Interview with Katy Huth Jones   10 comments

 

 

Katy Huth Jones author picToday’s interview is with Katy Huth Jones. Welcome to the blog. Tell us something about yourself.

I grew up an Army brat in a creative family, and being a painfully shy child, books were my best friends during our frequent moves. I dropped out of college and married my husband Keith 37 years ago, planning to finish “some day” but ended up being “self-taught” after homeschooling our two sons and hundreds of others for twenty-five years. Now we have three precious grandbabies, live in the beautiful Texas Hill Country, and I play piccolo and flute in a quality regional symphony.

 

You probably have a better education that 90% of the people coming out of college. At what point did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Although I’d been writing stories since I was eight, I made a conscious decision to “be a writer” at age 28 when I had a four-year-old son, six-year-old foster daughter, and a foster infant on a heart monitor. I wanted to do something “grown up” and since my head was usually full of story ideas, I thought it would be a simple thing to write and sell science fiction stories to magazines. It took seven years and more than 600 rejection letters before I finally sold my first story—a fantasy.

 

Oh, my … 600!?  You’re way tougher than I would be. What is your favorite genre … to read … to write?

My favorite genre to read and write is Christian fantasy.

 

Katy Books top row

 

What is something you cannot live without?

My Savior, and my Bible.

 

What sort of research do you do for your novels?

Research is one of my favorite parts about writing. I learned while writing magazine articles and my one nonfiction book how vitally important accurate details are, even to a work of fiction. A reader can’t “suspend disbelief” if he or she is jarred out of the story by an improbable detail or situation. I read books, but also look for as many hands-on opportunities as possible. To write scenes of jousting, I attended jousts at a Renaissance festival and Medieval Times in Dallas. I bought a replica of a 13th century sword to get a feel for its weight and maneuverability. I’ve made (and bought) historical costumes so I can understand how it feels to wear clothing that you can’t put on or take off without the help of a maid or squire. You feel trapped!

 

Katy and harp.jpgIf someone who hasn’t read any of your novels asked you to describe your writing, what would you say?

I only realized this a few months ago, but all of my fiction written since I’ve had cancer has a similar theme: Finding hope and light in dark places.

 

Are you a plot driven or character driven writer? Why?

Totally character-driven. My stories always begin with a character who is wandering around inside my head. If I start asking him or her questions, pretty soon I begin to understand who this person is, with dreams and fears. Then I ask, “What’s your story?” It took me many years to learn this, however. When I first started trying to write sci fi, it was plot-driven and never worked, because I was forcing 2-D cut-out characters into a plot instead of taking the time to get to know the characters and let the stories flow from who they were and the choices they would naturally make.

 

You’ve got them in your head too? Good to know. This is my Alaska question because I live here. I’m going to drop you in a remote Alaska cabin for a month. It’s summer so you don’t have worry about freezing to death. I’ll supply the food and the mosquito spray. What do you do while you’re there and what do you bring with you? If you’re bringing books, what are they?

I’ll bring my camera, zoom lens, and tripod, because I’m sure there will be amazing birds and animals to capture. I’ll bring at least ten spiral notebooks to write in, because I prefer writing first drafts by hand. My brain is connected to the pen or pencil, not the keyboard. As for books, I’ll bring my Bible and possibly a field guide to Alaskan wildlife, but no fiction in which to immerse myself, because I’d rather fully experience the beauties of nature in a remote place like that!

 

Katy Butterfly ladyNice. Talk about your books individually.

Since my writing can be divided into B.C. (before cancer first struck in 2005) and A.C. (after cancer), I’ll just talk about what I’ve published A.C. That other writing life seems like it belongs to someone else!

I wrote a MG fantasy allegory of the cancer experience called Leandra’s Enchanted Flute, which was published by Cool Well Press in 2012. It’s the story of a 14 year old flute player with cancer who is taken to a fantasy world by a talking Carolina wren because he believes she has the courage necessary to save them from a growing world-wide “canker.” Although not specifically Christian, it still carries that theme of hope and light in dark places. CWP asked if I would write a sequel, which they published in 2013, Return to Finian Jahndra. Within a month, CWP went out of business. I got my rights back and re-issued them under Quinlan Creek Press (our homeschool was Quinlan Creek Academy) in 2014. This was my first experience with self-publishing.

Another story I tried to write in 1988-1989 was a fantasy novel about a reluctant warrior prince and a pacifist Healer. Even after two rewrites, it didn’t work, so I stuck it in a drawer and went on to actual money-making writing projects, such as children’s books and writing for magazines, both fiction and nonfiction.

Then in early 2011, my father was diagnosed with lung cancer, and to distract me in my grief while helping my Mom (he wanted to die at home, and it took him eleven months because he fought so ferociously), I pulled out the old fantasy manuscript, threw away everything but the opening battle scene, and as a “writing assignment” asked the characters to tell me their story. The words poured out, day by day. It was therapeutic, but also exhilarating. I actually came to know these people, and the story completely changed because it grew out of who they were, not an improbable plot I had thrust upon them.

Once I reached chapter 70-something, I realized this was going to be more than one book. Soon it became apparent it would take five books to tell the entire epic story. My critique group (all trad published authors) read the first one, Mercy’s Prince, and encouraged me to find an agent. I knew that Christian fantasy would be a hard sell, but to humor them I sent out queries, even though I had already paid a content editor and proofreader, planning to self-publish the first book in September 2015, once I was closer to finishing the series.

Then the first of June 2015, my cancer came back unexpectedly and with excruciating pain. My husband and I both expected to hear that it was stage 4 and nothing to be done. I wrote my obit, we went to visit our children (and I ended up in the ER in Kansas City because the pain spiked). I decided to move up the publication date for Mercy’s Prince, since all it needed was a cover, and it would be my “good-bye” for family and friends.  I managed to publish it the first of July 2015, just before chemo started. And since the lymphoma was “only” stage 3, chemo put it back in remission, praise God!

Unfortunately, due to chemo brain I couldn’t concentrate on writing. I had book 2, Mercy’s Gift, edited and proofed, with a lovely cover by Perry Elisabeth, and it was published in September 2015. I was about 80% finished with book 3, but I was scared I would lose the rest of the story.

I signed up for NaNoWriMo last November in order to bring my brain back online after chemo. I managed to finish book 3, Mercy’s Battle, and get a good start on book 4, Mercy’s King. These are long books, each between 125,000 and 139,000 words! Lord willing, and the cancer stays away for a while, I hope to finish the series in 2016.

 

What do you want readers to think or feel after reading one of your books?

I hope that anyone who reads my books realizes that trials and upheavals happen to everyone, even faithful children of God, but through faith there is always hope and light to be found in Him.

 

What influenced your decision to self-publish? If you have experience with both traditional and indie publishing, compare the two.

I never intended to self-publish, since I’d been traditionally published beginning in 1992. But being traditionally published is no guarantee of sales. In fact, the marketing director for my latest trad published book expects me to do what I’m doing for my self-pubbed books, only I have no control over prices, cover, and blurb. It’s a YA historical novel entitled Treachery and Truth, which tells the true story of “Good King Wenceslas.”

 

What do you find to be the greatest advantage of self-publishing?

The greatest advantage is being in charge of all the details and having the ability to “think outside the box.” The worst advantage, for me, is being in charge of all the details. I just can’t think as well as I could before having chemo twice and it takes me a long time to learn technical things.

 

Conversely, what do you think self-published authors might be missing out on?

Honestly, the only thing is that great satisfaction when, after pursuing the craft for years and collecting hundreds of rejections, you finally get an acceptance by a well-known magazine or publisher. It’s a validation of all your hard work.

 

Do you believe that self-published authors can produce books as high-quality as the traditional published? If so, how do you think we should go about that?

Definitely! It’s possible because we’ve invested our heart and soul in this “baby” and want it to be the best it can be. It’s much more difficult without hiring extra sets of eyes to edit and proofread your manuscript. A good editor is worth his/her weight in gold.

 

Do you write specifically for a Christian audience? Why or why not?

Yes, because it’s who I am as a child of God. I can’t separate that from my writing.

 

 What are some of the special challenges of being a Christian writer?

Making sure the story honors God. The temptation is always there to “add stuff” to make the book sell more copies.

 

 Christians are told to be “in the world, but not of it.” As a Christian writer, how do you write to conform to that scripture?

There are lines I will not cross, not in my Christian life, and not in my stories. No profanity, no immorality glorified or justified, and though there is violence in my stories (since I write about the Dark Ages and medieval times) I try to make sure it’s not there to “shock” but only what is necessary to tell the story. The Bible contains a lot of violence, but it’s not “in your face,” so I try to let that be my guide. Potential readers should be warned that they will find blood and battle injuries in my stories.

 

Do you feel that Christian writers are expected to conform to some standards that are perhaps not realistic to the world?

 

If you mean, are Christian writers held to a higher standard, then I agree. I hold myself to the high standard that Christ demonstrated for us.

 

Do you feel that Christian writers should focus on writing really great story or on presenting the gospel clearly in everything they write? Or is it possible to do both?

I personally don’t “preach the gospel” in my stories. I try to show the characters living it through their words and deeds. My goal is to reach those who aren’t Christians, those who are struggling with darkness in their own lives. I honestly don’t know how people get through traumas such as cancer without faith in God.

 

 If you write speculative fiction, do you find that the Christian reader community is accepting of that genre?

There is a small but fervent market for Christian speculative fiction. Many Christian readers won’t read anything that is considered fantasy or science fiction, which I learned long ago in my early homeschooling days. I just keep trying to find the few readers who are looking for Christian speculative fiction. I know they’re out there!

 

Where do readers find you?

Blog: www.katyhuthjones.blogspot.com

Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/Katy-Huth-Jones/e/B00700A4DQ

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KatyHuthJones

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Katy-Huth-Jones-Author-318819684805145/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2914315.Katy_Huth_Jones

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/piccolokate/

 

10 responses to “Interview with Katy Huth Jones

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  1. Reblogged this on Daermad Cycle.

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  2. Thank you for a wonderful interview, Lela! I really hope I can visit Alaska someday. It’s on my bucket list!

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  3. Lovely interview, Lela and Katy. Thank you.

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  4. A great interview. I admire Katy’s courage and she is always an encourager.I love that you hold your fiction to the high standard of Christ.

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  5. A long way from countdown to the moon – wise beyond her years and a daughter to be proud of – love, Mom

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