CHAT WITH KATE JAMES

KateJamesKate spent much of her childhood abroad before attending university in Canada. She built a successful business career, but her passion has always been literature. As a result, Kate turned her energy to her love of the written word. Kate’s goal is to entertain her readers with engaging stories, featuring strong, likeable characters. Kate has been honored with numerous awards for her writing. She and her husband, Ken, enjoy travelling and the outdoors, with their beloved Labrador Retrievers.

Lisette, thank you for this opportunity to be a guest at your writers’ chateau.

You are very welcome, Kate! Delighted to have you here.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Don’t give up on your dream!

There are so many viable options to getting your work published these days, you just need to keep at it and believe in yourself. If I have one regret, it is that I didn’t follow through when I first had the dream of writing. I got caught up in my professional life, and my first attempt, a half-finished manuscript, is tucked away in a storage box somewhere in our basement, possibly breeding some form of mold worthy of a sci-fi thriller.

Also, having someone who believes in you can be enormously helpful, even if you are a self-motivated individual like me. My husband buying me a personal laptop for my writing was the start of Silver Linings. I was wrongly convinced that I did not need another laptop, as I had a perfectly good one already. Psychologically, it made a huge difference. Thankfully, my husband has never said, I told you so—at least not directly!

This leads me to another bit of advice. If you have a “day job”, creating a clear separation between it and your writing may help, as a separate laptop for my writing did for me. As another example, an author friend works from home and has a home office. When she writes, she purposefully does it in a different room in her home.

Finally, read as much as you can, for enjoyment—of course—but also for learning! It’s a rare book these days that draws me in so much that I don’t at some level of consciousness analyze the writing to seek to improve my own.

SilverLinings

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

I either got very lucky, my business background came in handy or, more than likely, it was a combination of the two. There is the artistic, creative side to writing, but there is an entire business side to it as well. Publishing is a business and for an author to excel, I believe they have to be able to understand and effectively deliver on both the creative and business aspects. Querying agents and/or publishers requires a combination of creativity and business acumen.

I was fortunate to have my very first manuscript picked up by a publisher. Although the publisher is small, and thus doesn’t have a large budget for marketing and promotions, they were a dream to work with both for editing and cover art/design. It also meant that my first book was in print and in book stores in about eighteen months from when I first sat down at my new laptop to start writing Silver Linings. The experience also afforded me the opportunity to learn a great deal about publishing, which I believe was invaluable in securing my contract with Harlequin.

I consider myself extremely fortunate to be able to write for Harlequin, and have the privilege and pleasure to work with two of the most amazing people in the business: Victoria Curran and Paula Eykelhof.

Do you have any grammatical pet peeves to share?

This is an interesting question for me, and perhaps you’ll allow me to go on a bit of a tangent with it.

I had to “retrain” myself when I started writing fiction. Most of us have heard the axiom that in business we should write to the average grade eight intellect. I consider that a sad and demeaning statement. When I was in business, I always encouraged our communications teams—everyone in the organization, in fact—to strive to release high-quality, well-written, well-presented material. Annual reports, marketing materials, routine correspondence and e-mails all reflect on the brand of an organization. I was a stickler for proper sentence structure, grammar, spelling and so forth. When I first started writing fiction, I had to consciously retrain myself, for example, to not use “proper” sentence structure, especially where dialogue is concerned.  We don’t speak in proper sentences, and if my dialogue was constructed in that manner, I can guarantee it wouldn’t make for an enjoyable read!

Have you received reactions/feedback to your work that has surprised you? In what way?

Perhaps surprise is not the right word, but I continue to be amazed by and appreciative of the informal feedback and more formal reviews that Silver Linings has been getting. Reviews mean a great deal to authors, and I am grateful to everyone who takes the time to write one.

I was very pleasantly surprised and honored for Silver Linings to have received first place recognition in both readers’ choice contests it was entered in. The fact that people are reading my work and enjoying it is a thrill. The positive feedback is something I will never take for granted.

Do you dread writing a synopsis for your novel as much as most writers do? Do you think writing a synopsis is inherently evil? Why?

I am glad we’re not having this discussion in person at a writers’ workshop, as I expect some people may be inclined to throw things at me. I enjoy writing a synopsis. It may have something to do with my business background, but I enjoy switching gears and writing the synopsis. To me, writing a synopsis is also an organizational tool, as it is essentially my outline for the manuscript. Writing it, I challenge myself on the characters’ personalities and motivations, and the key plot elements, and then I expand and embellish as I write the manuscript. To be clear, with respect to this latter point, I am not referring to a two page synopsis, but rather a much longer version that my editor wants to see as a proposal for a book.

Some authors, like me, always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?

I generally write scenes in order from my synopsis. If I find that I am not progressing quickly through a particular scene, I may jump ahead. I do this for a couple of reasons. Inherently, I don’t like to waste time, and if I am belaboring the scene without making progress, that’s what I feel I am doing. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, if the scene is not progressing well, there is a chance that it just doesn’t fit, and I have not yet admitted it to myself. If I jump ahead and finish the rest of the manuscript, I might find that it needed to be cut anyway. Once my first (rough) draft is complete, I go back and invariably add, remove, rework or reorder scenes before I venture to call it a completed first draft.

Are you an early bird writer or night owl? And do you have any must haves like coffee, chocolates, wine, music or something else?

All of the above! Okay, almost all. I was a full-time CEO when I wrote Silver Linings and my second manuscript. By necessity, that meant writing very early in the morning and late at night. I enjoy coffee, chocolates and wine. Add in tea (hot or iced) and more than likely one or more of those is within easy reach whenever I am writing. Music only enters the equation if my husband is home, as he loves to have it playing all the time.

We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?

To the contrary! I believe the cover can have a huge impact on the success of a book, especially for lesser known authors. I believe most of us have picked up a book by an unknown author because the cover appealed to us. Although I don’t think people pass up on a book by their favorite author because the cover isn’t appealing, I do believe that some excellent work by unknown authors doesn’t get the same uptake as it could, if the cover isn’t appealing or appropriate for the genre.

Have you ever written characters that you truly despise?

Despise? No. Disrespect, most definitely!

Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?

We live north of Toronto, and we split our time between our home and cottage. We are fortunate to have two large, scenic properties, but if we were to move, my husband would want to be somewhere without snow! Texas and Arizona come to mind. Kelowna in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley is a beautiful spot, too. I would need to have a large property. I like to visit cities, but I love nature and the outdoors, thus I would need to live somewhere we could have significant acreage.

What’s the coolest surprise you’ve ever had?

My husband is really great at surprising me. The converse is much harder to do, as I have to get really creative with how and what I wrap for him, as he has an uncanny ability of knowing exactly what it is.  A particularly nice surprise, and one that is related to my writing, had to do with my contract with Harlequin. I was on a ten-day “world tour” and in Dubai when I received the e-mail from my editor with the good news. I, of course, shared the news with my husband immediately (time difference be damned!), and he was very happy for me.

Five days later, I arrived home at about seven in the evening after a thirteen-hour flight from Hong Kong, and very little sleep during most of the trip because of the full schedule, overnight flights and numerous time zones changes. I walked in to candlelight, a bottle of champagne on ice, a wonderful dinner, and a beautifully wrapped gift with a huge bow on it. If you have read my responses to the questions above, you may have guessed correctly that the gift was a new laptop!

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Comments

CHAT WITH KATE JAMES — 8 Comments

  1. What a wonderful interview, Kate! It was inspirational for me – and informative, too – to read your responses to those questions concerning writing and publishing. SILVER LININGS sits on my shelf of favorites. I’m really looking forward to book number two! It was the personal snippets, however, that brought me a taste of delight at the end of a tiring day – thank you. Playing in the stream has afforded me encounters with some fascinating people; you and Lisette are two that I treasure.

    • Thank you, Christa. I am glad you liked the interview. Lisette made it very enjoyable for me. You are correct about common interests, except I have to admit I favor white wine!

      Best wishes.

      Kate

  2. Lisette, thank you very much for this opportunity to visit your Writers’ Chateau. I am thrilled to have connected with you, and I look forward to a continued friendship!

    Kate

    • Kate,

      It is my great pleasure to have you here and to get to know you and your work. I look forward to a continued friendship, too.

      All best wishes,

      Lisette

  3. What a fantastic interview, Kate! And such a lovely, thoughtful surprise from your husband for your new contract!

    I have just begun reading Silver Linings and I’m already rooting for Katlyn in a big way!

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