They always say write what you know, but we’re always confronted with the reminder that things aren’t always that simple. Anxieties stemming from our sense of self aren’t that easy to ignore as we get older. Luckily, for Catherine Skinner, writing what she knew was — and has always been — simple, because she started out at a young age, when her imagination was able to run rampant and escape.
A writer as a child, Skinner found herself once again writing when she started a blog after a bad breakup about 15 years ago. She went to Paris, France, by herself, to get some space from the situation. It was there that she started the Cat Skinner Club, mainly for the sole purpose of letting her mother know that she was doing ok abroad.
“Somehow people started reading and following along with my story. My blog has always kind of been like my online journal, the story of my life and my reflections on parenting, womanhood, motherhood and all those things,” she said.
Prior to moving to Niagara six years ago, Skinner lived in Toronto and was the Artistic Director for Les Coquettes Cabaret Burlesque for 11 years. The company retired roughly around the same time that her family decided to move from Toronto to Niagara.
“When I moved back here, I decided I really wanted to get back into writing and explore what’s possible there. We had found this published book on Amazon that was supposed to be written by a woman for hetero-men about how to be a good lover, but it was clearly not written in a female voice. So my partner dared me to see if I could write something similar,” Skinner said.
Her first book, Keeping It Up: A Guy’s Guide to Great Relationship Sex was self-published in 2016 through Amazon. For her, the exercise of writing the book and learning the structures and research involved, were what made her take the project a lot more seriously than just a dare. For her second, Bump and Grind, Skinner had to confront her fears of exploring the fiction genre.
“For some reason, writing fiction always felt way more personal than Keeping It Up or a blog ever did, which doesn’t make a lot of sense, because its all made up stuff,” she said.
She took elements and experiences from her days in burlesque and from the superhero genre (“I’m a big Marvel fan.”) and blended them together to create an empowering experience of womanhood and sisterhood. The story follows Karen Parker, a 30-something actress who is struggling in her career as a library assistant, who gets a second chance at getting up on stage again.
What she doesn’t know, is that she gets cast in a show run by a team of superhero mercenaries who have come to enlist her into their cause. Bump and Grind is ridiculous, campy and tongue in cheek, and has some borrowed experiences from Skinner’s days in burlesque.
“It started as an exercise in creative writing and play, and I ended up seeing this novel through it’s first draft. I then did an Indie GoGo campaign and raised enough money to be able to go to Stratford to spend a week getting away from life and finishing the book up,” she said.
“I got the book up to snuff, and then my life fell apart. I was heading towards publishing and then I went through another devastating breakup that restructured my whole family and the book just sat there for a while. It seemed frivolous to think about writing when I was basically trying to put the pieces of my life back together.”
For 2020, Skinner set a goal to release the novel. She intended to self-publish it, but, as she began a new venture in a relationship advice podcast with local comedian Joel Van Vliet, titled I Do and I Don’t, she decided that she wanted to release Bump and Grind also as a podcast.
“I always had this idea of being an audio book narrator, combining theatre and storytelling. So I asked Joel if he would record my novel and I would release it as a podcast before it was published physically,” said Skinner. “We’ve been releasing it weekly and hopefully it will garner some interest and reach a broader audience than I could otherwise.”
Catherine Skinner’s Bump and Grind is part of her Clandestine Cabaret Chronicles and is available on all streaming platforms. You can read the chapters from the book at catskinner.club.