Interview with self-published author Katherine Holmes
Katherine Holmes is a veteran at writing, her career spanning more than four decades. And this shows in her work, immaculate prose with a strong personal timbre, very colourful, joyful, playful. Although I’m sure she works incredibly hard to get it to the polished extent we can read, her writing seems to flow effortlessly, free from the pull of gravity. Originally targeted at YA, Katherine’s novels, poetry and short stories are a delight for every age group.
The Prize Americana for Fiction
At the time I interviewed Katherine, we didn’t know she would win the Prize Americana for Fiction so we’ve decided to add this last-minute introduction to the interview.
The Prize Americana for Fiction is the Press Americana’s annual contest. Press Americana and Review Americana are part of Americana: The Institute for the Study of Popular American Culture. They also publish Americana: A Journal of Popular American Culture 1900 to Present.
I had a short story published in Review Americana in 2007. So I wanted to enter their contest. I don’t know how many people entered it this year. This is the second year that the contest has been held. The prize is publication of my short story collection, Curiosity Killed the Sphinx and Other Stories through Press Americana’s imprint, Hollywood Books International, and with their standard contract.
The press has a fascinating list so far. Their institute is academic however American Popular Culture is an extremely interesting academic area. The press also publishes fiction and poetry.
Here’s the link to the site: http://www.americanpopularculture.com/home.htm
This is my first book published by a publisher. I guess I may have answered some of my interview questions with more excitement about my writing if I had known this. This last year, I had a near-publication of my collection with another small press. The rejection alerted me to revise and I worked hard on those stories before entering the Press Americana contest. I’m so glad I concentrated on that project!
Where do you live (town, country)? Were you born and bred there?
Duluth, Minnesota. I was born in southern Minnesota but vacationed in this area because my grandparents lived up here. I took a job as an instructor and stayed beyond that job.
What kind of food do you like? Are you a good cook? How important is food to you?
I’ve always liked cheese, seafood, eggs, vegetables, and sauces. Now I cook a lot of Mediterranean and French recipes. Once in a while, I’ll make a square Midwestern meal and then I appreciate it. I’ve followed the organic movement and shopped at Co-ops since college. Now I feel a commitment to that quiet revolution. And I’m a fan of soy products.
Do you do any sports? How often? What does exercise mean to you? Any other hobbies?
Walk for miles, hike, and swim. Last winter, I started to do aerobic dancing which I’ve wanted to do for years. Music makes exercise so much easier.
Do you like travelling? Where do you go then?
I don’t know if I like traveling but I’ve liked many destinations so much that I didn’t want to return. Traveling is bittersweet. The English countryside, London, Vancouver
BC, Boston, and Norway affected me that way. The American landscape makes me
feel awed or amused when it’s positive and then, I was enthralled with the California
Do you have another job apart from writing? For how many hours? How do
you feel about the ‘other’ job?
I’ve worked with used books, antiques, and collectibles for the last 10 years, now with my own internet store. This has turned out to be very compatible with writing as it’s flexible and yet I see people quite a bit. It’s also one of those capturing areas that, when you’re involved, it takes up your whole mind. There’s a bit of gambling in it, like writing.
How do your family/friends react to you being a writer? Have their opinions changed since you became a published author? Which remark from your surroundings has stuck most with you?
People I knew seemed more interested in my personal life than in my work. It didn’t seem to matter if I was published so much, except with people who would normally
read what I wrote for a newspaper or in a poetry journal. I don’t think most people saw me as a writer; they’d be more likely to expect me to get a Ph.D. As far as writing novels, it was usually only people in writing groups or at workplaces who could encourage. I think midwesterners feel far from the publishers who generally handle novels.
I just read my contract. So I know now that it only covers the publisher-author
relationship but I would have answered that question differently if I’d known
about this acceptance.
Would you call yourself a social human being? Do you have time for going out and spending time away from the writing desk?
Yes, I think that seeing people and sharing interests is crucial to being a good creative writer.
Which character trait do you like best about yourself and why? Which trait would you rather do without?
I guess being faithful. I‘ve never understood the word faith but I’m faithful to myself too and accomplish what I intend. I also like having humor. My worst trait is probably pessimism. In my one adult novel, a section of it was devoted to depression. Reading it back, it made me laugh. My character wasn’t seeing the truth at all.
Can you describe the place where you write + the view? + Is there
something you always need to have near you when you work (beverage, cigarette,
mascot, music, quote, etc)?
I’ll combine these. I’m usually in the trees when I look out a window on a second floor. But since I usually do my most concentrated writing in the winter and see mostly white and twigs outside, I usually have a piece of artwork that inspires my project. Sometimes I line it up at the windowsill or it’s on the wall nearby. But now I do most of my fiction writing in bed with a laptop, often when it’s still dark. I have to have a beverage, usually water after my wake-up coffee when I write fiction.
What genre(s) do you write in? How did that develop?
When I began writing regularly, it was poetry and children’s novels. I went on to write adult fiction but I don’t think I really knew how to write a short story until I wrote a novel.
At some point you decided to self-publish. Can you tell us how that process developed?
I began in publishing and almost went to Boston after getting an interview at Little, Brown. Actually, I always wanted to do publishing. I never really planned to write novels. The House in Windward Leaves was actually written in the mid-1980s. It’s my only fantasy but because it takes a different fantasy tack than what’s expected now,
I’ve had trouble getting interest in it. They didn’t publish a lot of fantasy in the 80’s. I’d had publisher interest in my books but I became disillusioned when I should have started revising.
One day, as I was revising The House in Windward Leaves from its original conception, updating it, I just said, “I love this book. This is the one I’m going to publish myself.” Sour grapes but I didn’t crave to see a major house editing job on it. I estimated it would be one part better and worse in other ways even if that’s
presumptuous. And this was quicker.
How do you feel about self-publishing now? What are the advantages,
disadvantages, pitfalls, etc.?
After doing one book, and especially one with some special formatting issues, another would be much easier. Of course, the editing is the prominent issue and if a person can do it, then they can tackle the publishing issues. I would say marketing is probably the biggest challenge for me but I’m finding so many outlets on the internet. That’s where a publisher is going to make a huge difference.
I’m nearing 60-years-old so that’s probably part of the decision. It seems the right thing to do right now.
Are you in a network of Indie authors? How do you market your own book?
I’ve just started. Goodreads and Bookblogs are already looking like wonderful contact sites. I’m also going to send out review copies. The process is all so reminiscent of both submissions and places like Authonomy.com that it’s a matter of familiarizing yourself and finding your reading audience. I think that’s the key to the whole thing.
When was your first book released and how did that make you feel?
In the last few weeks. I like the finality of the book being done and was thrilled with the paperback. I keep looking at the samples at Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords, checking them for any formatting issues. They’re staying as is for now.
Can you tell us some background information on the book? (How did you get
the idea, how long did it take you to write and edit it, is it part of a sequel, how does the published book make you feel now?)
The idea began as a short story for children that I presented at a Loft (Minneapolis) story hour that I helped to host. This was prior to one of the worst years of my life. I decided to escape into a silly book. It probably took about that year to write it and then I’ve re-written it since, taking a few months each time. It was a book I liked
working on except the first section which was overhauled and overhauled.
What are your writing habits? (every day, number of words, etc.?)
I’ve written every day for a long time but not a lot because I was usually working. I’d write a few pages in the morning and then, late afternoon or cocktail hour, I’d write poetry. I often do re-writing or editing in the afternoon if there’s time.
Who’s been your biggest inspiration and why? Since when?
I loved children’s novels as a child. All those lasting novelists, George MacDonald in particular, influenced my writing them. After I left a newspaper position, I drifted
to a reading of Tess Gallagher’s when she was in St. Paul. That sort of got me
launched into poetry and I still admire her work.
Where do you see yourself in 5-years’ time?
I should have more published. After I wrote an adult novel, I made many false starts. I found I needed to revise what I’d already written. I may start on a new long project after I’ve put my manuscripts in order.
THANK YOU SO MUCH KATHERINE!!
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