FAQs FAQs About Writing
How did you become a writer?
As a child, I loved to make up stories in my head. I was a compulsive story maker. I say “story maker” because I never told anyone or showed anyone my stories. I first realized I could be a writer when I was about ten years old. I was with my family, driving at night in our car with the top down. The sky looked so interesting—you couldn't see the stars because of these woolly clouds. And I said it looked like a sheepback sky. My mom turned around and said, “Kathryn, you should be a writer.” When my mom said that, I thought, “Wow, maybe I will be.”
Where do you get your ideas?
This is the question I think that I am most often asked by people, and I mean all people—kids, the guy who cuts my lawn, the TV repairman, my doctor... It’s as mysterious to me as it is to all of you. I did read someplace that some famous writer (I forget who) said that a writer is not necessarily the smartest person in the room but the most observant. So I think I am just a good observer, and perhaps I see things and wonder about them in odd ways; and this means sometimes making up stories about them. Many Christmases ago, I saw a raccoon in our trash shed dragging away a gingerbread house I had made for my kids. Now, I have never written a story about a raccoon celebrating Christmas. But someday I might, because, for years, I have been thinking about that raccoon waddling out our yard and down the street with that gingerbread house. You get the idea—things come to me in weird ways. I must admit, also, that I read a tremendous amount. I read everything—novels, non-fiction, newspapers. Reading gives me a lot of ideas.
How do you name your characters?
Well, names just sort of come to me. I might hear a name I particularly like and say, “okay that might work for this story.” Since I write a lot of historical fiction, I often look for old fashioned names.
How do you think up the titles for your books?
My husband! My husband is the best title-maker going. Once in great while I’ll think up a title. The odd thing about that is, usually, a title is thought up after an author has finished writing a book. But, when I think of a title myself, I think of it when I first decide to write a book.
How long does it take you to write a book?
Anywhere from six weeks to six months. After I finish writing, it goes to the publishers who edit it, I do revisions, and they read it again. So, it takes at least another nine months to a year before it comes out.
What’s the best advice you can give me if I want to become a writer?
READ READ READ! And read widely. Read novels, read newspapers, read science, and read history. If you read, you learn how to build characters, structure a story, and handle a plot. So READ!
If I become a writer, will I get rich?
As my friend Lois Lowry said, “if you want to get rich, become an orthodontist.” Don’t become a writer because you want to get rich. Become a writer because there‘s a story inside of you that has to get out. Or maybe in a way, it’s the reverse. I sometimes think of stories as visitors knocking at my door, and I just have to let them in and make them feel at home.
Where can I buy your books?
Ask for my books at your favorite local bookstore.
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