Welcome to the first in a series of author interviews I’ll be featuring on the blog. Today I’m talking to urban fantasy author Kate Whitaker about found families, diversity in literature, and her experience as a self-published author. I’m thrilled to sit down with the prolific author of the Monsters of Pittsburgh and the Uncommon Animals series and learn a little more about her work.
Sarah: One theme I’ve noticed take shape in your urban fantasy work is that of found families. Is including that a deliberate choice on your part, or did the characters find each other as a part of the writing process?
Kate: It’s very much a theme that I chose. If there’s an unspoken theme in all my works, it’s, ‘The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.’ Found family and the idea that the people who truly love you are your family is very important to me. I have a few blood relations in my work who are happy and work together, but mostly, my characters make their families.
Sarah: Your books feature a wide and very diverse cast of characters. Is diversity a focus of yours when you’re writing?
Kate: Oh, yes. I’m a tumblr addict and I’m constantly seeing people asking for more diversity. People of color, people with disabilities, people outside the heteronormative dynamic, more women. I always thought it was just me, but now it’s something that I strive for in my own writing, but I don’t force it.
I write characters, and I let them be what they need to be.
Sarah: With your urban fantasy, you often write novellas and release them periodically as a part of a series. What are some of the challenges and advantages of writing in a shorter format?
Kate: I love writing short form because I can keep things fresh. This week, I’m writing about hunting vampires, next mystical pregnancy! Writing a novel means focusing on one villain, one story for months (well, years the way I do it). A 10,000 word novella can be written in a weekend and edited over a month or two. And then I get a new story!
The challenges are keeping it fresh. It’s really, really hard to keep coming up with new villains and new challenges. You have to keep topping yourself without making things too over the top. That’s part of why I wanted to end the Pittsburgh series. I had written twenty-one stories with my cast in Pittsburgh (twenty-seven counting the spin off). It was time to move on.
Add to that the challenge of getting them out once a month. It’s easy to develop severe fatigue. I’m lucky and have the time (and energy!) to get a few months ahead of schedule. That reduces the stress, but it’s still a full time job.
Kate: Oh, I have a lot of overlapping reasons.
I wasn’t sure about traditional publishing to begin with. The idea of waiting years and years to get published didn’t appeal.
Then I really didn’t like the idea of agents taking a percentage of my work. I’d rather apply to a publisher myself.
I did try that, submitting my work. But while I was in the process (and it *is* a process), a few friends got signed. Their experience was not the most positive, lazy editors, lousy advertising, bad covers: all the things that are supposed to be the advantage of signing with a publisher seemed to be the biggest problems.
Then I started getting my rejection letters, and they all said the same thing: Unique voice, obvious talent, not quite right for us. They all wanted me to pay for an editor and then resubmit.
And I thought, “Aren’t *you* supposed to supply the editor? Isn’t that part of why you’ll take a percentage of my money, to pay for that?”
And it just seemed like a no brainer to me.
I like being in charge. I like making all the decisions. If my books sell I get a far, far better percentage of the money. If they don’t sell, there are lots of things I can try, new covers, ad campaign, new blurbs. Unlike a publisher, who would just give up on me and my work.
More importantly, I like owning my work.
Sarah: Now that you have a sizeable body of work out there, do you feel self-publishing was the right choice for you?
Kate: Oh yes. Now that the Mina and Matty series is ending, I can spend more time on marketing, but also expanding my brand. I’m starting a webcomic based on the Pittsburgh series. That’s something I might not have been able to do if I had sold the story to a publisher. They would technically own the characters.
Sarah: Can you tell me, in a few sentences, about your upcoming series Hedge Doctor?
Kate: I could best describe it as Doogie Howser meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Genius, teenaged, magical doctor hiding his activity from the mundane world.
Kate, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me! If you’re interested in buying Kate’s books, you can find her Amazon page here, and if you want to learn more about her and her work, check out her blog, Words That Burn Like Fire. Also take a look at her upcoming webcomic. Find her on social media here:
As for me, I’m back to the wild, hunting for another elusive author brave enough to answer a round of questions. Up next week, a wildcard! (Sounds better than saying I haven’t got it all figured out yet, doesn’t it?)