Thursday, November 15, 2007

Interview with Author Katherine Hunter

CelebAuthor: Welcome Katherine, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule for this interview.

Tell us about your life, where you grew up, your interests and hobbies. I live in Mennonite country, Ontario. It is amazing how the sound of a horse trotting down Main Street can calm the soul. I live in an idyllic village, right out of a 1890 novel. There are still houses with 6’ ceilings, and log houses in our village. Even the old mill is standing beside the river. The post office is the most modern building in town.
I grew up in a very rural town on Lake Simcoe. There was not much to do but run wild in the woods and play with the neighbor children. Only about 700 children attended the public school which brought children from more than an hour away. I think that is what gave birth to my imagination. I created worlds in my mind without the conventions of society to limit my inspiration.

I love orchids and grow them. However, my begonias are easier to cultivate and they bloom all year. I’ve not been able to entice an orchid to bloom, but I will. I have a large garden outside. I spent most of this summer working on my new novel The Pawn amid Dahlias, Cannas lilies, while shaded by pear trees. I believe it gave the book a scope and emotion that I couldn’t have instilled within the pages on my own.
I have been applauded by the imagery in The Pledge, but think that the garden inspired more depth than I was able to write into the pages of my other novels.
Of course, everything in my stories is born in my family. My husband is a stalwart friend and dedicated writing partner. His family came from Wales, and he looks like a hero from a Scot Historical novel. I often ask him what he would do in a situation, or how a man would act. It really opened me up to how vulnerable the hero arch type can become in a family situation.
My son is 17 and writes thrillers. He reads more than I do. It is hard to leave him to develop on his own. My daughter will be a chef. At 11 years old, she will turn the cooking channel on the television and watch it all day. That only leaves Prince and Thumbelina, my Chinese Crested dogs. I once showed Chinese Cresteds, but now only share my life with two. They curl at my feet, keeping them warm under the desk in the long, cold Canadian months.

That sounds like a full and busy life. I'd love to hear how you balance the writing life with family, work and a busy schedule. I am very busy. I still work full time, and must balance my family life with my writer’s passion. It can be difficult sometimes. I can often be found typing through the darkest hours of the night, trying to finish a scene while my family sleeps. It is my own private life, my secret identity. I do not share these hours with anyone but my heroes and the strong women in their lives.

However, I came from a business background. After ten years of watching families break up, I gave up the office life and now work at home in a freelance capacity. My work day ends every day at 4pm when I devote myself to my children for a few hours. My husband’s job does not require 40 hours a week, so there are always private moments to shut the world out and steal a few moments. We still go on dates. It is one way of reminding ourselves that we are best friends, and if we let that friendship die, then we have lost a fundamental part of ourselves, which is a risk that neither of us want to take. When all is said and done, money is just money. You can make money anytime, anywhere, and in a dozen different ways. But, how many people ever find a best friend?

You have two fiction novels being released this year. Tell us about your writing journey. Yes, it is exciting. I haven’t had a fiction novel published in five years. Part of that is my fault, I wrote, but didn’t submit to a publisher. This year I will have two come out. The Pledge, is a wonderful and bold historical set in Scotland’s tremulous sixteenth century. Gillian, protects herself using independence, courage, and wit.
The other is my romantic suspense. Morgan is my only contemporary heroine. She must confront insurmountable fears from her past, but in the end learns to defend herself in a life-death battle with her ex. I love both. I gave the heroines in both stories the power to defend themselves. I believe in the true hero. I would rather have a real hero in a novel, maybe confused, maybe tortured, and maybe jaded, but never wounded, abusive, or feeling sorry for himself.

When do you feel like it all began to come together for you as a writer—was there a particular moment? I took a two term university course in fiction writing, but it was two years later when it came together and I felt like a real author. That came with the completion of Discovery. Holding a completed manuscript in my hand, and knowing that only 1 in 10,000 writers ever finish their manuscript, was an awe inspiring experience. Of course, then came the rejection letters. I know that all authors receive rejection letters, and will admit that many of mine came from my own experience. It took me a long time to learn how to find publishers who wanted my book. At first I just played ‘Russian Roulette’ with my submissions, sending to any publisher who handled romance. Now, I am more professional, taking a look at the publishing house as well as their current releases. This tells me a lot about the publisher and their levels of quality. I like being around professionals. They are inspiring and push me to do my best. I want this in my career. I need more than to see my name on a book cover. Society would not survive without storytellers. We give scope to everyday life, help people cope, and expand horizons. If we all have a spirit, a talent, or a gift, then I believe that I embody the essence of the storyteller.

Who has influenced you most as a writer and why? Julie Garwood was a major inspiration. I believe that she taught me that heroes do not need to be abusive or overbearing. Although her heroes were not gentlemen by any means, they did shine above the average hero of the 70s and 80s who was – by today’s standards – emotionally abusive and condescending to women.

My main Christmas gift when I turned 10 or 11 was a complete copy of the Anne of Green Gables series. I read that series until the covers fell off. Later I received a set of Laura Ingle Wilder’s books. I was hooked, my destiny written in stone. If we ever reach a point of no return, it was when I read that Laura became a teacher at 15 years old, and was a war correspondent in her 60s. I didn’t realize it, but those stories spoke to me. I learned that there are no limitations except those we impose on ourselves. There is no ‘box’ that is too big we cannot climb out of it. And, no dream is too big.

I do have other favorite authors that include Sire Arthur Conan Doil, and Agatha Christy, as well as Robin Cook, Julie Garnet, Catherine Cookson, to name a few. I am an avid reader, exploring several genres. I love reading a book by a new author only to watch them become famous and think ‘I was there at the ground level of their career.’

What is your favorite movie? That is a difficult question. I love the Cate Blanchett stories about Queen Elizabeth. I think she brought Elizabeth to life in all her genius, glory, and passion.

Alistair Sims version of A Christmas Carol is the highlight of the festive season for me. Every year for as long as I can remember, I curl up late on Christmas eve with a quilt and egg nog and watch the movie. I never tire of it.

My appetite for movies matches my love of books. I do not think beyond these two that it is possible for me to pick a favorite.

Tell us about the writing process for you? Does it begin with a character, setting, or plot? My stories begin with my characters. Calum was born at the Fergus Highland Games. Of all the men in the ‘games’ only one carried himself as if he was born to the life. I kept the image of that highlander in my mind as I created both Calum and Olen.

Duncan is the incarnation of an old man who lived beside us when I was a child. His wife died, and he raised 2 children alone. This was almost unheard of in the 1960s when everything was about meeting the status quo. I do believe I captured his sarcastic sense of humor, and his ability to command authority merely by being in the room.

Gillian came to life in more subtle ways. She is innocence grown into strength. I sometimes hear her whisper in the night, or see her shadow on the wall. I know that is fanciful, but she is very real to me. I sometimes believe that Gillian is my alter ego. Have you ever imagined that you were meant to be someone, but circumstance thwarted destiny, and you became someone else? I sometimes believe that Gillian is the woman destiny molded me to be.

Maybe, or maybe Gillian is the childhood friend, I created while I played with tadpoles in the canals and fished for sunfish on warm decks. I just brought her with me when I grew up.

Tell us about your soon to be released book "The Pledge". What inspired
you to write this particular story?
I mentioned that I grew up in a very rural area. There are many places in Canada where the Gaelic lifestyle was preserved, even into the 1980s. My family name was Scot, and most of the people in our area were Scottish decedents. My mother’s father immigrated from Ireland.

I grew up hearing stories about Ireland and Scotland. Gaelic was not common, but still spoken by some in our area. The ideals and values of Scot life were ever present in my childhood.

I pulled on all these influences to create The Pledge, especially the Scot belief that nothing is as valuable as family – and that family is not just blood. The Scottish have seen everything taken from them. Anything can be taken from us, money, home, freedom, but not family. This became the main plot for The Pledge.

How did you come up with the concept for "The Pledge"? I came up for the concept at a Highland Festival. The whole history of the reivers was amazing. They were both mercenary and highwayman, defender of their home, and the devil incarnate, depending on who you asked.

I blended this with my love of the sixteenth century. Think of it. Three women, the regent Dauphin of France, Mary of Scot, and Elizabeth ruled 2/3 of the world. Never before or after has the world’s fate been in the hands of women. Martin Luther’s writing was turning the religious world upside down. Scribes were changing bible verses to make people believe that the country’s laws were ‘God’s law’ and many of those verses remain the same today.

There is so much scope in this period that I could never run out of ideas. For The Pledge, I combined the old world, Calum’s highlanders and their legacy of blood, with the new, an educated and independent woman who was enlightened by the new religions.

It was fun to blend the old medieval world with the birthing pains of the renaissance. In many ways, The Pledge, only brushed the surface of the conflicts and dangers of the period. That is why I am writing The Pawn. It steps over the border and focuses on the intrigue and turmoil of the Scottish Royal Court, while still staying true to the Highlander characters.

Is any part of "The Pledge" factual? Yes. I have read dozens of books on the sixteenth century, even reading old Saxon and Puritan bibles. It really makes a person feel humble to view a photo of a parchment that was more than 500 years old, and read it.

I did not focus on religion, but used it as a conflict that would launch Gillian into danger and put her in conflict with the English court.

I did take a little literary freedom and create my own foundation of ‘The Northern Rebellion’ which tried to put Mary on the thrones of Both England and Scotland, and of course, a baroness in an insignificant Holding was not the real power behind the rebellion’s thwarted plans.

Do you have a favorite character and why? My favorite character would have to be Calum. I did a lot of research on love languages, and hero arch types. I even explored personality types and read dozens of books on life coaching. My goal? To create a real hero, and I believe I succeeded. Several of my critique partners have commented that he has an amazing combination of strength and gentleness, power and compassion.

I did make him different from the norm, as Calum is educated. He can speak four languages, and it is this that gives him the ability to succeed and make this story realistic.

How much research did "The Pledge" take? In a very real sense The Pledge took a lifetime to research. But, pragmatically, it took two years. I had a elemental understanding of the era at the time, so I just needed to learn more about the culture.

I found it fun to add the odd Old English word, like wuif instead of wife, or have Gillian call Calum ‘my lover’ in the Old English way, instead of ‘my husband.’

Yet, Duncan is all from my childhood. I really did grow up hearing people in my family using words like dinna, and speak of boggles and spirits.

What is the message you hope to get across in this story? I did not write the story to preach a message, but there are two messages there. First, we are in control of our own destiny. Second, a man needs to be judged by how he acts and treats those around us. I believe that if women learned to hold men accountable for their actions, there would be fewer broken hearts.

How long did "The Pledge" take you to complete? The Pledge took more than 10 rewrites and five years to complete. Like all authors, I wrote a lot of my own feelings and ideals into the first manuscript. I found it very difficult to remove myself from the story and let Calum and Gillian tell their story.

While I have been chided for having more blood than sex in the story, I really believe that as a ‘historical’ first, the sex took something away. That isn’t to say that I do not have sex scenes, it is just that Calum wouldn’t let me broadcast them to the whole world.

What are your future writing plans? I need to finish The Pawn, and people are already asking me to write about the new Baron Winston, Gillian’s child who became Baron of the Winston estates at 2 years old. I am also realizing that his rouge brother inherited the spirit of The Wolf from his father.

I am also toying with a book called The Bible. What happened to Queen Elizabeth’s Greek Bible? The one that told her women were not to be submissive or quiet, that they should not rule, the one that she used to establish her power against the Roman Catholic Church, Spain, France, and her own Nobles who demanded she marry as God demanded. I would like to have that Bible come to America with the Puritans, and be hidden until the day when the church was ready.

What does your typical writing day look like? I am not a morning person. I write better when I turn in at 3am and wake at 11. First, I hit my websites, blogs, and forums and chat with other authors and the other fans of my novels. Then I get down to business.

After my family time, the house grows quiet. Hubby turns in, and I am alone in the office. The phone stops ringing, my inbox remains empty, and no one is on MSN. This is when my muse awakens and I write.

What are some of the challenges you face as an author? The hardest thing is combining the real facts against people’s perceptions. Like, in one case, a fan wrote me an email explaining that highland cattle do not have ‘horns that curve wickedly ending a few inches beyond their nose.’ This person was well meaning, and they sent me many pictures. But, the fact is. There is a field of highland cattle down the road, and they really do have horns grow that long.

I also find that many people do not realize that Martin Luther and the Puritans had a very enlightened view of women’s rights at the time. For about 100 years, women were liberated – until King James decided to fix that abomination. I receive a few emails or forum posts telling me that a woman would not be allowed to go to court alone. At one time I took the time to explain the facts. Now I just enjoy that people are so passionate about my books and send them to my myspace lens http://www.myspace.com/historical_romance or my blog. It is not hard to find me if you Google Katherine Hunter.

What are a few writing tips you could share with aspiring writers? First, do not let anyone limit your possibilities. I suffered ten years of people telling me that I could never be an author. Now I have several non-fiction, and two fiction published, with four more in the works.

Second, write your first draft from the heart. I write outlines, but only to help guide me. I do not think of publishers or submissions when I write the first draft. I pour my heart onto paper. Whether the first draft is the monstrosity The Pledge was at 150,000 words, or 24,000 words of The Pawn, do not worry about word count. The editing phase will come. You can always turn a good story into a marketable one. However, you cannot add heart to a book that lacks a soul.

Any marketing tips? Make friends with your fans. I love my fans. I’ve asked them what a character should do next, and what types of situations they want. I’ve written short stories for them and posted them to my blogs. I’ve found pictures from festivals to share with them, and put videos online.

I do not believe that writing is an egocentric endeavor. Writing is all about the fan’s experience. You can’t ignore the fans until it is time to sell the book and hope they will see your vision from a cover or back blurb.

What is your goal or mission as a writer? I love life. I see my writing as a manifestation of that love. I do not think I have a goal or mission. I write because I must write. I feel sad, even depressed, if I go more than a month without writing. It feels like going a week without kissing the love of my life, I just couldn’t do it.

Do you have a website? If you want to talk to me, you can always find me at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Enspiren_Press_Readers/ or my myspace website. I love hearing from historical fiction fans.

I did have a website but lost it when the hosting company went under. I am building another one at http://www.authorsconnection.com and http://www.myspace.com/historical_romance It gives you a rough idea of how long I’ve been around – the name historical romance was available when I first built my site.

I expect my new site to be up before The Pledge is available in bookstores. I’ll post the URL in my myspace and authorsconnection profiles.

I will also have an author’s website on the new Enspiren Press website. That is exciting.

When will "The Pledge" be released? Enspiren Press scheduled the release in ebook at http://www.fictionwise.com for November 2007. It should be on Amazon in time for Christmas

Closing thoughts you'd like to share? Who am I? When I do these interviews the focus is on defining who I am. I do not look in the mirror and see someone any different than my fans. I’ve met fans who are as passionate about historical novels as I am, and I’ve met writers who fit the ‘image’ better. I hope I never become so busy that I can’t answer messages on myspace, or chat with book lovers in forums. That is half the fun of being an author.

Thank you so much for your time Katherine, and best wishes on your new release. It was a pleasure hearing about your writing experience.



CelebAuthor teaches writers how to create an "image" of a professional author.
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1 comment:

Sharon Hurley Hall said...

Wow, what great information - this is a wonderful interview. I will definitely be back for more.