Welcome to my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, scriptwriters, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with children’s and short story author and spotlightee Katherine L Holmes. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Katherine. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Katherine: I’ve lived in Minnesota all of my life. Like many writers, I began as a child but it was a circuitous occupation because I nearly went into music and spent much time with rehearsals and performance, playing flute and piccolo. I wanted to try the school newspaper and once I began an English degree, writing came about with publication, first in newspapers and then poetry and fiction.
Morgen: What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Katherine: In 2011, I self-published a children’s comic fantasy, The House in Windward Leaves. That year, my short story collection, Curiosity Killed the Sphinx and Other Stories, won the Prize Americana for fiction. It was published by Hollywood Books International in May of 2012.
Although I’ve thought up pseudonyms and often wished I’d used my middle name, I publish under my name.
Morgen: You’ve self-published, what lead to you going your own way?
Katherine: I self-published a children’s fantasy because there are so many fantasies out there these days. Self-publishing seemed an exciting venture and that book felt the most ready for it.
Morgen: Are your books available as eBooks? How involved were you in that process? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Katherine: ‘Curiosity Killed the Sphinx and Other Stories’ was published as a Kindle book and as an ebook by the publisher. I prepared The House in Windward Leaves as an ebook.
I didn’t expect to like ebooks until I began downloading them. I still prefer the book that can be kept in a shoulder bag or at the bedside table. But I found that once I started reading a good book, it didn’t matter so much whether the words were on paper or a screen.
Morgen: Most people prefer ‘real’ books but it’s great having the choice and like you, I don’t mind the format, you forget it if the story is good. Do you have a favourite of your characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Katherine: One of my favorite characters is the elderly antique dealer from the longest short story in Curiosity Killed the Sphinx. I’m not sure of an actress for that part except that it would be a Joan Plowright type.
Morgen: She’s great. Which author(s) would you compare your writing to?
Katherine: With short stories, I would say Alice Adams. My work tends to concentrate on the Midwestern region in the way she wrote about the San Francisco area. Like her, I tend to develop scenes rather than narrate. I much admired Katherine Anne Porter’s fiction and hoped to balance poignant events with humor or spark the way she did.
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day, or ever suffer from writer’s block?
Katherine: I usually write every day in the morning. Sometimes I feel the writer’s block in my output and attitude towards my project. Writing became a satisfying habit, seeming to adjust my view from the dream world to the real world. I’ve never been a morning person because I often wake up disgruntled. Writing has helped me to understand things and to start my day.
Morgen: Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Katherine: Sometimes I will begin with a strong character but mostly I begin with plots like points on a map. I have never liked outlines so I see a plot event as a place where I’m tending. But I don’t know what will happen along the way and that needs developing, what makes writing an experience in itself.
Morgen: Characters will often take over and lead the way. Do you have a method for creating yours, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Katherine: This has to do with vision. The funny thing is that if I haven’t seen a person I’m scheduled to meet in real life, I rarely imagine them correctly. With fiction, the vision of a character is something to investigate and try out. I often change the name of a character until I feel that it fits after working with the character. It’s a matter of warming up to characters, for me, and ignoring my “vision” while letting my experiences with people to tell me more.
Morgen: Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Katherine: When I was first writing, I went from story to story as I liked the creative experience. Submitting my work, I realized I had to rewrite. It was more than that. Twenty years ago, editors wanted you to submit your best work but today, I think they expect work to be edited. That might have to do with the computer and the ease of editing with it now. I don’t think I’ve changed much in my rough draft quality.
Morgen: What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Katherine: Everyone once in a while, I might use second person from a character’s point of view, while the character is thinking.
In most writing, I prefer the third person. I only use first person when I feel strong identification with the character or if it comes naturally. I guess I see characters in the stage of real life and I like spotlighting them. Perhaps it’s because I’m more of a watcher.
Morgen: Considering how many authors I’ve interviewed (c.700) few have written second person so it’s interesting how you use it. You mentioned short stories, do you also write any poetry or non-fiction?
Katherine: I’ve written much poetry and spent some years writing short stories. I wish I’d written more non-fiction. Somehow, I haven’t gotten started and, although I read nonfiction books, I’ll wind up using nonfiction material for fiction.
Morgen: The only non-fiction I write is about writing. I should go outside that but I love creating something fictional. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Katherine: Yes, I’ve had many rejections. I would never continue writing if I didn’t have encouragement. I’ve even kept percentage reports for rejections versus interest and acceptance. Rejections are a part of being a writer. If you go into a bookshop or library, how many books do you reject? Writing is about providing for an audience and if a writer has a readership, then they will write for it.
Morgen: That’s a good way of looking at it. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Katherine: I do not have an agent. I’ve had interest from agents but haven’t found one. I’m not young and when I began submitting, my manuscripts were read from the slush pile to editors in major companies. That was when a person could submit unsolicited books. Because I received letters of interest, I think now that I might have done better if I’d had an agent and that I should have sought one then.
Morgen: Well, when you find an agent… 🙂 What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Katherine: I hate finding problems in my work after I’ve submitted it or even had it published. It’s difficult to revise when you imagine someone else seeing your errors. This has made me more careful to re-read and let a creative piece sit so that I can edit it with fresh eyes. Initially, I didn’t mind the blank page so much but I disliked the editing and especially the secretarial aspect. Now I like the editing and find the blank page more challenging.
Morgen: I’ve been writing on and off for eight years and haven’t got to the liking editing stage. 🙂 What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Katherine: If you’re aspiring rather than writing for yourself, remember that writing is a two-way process. You’ll want to listen to your readers or find readers that appreciate you. Still, that unique person that you must please, yourself, might be your strongest asset with your readers.
Morgen: Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Katherine: I sell used books on the internet in my other time. I also look for them, at estate sales and book sales.
Morgen: Selling books online is tough here in the UK. The post is so expensive. Unless it’s something special people won’t pay that much. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Katherine: Forthcoming is my children’s book, The Wide Awake Loons, to be published by Silver Knight Publishing. I’ve been learning to edit my own work and have been preparing books for submission or publication. So I expect to publish more, either with a publisher or self-publishing. As I complete those projects, I think about writing something that I want to write.
Morgen: Which is what we should be doing. 🙂 Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Morgen: Thank you, Katherine.
I then invited Katherine to include a synopsis…
Winner of Prize Americana, Curiosity Killed the Sphinx and Other Stories is a collection of short fiction exploring the complexities of life. Laying the profound beside the mundane, author Katherine L. Holmes creates rich and complicated characters who search for identity, meaning, and purpose within a world often dangerous and sometimes even cruel. Her readers relate to such struggles and find comfort as they face similar challenges of their own.
A couple clashing with early computers, a divorced woman finding her scattered family to be strangers, a girl running away to the shop where her parents’ antiques were sold, Midwestern college students in weather and water emergencies – these are some of the conflicts examined by the author. Past solutions tempt these characters as they consider contemporary choices.
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