Welcome, Kate! Tell us about your background and how you came to be a writer.
I was born and raised in the Midwest, Indiana to be exact. I was a bookworm from a very early age, reading everything I could get my hands on. The “Choose Your Own Adventure” series was about the best thing ever. I was really lucky to have had several really excellent teachers during my early education, whom I thank in the acknowledgments section. Their guidance and encouragement over the years was very important. Mostly, the group of friends I had during high school were writers and artists. We were all in a lot of the same classes, and would critique each other’s stuff, help editing papers before we turned them in. Things like that. It was a very subtle, but constant influence.
I always considered myself to primarily be an artist, but always enjoyed writing. In high school and college I became involved with literary magazines. One of the editors of the Griffin, the literary magazine my freshman year, was an eccentric friend of mine who had very high standards for writing. When he asked me to write an additional submission, I was floored. It had such currency that he asked me. I knew he’d give me what for if he thought I wasn’t cutting the muster. It took a long time for me to get up the courage to try and give writing a real whirl.
How many works do you currently have published, or in development? Do you write in one particular genre or format?
Currently, I am releasing the second edition of my novel, “Nothing In Particular”. I’m also working to finish a children’s book, and have two more novels in the works. The beauty of being an Indie writer is not being pigeon-holed into one genre by “the powers that be”. I love the freedom of writing the way I want. I tend to write fiction at the moment. I’d say it’s sort of non-specific general fiction. Some may categorize it as historical fiction since it’s set in the 1980’s.
Which authors would you compare your books to, and why? Have you reached out to any of them?
I don’t know how I could be a good judge and compare my writing with anyone else’s. I’ll leave that up to the readers.
Some authors who I love to read are: Fannie Flagg a world class storyteller. I highly recommend “Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man”. I laugh out loud every time I read it. I love reading Alice Hoffman (Practical Magic), Anne Rice (The Vampire Chronicles), Anna Maxted (Getting Over It), Christopher Moore (A Dirty job), Carl Hiaasen (Sick Puppy), Charles de Lint (Jack of Kinrowan), and Edgar Allan Poe. Naturally, I also enjoy classics like Jane Austen, Moliere and Shakespeare.
How do story ideas come to you? Do you map them out in advance or let the stories unfold on the page?
When you have lots of life experiences, it helps. I’ve moved around lots of places, met lots of people, had lots of different jobs. Waitressing you meet lots of people and witness plenty of weirdness. I think the older you get, the more you realize there’s no such thing as “normal”. People are flat out nuts, and life is rarely a straight and predictable line.
I tend to think in a visual way. Everything is like a movie in my head. Bits and pieces often pop into my mind when I’m doing something mundane like brushing my teeth or taking a shower. I have a notebook that I scribble things down in. I tend to outline and write lots of backstory for my characters. I have binders full of notes, character descriptions and various information pertinent to the story to avoid gaffes. During the actual writing process, it’s often a matter of knowing point A and point B and then deciding how to construct the path between the two.
This being said, every writer has their own process and whatever works for the individual is obviously a valid approach.
How do you approach researching a topic you are unfamiliar with?
I read a lot. Periodicals, books, different subjects, constantly reading. I look things up and do research to get the best information available. I usually cross-reference to double check.
You’ve mentioned that “the first edit on the first book was a doozy!” How did the experience of tough first edits expand your abilities as a writer? How would you suggest a first-time novelist prepare for the emotional challenges he or she may face (such as cutting favorite story elements that don’t ultimately work and, in cases, whole chapters) when editing a first novel?
[pullquote]Editing is hard. If it isn’t, you’re not doing it thoroughly enough.[/pullquote] My editor, Anna Maxted, once told me someone once said to her that editing “Is like swallowing a little bit of your own sick”. The first time you write a book, you’re not just writing, you’re learning your process of writing a book. Writing hundreds of pages of anything in a cohesive form is a challenge.
Going back through it several times and chopping large chunks out, re-doing– over and over. It’s tough, but necessary.
I encourage writers to make it about the work, and doing your best work. Detach. It’s not about you. It’s about the work. Let go and see what happens. You can always change your mind and put things back in. The goal has to be to tighten and condense as much as possible.
You had the privilege of working with Anna Maxted on your new release, Nothing in Particular. She is a talented and best-selling author in her own right. How did this working relationship come about? How soon in the writing process did you begin working with Ms. Maxted? Would you approach the process any differently the second time around?
I have been a huge fan of hers for years. I connected to her through Twitter, funnily enough. We had exchanges and I discovered one day while reading her website that she had added a book clinic. Oh. My. GOD. So, if you can imagine the fangirling spaz fit this geek girl had. I pondered if I could handle doing something as insane as asking one of my favorite authors to edit my book. I decided I’d be a fool not to try and sent her an e-mail asking what she thought. It was nerve-wracking, but in the end, one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. She is such a talented professional. I learned so much about how to edit properly working with her. And I am so proud of the completed novel!
Anna is really my dream editor. She just got it. It was awesome. The only thing I’d change possibly is finding someone more local for the initial edit, and then hire Anna again if she’s not slammed. It’s a gamble there, so I’ve got to find a backup! If I had a local editor, then we could get together. Plane tickets to London are a bit high for me at the moment. I’ve really been incredibly lucky! Sorry for the schizo answer here. In short– tough to choose!
Just how critical is the editor to the successful completion of a novel? If you were mentoring aspiring authors, what advice would you share with them about things like preparing a manuscript, or choosing an editor?
Hiring an editor is a necessity for all writers, regardless of skill level. You have to be willing to invest in your own work. Not doing so is just silly. A rough draft is supposed to be a mess. Just produce the content. Then find a friend or someone who is willing to help you go over it once and get glaring grammatical and punctuation errors corrected.
There are lots of ways to find and editor. Make sure you interview them, ask lots of questions, get everything in writing so expectations align as far as what you’re paying for and what deadlines are. Pay half up front, half upon completion or some such thing. Hiring a stranger online through a service, you have to cover your behind until you build a relationship. Again, I lucked out and blundered into a fabulous situation.
How about tips on working well with an editor?
Trust yourself first, and listen to them as well. You don’t have to make all the changes they suggest. It’s your work. Maybe you disagree on a plotline or how some action in a scene is going. Ask lots of questions, have discussions. Take the time to hammer it out. That’s what they’re there for.
How do you market your books? Do you have a formal plan? Do you blog, or use social media? How regularly?
I have to laugh here! The first edition, I didn’t promote the book at all. I’d gotten pregnant a few months after I published, so I am learning the ropes now.
Firstly, thank you for doing this interview with me here on indiebookweek.com! I’m having a Trick-or-Treat book promotion online. I’m using Ingram’s book list that goes to all the bookstores. It’s available to writers who print using Lightning Source, which is great. On Twitter @bookplugs @indieauthorland are helpful to writers. I’ll be part of a podcast for @bluebookbuzz in November. And probably some of my book and writer tweeps will give a girl a hand. I’ve connected with some fabulous writers and bookworms on Twitter, in particular. I’m a big fan of all my writer and book tweeps!
Tell us about your writing environment. Do you listen to music? Are you surrounded by stacks of research? Do you write best at a particular time of day?
I’m one of those writers who prefers complete silence. It helps me to focus and become really absorbed in the story. When I need a break however, I crank up some music and dance around to get the blood moving. I recommend yoga as well. Oxygen and blood to the brain are crucial to keeping things going.
Late morning and afternoon tends to be my best time to write. It doesn’t always workout that way, what with life and all. But, most days I get plenty done.
I keep reference books nearby, yes. Dictionary, Thesaurus, a copywriting word suggestion book which I can’t find the title of because it’s still packed in a box, and “The Manuscript Makeover” by Elizabeth Lyon. A must have for all writers.
How do you know when a story is complete? Do you write more than one at the same time?
Endings seem to come pretty naturally.
Yes, I am always working on multiple things. You run out of juice on one, you switch to another.
Is there anything else about your experiences as a writer and published author that you would like to share with readers?
Be relentless. Write from the heart, not the marketing plan. Create good art. Tell good stories. It’s all about the storytelling.
What does the year ahead hold for you?
Settling in after a cross country move. I am loving Kansas City! Working on drawings for a children’s book, and working on two novels. I will also be continuing my efforts to end child abuse, bullying, and violence against women.
Please share an excerpt from your most current novel with us! What is the novel about? Is it a standalone or part of a series? What is happening in this scene? How far into the book does it take place?
At its core, “Nothing In Particular” is about friendship, loyalty, survival, and perseverance. [pullquote]Anyone who grew up in the 80’s and was any type of geek (gamer, art, drama, band, science or any combo) will probably enjoy this story.[/pullquote]
It stands on its own and is the first book of a series. Not sure if it’ll end up being one or two more books. I have to finish and then see where it naturally goes.
In this excerpt from around chapter five, Kiera and her friends are taking off to Chicago to binge on records at a treasured record store, and blow off steam after altercations with family and school officials.
We zoom off the highway onto our exit and head for Lincoln Ave. There’s a restaurant next door to Wax Trax where we often pig out before spending almost all of our money on records. I love their soup and croissants. Mandy finds a parking place on a side street and squeezes into it. She has become supremely talented at parallel parking since we began venturing into Chicago. We pause for a moment, while Mandy helps me dab makeup on the worst of the bruises. It’ll be dark soon enough, and I am relying on the night to give me the camouflage I need. We pile out of the small vehicle and stretch like a gang of alley cats getting ready for a nightly prowl.
“Dude, I am starving to death!” exclaims Andy.
We nod in agreement, and head for the restaurant. His exclamation is funny because Andy eats all the time, and eats such large amounts of food that he puts the football team to shame. He never gains an ounce though. Andy insists that it’s because of his naturally springy, borderline hyperactive nature. I would tend to agree. Being around Andy is like being around one of those little rubber superball things that when you bounce it, it goes nuts and bounces all over the room like an over-excited comet. He makes the rest of us look like we’re in a coma.
We slide into a booth and quickly order our soups, sandwiches and tea. We need to warm up a bit before traipsing all over the north side of the city. The food arrives quickly and we demolish it like a pack of trolls who haven’t eaten in a month. People are looking at us like we’re from another planet. Maybe because Mandy has blue streaks in her hair and a Wax Trax Records t-shirt, or possibly because Andy is sporting a violently green shirt that clashes painfully with his red hair. Maybe it’s Max with his tall, skinny build draped in a black trench coat looking like Bela himself. Maybe it’s me also draped in black, looking like someone has beat the snot out of me with this cut on my head. I’m in no mood for the judgmental, “you’re weird” thing that some people do. Everyone in the whole world isn’t going to look just like you. There is an older woman sitting with her two kids across the aisle from us. She is openly staring at us with a disgusted expression on her face. I look right back at her, cross my arms, and don’t look away. Mandy starts giggling and elbows Andy, who sees what I’m doing. It turns into a group staring contest until we both stick out our tongues, and make goofy faces at this rude, obnoxious woman. Max spits the water he just sipped all over himself, laughing and choking. The woman grabs her kids and rushes to pay her bill, glaring at us like we threatened to eat them. Just because we don’t like Laura Ashley, doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with us. I don’t see why blue hair or unusual clothing is so offensive. Granted, some of Andy’s shirts are so bright that you see spots sometimes… None of us understand the mentality of the “moral majority” crowd of halfwits who are so narrow-minded that they think absolutely every one else should be, think, talk and dress just like them. Plus, I trust a guy with a Mohawk way more than I trust some dildo in a suit. At least then, with people who show their personality, you know exactly who you’re dealing with, more or less. It’s the normal-looking people who you’ve got to watch.
“OK, kids. Ready to go next door?” asks Mandy practically slobbering.
“YEAH!” we respond a little too loudly for our subdued restaurant surroundings. We gather our things and pay our tab. A blast of cold air hits our faces as we exit the cozy warmth of the restaurant and clomp to Wax Trax, the greatest record store — ever. The black door is a welcome sight. The walls are black and there is a beat-up photo booth against the wall. There are rows and rows of records in bins that seem to go on forever. Hard core punk, reggae, ska, every 4AD artist on the planet, every alternative record you can think of is here. I am always overwhelmed because I have so few dollars and love so many bands. There are huge posters hanging from the ceiling of Bauhaus, David Bowie, the Cocteau Twins, and The Cure. Mandy and I go straight for the bin where the Cocteau Twins are. The boys go and forage through the industrial section.
Mandy and I are trying to get our hands on every Cocteau Twins EP, which is turning out to be a bit of a challenge, mainly because we are so poor. We rifle through the available vinyl and stand there for a while, debating. I decide on “The Spanglemaker” and “Peppermint Pig.” I have no idea what they sound like and have no qualms whatsoever about spending $32 on these records. All of their music is gorgeous. Elizabeth has the most beautiful voice on earth. Mandy chooses “Love’s Easy Tears”. Then we go to look at the pile of Siouxsie and the Banshees that is currently available. We gasp and drool. It’s so hard to narrow it down. I wish I didn’t have to budget! Siouxsie’s voice is awesome. I just wouldn’t call it beautiful. To me the word “beautiful” sounds fragile and lacy. Siouxsie has a strong, powerful voice that penetrates and howls with such emotion that you feel it down to your toenails. Mandy finally chooses “Hyæna” and we scurry upstairs to look around. Earrings, necklaces, dominatrix-looking dresses and skirts, and of course, band t-shirts. Mandy and I can’t afford any more than our records, but we love to look. We hear heavy footsteps clomping up to meet us. I see Andy’s spiked crop of bright red hair over the top of the low wall making its way up.
CONNECT WITH AUTHOR KATE LeDONNE