1. You have submitted one part of a series – your choice is reasonable clear – write the next book in the series. This can depend on when the manuscript has to be finished obviously but readers want the next one pretty quickly.
2. You are committed to writing a story for an anthology. Ensure you make the deadline.
3. A new idea has ‘popped’ into your head – it is always tempting to write the newest and brightest. However, can it wait? Maybe ask is it reflecting a current topic? Would it be best to get it published sooner rather than later?
4. You have several unfinished manuscripts pending. (This is my current quandary.) How do you choose?
The above options do give us guidance but if you are not committed to a deadline then what options are open to you?
a) Write the titles out and pick one out of a hat.
b) Ask your readers on social media to choose by voting.
c) Gauge the current ‘popular’ genre and write accordingly.
I have opted for b) and received a flurry of votes on Facebook and twitter, which was a pleasant surprise indeed.
The choices were – A western romance or a suspense novel. The suspense won! So I will delve into The Giving Thief for this year and into next.
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 toomuch 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.
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.
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.”
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
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.
Please tell us the story behind your new book, Home.
My new book is the bookend of the Friends and Family series about Fluffy the cat and Levi the mouse. This book in the series was more challenging to write than the others because the series was written for my mom, and she passed away two years ago. My mom was my hero, and my best friend. She always provided me with a sense of security and home. As a family, we shared a love of reading, and my mom made sure, whether I was staying in the hospital or at home, that the routine of reading to me before bed was a constant.
As an adult, my mom’s macular degeneration made reading a challenge so I would read out loud to her. Then as her dementia progressed, she found a renewed passion for children’s literature. This series was based on a childhood pet of my mom’s and has a diverse character, which I wish I had to identify with when I was a child. Despite dementia stealing my mom’s words, the smile on her face and her reaching out to grab and hold Don’t Eat Family communicated her love and appreciation.
Mom would’ve wanted me to finish the series despite the fact that during the writing process and now the launch of Home, she would not be here in person. My illustrator, Katherine Restouiex, who also knew my mom, made the human character a cartoon version of her. While writing this last book in the series, memories mom and I shared and the lessons that she taught me were reminders that she will always be with me.
As the third in the series, does it complete the series?
Yes, Home completes the Friends and Family series.
How did you come up with the idea for the series?
My inspiration for this series came from a childhood cat Mom had and the fact that cats and mice don’t usually get along. This series was an exploration into each character’s ability to make their own decisions based on who they want to be and not who they are told to be by society. I wanted my characters to travel through the world with kindness, respect, and a belief in the goodness of people.
Can you tell us about the characters and how you created them?
The character of Fluffy is based on a grey Persian cat that my mom had as a child. The character Levi is based on some of the strong and independent individuals I have met who experience disability. Maybe even a little part of myself is in the character of Levi.
In Don’t Eat Family what is the message you wanted to convey?
The main messages that I was trying to convey in the book Don’t Eat Family were that, just like Fluffy and her decision to be friends with Levi versus be a mouser as some cats are, you could be who you are and not give in to peer pressure. Also, individuals experiencing a disability may experience challenges but have other abilities and should not be judged by the way they get around in the world.
In Help from Friends do the characters follow on from the first book?
Yes, the characters in Friends and Family continue along the journey to find their way home, a journey that started in the first book.
Did you start out planning a series, or did the story and characters dictate more stories?
No, I didn’t start outlining a series, but the characters and the story dictated more books because their adventures required more pages than I wanted to squeeze into one book.
Tell us about your writing life – what other books/plays have you written?
Inspiration can strike us at any time from a vast array of sources. An overheard conversation, a scenic view, an image or a news report – the list goes on and on. One of the most frustrating but rewarding is dreams. They are elusive a lot of the time but if we can capture them somehow, they can become the marvelous start to a story idea.
In my current steampunk novel, The Commodore’s Gift, the initial scene is actually a dream sequence I experienced. It is a cloaked figure propelling out of a high window. When I woke up, I immediately wrote down everything I could remember of the scene. It was an older mansion house, an older time period and the person falling was a young female wearing a cloak.
Writer Tip: Always keep a notebook and pen beside your bed.
Upon reflection of the dream, I was able to ascertain that the ‘place’ was actually very similar to my old school in England. Which was an Elizabethan mansion. When I was at school many of the rooms still had the original wooden paneling, large stone fireplaces and leaded-light windows. It is now a historic site and open to visitors. https://www.historichouses.org/houses/house-listing/shaw-house.html (images above)
As with most dreams their fleeting quality can make solidifying them difficult but with practice you can train yourself to remember them. A notebook is useful to have on hand but also try to keep within the dream for as long as you can before you become fully awake and your day starts.
Here are a few tips to try:
Write, “I can remember my dreams” on a sticky note, place it somewhere you’ll see it before you go to sleep, and read the note aloud.
Go to bed at a regular time.
Practice 20 minutes of mediation prior to sleep.
What dream(s) resulted in a story idea for you? Please share in the comments.
Today I am ‘interviewing’ one of the main character’s from Creature Hunt on Planet Toaria, a YA novella. Lenni is the main instigator in persuading her three friends to seek out the invading alien monster on their planet.
Can you tell us about why you live on another planet instead of Earth?
I can tell you what I know from history lessons. The human race suffered multiple pandemics over decades, which decimated the world population. In an effort to save the human species, one hundred generation ships were built and several space stations. These were built to offer a temporary home above the planet until the virus’ could be controlled or eliminated.
So how did you get here?
The expected term for being on the ships was extended over and over for years until each generation ship struggled to sustain its population. As the remaining human population on Earth died, a decision was made to head out in as many different directions as possible. The hope was that one or more of the generation ships would find a suitable planet to populate. After many years my ancestors ship found Toaria.
So then they landed and built all the domes?
It took another generation to build the domes and establish the growing pods. Several new technologies were created so that ‘soil’ was artificially grown from agar, molds and vermiculite and then seeds regenerated from capsules that had been frozen in transit.
Can you describe Planet Toaria?
It is mainly rock and dust but there are frackist trees and whickety vines. We have two moons and when they align, the sky becomes magenta then burgundy before total darkness. That’s our curfew time – we must be home by then. All the other plants are from germination of seeds brought here and cultivated in the home dome’s central gardens or in the growth pods. We have metal paths in-between the home domes and the community domes. Apart from the living areas, there is a complex of industry domes restricted to only workers and the military. Most of the planet is uninhabited still but as our population grows we expand with more sections.
Can you describe frackist trees and whickety vines, they sound fascinating?
The trees have thick trunks, which are topped with branches that look like an upside-down scalene triangle. They have sticky buds, which you mustn’t touch as the sap causes instant numbing to anything it touches. Climbing them is discouraged because of that. The vines have a natural luminescence in the leaves and they are planted along the main paths to grow along them and climb the metal columns.
I noticed that you do not have ‘normal’ pets, like dogs and cats. What do you have instead?
No, we do not have animals as such on Toaria, they were not allowed on the first ships from Earth. We have robotic ‘pets’ or bots as we call them. Each child is assigned a bot when they are born. It is a protector as well as a companion. They are made up of a series of metal intersecting plates, have compartments for supplies and technology and power up overnight as we sleep.
Can you tell us a little about the alien invader?
Initially, no one knew there was an invader but then my bot, Bubble chased off something and did not return for a long time. This is unheard of as they are to stay with their owner no matter what. When Bubble was found, his recording data did not identify what the thing was and that’s when I began to wonder.
Why did you decide to find the alien with your friends?
At first I thought it would be a fun thing to do with Troon, Braze and Nevis. You know to explore a little further than we are allowed. There are sections to the habitat only open to the military. I didn’t really think we would find it! As our search continued it got more serious and we all thought it would be an excellent way to be considered for a position within the security force.
Thank you for being with us today, Lenni and telling us about your life on Planet Toaria.
If you want to know more of the story the e-book is available here, on Smashwords, Kindle, Kobo and Barnes & Noble.