Here are some common and not-so-common questions authors get asked, along with my responses (just in case you’re interested!)
1. Coffee or tea?
I start out every morning with a cup of freshly brewed coffee. Usually another one will follow. And then like the saying goes, “start with coffee, end with wine,” right? I do like tea at times, but more so in the evenings. Usually I’ll go a long time without tea, then have a cup, and remember how cozy it is and ask myself why I don’t drink tea more often.
2. What else do you enjoy besides writing?
I love spending time with my kids. There’s never enough time. Aside from that, I enjoy photography (I used to run a small photography business a few years back), cooking (not so much baking, because I love to be creative in the kitchen and baking is too precise for me), and enjoying summer in the great outdoors. Hiking, biking, boating. I recently got my boating license, and my dad has been teaching me to drive his boat. I love reading and I do love binging on fantastic shows like Outlander, The Last Kingdom, and other period dramas.
3. What is the first novel you can remember reading that really inspired you to want to write?
The first one that always comes to mind is Phantom: The Novel of His Life by Susan Kay. It was written in 1990. I loved it so much that I read it nine times, and it remains the only book I’ve ever re-read so often. I love how she writes, I love the emotion she puts into it, and I love the multiple POV. It really is a fantastic story – you should go read it!
4. Can you give us a little insight as to what your debut novel is about?
Well-Hidden Secrets is, I like to think, an historical mystery. It’s a mix of mystery, ghost story and time-travel, but the time-travel part is different than what you might think. The main character, Jennifer Leighton, has a scary experience as a teenager. She later finds out that her experience is not unique to her; other women in her maternal family line have had the same encounter. She decides to investigate, and comes to realize the spirit who visits them is an ancestor – but not one who is listed in her family tree. She goes on a quest to discover who he is, what happened to him and why and how, and finds out some pretty disturbing secrets about her family’s past. Jennifer travels to England to get a better understanding of what happened, where she meets a man named Frederick who not only helps her, but falls in love with her. The secret she finds out at the end of the book is what ties the mystery all together, and it’s something you won’t be expecting. The story itself is told through multiple POV and in two time periods, something I always like in a book.
5. How did you come up with the idea for Well-Hidden Secrets?
Well-Hidden Secrets came to me recently, but it had been bubbling on the back burner for more than two decades, even though I didn’t realize it. The entire concept was born from an experience I had when I was a teenager, and it has blossomed into this novel. I had a general idea of the story line, but I didn’t know how it was going to end. When I was about half-way through, the ending suddenly came to me, so I stopped where I was and wrote the ending. As I was writing it, an integral character sprung to life. I had no idea she would come to exist until she just kind of wrote herself in there. For me, those are the most exciting parts about writing; when a previously unknown character or piece of the story just comes ripping out onto the screen from your fingertips.
6. Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Oh, energizes, for sure. I love to write. I always have. I didn’t like it as much in high school or college because you’re given instructions. My imagination comes to life when I write, so I don’t like instructions so much. I write when I feel like writing – although now, it’s become a daily thing whereas before, I would just pick it up here and there. Now, I’ve gotten serious about it because I want to do something with it, not just write it and keep it where no one else can see it. Where’s the fun in that? And I do enjoy writing prompts now, too. It keeps you on your toes, springs your creativity into action. It’s funny because usually when I’m taking a day or two “off” from writing my current work-in-process, my “break” consists of writing something entirely different – a short story, a blog post, even a poem here and there. I think that if I get to a point where my writing is exhausting me, there’s something that’s not working.
7. Do you try to be original in your writing or just give readers what they want?
I write what I want to write. If I’m writing my story to suit someone else, then it’s not really my story. I think I have some pretty good stories in my head. Will everyone want to read them? No, certainly not – we all have different tastes when it comes to what we consider to be a “good” book. At the end of the day, I try to write things that captivate, that spark interest and intrigue, that speak to a person’s soul on some level. Ignite emotions. I’m a very emotional person, and I like to write emotion into my stories. There are a lot of emotional people out there who enjoy reading something that will make them laugh or cry or get scared, and I hope I can give that to them in my stories. Having said that, I try to put my own unique spin into it. At the end of the day, I write the stories that want to be told, the characters that want to spring to life, the locations that want to be seen. I write whatever comes out of my head and flows through my fingers.
8. Do you get a spiritual release from writing?
I find writing to be cathartic, in a way. I can be as emotional as I want or need to be when writing a part of a story or developing a character. It can be spiritual as well, especially if I’m writing about any kind of spiritual experiences in the story (which I love to write about, by the way!) I get a great personal satisfaction when my characters go through something difficult or exciting, because I can feel their emotions. I’d have to, since I’m breathing life into them! I find when I write, I can inject some of my own beliefs and ideas and theories into stories by way of character development, and I really like that about writing fiction.
9. How many hours in a day do you write?
There are days when I’m writing from dawn until dusk, or even late into the night. Those days are when the story is just flowing out of me, and I don’t really come up for air. Contrary to that, there are days when I just don’t have it in me. I’m busy with other things in life, and if the motivation isn’t coming to me for a day or two, I don’t push myself to sit there and try to come up with ideas. I like the ideas to come to me on their own. If I’ve procrastinated on other unrelated things, those are good days to play catch-up.
10. How do you come up with your characters’ names?
In my debut novel, it had to do with a family tree. I took names and changed them, and I created a fake family tree to make sure I didn’t get lose with the names and relationships to each other. With others, the names just come to me. Sometimes I’ll look for inspiration on a list of popular names from a certain time period, but in most cases, the names just come to me. My characters write themselves into the story, usually – and whatever name they come with is who they end up being. I actually tried to change the first name of Jennifer’s love interest after I’d written the whole story, but it just didn’t sit right with me. I went back to his original name because that is who he is.
11. How do you do all the research for your books, especially in historical fiction novels?
If I’m featuring a place I’ve been, then it’s a no-brainer. If it’s somewhere close to where I live, then I can easily visit and research as I go. If, though, I’m writing about a place I haven’t been to, I’ll research the crap out of it. Whatever morsel I can get my hands on – photographs, maps, historical facts, newspaper articles, events during the time I’m writing about, whatever it takes to make it real. I have asked people who I know that live in some areas to confirm certain things for me.
12. What are you working on next?
There are a few things in the works, but the one I’m focusing my energy on right now is my next Jennifer Leighton book. Yes, it’s a series. This one is a completely different story line, but it features the main character from Well-Hidden Secrets. I can’t divulge too much just yet, but I can promise there will be more ghosts and goosebumps!
13. If you had to choose one author, who would you say is your favorite?
Diana Gabaldon, hands down. The way she commands the words on those pages, effortlessly gliding through scenes, she writes as if she was there herself, in those times, in those places. I can’t say I’ve read every single one of her books, but I’ll get there. And what I have read, I love. A bit of a funny story about the Outlander obsession… I discovered it when it was being advertised for tv. I marked it on my calendar because I was interested in the premise – but what hooked me was the first line… “People disappear all the time…” and then what REALLY hooked me was the opening credits. The dancing around the stones, the scenes through the song, Bear McCreary’s superbly composed music, Raya Yarbrough’s hauntingly beautiful voice… that was it for me. It wasn’t until after I’d watched the first few episodes that I realized it was based on a book series… Diana Gabaldon’s book series. Obviously I went immediately to get the first book… fell in love instantly, and bought the entire series at once. When I got to the fourth book, Drums of Autumn, I suddenly remembered a book that I had purchased many years prior to that and never got around to reading for some reason or another… it was Drums of Autumn. I had bought the book when it was first published, never knew it was a series, and never knew how big of an impact the book or tv series would have on my life! So yes, I truly do idolize Diana and her mastery at creative writing. (I’m not a creeper Diana, I swear!)
Do you have a question you’d like Kathleen to answer? Leave a comment below!