Watch City Readers June, 2021
Watch City Readers is a literacy program geared to tweens, teens, and families. Produced by Jessica Lucci through a grant from the Waltham Cultural Council and the Mass Cultural Council, its goal is to introduce the vibrancy of various literary genres in an exciting and inclusive way.
The Watch City Readers production is held on the second Sundays of the month at 6PM on Jessica Lucci’s FB page. After the live event, it is archived for future viewers or those who choose to watch again.
June’s theme was PRIDE MONTH. My new book of short stories, "Steampunk Pride," was unboxed live as the live show began. After a live reading from “Traveller” by Caitriona Page, I was delighted to share an interview with the Lesfic author. "Traveller" was recently awarded the "Finalist" accolade from the Lesfic Bard Book Awards.
About a month a go, the author was travelling in her custom Mercedes van that she lives win, and asked me if she could visit Waltham. I was thrilled to provide her with a tour of places she was familiar with from my Watch City trilogy. We journeyed up and down Moody Street, stopping at the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation, Lizzy's Ice Cream, Bistro 781, and of course The Tea Leaf! We also visited Mount Feake Cemetery, the old Watch Factory, and the common.
Following is the interview, and I hope you can feel Caitriona's genuine spirit shining through like a bright rainbow.
Watch City Readers Interview: Caitríona Page
JL: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
CP: What is there to say? I’m Irish, I’m not tall but not short. I’m a trained sword fighter (with real swords), mountain biker, and all around geek. I play Dungeons and Dragons, my favourite game series is Legend of Zelda (and I really hope Breathe of the Wild 2 lets you play as Zelda), and I live and travel in a big white van named Gerudo.
JL: Do you have any connection to Waltham?
CP: Aside from reading the Watch City series by Jessica Lucci, I had none until I actually visited the city for a day.
JL: What awards or recognitions have you received not related to your writing?
CP: I am an award winning Director of Photography and Sound Recordist.
JL: What genre do you write?
CP: New Adult. I know in the publishing world this isn’t really a thing yet, but it’s the age group I’m most drawn too. That age after you’re a “child” but you’re not quite an “adult” yet. It’s an interesting time in a person’s life and there’s so much going on, especially as a queer person.
For cis and straight people, your young adult years are often about discovery, but with queer people, it seems we spend more of that time trying to fit in and trying to understand why we are so different. Why can’t we just be normal? But then we hit that age where we leave school and are experiencing the “real world” for the first time and things start making sense.
JL: When and why did you begin writing?
CP: I first started writing when I was too young to remember. I was born mute and couldn’t speak until I was almost five. And then it took years of daily speech therapy to get to the point I am now, and even then it takes considerable concentration to “speak normally." Because of that, I preferred to write. Throughout my teens, I wrote *a lot*. It was far easier to write than it was to speak, and this was before FaceTime and TikTok so if you wanted to chat online, you typed it.
But then life happened, college, a “real job." etc. After some medical issues a few years ago and my job industry collapsing where I lived, I decided I would pursue writing as a career. Currently working on my 3rd novel.
JL: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
CP: I dunno if I ever will, to be honest. I tell people I am, and I used to write for others, but there’s so much stigma around calling yourself a “writer” that it’s hard to say that to people. Especially if you aren’t a commercial success story.
JL: What inspired you to write your first book?
CP: Someone I know who lives and travels in a VW Bus. I started off writing about them, but as I wrote more of Ríona’s backstory, I realised that was her real story. Not that she was on the road, but what lead her there.
Funny enough Ríona was originally going to be more of a wild devil.
JL: How did you come up with the title?
CP: It just fit. That’s not to say there wasn’t some self-reflection in the title since Travellers are an ethnic group in Ireland. But, Ríona and the Travellers do have a lot in common and unlike the term used to describe the Roma people, it’s not a pejorative. It’s a way of life that’s chosen, not forced upon her.
JL: What is your latest book or work in progress?
CP: It’s titled, “Call Me Rory." Again, Irish girl who is forced to leave her home country. Raudhí (Rory) suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder due to a traumatic event in her past, which is the catalyst for her family moving. Having moved around so much, she struggles to create attachments at her new school and with the girl she might be falling in love with.
There is, as seems to be common with me, a large scene where her and her love interest set off on a road trip that ends in disappointment and what may be the one thing that keeps them apart.
The inspiration for it is from when I did just that when I was 16. My girlfriend and I at the time had a difficult relationship and one night we just got into my car and started driving until we realised we didn’t know where to go.
JL: How much of your book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your life?
CP: A lot is my own experience. The house fire is true. We lost our house when I was seven. Afterwords we moved around a bit until we settled in Florida at my grandparents' property.
My bio-father didn’t die, but he did abandon me/us so I never knew him outside of nice stories my mother would tell me.
The premise of Traveller though is heavily based on my own life. Grew up in a small rural town, forced to move, had the funny Irish accent, wanted so badly to leave but couldn’t because of family, etc. Only big difference was I made Ríona’s mother accepting of who she was. My real life experience was the exact opposite.
Oh, and the Mustang Fastback… true. If they weren’t so impractical, I would love to own another.
JL: Who designs your book covers?
CP: I do.
JL: Who is your favourite writer, and what is it about their work that strikes you?
CP: Anne McCaffrey. She’ll always have a special place in my heart. Kinda like your first love.
JL: Outside of family, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
CP: I can’t say I’ve had that experience. In many of the Facebook groups, there is a ton of support, especially amongst the lesfic community. We are already so under represented that I think most everyone wants to see us succeed.
JL: Do you see writing as a career?
CP: One day I hope so. I’m not able to support myself off my earnings yet, but the goal is in 2-3 years to be making an okay living off it. I don’t want an extravagant life, but a cute little house with a garden would be nice.
JL: Do you remember the first book you read?
CP: First I read, no. I was an avid reader as a child because of my speech disability. There were few books in my little school library that I hadn’t tried to read. Mainly all the books on various animals and a large collection on the Voyager Spacecraft.
The first books I remember having read are the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffery. I didn’t realise at the time she was an irish author, so perhaps that’s one reason I was so drawn to her writing. She was the first fiction novel I read. Ended up staying up all night reading Dragon’s Dawn, went to school the next day and checked out the others and binge read them all.
JL: What does your writing process look like?
CP: Start, stop, start, stop… I would love to say I had a set schedule, but living in a van, travelling all the time, and being the homemaker makes that difficult. However, I do like to start every project with paper and pen. I’ll start by writing out a first chapter that is just the “feel” of the story, then begin to outline with more detailed notes, descriptions, and most importantly: questions. Why is a character acting this way? Does it make sense? If Thing exists, then Thing also affects Other Things. I try to answer all the questions I can even if ultimately they never make it in the story.
JL: What is your dream writing project?
CP: An epic series for Netflix. Seriously, it would be a dream. To not only be able to *write* the story, but then see it materalise on screen…
JL: Is there a message in your writing?
CP: A message? Can’t say I have a “message” per se since everyone reads what they want in a story. No two people will read any story the same. One person may see Traveller as a coming to terms with their queer identity, or simply an everyday story of a young person feeling lost and hopeless in a world they know is much larger than them, but have never seen. Some may even see it as overcoming the loss of your parents.
JL: What role do you think writers have in society?
CP: Writers are artists. Society without art isn’t society.
JL: Any advice for young writers?
CP: Just keep writing. Write hot, edit cold. Writing, like anything, isn’t about waiting for inspiration. It’s a discipline. Even if your toss it in the rubbish bin, write it.
JL: Do you have social media links or contact information you would like to share?
CP: I do. Twitter: @Caitriona_Page, Instagram: Caitriona_Page You can also see a lot of my travel photos on Instagram as well.