Today’s question is: How did you build your author platform? Was it by personal effort or did you have professional help?
Last week’s discussion answered this question: If you were given the opportunity to form a book club with your favorite authors of all time, which legends or contemporary writers would you want to become a part of the club?
Sleepwater Beat was a combination of so many different things, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where the inspiration came from. I’ve always loved the Latin idiom Stilus est superior gladio: The pen is mightier than the sword (it’s tattooed in Latin on my arm, after all). Really, Sleepwater Beat arose as the product of my imagination running away with what might happen if that were literally true—where words were literally more powerful than the sword, or bullets, or any modern physical weapon.
How did you come up with the title?
Originally, “Sleepwater” was supposed to be the name of a river. I never planned for this to become a novel. Sleepwater Beat was originally written as an experimental short story, where all the scenes were completely out of chronological order and had no rhyme or reason to how I ordered them (I literally made a bulleted outline of scenes, cut each one into a different strip, and basically drew the next one out of a hat). That short story experiment failed; it wasn’t nearly as effective as I’d hoped it would be in just over 30,000 words. But then I realized this thing really needed to be a novel instead. So, in that original short story, Sleepwater was the name of a river where Leo killed a man she was ordered to “dispose of”. As it turns out, that was one of the scenes in the short story that never made it into the novel. So then Sleepwater became the name of the underground organization of people who all have powers like Leo’s.
“Beat” in this title came as a sort of play on words. “Beat” as in “a metrical or rhythmic stress in poetry or music or the rhythmic effect of these stresses” – which refers to the rhythmic and metrical use of language by the main character Leo and the people in Sleepwater, all who can illicit physical responses in people just by using certain types of words. Then there’s “beat” as in “a regularly traversed round” (like a cop patrolling her beat, as the police definitely come into play in this book), and with the definition of “a group of news sources that a reporter covers regularly” (as evidenced in all the news reports peppered throughout Part 1 of the book). There’s a lot of play on words here. I think there has to be, when words become the most powerful weapon in a near-future dystonia not far off from our own future… maybe minus the genetic mutations. Who knows?
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I think the main message here is that everybody, no matter who we are or where we came from, is looking for a place to belong. Leo’s had a hard life, and by necessity, she build incredibly high, strong walls around herself as a person. She has to discover the kind of person she wants to be when faced with the opportunity to live and become a part of something bigger instead of merely fighting to survive one day after the next. There’s a more subtle message in here too (though maybe not too subtle, because I think it runs through all of my books) that the poor choices and large mistakes a person may have made in the past doesn’t define who they are, nor does it eradicate any possibility of redemption. We chose who we want to be moving forward, as long as we can forgive ourselves first and foremost.
How much of the book is realistic?
I’d like to think everything in this book is realistic; that’s one of the most important elements of fiction in the first place, right? Really, the only thing that isn’t completely realistic is the superhero-type power found in Leo and the other members of Sleepwater. At least for now. A lot of what these people endure and discover through the story is left up to interpretation—whether or not these abilities stemmed from natural evolution or genetic engineering/experimentation. I like to think even “the beat” is a realistic possibility, as well as the few things that render it ineffective. One of the creepiest things that happened when I was finishing the first draft of this book was brought to my attention by one of my writing friends and alpha readers. He’d found a story of a new “high-intensity focus” drug, reported to do more for “clean energy and focus” than anything else out on the market. I can’t for the life of me remember what that was, probably because it was too close to home and what I was writing about the medication Pointera in Sleepwater Beat at the time. How strange to see the dystopian world I was building so closely reflected in almost real time by our own reality in science and pharmaceuticals right now. I definitely got goosebumps.
Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Sleepwater Beat is actually the closest of all my six books to my own life and my own experiences. I’ve written more of myself into Leo than into any other character I’ve ever created, and it was honesty pretty scary to keep moving forward with it. Some scenes felt like a confession for me. Some of them felt like nostalgic recollection. Some of them were cathartic or merely a walk down memory lane. The really terrifying part was the idea that all of that would have been nauseatingly obvious to the reader. So far, I don’t think that’s the case. So this is a prime example of “writing what you know”, though of course I don’t actually have the ability to make people believe absolutely whatever I tell them. Not yet.
Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog?
I’m definitely active on social media: facebook.com/kathrinhutsonfiction, Instagram @kathrinhutsonfiction, and Twitter @KLHCreateWorks. As much as I can, I do live Facebook videos every Wednesday morning. And my main newsletter goes out the second Thursday of every month. All my subscribers get some pretty sweet access to behind-the-scenes stuff with my writing and current stories, plus all my huge announcements and good news goes out to my subscribed readers first. I don’t have a consistent blog currently, with all the writing and marketing and everything else I’m doing. But my monthly newsletter (plus all the extra fun tidbits every week) is jam packed with most of what I’d blog about anyway. And anyone can join my newsletter right here: https://klhcreateworks.activehosted.com/f/29
Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone?
Absolutely! Right now, I’m working on my newest Dark Fantasy trilogy, Vessel Broken. Book One, Imlach Fractured, will be out September 2019, and the other two books planned for the series (plus a prequel with the Playing with Fire boxed set in October 2019) will follow in the beginning of 2020. After that, I’ll be returning to the Blue Helix series. Just like Sleepwater Beat, all the other Blue Helix books will also be standalones, set in the same world and following the stories of these characters in Book One. I plan to have at least Book Two of the Blue Helix series out in 2020, if not also Book Three. We’ll just have to see what happens.
Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?
I’m going to stick with Sleepwater Beat’s characters here, because they’re in a world all their own (and still so much like ours). My favorite character in this book is Karl Daleheart—the first character we see in Chapter 1 and the man who becomes something like both Leo’s mentor and an older brother, in a way. He’s the tall, silent, brooding, totally apathetic and kind of a jerk character, though his stoic awareness both terrifies Leo and convinces her that Karl can actually help her. Then he becomes a good friend, and when we see him “in his element” with the other members of Sleepwater, Karl’s character becomes something else entirely. He’s got a super tragic backstory, and he also seems to be my readers’ favorite as well. I plan to bring him back here and there into the other Blue Helix books, though I can’t exactly say how, because… well, spoilers.
Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one?
Actually, Sleepwater Beat is my first venture outside of Dark Fantasy—a story that had to be told in our world instead of one pulled purely from my own head. Being Dystopian Sci-Fi and Thriller, this book took a lot more research than anything I’ve ever needed for my Dark Fantasy books, which was quite the challenge for me. I really despise research, but it’s necessary when I’m dragging this cast of characters across the United States. I very much enjoy this genre, though, so of course I’ll continue it with the series as well. Still, my heart has a particular soft spot for Dark Fantasy—mostly just dark fiction in general.
Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?
I am a pantser all the way! Outlining and plotting tends to get pretty boring for me. All the excitement and the “writer’s zone” of creating these stories and characters comes from having to put the puzzle pieces together as they actually unfold. I never know exactly how a story’s going to end, or where the character’s will end up. It all comes together as part of the process, and I’m not sure I could ever outline something any more than a paragraph or two of summary.
What is your best marketing tip?
Well, this is a hard one, seeing as I still feel like marketing is the hardest part of being an author, especially an Indie Author. The best piece of advice I have is to, as an author, put yourself out there for your readers, potential readers, and anyone else happening by in ways that have nothing to do with the actual books you’ve written. My weekly live videos on Facebook rarely mention my own books (unless I’m giving them away as prizes). I talk about books I seriously freak out about as a fan, my favorite TV shows, my hilarious quirks, a few odd strings of random association here and there. But I put myself out there as a real person, passionately interested in real things beyond my books, and doing that has been an incredible piece of marketing. It’s that piece of original, authentic, intentional connection with people that has gotten me more organic readers and fans than I ever thought was possible. Yes, it was terrifying at first, but I’m loving the direction in which it’s taken me so far.
Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance?
Both! It’s an amazing tool when used the right way (which I can’t rightly say I’ve figured out 100% yet). Most of my marketing is done through social media, but it’s also so incredibly easy to get sucked into doing way more than merely marketing. As I’m sure everyone who has any social media accounts has figured out for themselves. I’d like to officially request an extra 12 hours added to the day so I can get all my social media in amid the writing and… well, the rest of my life. And sleep. It’s already a bit in short supply when I write full-time as a mother to a two-year-old as well.
Do you see writing as a career?
Writing is my career, 100%. I work from home about 50 hours a week, and because of that ever-looming necessity for marketing and branding, scheduling, and everything else, I write about 40-45 hours a week. But it’s paying the bills, and I wouldn’t have it any other way! It’s been my dream since I first started writing when I was ten, and I’m so fortunate to have turned my love for the craft into a way of life, a career, and the means by which I support my family.
What reward do you give yourself for making a deadline?
The best reward ever? I give myself a day off to recharge and pretty much do nothing but read for fun, which is hard enough to fit in as it is when I’m writing full-time. The occasional glass of whiskey never hurt as a celebratory cheer, either.
Bio: Kathrin Hutson has been writing Fantasy and Sci-Fi since 2000. She can’t get enough of tainted heroes, excruciating circumstances, impossible decisions, and Happy Never After. In addition to writing dark and enchanting fiction, Kathrin spends the other half of her time as a fiction ghostwriter of almost every genre, as an Independent Editor through her company KLH CreateWorks, and as Fiction Co-Editor for Burlington’s Mud Season Review. She finds just as much joy and enthusiasm in working closely with other fiction authors on their incredible novels as she does in writing her own. Kathrin lives in Vermont with her husband, their young daughter, and their two dogs, Sadie and Brucewillis, and is constantly on the lookout for other upcoming authors, great new books, and more people with whom to share her love of words.
This week’s discussion is a writer fantasy: If you were given the opportunity to form a book club with your favorite authors of all time, which legends or contemporary writers would you want to become a part of the club?
For my fantasy book club, I would choose Stephen King, Kate Morton, James Long, Felix de Palma, and J.K. Rowling. It is an eclectic group for sure but that’s how I read!
Let’s see who chooses who! Post your selection in the comments.
Last week’s question. Is today’s generation more aware of the literary art or less?How do you think concepts such as Kindle, and e-books have changed the present or future of reading? Feel free to comment on last weeks question on that post.
I am a “real book” (paper) only reader. As I don’t have an e-reader, I can’t judge the experience; I’m just not interested right now in giving up paper books. There’s something quite personal about lying in bed with a “real” book, not an electronic device. I guess I’m showing my age. Ecco la vita!
What inspired your latest novel? A few years ago, I worked with a personal growth mentor on a workbook for telling life story as a myth. I gathered the stories I wrote and from them created The Storyteller: Tales of Enchantment which was recently published by Dream Write Publishing. My weary Gypsy traveller is an elder who shares tales of magic and wonder while passing on wisdom in these short, fanciful pieces. I am currently at work on an autobiographical novel.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? Maturity and aging are ripe with gifts. Elder tales are to be respected as much as traditional fairy tales, which focus on the courage to venture out into the world and seek their fortunes. Instead, my Gypsy Storyteller elder tales touch on the archetypes common to all of us as we age. I hope readers will grasp the deeper message of the stories, seeing in them the courage to confront the challenges of growing old. Our culture is youth-oriented and so I want the reader to appreciate that elders are heroes too.
How much of the book is realistic? These tales are symbolic of the lessons I’ve learned in life. In that respect, they are realistic. The themes are my own observations of loss, self-confrontation, masks, transcendence and seeing wonder in the world, all timeless insights learned by growing old.
Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life? Each story is a fanciful description of values and strengths I’ve come to accept in myself, and a way to reflect using active imagination and reflection.
Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog? I have an author page and a story page on Facebook, and a website with a blog at www.kathiesutherland.com. My blogs are few and far between lately as other writing projects have taken up space in my mind.
Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone? Most of my writing is “life writing” in one form or another. My work is Self-centered, soulful and focused on wholeness although some think it is self-centered and ego driven.
Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why? I believe each of us has a story in which we are the protagonist. My Gypsy Storyteller has created these tales to affirm my favorite voices. The Blind Gardener, The Good Wife, Grandmother Spider are all wise characters from my inner world.
Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one? I’ve tried many writing genres, all of them focused on life story. Even as a child, my favourite books were fables, songs, fairy tales and classic stories, such as Heidi and Little Women. As an adult, I’ve embraced journaling for personal growth, become a certified journaling facilitator, written poetry and published it in chapbooks and bound books, gathered personal essays into a memoir collection, submitted articles to magazines, had my short stories published in anthologies; all of these works based on life events and family history. I’m currently working on an autobiographic narrative and two novels. I have recently been assisting elders and others at the end of life to identify the values of a lifetime and leave these insightful stories as a “Letter of the Heart” legacy for family and friends.
Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer? Definitely seat of the pants but the stories are usually based on true events. Having a structure into which the story falls helps me plan.
What is your best marketing tip? This is not a question I feel comfortable with because I quickly lose interest after completing books and hurry off into new projects without marketing the published ones. Its the writing I love. I could use the help of a marketing assistant!
Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance? I like social media as a way to reach out to others but I have to limit my time with it. My favourite self-expression methods are stories and poems in book form. I love using the computer to write and edit.
What do you enjoy most about writing? Writing is “the way to me.” Every time I write, I learn something about my values, beliefs and strengths. This lifelong learning is very important to me.
What age did you start writing stories/poems? My mother brought our faraway relatives to life with family stories. As a child, I took on the role of correspondent and wrote letters to friends and family. I surprised myself when I wrote a good short story in 10th grade and later, found poetry could express my feelings as an adult in my early 30s. I became serious about life story writing in 2000 after attending a seminar focused on the lives of girls and women. Once I realized I had a story to tell, I embraced life writing.
What genre are you currently reading? Memoir and autobiography mostly. I love a good novel and love to encourage other writers in their efforts to create with words and enjoy acting as first reader for them.
Do you read for pleasure or research or both? Both. I love to learn more about my current interests, and this strength serves me well in my research. For example, I am reading books about building on my innate strengths, accepting my dark side, aging with wisdom and dying with dignity.
Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager? Other writers and writing groups. My mother is my biggest fan and has read all my books. I have worked with personal coaches and other “balcony” people, including my psychologist.
Where is your favorite writing space? In my office/sanctuary. One of my favourite activities is taking a writers’ retreat whether with others or alone. Solitary time is essential to my writing.
Do you belong to a writing group? If so which one? Two, one in Sherwood Park and one in Fort Saskatchewan. I like to feel I belong, and writers groups are definitely the place I find community.
If you could meet one favorite author, who would it be and why? I am in awe of all writing efforts, because as I said earlier, we all have a story of some sort within us and I’m interested in how we express them.
Do you see writing as a career? I believe my life purpose is to grow into myself. Writing is a way to give my life meaning. Success in a career is simply loving what I do.
Do you nibble as you write? If so what’s your favorite snack food? When I write, my tea gets cold, and the ice in my drink melts. I’m not a snacker at any time!
What reward do you give yourself for making a deadline? I am working on giving myself credit for completing projects and enjoying the fruits of my labour because I don’t do that often enough. I’m usually off on the next bit of writing. My greatest reward is hearing someone say, “I can relate to this character and your writing.”
Other books by Kathie:
Kathie Sutherland has recently published a collection of Elder Tales “The Storyteller: True Tales of Enchantment.” She is also the author of Things We Keep: A Memoir, and poetry books balancing Act; Shadow Girls in the Spotlight;Wind in the Trees; and Seeking Asylum. She has several large writing projects in the works including three novels.
Kathie is a well-travelled and observant student of life with 30 years of writing experience. In the past, she has facilitated journal writing workshops and is active in her local writing group. Currently, she encourages others as a story listener and writing companion to elders and those at the end of life as they articulate their values stories to share as a legacy in “Letters of the Heart.”
Today the question is: Is today’s generation more aware of the literary art or less?How do you think concepts such as Kindle, and e-books have changed the present or future of reading?
Books versus ebooks
Last week’s discussion: What is your view on co-authoring books; have you done any?
The meetings about how to set up the book and what to include in it were really interesting as three of us discussed our ideas. As we did this the original idea was reworked into what seemed a cohesive plan. We each took on several aspects and then edited each others work until the book became cohesive and workable. All three of us were open to the others ideas and no one forced their ideas as better than any others. Choosing the people with whom to collaborate would be the most important aspect of starting to do a book together as it takes listening, rethinking, planning to do it well. and scheduling things into our busy lives made it a challenge. We’ve had only good feedback about the book.