About Me

Cat (short for Cathy) Fan had a problem as a child. Every new school she went to just looked at her traditional Vietnamese name (Bùi Thu Phượng, which means either special water lily or phoenix, depending on which family member you ask) and automatically enrolled her in English as a Second Language classes. Which she really didn’t need, having grown up in California!

But it wasn’t an idyllic, seafront part of California, Cat was born in Stockton, which was an area rife with gang activity, which even infiltrated into the schools where gang members’ younger siblings would throw their weight about. Cat remembers running home from school in a panicked and sometimes futile effort to escape the attentions of the bullies. Seeing their children’s distress, Cat’s parents paid attention and moved – halfway through the school year – whisking the family away to the small, predominantly white farming town of Tracy, where they set up shop, proceeding to work long hours, seven days a week to ensure that the family: Mom, Dad, Cat and her three younger siblings – would have enough to get by.

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Cat worked just as hard as her parents: as well as attending school – refusing yet another ESL class – she practically raised her siblings single-handedly, and also helped out in the shop. Young Cat felt a little resentful: all that work and no time or tolerance for fun, but she soon learned the art of persuasion and how to make everyone happy! Permitted to volunteer for community service, Cat encouraged her friends to join too – that way they could hang out a bit, while they did some good things for the community. A win-win in Cat’s eyes. She also persuaded her parents, who were now a bit more comfortably off, that closing the shop on a Sunday could be a good idea. Acquiescing, the family began to enjoy days away from home, camping, dirt biking, fishing and hiking. Until that time, Cat had no idea that her parents could be so fun, nor that they were ‘outdoorsy’. The memories of these times are amongst Cat’s fondest.

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But throughout this long period: attending school, coping with work, and learning how to persuade her parents to take some time off, Cat was conscious of a sense of alienation. People like her were never the heroes of the histories she was taught at school, they rarely appeared in the books she loved to escape into, and she saw few faces like her own in her classes or neighborhoods. Had there been a sense that Cat was welcome, that people of her skin color and ethnic background could be the hero – could even be welcomed – in the seemingly exclusionary America in which they were living, she would have felt seen, appreciated and perhaps would have applied herself with greater enthusiasm to the school curriculum.

Inclusivity is one of the reasons why Cat writes. It is one of Cat’s dearest ambitions to ensure that no child picking up her books will ever feel that they need not apply, that the story is not aimed at them. Cat will, as the Mika’s Quest series expands, include people from every country and every walk of life. The series will be home to all: the LGBTQIA+ community, disabled people of all types, and, of course, people from all races and skin colors, so that even the most niche reader will find representation within the pages of the books.

When she is not working or writing, Cat is fascinated by the world around her, studying geological formations within rocks, doting on animals of all sorts – she severely annoyed her mom by bringing a family of mice into her bedroom as she worried they would become too cold in the garage, and also by filling the bath with frogs! Cat is devoted to her family, which has grown to include her husband, and their oldest daughter, Cayla, as well as fraternal twins, Olivia and Hudson, a golden Labrador retriever Archer and a Betta fish called Flopsy Mopsy. Cat’s parents are still thriving and visits are regular between the two families. Cat also has family connections across the world: fleeing the threat of communism saw the family scattered to Canada, Australia, France, Germany and other locations within the USA.

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