Welcome to the one hundred and twenty-first of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, directors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today’s is with children’s, action adventure and suspense/romance novelist Kat ‘K.S.’ Brooks. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate the author further. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here.
Morgen: Hello Kat. Lovely to finally get to chat after all our LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebooking. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Kat: I’ve always written, as far back as I can remember. I think I was probably born a writer. It just seems like it’s always been a part of me. I grew up in a very creative family, with my roots in New York City, so I guess becoming some kind of an artist was inevitable.
Morgen: Yes, I understand from your Wikipedia page (I’m so jealous :)) that your father is a novelist (and mother a ballerina). What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Kat: I’m not sure if it’s just ADHD or multiple personalities, but I started out writing action-adventure thrillers, then took on educational children’s books and suspense / romance novels. I’ve also got a horror book on the back burner… I think the fiction genres I probably wouldn’t attempt would be straight up romance, fantasy and science fiction.
Morgen: Pretty much the same as me. One of my Monday nighters (hello Anna) writes amazing science-fiction but has never read a word of it. I don’t think I have either but (sorry sci-fi authors) it’s not a genre that’s ever appealed to me. I did consider Mills & Boon (as I think every newbie does) but no, not me. What have you had published to-date? If applicable, can you remember where you saw your first books on the shelves?
Kat: Ah, the list is growing! Lust for Danger (2001); The Kiss of Night (2010) and Night Undone (2011); and The Mighty Oak and Me (2009), Postcards from Mr. Pish Volume 1 (2010) and Mr. Pish’s Woodland Adventure (coming Sept. 2011). The titles should give away the genres. I hope.
Morgen: Ah Mr Pish, I love keeping track of him in the LinkedIn threads. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Kat: I do the majority of the marketing at this time. I’m very lucky to have a friend on the East Coast who helps me with my branding, artwork and press contacts.
Morgen: Ah ha, that’s your secret. Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions and do you think they help with a writer’s success?
Kat: I have won a couple of awards. They’re great confidence builders. But when I don’t win, I don’t take it personally. I think if writers can make those distinctions, it can be a help mentally.
Morgen: Definitely. You never know who you’re up against or what the judges like on the day. Do you write under a pseudonym? If so why and do you think it makes a difference?
Kat: I write under my initials and last name, K. S. Brooks. I chose that back in 1986 because I thought it was better if readers didn’t know if I was a man or a woman, and because Angela Lansbury was J.B. Fletcher on Murder She Wrote, and she and I share the same birthday. J As you can see, it was completely scientific.
Morgen: Oh wow, I share it with Coco Chanel (August 19th = Chanel no.19). And the initials idea hasn’t done JK Rowling any harm, and the advantage of Morgen I think is that it doesn’t clarify male or female – unless you see my picture of course. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Kat: I’m extremely torn about the “agent” thing. I think the right agent can be a fantastic asset, whereas a wrong agent can be a huge roadblock.
Morgen: But fortunately we can do our own thing in the meantime. Speaking of which, are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process? And do you read eBooks?
Kat: My fiction is available in e-book. The process is seamless to me – my publisher (Cambridge Books / Write Words Inc.) handles all those details – making it available in all the different formats and distributing it. So I’m very fortunate.
Morgen: You are, I have that process to look forward to (I’m currently building a nerdy display book of everything I find on the topic for when I’m ready; hopefully in the next few weeks).
Kat: Reading eBooks – the closest I get to that is reading research materials online. I have to say I’m verging on technological dinosaur!
Morgen: But you embrace LinkedIn, Twitter etc. What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
Kat: My first acceptance was in 2001. I’d been trying for so long to get Lust for Danger published that I thought I’d read the acceptance letter wrong! I had to show it to someone else to make certain I wasn’t hallucinating. When I realized it was true, I wanted to vomit for about a week. Each time I turn in a project, I still want to vomit – but usually only for a day or two now.
Morgen: I think most writers feel like that… I’m hoping I’ll just feel excited when I put my eBooks online – which reminds me, I have a new Books page on my blog for ‘mine’ and ‘other people’s’). Sorry, you were saying…
Kat: My thrill comes when I see the thumbnail of the book cover up next to my name on the publisher’s page. Then I know it’s real. Then comes the dancing.
Morgen: Yay. Fellow Northampton short story author (and new friend – hello Helen!) Helen M Hunt sold a story recently and apologised on Facebook for dancing, to which I said she should dance away as it’s a great achievement. I reckon most writers get rejections than acceptances so why not make the most of them when they come in. One fellow Facebooker (her name escapes me; sorry if you’re reading this) celebrates with a bottle of champagne. Speaking of rejections… presumably you have had some? If so, how do you deal with them?
Kat: Yes, my work’s been rejected plenty of times. I don’t take it personally. Not everyone is going to like everything I write. So, it’s just a matter of finding the one that does. Each rejection puts me one closer to acceptance. Next!
Morgen: Yes… in the file / bin (delete as appropriate) and move on. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Kat: I’m working on Postcards from Mr. Pish Volume 2. The photos are laid out and some of the text is in. Once I’m done with this draft, it goes to educators who give me their input on the content, then to proofing, then to artwork, so it’s a long process. Once I’ve got it out the door, then I’m going to get back to the book I started in 1991 (yes, that date is correct, ugh.) It’s the sequel to Lust for Danger and it needs to be finished. I’m hoping to complete my draft this year.
Morgen: 20 years I’d say is definitely long enough for something to marinate. Do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
Kat: I don’t write everyday because I write like a mad scientist. If I’m hot on a work of fiction, I’ll forget to eat, shower, take dinner out, pay the bills and what have you. I become possessed. I will literally write non-stop for 10 hours or more. I came close to doing that for a few weeks when I wrote Night Undone.
Morgen: Me every NaNoWriMo (although I do shower :)). What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
Kat: I have the opposite of writer’s block – I’m not kidding. I don’t know why, either. My brain never stops and I have no problem writing it down. I get asked about writer’s block so often I ended up writing about it on my Authors’ Advice blog at http://authorksbrooks.blogspot.com/2010/08/writers-block.html.
Morgen: Great… I don’t suffer from it either but will definitely read up about it. Ooh, maybe you could guest blog for me. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Kat: Usually I just get an idea and run with it – the idea can be a loose brick at the Vancouver Olympic hockey rink or a cute dog, and then the story sort of blooms out around it. For my action-adventure thrillers, I do end up having to do some plotting, since they’re extremely fast-paced and involve a lot of different locations.
Morgen: Key ingredients I’d say. Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Kat: Everyone’s got something in their past that shaped them greatly. So, usually, I figure out what that was, then I build the character around that since that tends to dictate what will motivate them. I don’t really do this on purpose, but when I think about it, that’s what I tend to do. So, great question, Morgen!
Morgen: Why, thank you.
Kat: What makes them believable? That was a lesson I learned the hard way. They can’t be perfect. They have to have flaws, and they have to make mistakes.
Morgen: They do because they’re (usually) human. Who is your first reader – who do you first show your work to?
Kat: My mother is a fantastic editor. She’s always my first reader. Thanks Mom!
Morgen: You’re lucky, most of my writing is too dark for my mum to read but I have a great editor who lives near her so we meet up every few weeks at my mum’s house to talk ‘shop’. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Kat: Both. Even though I believe my writing has become much stronger and cleaner, even if a scene is “done,” I can be brushing my teeth and think “Aha! Adding XYZ would make that scene even more intense!”
Morgen: One of my Monday nighters (hi Denny) and I were chatting about this the other day – she can spend a day on one paragraph. She clearly has more patience than me. Do you write on paper or do you prefer a computer?
Kat: I’ve been typing for so many years that I’m hitting about 150 words per minute. There’s no way I could handwrite that fast. So it’s got to be the computer.
Morgen: Wow! I’m about 80wpm and I thought that was pretty good going… does your brain work that quickly? Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Kat: *Laughing* Oh yeah. I wrote a swashbuckling romantic adventure based in 17th century France (historically correct, too!) when I was 15 years old. I also wrote a bunch of other chapters and pieces of books when I was a tween / teen. I found some of them recently when I was unpacking. Yikes.
Morgen: But now you’re more able to de-yike them. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Kat: I’m not sure this is the type of answer you were looking for, but my favourite part of being a writer is going back to a project to edit / proof it after I’ve been away from it for a while. Sometimes I’ll have forgotten something I put in there and I’ll actually laugh at the humor and think “No sir, I wrote that? That’s pretty good!” I love it when my own writing pleasantly surprises me.
Morgen: That’s just what I was looking for – I love that too (the going back not the editing necessarily) but sometimes I go “yikes” (well, actually it’s more like “eek”) more often than “pretty good”.
Kat: My least favourite aspect is that my writing doesn’t currently pay enough to hire a staff to do the things that need to get done so I could write more!
Morgen: Ah but you have an unpaid (presumably) editor (your mother) and East Coast friend. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Kat: Write a lot of articles and short stories. Submit them everywhere. If you’re offered an internship at a newspaper, take it. Build that resume – and start early. And don’t let people slip away who can help you – family friends, schoolmates, teachers, etc. Stay in touch with them. Connections later can be key in helping you get published or well-marketed. Unfortunately I never had those types of connections – and boy would things have been easier for me if I had.
Morgen: I’d say you’re doing pretty well now – I see your name all over the place. And I would have loved to have “started early” although I wouldn’t have had Twitter, Facebook and the likes which are invaluable, I’d day, these days. What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks?
Kat: When I’m not writing, I’m marketing. When I’m not doing either, I’m walking the dog, although I’m usually writing in my head.
Morgen: Me too… we could be sisters. Like Notting Hill’s Julia Roberts and Emma Chambers.
Kat: I was about to say I’m really quite boring when I realized that this summer we’ve “escorted” Mr. Pish (our travelling terrier) in two major area parades so he could spread the word about outdoor learning and literacy. Those were pretty fun! (Video is at http://www.youtube.com/mrpishvideos).
Morgen: Is the fame going to his head yet? Where can we find out about you and your work?
Kat: There’s lots of information about me and my books on my website as well as my author page on Facebook. Mr. Pish has his own website loaded with fun information geared towards outside learning and literacy and at http://www.facebook.com/MrPish.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Kat: I’d like to thank you, Morgen, for this opportunity. It’s very kind of you to share your blog space with me. And I have to say, some of these questions were really challenging!
Morgen: Thank you Kat, I’ve enjoyed catching up with you and apologies for the challengingness of them but you rose to it! Is there a question you’d like to ask me?
Kat: I need to ask if you’ve been cloned, because I am amazed at how much you accomplish!
Morgen: I sometimes wish. Let one of me have a lie in (I wake up at 6am regardless) and / or early nights (I’m typing this as it approaches midnight). One of our former Prime Ministers (and probably all those before / after her) survived on 4-5 hour sleeps which I’ve been doing quite regularly recently and I have to say it’s not working for me… my dog’s not impressed either. Thanks again Kat and see you on the web.
I then invited Kat to provide an excerpt of her writing and the following is an excerpt from ‘The Kiss of Night’:
The drive to the job site was quiet. Kathrin was not up for conversation. She stared out at the fields of wheat – now glowing gold: and at the alfalfa’s sea of fragrant purple blooms. How long will it take me to become bored with this gentle land? Will it become less beautiful to me? Will I crave the metropolitan feel of my condo in Manhattan? It had originally seemed to her that she may not be able to return to New York for her own safety. Now she wondered if she had even needed to leave to begin with…it seemed no one, including the septic man, cared how many terrorists she had stopped. She had truly believed that someone would take advantage of her incapacitated state – had that just been ego talking? Defense Minister Nabokov had at least shared the thought – or was sending Aleksey just his way of settling his debt to her?
K. S. Brooks is an award-winning novelist, photographer and poet. Her first novel, Lust for Danger, won her an Honorable Mention in the Jada Press Book of the Year Awards as well as a spot in the “Next Big Thing” tent at the Baltimore Book Festival in Baltimore, Maryland. Her feature articles, poetry, and photography have appeared in magazines, newspapers, books and other publications both in the U.S. and abroad. In the serenity of her new surroundings in Washington State, Ms. Brooks now devotes her time to writing action-adventure thrillers, romantic suspense novels, and children’s books which promote outdoor learning and literacy.
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