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Cato's novel walks the line between epic fantasy and steampunk, involving magic and mythical creatures while also being set in a mechanical, Victorian-esque world. But Cato wasn't always interested in these genres. Or rather, she was convinced that she shouldn't be.
Around age 12, Cato discovered the video game Final Fantasy 2 and immediately fell in love with the fantastic world portrayed within it, launching straight into immersing herself in the adult fantasy genre. However, after a college professor saw her reading a fantasy novel and told her "That's not a real book," she gave it up.
About 10 years later, she was home alone with her infant son while her husband was deployed in the Navy when she reconnected with this imaginative world.
"I was miserable," she says. "I was unfulfilled. I was like, 'Okay, I love my baby, but I need something that will exercise my brain and make me feel like I am accomplishing something for me.' I thought, 'I always wanted to be a writer, I should write.'"
So she did.
The Clockwork Dagger was not her first attempt at a novel. She'd completed several before, but she says those "will never see the light of day." It wasn't until Cato decided to write a story about a healer that things changed.
Admittedly, she was inspired by Final Fantasy, but in the game, the healers were always the sidekicks or supporting characters. Cato started to imagine a story where the heroine was a healer. Octavia Leander was born.
Cato wanted her heroine to be strong and independent, "a pacifist, but not a victim," saying that she based Octavia off of modern emergency workers. Even from the first few pages, this is evident.
The book opens with a scene during which Octavia saves a puppy after it was hit in the middle of the road. The gentle care and attention she gives the puppy while healing it sets the tone for the rest of the book. Octavia is first and foremost a healer to the extent that, even after she is almost murdered, her first concern is to heal her attempted murderer.