YA Author Beth Cato on Why Crying Is the Best Compliment a Reader Could Give Her

Buckeye author Beth Cato brings steampunk to YA.
Buckeye author Beth Cato brings steampunk to YA.
Corey Ralston Photography

Every other year, New Times puts the spotlight on Phoenix's creative forces — painters, dancers, designers, and actors. Leading up to the release of Best of Phoenix, we're taking a closer look at 100 more. Welcome to the 2016 edition of 100 Creatives. Up today is 96. Beth Cato.

"When I was 4 years old," Beth Cato says, "I was stapling together my own homemade books."

Flash forward 32 years, and the Buckeye-based author has published a pair of young-adult steampunk novels that, unlike her early creations, have a significantly wider audience. Also, they're perfect bound. 

Cato's path to publishing The Clockwork Dagger, which NPR's Jason Heller called "an action tale that's as thought-provoking as it is rollicking" and was a 2015 Locus Award first novel finalist, and The Clockwork Crown, which was an RT Reviewers' Choice Finalist, has been marked by hard work. She got her start writing short stories "that paid little or nothing." But, Cato says, "as my skills increased, I submitted to more ambitious periodicals."

That determination paid off. "I worked on novels — terrible, awful novels — and improved my craft," she says. "It took years of effort to create a book that resulted in signing with a literary agent."

And the books keep coming. Cato has yet another novel hitting shelves soon: Breath of Earth. Out August 23, it's still in the steampunk wheelhouse, following a geomancer living in an alternate history of early 1900s San Francisco. 

Though she seems to write constantly, it still comes back to reading for Cato, whose recent favorite book is Corinne Duyvis' On the Edge of Gone. "It's about the apocalypse as viewed by an autistic narrator, and the author is autistic," Cato says. "Her knowledge and experience grant the book a sense of intimacy that makes the disastrous events feel all the more horrific. It's a very cathartic read."

I came to Phoenix with my husband, son, and two tabby cats.

I make art because I am full of stories that demand to be told. If I don't write, I feel as though I will explode.

I'm most productive when my son is at school, my cat is snoring beneath my desk, and a cup of caffeinated grape Crystal Light is at hand.

My inspiration wall is full of framed cover flats for my two released books, The Clockwork Dagger and The Clockwork Crown. Those images remind me that my dream of being a published novelist has come true, and I can make it come true again.

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I've learned most from listening and paying attention in my day-to-day life and to what people say in books.

Good work should always make the audience feel. When a reader tells me my story made them cry, that is a great compliment. If they feel apathy, if the work is forgettable, a connection has been missed.

The Phoenix creative scene could use more genre writing cultural events on the west side.

The 2016 Creatives so far:

100. Nicole Olson
99. Andrew Pielage
98. Jessica Rowe
97. Danny Neumann

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