I’ve discovered an ever-expanding circle of professional authors on Twitter, so when I saw @kaitnolan announcing the release of her latest opus in August, I had to jump on the opportunity to ask a few questions.
Without further ado:
1. You blog regularly about your “evil day job”; how did you get sucked into that career (and what is it, without “outing” yourself)?
Well I am the child of two totally practical people who frowned on the notion of making a living exclusively by writing and insisted that I do something “practical”. I foiled that somewhat by getting an advanced degree in psychology (they were hoping for business or law). Now I spend my days doing teaching and research.
2. How did you discover your calling as a writer, and what inclined you toward self-pubbing, likely indie status?
I’m an only child, so most of my play as a kid involved making up stories to entertain myself. I didn’t start writing any of them down until the sixth grade, when I met my first real BFF. We had a whole saga about a summer camp that got rewritten every year as we got older. 😀 Once we hit high school, that fell away, but I’d been bitten by the bug.
As for the self-publishing thing, it was something I did kind of on a whim, as a means to build my platform for the series I hoped to pitch to New York. It really appeals to the control freak in me. I get to pick my cover art. I get to make decisions on blurbs and what-not. I still have to do all the promo stuff, but unless you are one of the Truly Epic authors, New York expects you to do that anyway, and this way I get to keep more of the profits. 😀
3. Again, referring to some of your blog entries referring to “pinch points” and other writerly details, what kind of training have you undertaken in support of your development as a writer?
Read. Read. And read some more. I’ve also spent a lot of time reading books on craft and learning to apply them to my work. My favorites are Story Engineering by Larry Brooks, GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Debra Dixon, and Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain. Beyond that, the number one biggest thing that’s improved my work is my crit partner, Susan Bischoff. It’s so important to find someone who’s willing to be HONEST about problems in your work—and for you to be willing to actually LISTEN. These classic chapter-by-chapter writers’ groups are generally a waste of time. You need someone who’s willing to invest in the whole of you and your work. I’m one of the lucky ones to find that someone.
4. How did you decide to move into the YA genre with this story?
That’s just how Elodie showed up in my head. It was supposed to be in third person, as that’s my comfort zone as a writer, but Elodie was having none of that. She wouldn’t talk until I let her have her head in first person.
5. I’m a big fan of fractured fairy tales, myself. What drew you to Red Riding Hood’s story?
It all kind of started out with the concept of “What if Red Riding Hood was the wolf?” And then I had to figure out, well, how did she get that way? And that origin story was the three-hundred-year-old back story for Elodie, as the latest generation to bear the curse.
6. I know you’ve reported struggling with writing blurbs for your books; do you have an exercise/ worksheet to help move yourself past that hurdle, too?
Nope. That’s another one of those things that I adore my crit partner for. She’s a great help with those. It does help to kind of look at the overall story goal, what the motivation for that goal is, and what the conflict is (coming back to Dixon’s GMC, mentioned above). If you can start out with a “Hero wants _____ because ________ but can’t because _________” sort of structure, then you can add a few lines here and there to expand it into something usable.
7. I’m guessing part of the hurdle in “blurbing” a book is how much to reveal… How do you feel about spoilers in relation to your work, and do you do anything to keep a lid on them?
I don’t think I’m particularly squicked about it. Some things are a given. This is romance, so you know there will be a happy ending. And just based on the cover alone, one of the twists is easy to guess. But there’s still plenty in there to keep a reader hooked. You can’t worry about keeping a lid on stuff because some reviewers will tell all in their reviews. It’s up to other potential future readers to decide if they want to know about spoilers or not. Although I did read an interesting article recently where they looked at story satisfaction after spoilers and people in the study actually enjoyed the stories MORE when they knew what was going to happen. Go figure.
I saw that article, too, courtesy @bookaliciouspam: Spoilers Don’t Ruin Stories After All. I had to scratch my head at the assessment, and initially was self-righteously dismayed, but decided this was maybe the source of my inclination to read the end of the book first, in an effort to see whether the pay-off would be worth the time invested in reading. Of course, I’m still going to work hard to avoid sharing spoilers with the readers of this blog. 😉
8. Does having representation impact or change how you talk about your work?
Not really. While I am proudly indie, I’ve never been into the controversial side of things on that topic. The name of the game is being myself, staying respectful of others, and playing nice, no matter which side of the publishing fence you’re on. The work is what it is, whether it winds up staying indie or moving on to a traditional contract.
9. In relation to spoilers about “Red” … Is there any particular message you hope your readers come away with from this story?
I just hope that readers, particularly young, female readers, come away feeling stronger themselves for having walked in Elodie’s shoes. I wanted to give them a strong heroine as an example, not one who will lie down and let life kick her in the gut. One of the things I love about YA, and all fiction, really, is that people will take from it what they need. While I didn’t put a specific message in there, I’m looking forward to finding out what themes and messages readers will take from it.
10. Lastly, how often do you face down the inclination to just kill off a character as opposed to just torturing them through another dangerous situation?
If you mean a main character, never. I write romance, so the hero and heroine always survive. So far I haven’t killed off any secondary characters yet, but I’ll never say never on them.
Bonus question, unrelated to your writing career: How did you come to report regularly on gluten-free cooking experiments?
We found out in January that my husband is gluten intolerant. I’m a food snob, so all the pre-made gluten free foods are utterly disgusting (and not really readily available where we live). That means I cook. A lot. And when I find something that’s gluten-free and awesome, I have to share it with others, because this whole gluten-free lifestyle is a hard road to travel!
Indeed… My grandpa had Celiac disease, and survived more than 20 years by going strictly gluten-free, and I know it was a family challenge to support him. Yet when you read the health benefits of avoiding that glue in your system, it’s probably something a lot more of us should pursue. So I’m very happy to see alternatives getting nice play.
Kait Nolan is stuck in an office all day, sometimes juggling all three of her jobs at once with the skill of a trained bear—sometimes with a similar temperament. After hours, she uses her powers for good, creating escapist fiction. The work of this Mississippi native is packed with action, romance, and the kinds of imaginative paranormal creatures you’d want to sweep you off your feet…or eat your boss. When she’s not working or writing, she’s in her kitchen, heading up a revolution to Retake Homemade from her cooking blog, Pots and Plots.