Blogs by L.T. Suzuki
Katie M. John Interview
1/31/2011 9:50:16 PM
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LTS: For today’s guest blog, I’m pleased to introduce you to YA Fantasy author Katie M. John. I’d like to begin by having you share a little information about yourself with our readers, Katie. Where do you call home and aside from eating pistachio macaroons, what else do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?
KMJ: I’m mummy to a three year old, wife to a very busy city-boy, full time teacher at a secondary school (11-18yrs) avid reader and obsessive writer – so there isn’t a huge amount of time left over!! However what time I do have, I fill with my passion for cooking and entertaining and acrylic painting. I love to spend time at the coast and we go camping at every opportunity in the summer.
LTS: Has writing stories always been a part of your life, and was becoming a published author a life long dream?
KMJ: I’m an only child and so much of my childhood was filled with intense imaginative play, reading and writing. I’m conscious of starting to ‘seriously’ write from the age of fourteen when I started to write poetry. I was a very intense teenager and a prolific journal writer at this time. Writing has been a very natural and integral part of my life. I always knew that I would publish work one day – it’s just been a matter of when. (That sounds more arrogant then I intended; I just have a deep-seated knowledge that this is right and what I do.)
Life is quite complicated and in my twenties I sacrificed a lot of my writing and creativity to building a professional career. I was (am) highly ambitious and made management at an unusually young age. Crashing towards thirty and with the birth of my beautiful daughter, I realized that this wasn’t making me happy – I missed the writing and painting and so I took a step back from it.
LTS: Let’s talk about your debut novel, ‘The Forest of Adventures’, the first story from the Knight Trilogy. What was the inspiration behind this story and can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist, Mina Singer?
KMJ: I had picked up a copy of Mallory’s Morte de Arthur – having intended on reading it for ages – I was reading it on the bus and behind me a young woman (college age) was on her mobile phone talking to her friend about her relationships when she suddenly said “I just want a f****g knight on a white horse to come and sweep me off my feet.” This really antiquated cultural reference, amongst all the slang and street language made me smile to myself and I suddenly realized how important this iconic idea is to young women, even now; how relevant the fairytale still is to how women view relationships and what they really want out of a man. I wanted to write a story about this, but turn it on its head a little – make something more relevant for the modern age, something with more of a feminist conscience.
The protagonist of my novel is Mina (note the name – it’s relevant later) She’s seventeen and lives in a small coastal village – intelligent, intense, slightly disconnected, an only child, but very independent and self aware. Mina’s life is very certain, or so she believes. She has a steady boyfriend and has quite a clear plan in mind as far as her life goes; that is until the arrival of Blake Beldevier. He turns her head and her world upside down, making her challenge her whole notion of self and reality.
Whilst writing Mina, I was very conscious of the criticisms that have been levied at some recent YA novels in which the girl can be read as overly passive (you know which Saga I’m referring too!) and perhaps even a ‘victim’ of male patriarchal ‘rescue’ mentality. I didn’t want to fall into the same trap although I still wanted to balance this with the sublime experience that submitting to true love can bring with it; During adolescence, especially for strong and intelligent young women, there is an eroticism attached to the idea/fantasy of submission. (Hence resurgence of Vampire fiction) Mina struggles with this and we see how she is both drawn to Blake because of this deep routed sexual attraction, but also how her intellectual and moral self questions it.
LTS: Without giving away too much, can you reveal what’s in store for the reader when they crack open ‘The Forest of Adventures’?
KMJ: The Forest of Adventures is a forbidden love story that is woven around some of the characters and events of Arthurian legends. The novel is primarily a love story, of sexual awakening and coming of age but a lot of the book also deals with the realities of being a Knight of The Realm and notions of good and evil, light and dark. The Knight Trilogy is based on deep universal mythologies but that are told in a more relevant and modern way.
LTS: The sequel, ‘Immortal’ sees the return of Mina, but her nemesis Morgan Le Fay is back as well. Can you tell us what makes this story different from the first book in the trilogy?
KMJ: Oh I am sooo excited about the second book. Book Two, Immortal is a book of two parts and sees the story move to the wonderfully rich backdrop of Egypt (staying true to Crusader / Knight myth.) The pace of the second novel is much more intense as it becomes an adventure /quest against the clock in which the classic roles are reversed. The stakes are really high in this novel and it is very much about the girls. Mina and Morgan’s battle is fierce and Delta really comes into her own.
Morgan is a wonderfully complex character, I wanted to move away from her just being a villain trope to being a more three dimensional and psychological being. Morgan is a paradox, she is the epitome of evil, but ironically it is her small piece of humanity – her love for Blake – that makes her most evil.
LTS: The road to publication is difficult at the best of times. Was it difficult for you to land an agent? Do you have any advice you’d like to share with the author struggling to find representation?
KMJ: Finding representation in the UK is very difficult; the YA market isn’t supported in quite the same way that it is in the US. It’s very frustrating, the readership are here but when you go to the bookstores almost all the featured YA is American and most of what my students read is American YA literature too. (Children’s’ books are far more supported) As a result, I have really struggled to get representation and although I had a lot of positive rejection letters they all stated the same unwillingness to take on YA fiction at present because of market and financial reasons.
Because of this, I have currently gone independent creating a small press publishing company to produce a small run of books. They are selling really well and the whole project is becoming a little larger than I can now manage part time.
LTS: Whether you’re a writer in the U.S., Canada or the U.K. it’s difficult to find a credible literary agent to represent you, so taking the initiative can often be the best thing for an author. Now, I’m curious about your writing style. Are you one of those disciplined writers who must dedicate a certain time each day to producing so many words, or are you more relaxed and tend to write when it strikes your fancy?
KMJ: Sadly I do not have the luxury of being able to have scheduled time for my writing and so I steal time from the family and the night whenever I can. This means that sometimes I can go for a week or two without being able to write anything. When this happens, I become quite difficult to deal with. It is something that is going to have to change; I have realized that being torn is not a good way to live.
LTS: Still on the subject of writing styles, are you a plotter or pantser? The readers would like to know if you tend to plot out your story line in great detail or if your writing is more organic with the characters and events unfolding as you write.
KMJ: I am a fastidious researcher and plotter. I have a complete fetish for beautiful hardcover notebooks and I write my tiny purple notes in them until they are bursting. I constantly map out the key features; motifs, images, references that must be included. I do sketch out the plot but it is under constant revision and now I am well into book three I have become more relaxed about this (the characters have taken over control of that anyway - They can be quite insistent!)
LTS: Some authors meditate, others need to fuel up on coffee or listen to music. Do you have any rituals, ones that can be shared with the readers, that you must do before you hunker down for a writing session?
KMJ: I listen to music on my beloved iPod – It ‘s a big part of my writing process. I like to put the earphones in and just switch off from the real world. It’s such an influence that I have posted the playlist that ‘goes’ with The Forest of Adventures on my website. I drink a lot of coffee, eat jaffa-cakes and I like to have a jug of fresh flowers on my writing desk. They’re a point of focus when I’m thinking. (Maybe that is why there are so many flowers in my books)
LTS: Cool! Try sunny yellow flowers on your desk as they are supposed to stimulate creativity and the imagination. Now, at one time or another, most writers hit the wall and their work stalls because of the dreaded writer’s block. What do you do to get around or over this mental wall to resume writing?
KMJ: I’m lucky. I don’t seem to ever suffer from it. Maybe I do subconsciously and elect to spend my time researching until it passes, but it’s never been noticeable enough to worry about.
LTS: Who is your favourite author and how has he/she inspired you to write or influenced your writing style or choice of genre?
KMJ: I’m a true Goth at heart and I love the works of Shelley, Stoker, Poe, Lewis, Hugo, Bronte and then equally, I love dystopia with the works of Orwell, Golding, Huxley and Atwood. More recently Meyer, Fitzpatrick and Susanne Collins have been a major inspiration.
LTS: What is the most profound discovery you’ve made in terms of your writing and how it has touched the lives of others?
KMJ: That I can do it and that other people enjoy it.
LTS: What is the most important lesson you’ve learned on the road to publication?
KMJ: Never give up. There is no difference in state between imagining and being.
LTS: What are you reading now, and how did this particular book make it onto your to-read list?
KMJ: I’m currently between books. I’ve binged on the ‘Hunger Games’ trilogy and I’m gearing up for Pike’s ‘Spells’
LTS: What do you foresee in your future over the next five years and do you hope to branch out from YA into other genres? Can your fans expect the third novel in the Knight Trilogy in the near future?
KMJ: That I finish the publication of The Knight Trilogy and one of the other books that I have got incubating. For the time being I’m happy with the YA fiction but I dream of writing a worthy dystopia sometime in the future.
They are all written. Book two and Book three but they need editing. I’m hoping that Book 2 will be out in autumn and then Book three – well we’ll see what life brings.
For more information about Kate and her novels, check out:
Follow Kate on Twitter: .http://twitter.com/KnightTrilogy
Where to buy the book: www.theknighttrilogy.com
e-book available on: www.amazon.co.uk
All good independent bookstores.
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