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Local author takes a risk, follows a dream
by Krystal Bick
Feb 25, 2009 | 1563 views | 1 1 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Reno author Carmen Thomas, otherwise known as her pen name Carmen Catalina, has published her first book, "...by daphne," which will be available for sale in local book stores Sunday for $18.
Reno author Carmen Thomas, otherwise known as her pen name Carmen Catalina, has published her first book, "...by daphne," which will be available for sale in local book stores Sunday for $18.
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As a little girl, Carmen Thomas — otherwise known as her pen name Carmen Catalina — dreamed about becoming a professional author.

“I can still remember my first book I finished,” the local Reno author said, in between some laughter. “It was 111 pages and I think I was 13 at the time. It was called ‘Paradise Beach’ and it had a bunch of teenagers stranded on an island. It was all drama.”

Catalina stops to laugh some more, realizing that she has come a long way since those “Paradise Beach” days.

The long-time Reno resident author is bubbly, with a contagious laugh and a visible passion for writing. Seated at a corner table in a Starbucks, she’s at ease discussing some of her favorite authors (Toni Morrison and Nora Ephron), her opinions of William Faulkner’s writing style and, of course, her 5-year old daughter, Mia, who is her self-proclaimed “biggest fan.”

And rightfully so. Catalina is going back to school, studying both women’s studies and journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, is a single mother and has successfully published her first book, “…by daphne,” a young-adult novel, after having taken a long hiatus from writing.

“I think the reality in publishing is that it takes a little while to hit,” a visibly overwhelmed Catalina said, admitting that it’s still strange for her to look down at her book and see her own name. “It’s exciting though. I’m really proud of it.”

And what started as an idea back in 2004, then turned screenplay, then turned book, the road has been long for “…by daphne.” Especially considering what it took for Catalina to come to terms with her writing.

“I had a baby (Mia) in 2003 and soon after my grandfather died,” Catalina said, explaining that she was distraught during that time. “Writing helped me calm down and refocus myself.”

So, the mother who has done it all — from working in the banking industry to animal shelters — picked up her pen once again, with characters already in her head.

“It started to just build in me,” Catalina said. “I realized I was denying my dream and that you can have an impact on people without being a Pulitzer Prize winner.”

While the Pulitzer Prize hasn’t been ruled out just yet, any glance at successful young-adult authors like J.K. Rowling, author of the ever-popular “Harry Potter” series, or Stephenie Meyer, author of the mega-hit “Twilight” series, shows there is room for more.

“I think what sets me apart (from Rowling and Meyer) is that my stories are more based on real life,” Catalina said. “My characters are very real.”

Catalina describes “…by daphne” as exemplifying the teenage angst of one 14-year-old girl and the transformation that arguably most girls go through during such formative years.

“It’s about school, it’s about family,” Catalina said. “It’s really how she transforms.”

As passionate as she seems about young-adult writing, Catalina also admits a desire to delve more into adult fiction writing, specifically in what has been deemed as “chick lit,” pioneered by popular authors like Candace Bushnell (“Sex and the City”) and Jane Green (“Jemima J”).

Catalina admits she loves the characters and their ability to relate to readers in such works and that it’s something she strives to do in her own writing.

“I get a story idea or a character and it just starts to take a life of its own,” Catalina said. “That’s my favorite part about writing — how it evolves itself and makes me feel like the instrument, like the creative spirit is using me.”

Whatever the spirit may be, it suits Catalina well. Excited to launch her book at a special book signing party Friday at Amendment 21, located at 425 S. Virginia St. in Reno, she exudes a giddiness a la Carrie Bradshaw from “Sex and the City” upon the release of her first book.

“I’m so thrilled right now,” Catalina said, mentioning the hardship of the rejection process (seven times) and juggling a family and education. “Being a single mother, it has to be the most difficult thing. And as a single mother I knew I could A, B and C to pay the bills and never go anywhere. Or I could take a risk and follow a dream.”

“…by daphne” is available now on Amazon.com for $18 and will be available for purchase in local book stores March 1. The launch party will begin at 8 p.m. Friday and signed copies of the book will be available for purchase.
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