Welcome to Cheri's 20 Questions! My interviewee today is the amazing Katie Masters. Katie writes in several genres including YA and fantasy, drinks too much tea, and is constantly trying to convince her cat he's not a dog. She lives in Southern California and stays indoors as much as possibly because she never tans, which works out well since it enables her to spend her time writing about all the places she can't live.
Tell us a little something about what you write, Katie: I write a little bit of everything except historicals and self-help books. I don't think you'd want my advice. I'm currently writing (in no particular order) a sci-fi, a paranormal romance, a Middle Grade sci-fi fantasy, and a fantasy book. And a graphic novel. Did I mention I write everything? When I write you can usually expect sarcasm and wit. Or at least wit. Oh god, I hope it comes out witty.
Cheri: What is the first book that made you cry?
Katie: The first book that made me cry was Tamora Pierce's Alanna series. I cried because it ended and I didn't want it to. Which I prefer over crying because a character died. Just saying.
Cheri: Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Katie: It depends on the day! Some days it energizes me and I'll go all day and all night. Other days I'll write two lines, eat an entire bag of crackers with brie, and be exhausted just from those two lines.
Cheri: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Katie: You want honesty? I'd tell my younger self 'you're still going to feel like you're not a great writer, but you must be because your books got picked up. But you won't completely believe it. Also, you have a lot of really wonderful friends who know how to correctly spell your name. Good job!'
Cheri: How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
Katie: If I'm being honest, it hasn't really. At least, not yet. I have come to realize however, that my procrastination knows no bounds, but that when I'm given a hard deadline for some reason I produce a lot of work very quickly. I wonder why....
Cheri: What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Katie: The best money I'm about to spend as a writer, is paying for an amazing illustrator to draw for my graphic novel I've written (or rather, am still writing).
Cheri: What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
Katie: Oh man. Well, that'd have to be the time as a kid I once conned a bunch of little kids to give me their puddings in exchange for telling them a story I made up. The realization that I could get food for stories was a powerful motivator, and I made up a bunch of stories that month, let me tell you!
Cheri: What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel?
Katie: Hands down, Mara, Daughter of the Nile. It is beautiful and amazing and if you haven't read it (and a lot of you haven't, because you're staring at me saying 'what the heck is that?'.) you really should!
Cheri: As a writer, what would you say is your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
Katie: Caite, or as she's known in twitter, Paperfury, is my spirit animal. If you don't know who she is—oh wait, you do, because everyone knows her—then go look her up. I'm making your life better by doing this. You're welcome.
Cheri: How many published, unpublished, and half-finished books do you have?
Katie: I have two (soon to be three) published novels (well, one's a novella). I have exactly four lifetimes worth of novels to write, and three years worth of half-finished books, currently. Think about that. Let that soak in. Four lifetimes.
Cheri: What does literary success look like to you?
Katie: To me it's being able to afford a place to live in southern California with a yard for my cat-dog, spending my days writing full time, being able to pay artists to make more comics, gushing over cosplayers who cosplay my characters, draw fanart, and write fanfic, and pretending like I'm in complete control of my life (haha) while I walk on set of one of my books that's being filmed for a TV series.
And never having to worry again about if I have enough money to buy more tea or a vintage teacup.
Cheri: What do you feel is the best way to market your books?
Katie: If I knew that answer to that question I'd be famous already. Probably.
Cheri: What kind of research do you do, and how much time do you typically spend researching before beginning a new book?
Katie: This is tricky. It depends on the book. But I'm a research addict (just ask anyone I've ever talked to including the cop I met in the deli who I asked how much his gun weighed.) and to attempt a guess on how much research I've done for a particular book I would place it at at least three hundred hours of research. For my YA book, Brenna Morgan and the Iron Key, not only did I go to Ireland to the places I was including in the story (for authenticity), I also researched ancient Irish texts and poems and had friends translate Gaelic when I couldn't find the translations. To say my Irish friends were annoyed with me by the end of it is an understatement. I like to research history and cultures of anything and everything, as it eventually trickles down into my fantasy and even sci-fi books.
Cheri: How do you select the names for your characters?
Katie: I say names out loud until it sounds right. Most of the time the names just come to me, fully formed and ready for use. Sometimes I smash two words together and see if it sounds right. I know, I'm lame.
Cheri: Do you hide secrets (or Easter Eggs) in your books for people to find?
Katie: ALL. THE. TIME. (note the cap locks for the seriousness of my words)
Cheri: What was your hardest scene to write?
Katie: The hardest scene for me to write was the ending of my sci-fi book, Beacons. But let's not speak of that. Let's let my publishing house think that I wrote the whole book effortlessly okay? It's our secret.
Cheri: What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Katie: Continued inspiration. If I'm not inspired I can't write. I can't just 'power through' the feeling. And un-inspiration can happen at any point while I'm writing the book. In the beginning, in the middle, at the end. I'll suddenly just hit a block and bam, I could literally care less for the characters and I lose their voice. It's not quite writer's block—it's far worse. It's the loss of motivation to care. Thankfully it doesn't happen all the time, but when it does it can last months. Writing isn't easy, guys.
Cheri: How long, on average, does it take you to write a book?
Katie: I mean....the first novel I wrote I wrote in a month and a half. I wrote my sci-fi (Beacons) in one month...and then it took a full year to write the last 30 pages because guess what? That's right, un-inspiration struck (but it was also coupled with writer's block for that particular story only. It was a double whammy and I hope never to experience it again).
Cheri: What is your favourite childhood book?
Katie: My favourite childhood book will always be the Alanna Series (or the 'Lioness Quartet' as it's officially called). It's the series that made me want to be a writer.
Cheri: Where/when do you find yourself most inspired?
Katie: Listening to music, watching the history or national geographics channel, hanging with friends, eating ice cream, taking walks in nature....I find inspiration in the most random of times and places, it's almost impossible to say that one place inspires me.
Cheri: Lastly, do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Katie: You're going to hate me. It's okay, I get it. But here's my advice for those of you trying to get published (whether by traditional 'agent' means or digital presses): don't give up. So many people write whole novels and then don't submit them, or they submit them once and get rejected and never try again. Keep going. Also, please, please hire an editor or content editor to go through your manuscript. Yes, you have to pay them. Yes it's worth it. You're too close to your work (I know you think you're not. You are. Every writer is), and no matter what, you're going to miss things. Listen to fellow writers when they offer critiques (not baseless criticism that says 'I would write it this way'. Those are not your friends—or good writers), learn from your mistakes—and bad dialogue—and keep going. Seriously, don't give up. Keep persisting. Because for every ten thousand people that finish a story, one hundred people stick it out. Be one of those one hundred people.
Cheri: Thank you so much for answering my questions, Katie; it's been a pleasure having you!
Stay tuned for another edition of Cheri's 20 Questions coming at you next Thursday.
Award winning historical romance author, Acquisitions Manager for Pandamoon Publishing, wife, and stay-at-home mom of four. Chocoholic, nerd, & bath bomb enthusiast.