Kathy and I met years ago on an on-line writers’ group called GIAM. The writers in this group are my go-to pals when I get stumped or need writing advice. It is my pleasure to introduce Kathleen Irene Paterka, a prolific writer, even with a day job.
1) Why did you become a Writer? How did you get started?
I can’t remember a time that I didn’t want to be a writer. My mother got me my own library card when I was six years old. I remember being fascinated with having all those books available to me, and I couldn’t imagine a better world than being surrounded by books. When I was about 8 years old, I fell in love with the Trixie Belden series. I decided then and there that I would grow up and write more Trixie Belden books. My parents got me a typewriter for Christmas, and I was hooked.
2) What is your writing routine? How do you discipline yourself to keep at it?
I’m up early every morning, at 5 am. By 6:30 am, I’m at the computer and my timer is set. For the next two hours, I concentrate on my current work-in-progress. Marketing and social media also take a considerable amount of time, but I prefer to do that in the evening hours. I do have a day job, just as most writers do (95%, in fact). Mine is rather unique: I’m staff writer at a real American castle where I’m surrounded by romance and royalty. It’s a wonderful life.
3) How many drafts before you feel the book is finished?
My rough draft is where the story magic happens. I am a pantster. When I start writing the rough draft, I’ve done research on my characters, but plot-wise, I usually only know the beginning, the ending, and ‘something-that-happens-in-the-middle’. The rough draft normally takes me 8-12 months (for a 400 page novel), and it’s very complete. I’ll end up with perhaps another 3 drafts, normally done to edit and polish.
4) What was the best thing that happened with regard to your writing career? The worst?
The best AND the worst thing are actually the same thing; it was a rejection letter I received from a well-known editor at a highly respected publishing company. She told me that while she and her assistant editor loved my novel For I Have Sinned, she had to turn me down; the company’s marketing department had informed her that they couldn’t figure out ‘how to sell the book’ because it crossed genres (women’s fiction, inspirational, romance, Christian fiction). When I initially received the rejection letter, I was devastated… but only for a few moments. I realized that the editor had actually given me some very good advice. She told me that many novels which were excellent works had crossed her desk, but ultimately had to be turned down for one reason or another. The editor urged me to find a home for the novel; she felt it was that good, and she suggested that I think seriously about indie-publishing the book. That was the beginning of my career as an indie-author, and I have never looked back. My novel For I Have Sinned went on to final in a few prestigious writing contests, and has received numerous five star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. For I Have Sinned is the book of my heart and I am very proud of it.
5) What part of your job do you love the most? Hate or dislike the most?
I love the rough draft, getting to know the characters, and falling in love with the story line. Being a pantster, I don’t have things plotted on a story board (that would bore me to tears!). So when I’m writing and something exciting or unexpected happens on the page, I’m as thrilled as the reader who’s seeing it for the first time. The thing I hate the most about writing is the editing process. I subscribe to the theory of ‘more is better’, which means I usually end up having to cut lots of words (read: ‘redundant’) from my latest work. I hate seeing words, phrases, paragraphs, and sometimes whole scenes that I worried over eventually end up deleted from the final draft.
6) What do you like to read? Do you read while working on a novel? Favorite authors?
I love a good, emotional read. When searching for a new book, I turn to women’s fiction authors such as Jodi Picoult, Jennifer Weiner, Elizabeth Berg, and Eileen Goudge. All of them are superb storytellers. I also love anything by Stephen King. He is, without doubt, a living literary icon. His masterpiece 11/22/63 is one of my favorite books of all time. When I’m writing a rough draft, I’m careful not to read the type of work that I’m writing (I don’t want to fall under the influence of my favorite writers, and be accused of plagiarism). I often turn to biographies instead.
7) What was the best advice you received as a writer? The worst?
The best advice? “Never, never never quit” (from an author friend, who was quoting Winston Churchill). This is a devastatingly hard business, and you have to find the courage deep inside to keep going, even when those around you are urging you to give it up. The worst advice I ever got came from an editor at a publishing company who told me that I should quit writing… that while I had considerable talent, my voice was ‘scattered’ and unmarketable, and that I should give up and quit wasting my time. Her words served to inspire me to be even more determined to prove her wrong.
8) Who has influenced you the most in terms of developing your personal writing style?
The author Stephen King, because he is not afraid to take chances. He writes for himself; he tells himself a story, and then sets it free in the world for readers to embrace (or not). I like the idea of telling myself a story. I’m writing for myself. If I’m not interested in what’s happening on the page, why should I expect that my readers would be?
9) Do you have a good luck charm or superstition?
The bottom of my computer monitor is lined with scribbled sticky-notes and quotes clipped from inspirational books. They keep me going when my spirits flag. My favorite quote: “Do your work well. Write the stories you were meant to tell.”
10) If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
People fascinate me. I always wanted to be a talk show hostess. When I was growing up, I used to practice by interviewing myself.
11) What quote or personal saying do you live by?
“Hope and keep busy.” I don’t think we can do more than that. The quote is from Marme, of Little Women (by Louise May Alcott), which is one of my all-time favorite books.
12) What’s next up for you, writing-wise?
I’m currently researching for my next book, which will be a return to James Bay, the fictional resort community, which is the setting for my first four books (Fatty Patty, Home Fires, Lotto Lucy and For I Have Sinned). The book is about Chuck’s Tavern and Grill, and centers on the restaurant owner, Chuck, who was featured in the other James Bay novels. Each chapter in the new book will feature its own recipe. I’m excited about being able to play with the customers who frequent the restaurant, and involving characters from my earlier James Bay novels.
13) If you could do anything over again, would you and what would it be?
Nothing. I don’t believe in do-overs. I think that we all are given one chance, at each particular moment of our lives, and everything we are, everything we become, hinges on the choices we have made in the past. I am very content with the woman that I am, and the life that I lead. I surround myself with positive people, and I love my life. If I’d had a do-over, I wouldn’t be the same ‘Kathleen Irene Paterka’ that I am today…. But I love who I am. I wouldn’t want it any different.
14) What advice would you give beginning writers?
Don’t give up. Work hard, work smart, work tirelessly. Be tough, be brave and be persistent. All clichés… but when they apply to you and how much you want to realize your dream, they are very appropriate.
15) Something we don’t know about you?
I have a newsletter which hosts a monthly contest (a free giveaway) for subscribers. Sign up for my newsletter (I promise not to flood your In-box with emails!), and you could win a print copy of any of my books.
And: what’d you like us to know about your latest release:
The Other Wife is a women’s fiction novel that deals with issues of death, grief, resentment and revenge. It tells the story of Eleanor and Claire, two women who are horrified to find themselves both married to the same man. The novel begins in Eleanor’s point of view who wakes to find her husband Richard dead in bed beside her. Eleanor, married to Richard for 38 years, is devastated by the discovery. She’s even more horrified to discover, at the end of Chapter One, that Richard was keeping a deep dark secret, and has left all his money to another woman. In Chapter Two, we meet Claire, a 30ish professor of psychology at the University of Chicago. It’s not long into the book before Claire learns that her husband Richard has died… and not only is he dead, he left behind an earlier wife… a valid marriage to another woman. The discovery that her marriage is a sham is a horrible blow to Claire. While Richard has left her all his money, Eleanor is the one who has the title of Richard’s wife, something Claire thought was hers alone. How these two women come to terms with ‘the other wife’ is the basis for the story.
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Kathleen-Irene-Paterka/e/B0081KP1YQ/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1
Find Kathleen’s latest novel here.