When Cathie and John Celestri decided to team up and become Cathie John, little did the husband-and-wife duo realize that they'd soon be adding "Publisher" to their resumes. Journeybook Press is thriving, and their third novel is about to hit the shelves. How did they do it?
Tell us about yourselves.
CATHIE: I was born in Toronto, Canada, forty-six years ago. I loved school
until the age of twelve, when I decided the only things worth studying were
English and music. At the age of sixteen, I gave up trying to fit into the
suburban life style and hitch-hiked with my boy friend to San Francisco to
search for my older brother who'd gone there a couple of years earlier and
was living in a hippie community in Sonoma County.
Further travels took me to northern Africa, Europe, and overland to India
and Nepal. I guess I got my education from my own personal reading and
extensive wanderings around the planet. On December 30, 1979, I sat beside
John Celestri on a flight from New York to Toronto.
JOHN: Born in Brooklyn, New York, fifty years ago, I was drawing cartoons as
soon as I was able to hold a pencil. At the age of five I put together a
little flip book of Tramp the dog (from Lady and the Tramp) and had my
mother send it to Walt Disney asking for a job. I didn't get the job, but
did hold on to my love of cartooning through the years of schooling and
employment that threatened to take me further and further way from my first
passion. During the early sixties, I attended a Jesuit military high school
in Manhattan, and then was accepted to Pratt Institute where I studied
Architecture and Engineering, but then transferred to Fordham University to
Finally, unhappy with the direction I found himself going in, I threw away
my slide rule, picked up a pencil, and went back to my love of cartooning.
My first job in animation was on the feature film Tubby the Tuba (1975)
where I learned the basics of classical animation from old Popeye and Mighty
You didn't start out as writers. What came first?
CATHIE: Though I always wanted to write, Iıve worked at many different
office jobs, including advertising and marketing research. In 1987, I
shifted to another one of my passions and attended culinary school in Rhode
Island, after which I worked in various restaurants around Providence.
Iım now spending my time writing and handling the bookkeeping duties of our
small publishing company.
JOHN: Iım still doing full-time animation work from our home in Loveland,
Ohio for a studio in Los Angeles and have credits on over fifty feature
length films, half-hour TV specials, and direct-to-home videos.
The flexibility of working at home allows us to keep to a daily writing
How did you end up teaming to write mysteries?
JOHN: Though both of us read all kinds of fiction and non-fiction, we found
mysteries to be the best format for collaboration.
Initially, we had embarked on separate writing projects. Years ago, Cathie
wrote and sent out a manuscript for a romance novel. It was rejected -- no
surprise, since she wasnıt a romance reader.
CATHIE: John already had three graphic novels for children on the market and tried
his hand at juvenile novels. A spark of interest from a publisher ultimately
At that point we decided to write a novel together. Two-thirds of the way
through that first joint venture, we decided it was too unfocused and
Then that weird little voice inside John's head said, "Why don't you write a
JOHN: The more we thought about it, the more it sounded like a good fit for us.
Cathieıs strengths are geared to the "personal journey" type of
storytelling, whereas my creative expression tends to be more visual and
action-oriented. Writing a mystery series allows for development in both
areas, and provides for lots of opportunities to explore how people interact
and chronicle the resulting chaos. Being able to tap into both male and
female perspectives not only adds an extra dimension to the final work, but
also makes our writing sessions lively as we battle over what to say and how
to say it.
It also was the only genre we could both get interested in. I couldnıt
see myself writing a romance novel, and Cathie had absolutely no interest
in Science Fiction, or Westerns, or Spy Thrillers, etc., etc.
Tell us about your road to publication.
CATHIE: Our road to publication was not the normal one.
We'd written our first novel, ADD ONE DEAD CRITIC, and had sent out letters to
agents, looking for a bite. Didn't even get a nibble, though we did get
complimentary remarks about our writing style. That was when our independent
natures kicked in. John had already set up a small press and had been
selling graphic novels to the juvenile market for several years. Since we
already had one toe in the shallow waters of publishing, we decided to jump
CC Publishing is the umbrella company for our publishing ventures, with Journeybook Press
being the imprint we use for novels, while CC Comics is the imprint we use
for the juvenile graphic novels.
Interestingly, the day after we decided to publish ADD ONE DEAD CRITIC
ourselves, we heard on the news that Random House had dropped more than one
hundred authors over that weekend. These were seasoned authors with readers,
but not the mega audiences Random House was looking for. We realized that
getting on the bookshelves the traditional way had just gotten tougher with
this heavy emphasis on the bottom line.
Now, two years later, we've come out with our second and third books in the
Journals of Kate Cavanaugh mystery series (BEAT A ROTTEN EGG TO THE PUNCH
and CARVE A WITNESS TO SHREDS) and are constantly being asked if weıre
hoping to be picked up by a major publisher. Definitely not! It's very
satisfying to write a novel, but we get even greater satisfaction from being the
publishers of Journeybook Press and having total creative control.
What kind of research was involved for your first book?
JOHN: Other than interviewing the local chief of police to make sure our
investigative procedures were correct, we didnıt need to do much research.
We drew upon Cathieıs experiences in the restaurant and catering industry
and her travels to exotic countries to flesh out the background of our
amateur sleuth Kate Cavanaugh. Also, like Cathie, Kate Cavanaugh is a breast
I know how to play basketball, so that was one of my contributions to
Who are your influences as a writer?
We're constantly trying to develop our writing abilities and are being
influenced by many authors in various genres. Inspiration and influences
also come from other art forms and life experiences. So the answer to this
question could change from time to time. Here's our current short list of
authors in the mystery field and what we like about them:
Sue Grafton (her interior dialogues), H. R. F. Keating (his quirkiness and
use of themes), Thomas Cook (his sense of pacing), Martha Grimes (her
writing style), and Raymond Chandler (because he's God -- the source and
inspiration for all hard-boiled detective fiction).
Tell us about plans for future books.
Our third mystery, CARVE A WITNESS TO SHREDS, will be out sometime in October
1999. We are now researching background for a second series that takes place
during the 1940s. It will still be part of Kate Cavanaugh's family story,
but a lot more hard-boiled. We hope to launch this series in the Spring of
Does Journeybook Press publish other authors or works in other genres?
Are you planning to expand the offerings of the press or keep it in-family?
At this point, we are only publishing our own
mysteries. The major reason is that we are approaching writing with the same
attitude that an independent film maker, or artist such as a painter or
sculptor brings to their work. We want to explore our visions and develop
our writing voicefor us that's where the fun is without having anyone
second guess our finished work before it gets on the book shelves. Weıre
willing to take the criticism for what we've presented to the reader. We
know unfavorable reviews will hurt, but at least it would be one hundred
percent of our vision and not something that has been altered by a
publisher's marketing departmentıs take on what is saleable. This takes our
total commitment to the work and it would be very unfair to other writers
for us to take them on and split our energies between our work and theirs.
In regards to Journeybook Press expanding to include works in other
genres, mystery is the only genre we both share an
interest in. But we've learned to never say never; you just don't know what's
down the road. If ten years ago some psychic had looked into a crystal ball
and told us that by this time we'd be working on our fourth mystery novel,
we'd have suggested that person's cosmic aerial needed adjustment, because
s/he was channeling the wrong future.
How can readers get in touch with you?
They can e-mail us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
or send snail mail to: Cathie & John Celestri
P.O. Box 542
Loveland, Ohio 45140
Cathie and John, thanks for sharing your story! Readers, we have a review of Cathie John's second book, Beat a Rotten Egg to the Punch.
October 25, 1999