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Monday, September 7, 2009

The Raven's Eye is on: Kate George

Kate got her start writing because someone double dog dared her to stop talking and start writing, and aren't we glad she did! Her debut is one great ride of mystery, romance, and murder. Nothing like a corpse to kill a girls good time!

Read on to find out more about Kate and how she managed to work some murder into the moonlight.

You started writing on a dare, but did always have the bug to write? How long did it take you to finish your first book? What did you find the most challenging?
Kate-Yes, I wrote Moonlighting in Vermont on a dare, (more the fool me!) but it wasn't my first novel. I wrote my first novel when I was in my twenties, and it was pretty awful! I don't think I could make it readable if I tried. Before that I had some poetry published. Moonlighting is my first novel since that first novel, but I've also had essays published.

I had a passing fancy as a child that I'd like to be an author and see my name on the books in the library!

That first novel shook that fancy out of me. Writing can be hard work!

I have to say that having some life experience has made writing so much easier for me. I "get" a lot more about people than I used to. Dialogue, motivation, interesting situations are all easier to write when you've been around the block a time or two. At least for me! I was not a prodigy by any stretch of the imagination. I had to really live some life before I began to be able to write about it. The most challenging part was balancing family with writing. I have four children aged 9-15. I was fortunate enough not to have to work for the first part of the book or I may not have made it. It took me about a year to finish Moonlighting and then another year to get it published. During that time there were innumerable rewrites!

What is the most difficult part of writing for you?
Kate-There is always something more interesting, pressing or important to do! It's easy to get caught up in the dishes, the email, the laundry, the research and forget to get to the writing. I set aside writing time but I'm not particularly disciplined.

Is there anyone, author or otherwise, in particular you draw inspiration from? If so, how has that influenced your writing?
Kate-Janet Evanovich and Jennifer Crusie are my biggest influences. They both use humor to lighten the mood of their writing. Like most people, I've had a few challenges in my life and I love to be able to read novels that make me laugh when the world around me is falling apart! These two women have always been able to cheer me up. When I started writing Moonlighting I wanted to give other people that same feeling. Kind of like paying it forward, or paying it back if you rather. I felt I could write best what I most like to read, and so that's how I began. It's hard sometimes to keep that light tone. It's difficult to stay light and upbeat when things are falling apart in your own life. But I do my best!

Which came first, your character, or the plot?
Kate-Ack! How to answer? I've been nursing the plot for a long time. I worked at a hotel that catered to the rich and famous and we weren't supposed to be seen by the clients. There were secret closets and underground tunnels, all kinds of tricks to keep us invisible. So I guess the idea had been percolating in the back of my mind for a while.

But without my character that plot would have never come to be. At the time of the "dare" I'd been reading a lot of Evanovich and Crusie and I loved their female protagonists. One of my friends said I was a lot like Agnes in Agnes and the Hit Man by Crusie and Mayer. No worries though, I only use my frying pan for cooking! I wanted to write about a woman who was like me - but more. Funnier, braver, but also more prone to things going wrong. Bree is like me in some ways but at the same time she's completely her own person.

I guess the real answer to that question is the plot came first, but it didn't become real until Bree stepped into the story.

What sort of process do you use to create? Is there anything special you do to get in the mood to write?
Kate-I write best when it's quiet. So I like to get up early or write late when no one's around. But that's not always possible. When I need to tune out the world I put on my ipod and listen to music. I try to make a play list for each novel, that way whenever I hear my music for each book I'm immediately back in the story. Back in the mood.

If I'm writing where it's noisy I leave the music on and tune it out. I need to be able to hear the words in my head, and it's funny in a weird kind of way, but sometimes when I'm listening to something those words end up on the page instead of my story! If I'm in a quiet place I either turn the music off after a couple of songs, or just don't turn it on to begin with.

I'm trying to teach myself to be able to write anywhere at anytime. I write in airports, on buses, with pen and paper if I don't have my laptop with me. Waiting rooms, you name it. With four kids I figure I'll never get books finished unless I write at every possible moment.

It is becoming more difficult to become published. Tell us about the process it took for you to get your first book on bookstore shelves.
Kate-Never give up. I queried many, many agents and many, many publishers. It only takes one yes and eventually a small publisher took a chance on me. Mainly Murder Press, LLC is small and relatively new so maybe it was taking a chance on each other. It's a decision I don't regret in the least. I read somewhere "When the bus stops, get on." In my mind that means when your chance comes, take it. I'm glad I did.

The sequence of events was interesting for me. I entered the Daphne writing contest for excellence in mystery before I submitted Moonlighting to Mainly Murder Press. Actually, I entered and then totally forgot about it. I submitted to MMP and was offered a contract within a month! Unheard of. (well, maybe not unheard of, but rare.) Then I found out I was a finalist in the mainstream division on the Daphne. Oh joy! Oh my! I'd just signed a contract and I didn't know if I'd already violated one of the clauses! Yikes.

Luckily, MMP was as thrilled as I that Moonlighting was a finalist and eventually won the mainstream division. So it was two fortuitous events in a row! But I tell you, I was worried. A contract is very formal and legally binding and it would be just like me to have inadvertently messed it up before I even really got started!

Tell us one quirky thing that fan’s might not know about you?
Kate-Besides having four kids I have three obnoxious dogs. One of my dogs made it into a story I'm writing now, and a woman who was kind enough to critique my work told me it wasn't believable that anyone would continue to put up with the dog's exploits. She basically said that readers wouldn't be able to relate to a protagonist that was stupid enough to let a dog run her life. I couldn't bring myself to tell her that it was all true. That dog was modeled after my shepherd/retriever cross, Moose and I put with a great deal more than I should from him. Just ask my husband! I can't help it. Moose is the most lovable chowder-head you'll ever meet. He may the stupidest dog I've ever owned, but he's also one of the most adorable.

The only other quirky thing I can think of is that I used to be a motorcycle safety instructor. Yes, I taught people how to ride motorcycles for a living when I was young. Now I'm doing everything I can to keep my kids off them!

While getting a book onto store shelves is a huge challenge, the work doesn’t end there. How do you go about publicizing your work and developing a fan base?
Kate-I'm still learning how to publicize and develop a fan base. I try and keep a presence on the web - update my website, blog, facebook. I also judge contests and stay as active as I can in my online writers groups. If a book store or library gives me the opportunity for a signing or reading I jump on it. Fellow writers are also a good source of information about getting the word out. I read a lot about publicity, what works - what doesn't.

What is the single best piece of advice you could give to a writer just starting out?
Kate-Just write. There's no way to become a better writer except by writing. Set a daily goal and strive to meet it. Write before you do anything else. Email, critiques, writers groups, research - all are good things, except when they are getting in the way of actually writing. Can you tell I have experience with this? There's nothing worse than getting to the end of the day, totally exhausted by life with no energy to write and realizing you didn't even try to reach your daily goal. So I'll say it again. Write.

If your characters could describe you, what would they say?
Kate-That crazy woman keeps ruining my day? No? Let's see, Bree would say I'm a combination of her best friend Meg, Bree's mother - Samantha MacGowan - and a little bit of Bree herself. Meg and I would be best friends.

When can fan’s expect their next dose of Kate George?
Kate-If all goes well there will be a new novel on the shelf next summer. I have two in the works: California Schemin' is another Bree MacGowan adventure. Tank and Maggie Meet the Mob is about a new protagonist - Maggie Merlot - a FBI dropout who finds herself in the kind of situation she left the FBI to avoid. And in case our readers don't know it, those are working titles - Meaning that if I'm are lucky enough to get them into print, the publisher may decide to change the title. My name, however, will stay the same!

Thanks to Kate for spending this time with me. I’m sure there are plenty of readers who can’t wait to go Moonlighting in Vermont. Order it now from Mainly Murder Press (.com) at a 20% discount. OR from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and can be ordered from any bookstore in the country.


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