Catherine McKenzie is the author of the new novel You Can't Catch Me. Her other novels include I'll Never Tell and The Good Liar. She practices law in Montreal.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for You Can't Catch Me, and for your character Jessica?
A: I have a friend, who the book is dedicated to, who has a very common name and who I travel with frequently. We kept getting stopped at the border because someone with her name and birthday was a fugitive.
She tried for many years to fix this problem and received many odd suggestions from border guards, including that she should change her name!
I also met someone at a book conference who had the exact same name as me, including middle name.
One day it occurred to me that this might be the perfect way to scam someone—if you have the same name and birthday, then you have all the ID you need to do it. Then it was a matter of researching the most popular names in the year that my character was born and Jessica it was!
Q: Jessica grew up in a cult called the Land of Todd. What was the inspiration for this cult and its rules?
A: I am kind of obsessed with cults and have been for a long time so no one cult inspired this. Instead I took things from many cults and gave my own spin to them.
Q: This is your 10th novel--do you think your writing process has changed at all over the years?
A: So crazy, right? Yes, in some ways. I think I am more efficient at getting the story down now, though I’m still a pantser where plotting is concerned.
I think I am better at taking editorial suggestions and also at being my own harshest critic – I often know when I am writing something in a first draft that I will have to cut it later. But it still involves sitting down and making myself write so in that way it has not changed.
Q: What do you think the story says about the idea of identity?
A: That’s a super interesting question! I’ve often thought that tiny little events in your life can shape it in ways that are hard to know – big ones too, of course, but those are more obvious.
For instance, I skipped kindergarten.
And because of this one minor thing I can trace so many differences in my life – I likely never would have met my husband if I hadn’t skipped, most of my friends would be different, maybe I wouldn’t have even started writing novels because the events that inspired me to write my first novel never would have happened.
I believe in a combination of nature and nurture and identity is shaped by both. And I think you see that in this book – Jessica had some odd experiences growing up that shaped her identity and her perception of it. But there were small events too that made her the way that she is.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I just turned in the first draft of my next book – can’t say more than that now – and am working on a story idea for the one after that.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Thank you so much for your great questions!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Catherine McKenzie.