Author Interviews, Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

Ask Me Anything: February 2018

Welcome to my February 2018 Ask Me Anything video!

Earlier this month, I asked readers from my Reader List and social media whether they had any questions about my books, writing and publishing, or anything else. As a reader, I love it when authors share more about their books and themselves, so I want to do the same for you!

You can watch the video right here. Or if you prefer to read my answers, I’ve summarized them below.

Will the fourth Desertera novel have a new main character? And if so, will you say who?

Yes! Sybil Tanner, who readers will remember as Dellwyn’s roommate and Zedara’s new maid, will be our leading lady. Originally, I planned for the fourth book to be written from Zedara’s point of view, but you’ll see why that wouldn’t work when you read it. I’m really enjoying Sybil’s perspective – she’s got a contagious vibrancy and energy, but she still struggles with trauma from her childhood and The Courtesan’s Avenger (Desertera #2). I hope you’ll find her as complex and charming as I do!

If you could only pay for editing or cover design, which would you choose?

As an independent author, you should always pay for BOTH editing and cover design whenever possible. When it comes to fiction novels, if I couldn’t afford one of those services, I would save money and wait to publish rather than put out an unfinished or unprofessional product. Even if you are a professional editor or cover designer, I would still recommend outsourcing that work to save time and get a second, unbiased opinion on your book.

That being said, I have skipped editing or cover design for other projects. The Desertera short story that I give to my Reader List subscribers is professionally edited, but since I don’t sell it at online retailers, I didn’t commission a cover. Instead, I made a simple cover in Canva (a free online design tool) to put on the landing page and give my readers an image for their e-readers.

For my nonfiction creative writing prompts booklets, I edited myself using online software and had the covers made by a friend, who is a professional graphic designer. Because I’m not publishing these booklets in print and they are just $0.99 each, I’m okay with them being slightly less professional and providing “pure” profit. However, I do intend to update them with professional editing and cover designs when my business allows.

What advice do you have for young or aspiring writers?

My best advice for young or aspiring writers is to read critically. I know that sounds like annoying school terminology, but it’s one of the most effective ways to learn about story and writing craft. As you read, ask yourself questions about the story. Does it flow well? Do the characters’ actions make sense? How would you change the plot to make it more powerful? This practice will help you think like a writer and nurture your creative instincts.

Another tip is to take advantage of any and all resources you have at your disposal. Borrow novels or writing craft books from your school or public library. Read writing blogs and listen to writing podcasts on the internet. If your school offers a creative writing elective, fit the class in your schedule. Ask your English teacher and/or librarians about local authors, writing groups, and other community resources. YOU are the best advocate for your writing, so do everything you can to learn and grow that passion.

What is your favorite wine?

My passion for wine began with Australian Cabernet Sauvignon, and even though I’ve tasted hundreds of different wines through the wine marketing company I work for, Aussie Cab is still my favorite style. It’s rich and full-bodied, with delicious, chocolatey, black-fruit flavors and just a hint of mint. It doesn’t get much yummier than mint chocolate in a glass.

What other books would you recommend if I like the Desertera series?

If you’re a fan of Desertera’s steampunk stylings, I strongly suggest Kara Jorgensen’s Ingenious Mechanical Devices series. The first book is The Earl of Brass. Her series is more classic steampunk, in that it takes place in Victorian-era London with a stronger emphasis on mechanical devices. However, it also has lots of fun fantasy and dark magic elements too and offers great character diversity in gender and sexuality.

I’d also recommend the Gemma Doyle trilogy by Libba Bray. The first book is A Great and Terrible Beauty. After her parents’ deaths, Gemma is sent to a boarding school in London, where she discovers that she has the power to transport her and her friends to a magical dimension. It’s full of strong, complex young women and social drama, with a swoon-worthy love story and a gorgeous Victorian-inspired backdrop. I picked it up in high school purely for the covers, and it’s still one of my favorite series.


That’s all for this video! Thanks to everyone who asked a question. I’ll be back in March with another round of Ask Me Anything, so feel free to submit your questions in the comments or through my contact page.

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Author Interviews, Fiction Blog

New Interview + Send Me YOUR Questions

rayaan writer

A few months ago, new author Rayaan reached out to me on Instagram to say that he’d enjoyed my creative writing prompts booklets and ask for an interview. Obviously, I said yes!

He asked some fantastic questions about my thoughts on writer’s block, advice for aspiring authors, and who I would cast if Desertera became a movie. It’s one of most fun interviews I’ve had in a while, and I hope my responses are helpful to anyone looking to write.

Click here to read the interview on Rayaan’s website.

And while we’re on the topic of interviews…

ask me anything

If YOU have ever wanted to ask me anything (literally), your chance has arrived! Each month in 2018, I’m recording Ask Me Anything videos, in which I’ll answer your questions on Desertera, writing, the Parallel Magic Podcast, and (almost) anything else you like.

To see how it works, check out my January Ask Me Anything video.

I’ll be recording the February video this coming weekend, so submit your questions in the comments below, via the Contact page, or on your favorite social media site.

As always, thanks for reading, and I look forward to chatting with you soon!

Fiction Blog, The Desertera Series, Writing Updates

Ask Me Anything: January 2018

Welcome to my January 2018 Ask Me Anything video!

Earlier this month, I asked readers from my email list and Facebook page whether they had any questions about the Desertera series, my writing process, or anything else. As a reader, I love it when authors open up and share behind-the-scenes info, so I wanted to do the same for you!

You can watch the video right here. Or if you prefer to read my answers, I’ve summarized them below.

1. How did you come up with the idea for the Desertera series?

While I was working for the Baker University English Department as a student assistant, one of the professors had her class complete projects about One Thousand and One Nights (aka The Arabian Nights). The basic concept, as far as the student papers summarized, was that the king executed each new bride after their wedding night because he believed she would inevitably be unfaithful to him.

This got me thinking: why wouldn’t the king just make adultery illegal? Surely, that would deter many women from cheating, and he would appear fairer in doling out his executions. Thus, King Archon and Desertera’s horrible adultery law was born.

2. Did you come up with the beginning, middle, or end of Aya’s story first?

I had to think about this answer for a while because I honestly couldn’t remember! Aya’s story rose rather organically out of that initial adultery law concept, but I believe the beginning came first.

As I considered how one would overthrow this king, it occurred to me that a prostitute would be a smart choice to seduce the king. This gave me the idea of a nobleman approaching a prostitute in a brothel with his treasonous plans. As for Aya herself, I wanted the prostitute to be terrible at her job, so I kept asking myself questions about this woman and her life, and eventually, Aya’s backstory fleshed out.

3. If you could change anything about the Desertera series, would you? And what would you change?

In the video, I give two answers to this question. First, I’d either do a better job of concealing Willem’s identity in The Cogsmith’s Daughter, or I’d approach the love story from a different angle. I thought there were less obvious (and more interesting) twists, but readers really seem to focus on the Willem one. However, I do not plan to change the story, as it would take significant editing, and I’d rather focus on writing new books for you!

Second, I AM still considering taking out the love scene in The Cogsmith’s Daughter. While I believe the scene is important for Aya’s character growth (after all, she’d never known consensual physical intimacy before that moment), I know it isolates some readers and prevents younger people from reading my books. Plus, as I am considering pursuing audiobook creation, I know some readers won’t want that kind of scene in their ears! If you have an opinion, I’d love to hear it. 🙂

4. Who is your favorite Desertera character?

I’m cheating and giving two answers. Lord Varick is my favorite to write, due to his manipulative nature and clever dialog. I love that he’s always one step ahead of everyone else. However, Dellwyn Rutt is my favorite character as an individual. I admire her commitment to justice and how she’s unashamed of her sensuality, as well as her occasional vulnerability and her willingness to admit when she’s in over her head.

5. What is it like to start a new series?

Really damn difficult! Writing a new series means creating new characters, a new world, and an entire magic system. However, I’m loving the challenge and thrilled with my idea. Plus, I’m a bit insecure about writing something outside of Desertera and whether my readers will like it!

vvIn case you haven’t heard my rough concept yet: the atrocities committed during the Salem Witch Trials scarred the land with an evil energy… and now a real witch has decided to avenge the innocents killed. She’s out to destroy everyone profiting from Salem’s tourism industry, and my protagonist (a psychic shop owner) must discover that witches are real, find the evil witch, and stop her to save Salem.


That’s all for this video! Thanks to everyone who asked a question. I’ll be back in February with another round of Ask Me Anything, so feel free to submit your questions in the comments or through my contact page.

Author Business & Publishing, Musings & Bookish Things, Writing & Publishing Articles

Why Do You Write? (An Idea Revisited Two Years Later)

If you’re reading this, I assume you want to be or already are a writer. I also assume that there’s a decent chance you want to be a full-time author. So, if that’s you, let me ask you two difficult questions: Why do you write? And why do you want to be a full-time author, when there are hundreds of easier career options?

writing and coffeeNow, your gut instinct is probably something like, “Come on, Kate! Writing is my life. Those questions are so easy!”

But do me a favor and really think about it. I’ll give you a personal anecdote while you ponder your own situation …

After my recent move from New Haven to the Bay Area, I’ve had a difficult time getting back in my creative groove. I have a lot of perfectly valid excuses: organizing the new place, adjusting to a new work and household routine, exploring new shops and landmarks, to name a few. But, I think I finally understand the real issue.

Whenever I meet new people, I introduce myself as a writer. I include my novelist side, but I always admit, with a twinge of unnecessary shame, that my books don’t pay the bills. I’m “really” a copywriter for a wine marketing company (which has actually helped my fiction writing). It sounds super-sexy on paper, and while most of the time I just stare at a computer screen like every other office worker, it is a great job. Though I’m still the lowest rung on the company ladder, I could make copywriting/marketing a long-term career. And I think it would make me happy.

It would be SO. MUCH. EASIER. to just let go of my author ambitions and relax into the 9-to-5 life. I’m NOT saying every 9-to-5 job is easy, and I’m definitely challenged at my work, but giving up the author stuff would relieve me of several challenges. I could stop spending nights and weekends at the computer. I could stop heaping guilt on myself when I don’t meet my creative goals. I could stop spending hard-earned, harder-saved money on editing, cover designs, and marketing expenses. I could stop all the other nuisances of indie authorship and still call myself a professional writer.

Live your dreamBack to you: your situation is obviously much different from mine. Maybe you’re working a job you loathe. Maybe you have tons of extra money to shower on self-publishing. Maybe you view writing solely as a career and aren’t bothered by any of the emotional, passionate aspects.

Still, I ask again: Why do you write? And why do you want to be a full-time author?

(If you’re a fan of the Sterling & Stone trio, you can probably guess that I’m a big believer in Sean’s “Know Your Why” mantra, which this insightful article discusses more eloquently than I can.)

While contemplating this question, I remembered a blog post I wrote over two years ago. It lists the reasons why I write, along with some great additions from fellow writers in the comments. They all still hold true, but they don’t answer why I want to write fiction professionally and not just as a hobby.

After giving it some careful thought and seriously evaluating my larger personal/life goals, here are a few of my reasons:

Writing is my greatest passion.
Writing is my most employable skill.
Creative satisfaction means more to me than conventional success.
I want to be my own boss and set my own working hours.
I want the freedom to vacation when and how I choose.
I want to work be able to work from anywhere in the world.
I don’t want to regularly manage other people.
I don’t want to give up my dream to help someone else achieve theirs.
I love storytelling.
I want the opportunity to make my daily work meaningful and valuable.
I want to entertain, inform, and educate others.
I want to make a difference in the world and provide a source of escape for others.

Conclusion? Being a full-time writer both satisfies my creative passions and provides several practical benefits that “regular” jobs cannot.

If you’re in a similar situation to me (and I know at least one of my friends reading this is), do yourself a favor and ask these questions. You might realize that writing is just a hobby for you — and that is 100% awesome. Or (more likely, I bet), you’ll realize that full-time authorship is really the career you want. If that’s the case, you’ll be armed with a list of reasons to keep you motivated when the going gets tough. And trust me, it will get tough.

But, if you’ve made it all the way to the end of this post, I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s also wholly, completely, utterly worth it.


Leave your reasons in the comments and cheer on your fellow authors. If you’re already living the full-time dream, I’d love to hear whether your “why” remains true now that you’ve reached your goal. 

Fiction Blog, Musings & Bookish Things

Should Books Be Written on Soapboxes: Social Responsibility & Literature

As someone raised in the Midwest, I learned at a young age not to discuss sex, politics, or religion. While I’ll gab about the former with the right people (and after a glass or two of red wine!), I tend to avoid politics and religion. From a cultural standpoint, I learned by example that discussing these issues seems pointless and sometimes rude. How can I, as one little person, cause any real change in the world? Why waste my time trying to alter someone’s mind on such divisive topics? What does someone’s political affiliation or religious beliefs matter if they’re a good person?

protestFrom a personal standpoint, I feel I have no right to discuss these issues. Since I don’t have a political or religious association of any kind, who would take me seriously? How can I ensure the information I learn is even factual? And, given how much I hate conflict, why open myself up it?

However, with the current state of the world, politics and religion are becoming increasingly difficult to avoid. And perhaps rightly so. Between the radical propositions made by President Trump, Alt-Right/Nazi rallies (a phrase I never thought I’d type in present-day context), and devastating climactic events, politics and religion arise in nearly every conversation. And as I sit there, mouth clamped tightly shut while friends and family members rattle off their views and theories, I have a realization.

While I don’t often voice my views on contentious issues, I’ve written them into my books.

In the Desertera series, I’ve woven in several topics I care strongly about — sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. I advocate for a positive view of female (and all) sexuality. I grapple with the de-criminalization of prostitution (an issue I’m still uncertain about). I support homosexuality by making it a non-issue in society (except for where it prevents the nobles from having biological heirs). I condemn classism and social stratification. And, especially in the final books of the series, I’ll warn the reader about climate change.

Listed bluntly like this, I marvel at my boldness. I do have opinions — quite a few that would shock my fellow Midwesterners — but I’ve made them more palatable, I hope, by lacing them in fiction. And I’m not alone. Not by a long shot.

Most of the literary fiction I studied in college contained moral or political messages for the reader. Many of my author friends use their writing to advocate for causes or social issues. Hell, Science Fiction as a genre basically serves as a warning from the future (it’s one of the reasons I’ve always been attracted to it). You’ll find the same agendas in nearly every form of artwork at nearly every stage in history.

This brings me to the crux of this article: As an author, do you feel a social responsibility to stand on your “soapbox” in your writing? And as a reader, how do you feel when authors “preach” a message within a novel?

I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer.

On one hand, inserting your views into fiction can be a noble endeavor. It gives readers with similar views a safe place in entertainment. It allows readers with different views a chance to consider a new perspective without being personally attacked. And it offers you, as the author, to remain at arm’s length from the topic.

On the other hand, shouldn’t fiction just be fiction? In a world where the news constantly showers us with depressing topics, our social media feeds fill with contention, and our dinner table conversations get usurped by arguments, we need a break. Isn’t it just as noble for books to offer pure entertainment and unbiased escape?

I go back and forth on this issue a lot.

As a writer, I do feel an obligation to make my fiction meaningful. Though, I don’t always agree with myself about what is “meaningful.” Sometimes, I want to use my fiction as a platform. Other times, I just want to offer my reader that innocent escape.

Same goes for when I’m reading a novel. Mostly, I appreciate when an author attempts to make me think deeper — so long as she writes in way that feels respectful to me and doesn’t belabor her point. Though, other times, even the slightest hint of an agenda will make me cringe and wonder, “Why can’t I just enjoy this story for the story’s sake?!”

Maybe it’s about choosing which type of author you want to be, or which type of writing is right for each particular story. Maybe it’s about knowing what your ideal reader expects. Maybe it’s about striking a balance between theme and entertainment. Maybe it’s about being sneakier, having your cake and eating it without the reader even noticing you baked it.

My specific answer keeps changing, based on whether I’m writing or reading, the story itself, the mood I’m in, even the day (it’s no coincidence that I’m writing this on 9/11). But my politically correct, moderate, agnostic answer remains the same: as long as the author respects the story and the reader, that’s what matters most, soapbox or not.


What do you think? Do authors have a responsibility to advocate for their political/religious views in their fiction? As a reader, do you expect a “message” from the author, or are you only looking for entertainment? Leave your thoughts in the comments.