Kat Black's debut novel, Melting Ms Frost, hit the shelves last month. Here, she stops by to talk Frankenstein-ing characters, colour-coding her sock drawer (plus other favourite procrastination methods) and offers her best advice for aspiring novelists.
I’m very disciplined. I’m always up at the crack of dawn and bashing away non-stop at my keyboard until dusk. Well, in my good intentioned dreams at any rate. In reality, the breakdown would work out at roughly 50% of the time staring out of the window; 49% displacement activities/onlining/eating chocolate and 1% actual keyboard bashing time. Which I believe is not untypical amongst writers.
When you are writing, do you use any famous people or people you know as inspiration?
Absolutely. In rather creepy Dr Frankenstein fashion I harvest bits from here and pieces from there to stitch together and breathe life into my new, entirely unique (but hopefully not too monstrous) creations.
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
As hard as I try, I’m afraid I find this an impossible question to answer. The same with films. I wrack my brains until I think I’ve got ‘the one’ pinned down, only to find the merits of another instantly turning my head. The fact is, there are just too many stories that speak to me, and all for slightly different reasons. How is it possible, for example, to choose between one book that felt like a warm ray of hope during a dark patch, and another that instills fire and passion for adventure in your blood? Between one much loved character, who can have tears of laughter streaming down your face, and another who wrenches sobs of anguish right from your soul?
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
As a debut novelist, my process is still very much a work in progress – experimenting with both the plotter and pantser methods. Although part of me likes to feel some semblance of control with a well mapped-out course to stop me going round in circles, I’ve learnt that characters sometimes insist on taking their own paths, which can lead to unexpected discoveries. Both approaches have their benefits and, at the moment, I’m comfortable swaying on the fence between the two.
It’s hard to say how many drafts I end up doing as I’m a terrible fusser and fiddler – unable to keep from changing things as I go. But I’d guess it wouldn’t work out any anything less than three complete drafts (though I could go on editing forever and still not be happy!).
What was your journey to being a published author?
Although I’ve been writing stories all my life, it was only in the last seven or so years that I felt ready to try and make the transition from enjoying it as a hobby to turning professional. Knowing what a difficult industry it is in which to achieve even moderate success, I resisted the urge to rush right in. Determined to give myself every possible chance, I took a frustratingly methodical path instead – enrolling on a creative writing course, joining a local writers’ group, signing up to the New Writers’ Scheme with the fabulous Romantic Novelists’ Association and getting involved in various online writing communities. To try my hand at different themes and disciplines, I entered as many competitions as I could. In the hope of gaining some professional feedback, I started submitting short stories to editors at small publishing houses, who accepted manuscripts from un-agented writers. To my delight, it wasn’t long before those short stories began to get picked up, and the working relationships I’d built with editors opened doors to increasingly bigger and better opportunities.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That it’s a glamorous and easy way to fame and fortune. At least, I hope that’s a myth, and not just me doing it wrong? Any other writers out there spend most of their time locked indoors wearing pyjamas with no idea when they last saw their hairbrush? Anyone? Please?
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Take a moment to:
Absorb the fact that as per the previous question, the glamour, fame and fortune is a myth. (Maybe).
Consider that you’re very likely never to earn much more than ‘pocket money’ from your writing.
Envisage days, months, years of hair-tearing frustration, confidence-shredding rejection and bone-deep self doubt…
Then, if all you can still think about is how utterly joyful and fulfilling it would be to bring the stories in your head to life – go for it! You’ve got what it takes to be a writer.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m really busy rearranging the kitchen cupboards, colour-coding my sock drawer – oh, wait, you’re referring to the 1% writing portion of my day? Ahem. In that case, I’m elbow deep in the follow up to Melting Ms Frost, which picks up where we left off with the characters of Annabel and Aidan, and continues their tempestuous and very steamy love story.