By: E.Oberio / March 16, 2017
I am so delighted to interview today, Katie Epstein, author of “Strike At Midnight”.
Hi! Katie. Thank you so much for granting us this interview. Would you please tell us a bit about your latest fantasy novel?
My latest novel is a fantasy romance that is a twist on the fairy tale of Cinderella. In this version, it tells the story of Rella Rosewood who is a renegade hunter in the kingdom of Carena. She’s been hired to investigate a potential imposter of the Duke of York, and she reluctantly dons a ball gown and her glass slippers as she goes undercover. From then on, the mystery deepens as she continues to investigate, all while she is trying to escape the happy ever after that is hot on her heels. She’s a complex character with her pale pink hair and foul mouth, but the way she deals with being thrown into the world of the upper classes is literally quite laughable – in a good way.
Tell us, have you ever gone on a literary pilgrimage in order to write a book?
I love to go to forests and old buildings to embrace the feel of what people would experience with those environments around them day after day. A lot of the places I write about are fictional, so if you ever hear of a fairy tale kingdom or portal to another dimension, please, please let me know!
Well as a matter of fact, I do! So, tell us, does writing energize or exhaust you?
If it’s the right book, it energizes me. I get pulled in so easily that the time just flies by. If I’m writing just for writing’s sake, I become so close to head butting the laptop from falling asleep.
Oh, I can relate so much to that. Tell me, what do you think are common traps for aspiring writers?
The one I fell into was thinking that because I couldn’t afford an editor, that I would have to go out there without one. Problem is, without a buffer to the outside world, I was putting myself out there in quite a naïve way. Every writer needs an editor, and there are so many affordable options out there now. I learned so much from the process, and it made me move up to the next level in being taken seriously. To me, imagination is a natural gift, however, we all have to hone our craft, and an editor will help you do that.
I agree. Let me ask you this, did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
That’s what I wanted when I first started out. I loved the name Nina Vale, and I may still use that in the future if I do a complete U-turn with the genres I write. I do prefer writing under my own name as it feels a little bit more personal for me; as if to say ‘I achieved that’. Me. Katie Epstein. Here I am!
Well, that’s quite a lovely pseudonynm. Now, if you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Read lots of books. Read everything you can get your hands to inspire you. Be open to learning and know that the hard parts of the journey tend to be the ones that teach you the most. I would tell myself to have faith, and know that things will come into fruition, you just need to be dedicated…oh…and get an editor!
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
I love the Darkness series by Stacey Marie Brown. It’s been successful in its own right from what I can tell, but it’s not in the main steam on the bookshelves for people who are browsing in the UK. It’s a brilliant urban fantasy series and one where I could not put them down. You’re so effortlessly pulled into the world that Stacey has created and it’s a killer for your social life—but very good, and highly recommended.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
I would love for it to be a unicorn. In the Prophecy Child series that I wrote, the main character, Macey Jennings, has a spirit guide of sorts in the form of a unicorn called Dula. Dula is so beautifully wise and pure with her words, that you can’t help but be drawn to the innocence of her presence. I would also choose an owl if I could, more so to keep me in check when I procrastinate (I do that a lot.)
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
The hardest part about writing from a male character’s perspective is making sure that he has a realistic balance of both his masculine and feminine sides. He needs to be able to support and nurture his female counterpart—as does she with him—but he also needs to have some grit, in my opinion, to give him an edge to be a suitable enough hero for the story. I do appreciate that a lot of my characters come through as they are without me having much of a say in it, so that takes some of the pressure off.
Did you edit anything out of this book?
Strike at Midnight had a completely different stance from about the third of the way through. After my own concerns were confirmed through beta reader feedback, I changed it so it didn’t feel rushed and made it so it fell more in line with the main character. I wasn’t impressed when it added another twenty thousand words over my target though.
How do you select the names of your characters?
Sometimes the names just pop into my head, and other times I need to go online and look at names that may suit a particular person—especially if that person is of a different species. I’ve also learned my lesson the hard way and made sure that the characters’ names begin with different letters, as much as possible. In the Prophecy Child series, you have a Luanne, Lucifer, Leo and a Loretta. I didn’t realize it until I was well into book two, and I made a bit of joke out of it in somewhere in the story when three of the ‘L’s were sitting together. Petty things such as that wouldn’t really matter in real life, but they can be amplified in books, and for me, this was one of them.
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
I’ve spent a lot of my working life in an office where I was drawn to problem-solving tasks with putting new processes and systems in place. I liked how it allowed me some creative freedom in developing some of those systems, but I struggled a little with the limited boundaries of it due to the industry. I would have also liked to have gone into acting, given the choice, or video directing. Once upon a time, I would have loved to have created music videos that told a story of the song.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I have to read them. It’s like a twisted curiosity where you need to see it, but you know it’s going to affect you. Nobody wants a bad review, but sometimes they are the wake- up call you need. I don’t like it when people feel the need to attack without any constructive criticism. But unfortunately, you’re never going to avoid those kinds of reviews and you just have to believe in the positive ones. Positive doesn’t always mean ‘Wow, that was the best book ever’ either. It can be the one that tells you where you could improve or what could have been better, and those ones are the best teachers.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
In one of the future books I plan to write as part of the Far Far Away series, every name that’s used for people from a certain kingdom will mean water of some kind when referenced. It was fun researching that one! And very, shall we say, eye opening.
What was your hardest scene to write?
Oh this one is easy. There are two things in this world that really creep me out: zombies and serial killers. Why I would then choose to write about a serial killer in the current series I’m writing, well, I’ll never know. I researched what I could without crying, then I stepped into the metaphorical energy of the killer alongside my main character. I struggled with it, and afterwards, I needed to step back and take a time out. I also jumped at every noise and armed myself with something random each time my fear level escalated. Sometimes, having a very vivid imagination is not fun.
I love the last line you said. Tell us, what is your favorite childhood book?
I’ve always loved fairy tales. From a young age, I’ve been obsessed with the different versions that have been spun by people such as the Grimm brothers and Disney. I’m a terrible romantic at heart, but on the other side of the coin, I’m also a feminist. Fairy tales can swing on both sides of the pendulum and be told in so many different ways. I think that’s why I love them so much.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
The writing part. I know—don’t laugh—but it is. The research, the character development, the plotting, is the fun part where you’re starting to gather the ingredients to put them in the pot to simmer. The writing part, however, that’s all about making the magic happen and getting it right. It’s the part where the hard work is needed, and you have to focus yourself so you can weave the story into something that does the characters and the ideas justice.
I agree that writing takes a lot of hard work, but what do you love most about writing?
I love to see what happens in the story. It’s my biggest motivation, and there has been times when my mouth has fell open in shock. Really. But it’s not because I don’t plot it out, because I do, and in essence I kind of know what’s going to happen. However, the outline and the real thing where the layers are added, are two separate things, and watching the story unravel is so magical to me.
What does literary success look like to you?
People reading the book. End of. If people aren’t reading it, then your characters don’t have a voice and your story isn’t getting told. You put so much of yourself into a book, and it’s as if you’ve been through the adventure yourself by the end of it. You want people to find something within it that resonates with them, and to give them a story that they can escape into with you. The more people I can do that with, the better. There isn’t much that can beat talking to people who want to speak about your book and the characters without rolling their eyes—it’s a novelty, trust me!
Where can readers find more about you and your work?
I have a blog on my website that features regular updates and articles, and all the titles that are currently out now are on there too. Strike at Midnight will be at a reduced price on the 25th & 26th March 2017 if you get a chance to check it out.
Alternatively, both me and my books can be found on the following social networking sites:
Thank you very much for sharing your wonderful insights, Katie.
Please grab a copy of “Strike at Midnight” available now at Amazon at: http://amzn.to/2mK8xbo