Interview with Kathryn Harris   1 comment

 

Today’s interview is with Kathryn Harris, author of the contemporary novel The Long Road to Heaven. She is currently working on her second and third novels, which are prequels to her debut.  Welcome to the blog.

Thank you for the opportunity to be featured, Lela. I appreciate it.

 

Tell us something about yourself.

kathryn-harrisWell, I’m a Cornhusker, which means I’m from Nebraska, right smack in the middle of the United States. I have two dogs, two kids, a husband, and my day job involves writing, as well. I am a reporter/editor for a mid-sized daily newspaper. I started off as an obituary writer and worked my way up to business editor. After 17 years on the job, I decided I missed obit writing so much I offered to take up that duty again when a coworker retired.

 

Oh, wow. I was a reporter once too. What do you like about obituary writing?

Why do I like writing obits? They are like little gems of inspiration. Everybody has a story, and sometimes I come across one that gets the imagination running wild.

 

At what point did you know you wanted to be a writer?

My folks had an old manual Smith-Corona typewriter that I would beg to play with. The thing must’ve weighed a ton, but some of my first memories involve scooting it in its case across the orange shag carpet in the family room and rolling the paper into place. I can still remember the smell of the ink on the ribbon.

I declared my intention to be a novelist when I was about nine years old. One of my sisters was watching Robin Williams in “The World According to Garp,” and she asked — rhetorically, of course — why anyone would want to write a book because “it must be the most boring thing in the world.”

I looked up from that Smith Corona and proudly announced, “I’m going to write a book someday.”

Prior to that point, I don’t remember having a burning desire to write a book, but I think that’s when my muse wrapped me in a stranglehold.

Incidentally, that sister still has not read my book, but she has talked it up to her co-workers who have bought it. One of these days I’ll get her to read it.

 

Tell us about your writing process.

kathryn-harris-long-road-coverThere’s a process? Wait. What? 🙂

I wrote The Long Road to Heaven as a pantser. No outline. No real plan. That’s part of the reason it took me so long. That’s also how I ended up writing an entire chapter (Sixteen) by mistake and ended up using it. It became a pivotal point in the book.

The other reason it took The Long Road to Heaven so long to hit the market is my recognition of a reader’s investment in a book. As a self-published author, I can charge as little or as much as I want for my book, but a reader is also going to invest more than the cost of that novel. He/She also is going to invest — at the very least — a couple of hours of his/her time with something I created. Time is the most precious commodity we have, and I want to make sure my readers feel like my novels are worth that investment.

My writing process now involves creating a rough mental outline of the direction I want each chapter to go, but I will write multiple drafts before I feel comfortable enough to let any beta readers look at what I’ve written.
 

What is your favorite genre … to read … to write?

I adore Jodi Picoult, Juliette Fay and Patricia Callahan Henry.  I write contemporary literary fiction.

 

When you are not writing, what do you do?

I sing, camp, garden, play with my dogs, talk to my family, watch college football (I’m a Husker, after all).

 

 

What sort of research do you do for your novels?

I have a complete scrap book filled to the brim with newspaper clippings and maps of the settings in “Long Road.” It also contains old rock and fashion magazines from the late 70s/early 80s when the book takes place. I’ve read just about everything I could get my hands on regarding cocaine addiction, including online forums posted by junkies looking for easier ways to come down. I also have been married for 22 years to a man who’s been clean and sober for 10 of those years. You learn a lot about addiction by living with it.

 

You do! If someone who hasn’t read any of your novels asked you to describe your writing, what would you say?

My writing is heavy, not in the sense that the prose is flowery or bogged down by unnecessary words, but in the sense that I wanted each word in the story to carry an emotional weight that the reader can feel.

 

Do you find yourself returning to any recurring themes within your writing and, if so, are you any closer to finding an answer?

Recovering shaken faith seems to be the recurring theme in everything I write. I’m a spiritual person who really digs the teachings of Jesus Christ. He tells us to love our enemies and forgive one another. That’s a really hard thing to do when you’ve been wronged or have allowed personal battles to make you cynical and full of self-hate, so my characters are not strangers to crises of faith.

 

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

Without a doubt, my stories are character-driven. People can be their own worst enemies, and you can really snag a reader’s feelings by letting flawed-yet-likeable characters get themselves (or talk themselves) into tough situations.

 

What point of view do you prefer to write, and why?

I prefer first-person, which is how “Long Road” was written. The prequel is a mix of first and third person, which I didn’t know authors could do until I started reading Jodi Picoult’s stuff. Then I was like, “Why not? I’m the author.”

 

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?

My laptop loaded with my iTunes catalogue and enough battery power to get me through the month.  My camp chair, a pillow and some comfy clothes. I’d also bring the three books on my to-read list, “Ditch Flowers” by Amanda Linsmeier, “The Truth About Fragile Things” by Regina Sirois and “Walk Me Home” by Lisa Kovanda. And maybe something to scare away the bears.

 

That last one is a REALLY good idea. Talk about your books individually.

The Long Road to Heaven is the only one commercially available at this point.

It’s the story of Heather Montgomery, a late-1970s rock star whose struggle to overcome addiction forces her to come to terms with the estranged father in whose footsteps she stumbled. Failure to confront the demons of her past means losing what’s left of her career and family. But facing her father means returning to the one place she swore she’d never see again — home.

 

Was it your intention to write a story with a message or a moral?

Yes — Sometimes moving on with your life means letting go of the past.

 

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

I want them to think about hypocrisy and the standards to which we hold others in our lives when we are such fallible creatures ourselves. I want them to think about the damage people do to their own lives by holding onto mental garbage. Most of all, I want people to have a good cry.

 

What influenced your decision to self-publish?

I was approached by the newspaper where I work about my interest in participating in a Charles Dickens-type throwback to serial novels. The paper had published one other serial in weekly installments on its website, and it was well received. They asked if I wanted to be the second author to participate. I told them I would if they allowed me to also offer the book for sale in its entirety at other online venues, such as Amazon. Each week would include a link to the purchase site. The arrangement worked well.

 

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

Control. I’m a complete control freak, so I like having the ability to maintain creative and financial control.

 

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

Respect. It irritates me to no end when people dip their brush in poo and paint all self-published authors with same broad stroke that implies we’re all inferior. I’ve read some fantastic self-published books. I’ve read some bad self-published books. I’ve read some fantastic traditionally published books. I’ve read some bad traditionally published books. I want readers to judge me by my work.

 

Exactly. With the number of self-published books increasing by such a huge rate, it is really difficult for authors to make their books stand out. How do you go about this?

There are two parts — talent and platform.

  1. Learn the arts of writing and storytelling.
  2. Start building a platform through Facebook, Twitter, blogging and whatever other elements of social media you’re comfortable with.
  3. Develop a good plot and interesting characters for your story.
  4. Write a great story using what you’ve learned about crafting a great novel.
  5. Get feedback (if you can get feedback from those who are one or two steps ahead of you in the industry, that’s a plus).
  6. Rewrite that great story.
  7. Repeat Step 6 as often as necessary until it feels right (and I mean RIGHT).
  8. Hire an editor, cover designer and carefully choose your title.
  9. Plan a splash for release day.
  10. Throughout all of that, keep engaging your audience.

 

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?

Absolutely.

Where can readers find you and your books?

Long Road to Heaven (Amazon)

Facebook

Goodreads

Twitter

 

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One response to “Interview with Kathryn Harris

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  1. Reblogged this on aurorawatcherak.

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