Author Q&A: Katharine Kerr

Time for a new feature on the blog! I'm hoping to make this a monthly thing, but for that to happen I need authors to interview. So if you know of anyone who would be willing to answer a few questions, send them my way!

So as this is our first author Q&A, it's only fitting that we have my favorite author as the first victim interviewee! That's right, Katharine "Kit" Kerr graciously agreed to answer five questions about her past and current work, among other things.

Kit's first published book was Daggerspell, which spawned a 15-book series that most of her readers just refer to as "The Deverry Series." In addition to this epic fantasy series, she has written several science fiction novels, and most recently has been working on a set of urban fantasy novels set around Nola O'Grady, a psychic investigator for a secret government agency that even the CIA doesn't know exists. The first book, License to Ensorcell was released this February, and the latest was just released this week: Water to Burn. The next book in the series is due out in February. Also of note, all of the Deverry novels are now available in e-book format in the US!

Are you ready for some questions?

Q: After decades of writing fantasy and science fiction, what led you to your latest series of urban fantasy?  Was it a genre you set out to write intentionally, or did it just evolve into what it is now?

A: I intended to write in the genre.  I'd pretty much done what I wanted to do in Epic Fantasy, and Hard SF is not really my thing.  The idea of Urban Fantasy intrigued me, though I wanted to do something very different from what I'd seen already published.  No zombies need apply, for one thing!  One night I heard a voice in my head saying "I'd just gotten out of the shower when the angel appeared", and Nola introduced herself to me.  We were off and running.

Q: You frequently say on your blog that your characters write the story for you, and that you often don't know where the story is headed until they tell you.  How does this approach to writing affect the editing process?  Do you find it more difficult to change things when the characters led you in that direction originally?

A:  This approach makes the revising process more difficult, I suppose, but I've always written this way.  I usually revise a book several times before an editor even sees it.  Once I have a heap of material, I have to shape and prune it.  My rough drafts are like neglected gardens -- overgrown and too crowded.

The characters can be very insistent, and they usually win.  Ari, for instance, was supposed to go home to Israel at the end of License to Ensorcell and stay there.  He insisted on coming back, and as he usually does, he got his way, because I could not write a word of the Big Farewell Scene, while the Big Return Scene practically wrote itself.  This left me scrambling to explain how he managed to come back against all rational police procedures.  (It becomes clear at the beginning of Book 3.)

Q: Your Deverry series has been released in a few different editions.  How have the books changed between publications?  Are there still things you would change about them today given the chance?

A: Only the first two books have changed.  Since Daggerspell was the first book I ever had published, it was clumsy in places, and Darkspell had real problems in one section.  When Bantam offered me the chance to revise, I jumped at it.  All the other books are the same in all editions, although the HarperCollins versions have British spelling throughout.  I would definitely rewrite Darkspell's "1060's" sections if 1)I had the chance; 2)it wouldn't be kind of silly of me, after all these years of it being out in the revised edition.

Q: You are a very vocal supporter of BookViewCafe.com, a distributor of e-books.  How do you feel e-books have changed the market for your books?  How do you see e-books changing the face of publishing? 

A: I haven't really seen enough yet to answer those questions!  I like BookViewCafe because it's an author-run, all volunteer co-op.  I definitely approve of authors taking charge of their books.  But it's way too soon to see if it will succeed in any large way.  E-books in general will, I think, replace certain kinds of mass market paperbacks -- the "fast reads", the sort of things that no one reads more than once.  They still have real disadvantages, however, even for that kind of book.  You can't sell a used e-book, nor can you give it or lend it to a friend.

Q: Several of your books are out of print.  What is your opinion of this practice?  Do you feel it benefits or harms the author when a book goes out of print?  Does it change anything for you or are you far enough along in new material that it doesn't really matter?

A:  It definitely harms the author because the o.p. book stops bringing in revenue.  If the book's a stand-alone, that's bad enough.  With a series, however, having some but not all books go out of the print is frightening.  If readers can't find the entire series, they won't buy any of the books in that series.  Soon enough the whole thing disappears.  When you consider that a well-written series takes years of an author's life, that's really sad.  It gives the author a feeling of real futility, kind of like a divorce would.  Years of your life have disappeared.

Not that publishers care, of course.  They pull books out of print quickly when sales drop below a certain level.  I've known authors who had the first or second book of a trilogy pulled o.p. even when the publisher knew that Book 3 was going to be published soon.  Which meant, of course, that Book 3 was an abject failure -- and the publisher blamed the authors.  However, this is one place where e-books might really help authors.  Keeping an e-book "in print" costs the publisher nothing.




A giant thank you to Kit for answering my questions and hopefully enlightening some of my readers on the writing process, the difficulties authors face in the book markets today, and what a fun person she truly is.  And if you're an author who would like to participate, please feel free to send me an e-mail!  That's all for now!  Look out for another post like this, hopefully next month!

Comments

  1. Great stuff! Gotta love it when an honest-to-goodness best-selling author shows up on your blog! I think Ms. Kerr should grab those out-of-print books with both hands and publish them as eBooks herself! It's a steep learning curve to start with, but quite satisfying (and potentially profitable). Good luck with the blog interviews Megan, I find it fascinating to read how a top author creates their work. I never knew 'make it up as you go' was allowed! What a great way to write the books you want to write.

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  2. Thanks Tony! I really enjoyed coming up with questions for Kit, and I hope to have the opportunity with other authors soon!

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  3. Great work!

    Loved your questions, and wonderful answers.... now i'm itching to see kit's unrevised work, just to get an idea of her process.... hurhurhur.

    yeah, i'm a busybody like that ;D

    -Fazy

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  4. Fazy, I'd LOVE to see that myself!

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