do you enjoy besides writing?

I’m involved in a lot of other creative projects, mostly in the visual arts. I also have a garden, which I blog about on livejournal (redcrowkater) and I used to folk dance before an injury made me quit.

If you could have one other person’s life, living or dead, who would it be and why?

I don’t think I would choose anyone else’s life, because if I had someone else’s life I’d have a different family. I have a great husband, bright kids, supportive parents, and three siblings I adore. If forced to choose, I’d like to be an alternate-me, who had the identical life but maybe got to spend the summers someplace less hot than Phoenix (read: just about anywhere.)

What author do you hope to be compared to? Are there any authors you enjoy, but wouldn’t want to be told you sound like?

My short stories tend to be dark and twisted, but they don’t even resemble each other, so I can’t compare them to a short story author. My novels are most similar to Charlaine Harris and Kim Harrison. As much as I guiltily enjoyed sighing over Edward and Bella, I’d rather not be compared to Stephenie Meyer (though it would be great to be in her tax bracket.)

If you could have one mythical creature for a pet/companion, what would you want?

If I could have one mythical creature for a pet/companion, I’d like one of the bond birds from Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series. To my mind, they were just as cool as the Companions except without the nuisance of stabling and tack. I’d get a corvid rather than a raptor, because I love crows and ravens, and because omnivorous pets are easier to spoil with people-food.

If you could visit anywhere in the universe, cost-free, where would you want to go?

Anywhere in the universe? If that includes mythical places, I’d pick Narnia. If it is only real places, I’d stick with the Earth because we have the atmosphere I’m most comfortable in. And I’d go to Sweden so I could stay in that hotel made of ice.

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