Welcome to the three hundred and fourth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with multi-genre author Kathy Lynn Harris. 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, Kathy. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Kathy: I’m a native Texas girl who moved to a very high mountain in Colorado to live in a log cabin and write. So far, it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. As for becoming a writer, I think I was likely born that way! I wrote in a journal starting in second grade, wrote my first “book” of poetry when I was 9, majored in journalism in college, and attended graduate school for creative writing. The rest, as they say, is history. I will add, though, that growing up in Texas, surrounded by some pretty cool characters and the myth / legend of that region, helped fuel my imagination.
Morgen: Wow. I’m sure if I should be amazed that so many authors I’ve spoken to have written since forever – it’s great. What genre do you write?
Kathy: My writing runs the gamut from poetry and fiction to first-person essays and third-person magazine articles. My debut novel, out in paperback from 30 Day Books on March 1, 2012, is titled Blue Straggler, and while there are some autobiographical elements, it’s all fiction, baby!
Morgen: I’m a fiction addict. The only non-fiction I’ve written so far is on writing. What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Kathy: I’ve published hundreds of poems, essays and magazine articles. I had my own column for a while on Examiner.com. I’ve published children’s books, as well. Blue Straggler is my first novel to be published. As for a pseudonym, I bet my family wishes I had one every now and then. Ha!
Morgen: Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Kathy: Oh my, oh yes! Rejections are just a part (a large part) of being a writer. Some still sting, but most of the time, the thick skin I’ve developed helps me ward off the bad mojo!
Morgen: I love that. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Kathy: I do have a literary agent, and she’s wonderful. But the world of publishing is changing dramatically. While a literary agent used to be just about mandatory, that’s not the case anymore. New paths to publication are everywhere. However, a literary agent is still hugely important if your goal is to be published by the Big Publishing Houses of the world. In addition, a literary agent can really help you fine-tune your work before it’s pitched for a commercial audience.
Morgen: As does my editor. Second opinions are so vital. You mentioned that your novel is out in paperback is available as an eBook? If so, were you involved in that process at all? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Kathy: Yes! Blue Straggler is available as an ebook. In fact, it was first published as an ebook only, and I was hands-on in all factors of its publishing. It’s a great feeling of control, let me tell you. As for me personally, I have a Kindle Fire and am largely addicted to it. But I still love my traditional books, too. I love seeing them on my shelves and returning to them, just to hold them in my hands and reread a passage before bed. I miss that about having ebooks … that physical presence of them around me.
Morgen: Same as me, I love them both. I’ve just downloaded a short story collection ‘Heads & Tales’ by last night’s Flash Fiction Friday contributor Karina Kantas after I’d spotted her mention it on Twitter and a minute later my downloads icon was jumping up and down… it’s great. But then I have hundreds of books at home to read so I will read those at home but take my Kindle out with me. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Kathy: As an indie author, I’m hands-on with the marketing of my work. But I do have a superb publicist, Laura Pepper Wu, who is helping me through this whole “branding” thing, and I highly recommend her to any and all authors. (Bonus to UK readers / authors: She’s British!)
Morgen: That’s funny because my editor is American. Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Kathy: For Blue Straggler, it’s really hard for me to choose a favourite character because they are all very dear to me! The main character, Bailey, is so completely flawed I can’t help but love her. People ask all the time if Bailey is based on me. She’s not — but we certainly share some characteristics, many of which involve tequila. Idamarie is a hoot in the book, and I wish I had an Idamarie to talk to every day like Bailey does. And then there’s Rudy … he’s funny and so vulnerable in a very nerdy way. I have to say that when I finished writing the book, I missed these characters a lot. Still do. As for who would play them in a movie version of Blue Straggler? I’ll have to let readers weigh in on that! (Some have already on Facebook)
Morgen: Oh yes, I definitely approve of Bailey. If you miss them then that sounds like a cue for a sequel. Did you have any say in the title of your book?
Kathy: My agent suggested again and again that I change the title. She really felt that Blue Straggler sounded too sci-fi. She’s probably right. But I fought for it anyway, because I love the idea of a person being similar to a blue straggler star – dark and disconnected and spinning out there on their own.
Morgen: I’m not a sci-fi reader so wouldn’t have made that connection necessarily but I like the title. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Kathy: I’m putting some finishing touches on my next novel, A Good Kind of Knowing. It’s also set in Texas.
Morgen: Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Kathy: Tons of editing! Probably more editing now than I did as a beginning writer way back in the day.
Morgen: That’s interesting – you’d think it would be the other way round. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Kathy: Blue Straggler is in first-person. A Good Kind of Knowing is written in third-person. I liked them equally well, though I have to admit first-person is easier for me. I have to be so careful in third-person to stay in character point-of-view. I tend to jump around. I have tried exercises in second-person. Very challenging to do well.
Morgen: It is. I have plenty of practice and get mixed reviews, mostly positive thankfully but then my pieces are usually short (latest just 134 words) and that helps as second person can be wearing. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Kathy: Oh yeah. Like everything I wrote from 1980 to 1990.
Morgen: Oh dear. But now you’re more attuned to what might be wrong with them… and fix them? What do you do when you’re not writing?
Kathy: When I’m not writing, I’m either playing in the snow or shovelling snow. I live at 10,500 ft. We get snow year-round!
Morgen: Oh gosh. We Brits panic when there’s a slightest flutter. We need more so we get used to it and my dog would be greatful. Where can we find out about you and your work?
Kathy: I’d be so appreciative if you checked out my author website at kathylynnharris.com. I blog there, as well, about being a multi-generation Texan living in Colorado. I’m also on Twitter and Facebook. I’m always looking for friends on Goodreads, as well.
Morgen: Yes folks, please do. Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Kathy: Thank you so much, Morgen, for featuring me and being interested in my work!
Morgen: Oh, you’re so welcome. You write, I’m interested.
I then invited Kathy to include and extract of her writing and this is from ‘Blue Straggler’:
On my kitchen wall hangs a framed photograph of my brother and me astride a black mechanical bull at Gilley’s near Houston. I’m twelve and wearing pigtails; Mike’s just turned eight. Our lips are stained deep purple from sno-cones my father bought roadside on Interstate 10. Mike’s grinning for the camera, of course, and holding an empty beer bottle he picked up like a souvenir. I’m trying my best to follow my mother’s orders—no blinking, pretend we like each other, sit up straight on Mr. Bull. But despite my extra-wide-open eyes and fixed smile, my right hand rests on my hip, impatient. The other’s discreetly tugging at the edge of my yellow terrycloth shorts.
For many of my adult years, I have believed several things are evident from this picture. Apparently, awareness of sufficient thigh coverage begins at an early age in my family, as does the penchant to have at least one beer bottle in our hands at all times.
Kathy Lynn Harris, a native Texan, has written children’s books, poetry, short stories, newspaper and magazine articles, and personal essays.
Blue Straggler is her debut novel. Kathy likes to play in the snow year-round, which is easy since she lives in a log cabin in the high mountains of Colorado at 10,500 ft. above sea level.
Stellar mountain playmates include her husband, her son and two fairly untrainable Golden Retrievers who own both couches. Her website is kathylynnharris.com.
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