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Creative Edge – Author Interview – Kathrin Hutson

May 28, 2020
mandyevebarnett


Author Photo 2

What attracted you to write Fantasy/Sci-fi? Did you choose it or the other way around?

I’ve always had a soft spot for Fantasy and Sci-fi, because that’s what I grew up reading, for the most part. I still read a little bit of almost everything, but these two genres captured my heart even more when I started writing in them. I’m not sure which one of us did the choosing, but I’d say we make a pretty great pair when all things are said and done.

My favorite part about writing Fantasy is the fact that I can take what I like from reality, get rid of everything else (within sub-genre tropes, of course), and replace it with something completely new, magical, dark, mysterious, and complicated enough that it provides a rich world yet simple enough that I can keep it all straight in my head. Sci-fi is a bit harder. For me, it requires a lot more research too, which I really just don’t enjoy. But it’s not enough of a pain to keep me from writing it. And that’s the part I like about it—plus the fact that I can change a few things (particularly with Dystopian Sci-Fi) about reality and augment them, so to speak, to create the types of stories that reflect what’s happening in the world while putting my own special spin on it.

What inspires you to write your stories? Where does inspiration come from?

Literally everything. Sometimes I get a spark from a dream or a movie clip, a song, a conversation with my kid. Sometimes I read a book that touches on an idea and then I start thinking about how I could expand upon it and make it my own. Sometimes, when I’m at the crossroads of taking a story down one road or the other, I’ll pick one, and the other one gets turned into a different story. Sometimes I keep writing without any inspiration at all, and the story inspires itself.

Do you prefer to write a series rather than a stand-a-lone novel?

All of my series so far were originally intended to be standalone novels. Until I got to what I thought was the end and realized I just wasn’t finished. The Blue Helix series, though, is the only series where each book can be read on its own without having read the previous books in the series. But I think they’re better if they’re read in order 😉

Right now, I’m almost finished with the first book in an actually planned series of five and a quarter of the way through another planned trilogy. That’s definitely a different process, and I’m excited to see how the results of planning series ahead of time differ from… well, not planning it at all.

Are you a plotter or a panster?

I’m a plantser—I do both. I used to be all pantser all the way until I started ghostwriting fiction in addition to writing my own stories. Then I started writing up beats for contracted novels, and I discovered that there’s definition something to be said for writing a loose “summary” of 5-10k words (depending on books length) before I dive into the writing the actual story. I don’t get stuck with where I’m headed, and that helps me write a lot faster. Somehow, though, I’ve never quite been able to stomach chapter-by-chapter outlines or intense character sketches before writing the book. In my mind, there is such a thing as doing too much work before the fun begins. If my plotting gets any more detailed than a few thousand words of beats, I lose interest. 80% of the fun is surprising myself with how to fill in all the blank space after finishing the beats. It’s like a giant puzzle that I get to create and fit together at the same time.

Can you tell us about your newest book? The characters and their journey.

static

My newest book, Sleepwater Static, is the second book in my LGBTQ Dystopian Sci-Fi Blue Helix series. This was a monster of a book to write and tackle, just like its prequel, because there was so much I wanted to say through the characters’ journey and the continuing storyline in general. And there was much potential for saying the right thing in the wrong way that I really had to pay attention to how I was writing the story and especially how I was representing different minority groups and marginalized communities through this huge cast of characters.

Beat

Sleepwater Beat focused on Leo Tieffler as the main character, and Sleepwater Static focuses on Bernadette Manney—a seventy-one-year-old white woman from South Carolina who fits a sort of “tough and uncrackable matriarch” role within the group of people called Sleepwater with the storytelling ability of “spinning a beat”. Bernadette really fascinated me in the first book, and she was the perfect character to dive into for the second in order to approach the other sociopolitical topics I wanted to explore while still making this a fantastic story with characters readers had already come to love and a whole cast of new ones.

Bernadette grew up in the South, found her independence and her freedom through standing up for what she believed in, created a family with the man she loved despite racial tensions and facing discrimination from her own family and so many others within her home state. In this book, we learn about who she was before Sleepwater was formed, how and why Sleepwater was formed, and the ways in which she’s been trying for twenty years to redeem herself after an unforgivable yet inevitable mistake drove her away from her past, her partner, and her child. This book is meant as a sort of “breath of fresh air” on the surface, where the characters stop to go into hiding and regroup (plus one Sleepwater member needs somewhere to give birth to her child that isn’t in the back of a van), and they all end up learning more about the past while trying to fight for the future. I can’t wait to hear what people think of this book, and I’m so excited to start diving into Book 3 when the time comes.

What age did you start writing?

I started writing on my tenth birthday. When I discovered that I could create a story, a situation, a relationship, or an outcome to be absolutely whatever I wanted to be, I just couldn’t stop.

Where do you write? Can you describe your writing space?

I write in my home office. I’ve had four home offices in four different homes since I started my Indie career in 2015. It’s a requirement for every new house we move into (obviously, there have been many), and it will continue to be that way for as long as I’m living in a house with an ability to keep writing.

I have a standing desk and a heavy-duty “sit in my chair all day” cushion for my office chair. Bookshelves stuffed to the brim to the point that they’ve spilled into piles on the floor, my desk, and on and in my cabinets. My office is actually the only room in the house that’s been fully “decorated”, because my husband and I have intersecting tastes, but everything he doesn’t like, I put in my office! It’s also the only room in the house where no one else but the author is allowed to enter. No dogs, no three-year-old, no husband. Okay, fictional characters may make an appearance, but I draw the line with physical bodies. I like bright colors and clashing patterns and hanging art on the wall (my own or created by friends). More often than not, it’s a complete mess, but at least I know where everything is.

What has been the highlight of your writing career so far?

I’d say the highlight so far has been writing the Blue Helix series. Sleepwater Beat got such a phenomenal response, and it really blew me away. It made me an international bestselling author, got me on live television, has been the topic of more radio-show and podcast and blog interviews than I can count, and was both an award-winning Sci-Fi Finalist in the 2019 International Book Awards and a Literary Titan Gold Award Winner this last April.

Sleepwater Static is heading very much in the same direction, and I have really high hopes for the second book in the Blue Helix series too.

Who is your favorite author and why?

It’s not just one (is it ever just one?). My list includes: Stephen King, Jacqueline Carey, George R. R. Martin, Diana Gabaldon, Neil Gaiman, Cormac McCarthy, William Gibson, and John Irving. With these favorites, I get to cover a wide range of brilliance in so many different elements of good storytelling—characterization, world-building, rich plots, expansive landscapes and history, phenomenal relationships, twists and turns, grit, beauty, humor, surreal parallels to reality… this second list goes on and on. Overall, I love these authors because even when I haven’t read them for quite some time, I find myself thinking about their books, characters, and worlds with a nostalgic longing to return. That, to me, is what makes great fiction.

Who is your most loyal supporter?

Hands down that’s my husband. Without this guy, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m with my writing right now—which is writing 60+ hours a week and absolutely loving every minute of it. And there’s the added bonus that my work as a full-time writer of fiction supports our family of three with a single income. It’s pretty much a dream come true.

He hasn’t actually read any of my books all the way through. But he knows how much I love what I do and has facilitated my ability to keep writing since the very beginning, all the way up to the point where he was able to stop working so he could be a stay-at-home dad and do more of what he wants to do during the day. So yes, it’s been a win-win for everyone. And he never misses an opportunity to tell people what I do for a living and give them my card (yes, I have business cards) with a well-timed, “Check out her books. You’ll love them.”

Where can we find you on social media?

I’m most active on my Facebook page: http://facebook.com/kathrinhutsonfiction

And you can also find me here: http://instagram.com/kathrinhutsonfiction; http://twitter.com/exquisitelydark

Do you have a blog/website?

I sure do! I just had my website completely revamped and am in love with what it’s become. This was very recent, and I wasn’t much of a blogger on my author site, but I’ve written a few things on this new site that are more “reflections of life as a writer” and are not, in fact, fiction. But I’ll be building on that. You can find almost everything else about me and my books on my site: http://kathrinhutsonfiction.com

Bio:

International Bestselling Author Kathrin Hutson has been writing Dark Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and LGBTQ Speculative Fiction since 2000. With her wildly messed-up heroes, excruciating circumstances, impossible decisions, and Happily Never Afters, she’s a firm believer in piling on the intense action, showing a little character skin, and never skimping on violent means to bloody ends.

In addition to writing her own dark and enchanting fiction, Kathrin spends the other half of her time as a fiction ghostwriter of almost every genre, as Fiction Co-Editor for Burlington’s Mud Season Review, and as Director of TopShelf Interviews for TopShelf Magazine. She is a member of both the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and the Horror Writers Association. Kathrin lives in Vermont with her husband, their young daughter, and their two dogs, Sadie and Brucewillis.

For updates on new releases, exclusive deals, and dark surprises you won’t find anywhere else, sign up to Kathrin’s newsletter at kathrinhutsonfiction.com/subscribe.

Author@kathrinhutsonfiction.com

kathrinhutsonfiction.com

Facebook.com/kathrinhutsonfiction

Twitter: @ExquisitelyDark

Instagram: @KathrinHutsonFiction

 

Creative Edge

Author Interview – Kathrin Hutson

April 16, 2019
mandyevebarnett


AuthorInterview

Kathrin

What inspired your latest novel?

  • 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?           

Sleepwater Beat Ebook Cover                                                   

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.

OPTIONAL QUESTIONS

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.

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