Q & A with Kathryn
| At what age did you begin writing?
Although I was an avid reader and could never get enough of a good story, I didn’t consider writing fiction for a long time. I loved reading fiction, but making a living with it never seemed like a viable option in the real world, so the first thing published was an article in a nursing journal. After awhile, I found I wanted to explore emotions and life so I tried my hand at a short story competition in a magazine. When the story placed and I received encouragement from a judge who was also a highly respected agent, I began to entertain the idea of writing fiction. I was 32 years old with young children at the time.
Did you always have a sense you would be a published author some day?
Deep down I must have. I can remember my oldest son rolling his eyes once when I talked about what I’d do once published. It was never a matter of “if” but “when.” I took hope in the battle-to-publication stories of John Grisham (28 rejections) and J.K. Rowling (12 rejections) and truly believed it was a matter of perseverance.
Which writer is your greatest inspiration?
How can I choose just one? My taste is all over the board but I lean heavily toward historical or fantasy. For romance on my keeper shelf I have LaVerle Spencer, Linda Lael Miller, Diana Gabaldon. I also have Dan O’Brien, Kate DiCamillo, Gary Paulsen and J.R. Tolkien. Most recently, I have added Kate Ganshert.
Upon completion of each book are you left with a sense of satisfaction or fear, or both?
And a host of other emotions. I am relieved to be done, although that’s a double-edged sword because I can tweak a story ad infinitum. There is sadness too, with leaving the characters that have been my constant companions over the course of the story. There’s fear that no one will like the story as much as I do. And there is excitement to start the process all over again with a new story. I just love a blank page and all the possibilities it inspires!
Do you become attached to your characters as if they were real people?
Absolutely. With the first draft I learn enough about them to want to delve deeper. Then as I revise, new facets of their personalities show up which color their back story and motivation. Even the “villains” fascinate me. Orson Scott Card said it so well in Enders Game. In that story Ender says “In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him.” People/characters are like that. When I finally understand them completely, I find I care about them, whether or not I agree with their way of life.
Your books are a bit unusual in that they are set in the western part of the United States in the 1800’s but aren’t necessarily what we think of as “Westerns.” How do you categorize them? What kind of writer do you consider yourself?
The setting for my debut book, The Angel and the Outlaw, had more to do with being raised in San Diego and being exposed to the city’s history from an early age. Early southern California history fascinates me with its Spanish and Native American influence. As to what kind of writer I am? I’d have to say Americana historical. I love westerns, but I plan to write other American-set historicals – WWII fascinates me.
What can readers expect to find in all your books no matter the setting?
A tender love story, accurate historical detail, and a hopeful ending.
If someone were to compare your writing to any author, who would you most like it to be and why?
I love the work of Shelley Shepard Gray. Her stories are tender, deep, and touching and her characters are so real and easy to identify with.
The Angel and The Outlaw finaled in RWA’s Golden Heart contest. How was this experience? Did you enter a lot of contests before selling?
I entered a few contests for the invaluable critiques—first with the manuscript, then with the synopsis. I did well in the smaller regional contests and that gave me courage to send it off to the Golden Heart. The day I found out my manuscript was a finalist out of a thousand entries, I was teaching at a nursing symposium. Since I was not home, my husband took the call and surprised me with twenty four long-stemmed red roses over my lunch hour. Each rose was dusted in gold with the letters GH. I was overwhelmed. In July I traveled to Reno with the other finalists to find out who would win. The award ceremony for the Romance Writers of America is much like the Oscars from the movie industry. Reno, at that time, had the largest stage in the world! I’m not sure I would have been able to speak coherently to such a large audience had I won. The woman who did win that year, a good friend of mine now, was a lovely, gracious winner.