As you may know, Kansas City isn’t a huge city. Celebrities don’t flock here for vacation and few people outside of the hometown heroes category still call this place home. But, we’re not the dinky town that many East and West coasters imagine us to be either. Kansas City is a great medium-sized metropolis with an awesome arts and culture scene – including attracting visits from fantastic international authors! I’ve been to several author events over the years with some of the noteworthy writers of our time.
Last week was no exception when I got to attend a Q&A session put on by the fabulous Rainy Day Books (a local staple) with the fabulous Kate Morton!
I’ve read several of Kate’s books over the years including The Forgotten Garden and The House at Riverton. She’s now on tour promoting her latest publication titled The Clockmaker’s Daughter. Her books are a dream with the feel of poetry in the form of prose and I just love sitting down with a cup of tea and diving into one of her stories.
Kate was engaging in a way that many writers struggle to be. She gave a great interview and, not surprisingly, is a fabulous oral storyteller as well!
While sitting in a crowd of fellow book lovers and getting the chance to shake an author’s hand and get their autograph are all exciting parts of an author event, attending author events for big-time writers is also an important activity for aspiring authors. First, it’s just great to listen to someone so accomplished discuss their life and their work. Plus, it’s always a great opportunity to pick up some advice!
The most important thing I learned from Kate is to trust in the process and don’t rush yourself. She told the crowd that from start to finish a book project takes her about two years. In the publishing world, that is a LONG time. But, I love that her editors and her contractors allow her the time she needs to produce the very best work. And it clearly works for her. Her stories are rich with imagery and depth, intriguing characters and great plot twists. None of these are easy feats. For me, learning that it takes someone whose sole job it is to produce novels (meaning that she doesn’t have a full-time job like I do and write on the side) two years to do so is a big load off of my chest. It’s also a great reminder to not rush and take the time I need to get to where I want to go. This will be especially important as I head into my next project.
Kate also talked about her research process and how she allows the research she’s done into a time period or occupation to come out in her work. For me, this is one of the scariest parts of writing historical fiction. There are so many people out there in the world who are experts about a time period that I only plan to spend a short bout of time in. I’m always worried about getting something wrong.
The way Kate handles historical elements in her stories is as follows. She does a lot of research and takes copious notes. As she comes to understand the plot of her story more, she will hone in on that research for specifics that will help bring the story to life. But, when it comes down to time to write, she leaves her notebooks behind and just relies on her memory and her subconsciousness to bring things into the light. She seems so calm and relaxed about it. This is a tactic I am going to employ in my next project as well!
The last piece of advice that I just adored hearing from Kate is to always write what you love. In a world that is so driven by fame and success, this is such an important thing to remember. Yes, I want to be published by a big-time publisher so badly. But, I don’t want to give up who I am to do it. That’s why when you look at my list of books, you’ll see everything from historical fiction to fantasy and steampunk. I write what I love. No matter where my writing career takes me, I am proud because I stay true to myself and write those stories that are special and authentic to me. And I truly believe that when you do this, it comes out in your writing. When others read your work, they can sense this, though they may not know how to articulate it.
Attending author events, no matter whether it’s poetry, fiction or nonfiction, is another great tactic that aspiring authors can employ to advance themselves as writers. While you have to eventually sit down in front of your computer or with pen and paper, getting out into the world to experience life and interact with other writers or just people in general is an essential part. How can you write about life if you don’t know anything of life? And remember to always write what you love!
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