Things I Wish I Knew: Q&A with author Karen Katchur

Ever wonder how published authors balance writing and the rest of their lives? Or what it’s like to have that breakthrough moment with a manuscript? Karen Katchur, author of THE SECRETS OF LAKE ROAD (St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne), has some answers for you. Karen’s first novel THE SECRETS OF LAKE ROAD was declared a “Best Summer Debut” by Library Journal. Her next novel is set to be published in early 2017. Follow her on Twitter.

On writing schedules, inspiration, advice to her former self, and the rollercoaster of emotions that is writing…here’s a Q&A with Karen Katchur:

What is some advice you’d go back and give your unpublished self?

The only thing I can think of is to stop worrying so much. Control what I can. And stop worrying about the things I can’t. I have a feeling I’ll be telling my future self this as well. It’s something I need to work on.

What does a typical writing day look like for you?

My writing days all start the same. I exercise first thing in the morning after the kiddos leave for school. It’s during this time that I think about what I’m working on that day whether it’s a particular scene, or character, or plot point. Then I take notes before hopping in the shower. Sometimes I come up with the best ideas in the shower! I don’t think I’m alone in this. I sit at my desk for the rest of the day until my kiddos get home from school. Some days I’m able to get another hour or two of writing time in after they’re home. On a typical day I write anywhere from three to six hours. That’s not to say some of those hours aren’t spent staring at a blank page on the computer screen!

How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

Since my schedule revolves around my family’s schedule, I have to be flexible. And balancing the house chores, the kids, the pets, etc… is a daily battle. Some days I succeed and some days I don’t. I think it’s about prioritizing. If a deadline is approaching then the cleaning and laundry and other daily chores have to wait. Also, unless I have a deadline looming, I only write Monday through Friday. I take weekends off to spend with my family. I find I need the break from whatever I’m working on to think and come back to it with fresh eyes. I don’t subscribe to the “write every day” rule. I need time away from the writing in order to think, to feel, to figure out my characters, their motivations, the plot or whatever it is I’m working on.

Can you describe a moment when you’ve had a “breakthrough” with your
manuscript?

There’s such a feeling of euphoria when things finally click whether it’s with understanding your character, or getting yourself out of a plot hole. While I was writing THE SECRETS OF LAKE ROAD, I remember struggling with the plot and trying to find a way to connect the past and present mysteries that felt natural for the story. I think I brainstormed with you, Carly! I can’t reveal what we came up with since I don’t want to give anything away, but it was such an easy fix because the groundwork was already there, and it made sense for the story. It’s on those days you feel brilliant. Nothing can stop you! Until the next problem with the character or plot or setting or whatever. It truly is an emotional rollercoaster hitting all the highs and lows. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said, Why am I doing this to myself? And then I have a day where it all comes together, and I’m like, Oh yeah, that’s why!

What are you reading now?

I just finished THE GOOD GOODBYE, by Carla Buckley- fantastic read! And I’m just starting PRETTY GIRLS, by Karin Slaughter. Up next, ONE MORE DAY, by Kelly Simmons

Karen Katchur is a full-time fiction writer and winner of a short story award. She is an active member in both the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and Romance Writers of America and has held various board positions in the local chapter, Pocono Lehigh Romance Writers. When she’s not reading or writing, she instructs fitness classes and holds a M. Ed in Health and Physical Education as well as a B.S. in Criminal Justice. She lives in Eastern Pennsylvania with her husband and two daughters.

Further reading: Karen Katchur in Writer’s Digest

“This beautiful, heartbreaking, and affecting debut, reminiscent of the work of Heather ­Gudenkauf, will have readers craving more from Katchur.” – Library Journal

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Juggling Your Creative Life

34d4f71fc9ac164fd6af6bc5770ca7e4One of the hardest things about being a creative person/writer/artist etc. is balance. When you work from home sometimes family members don’t know your boundaries. When you love your job sometimes it’s hard to stop working when your desk is always in the other room. Tell me in the comments what the hardest part of the “creative juggling balance” is for you.

Tips for Juggling Your Creative Life

  • Give yourself a schedule. I always advise writers to treat writing like a job if they want it to be a career. If you want it to be a hobby (and in that case, an agent might not be right for you at this time) then you can treat it like a hobby. But the only way to get writing done is to do it.
  • But remember to define your work day by what feels right–beginnings and endings don’t always start at 9 and end at 5. In fact, it’s nearly impossibly to write that long every day.
  • So, what is your word count goal? 1000 words? If it’s done in 1 hour or 5 hours you can pat yourself on the back.
  • Have a defined space that your family and friends are aware of. Laptops are great for being able to pick up and go to the coffee shop, but they make it challenging for your family to understand the divide if you type from your lap in the living room. Try a desktop if you’re having trouble setting physical limits.
  • Remember: your book should always be your #1 priority if you’re writing fiction. Blogging and social media aren’t going to write your novel for you. (Non fiction writers, platform is equally important so you stick to that community building!)
  • Do yourself and favor and read BIG MAGIC by Elizabeth Gilbert. Her point of view on creativity and inspirational guidance is unparalleled and you won’t regret it. Even better: listen to her MAGIC LESSONS podcast too!
  • A book can be written in 10 years or in 1 month. It’s all about the time you give and that’s up to you. Remember that everyone is busy. Every. Single. Person. How do writers get books written? They simply make time and write. Sacrifices will be made and it’s up to you which those are–but in order to make a career of this priority has to be given to the craft.
  • Do you feel guilty when you work on your writing because you could be doing other things for your family/friends? Don’t. Your family and friends want you to be happy and they want to spend time with you when you’re at your best–which means: when you are living a fulfilled life creatively. If you are in your best place you’ll be more fun to hang out with anyway. (Resentment never looks good on anyone. It can build fast and take years to chip away.)

Don’t forget: Tell me in the comments what the hardest part of the “creative juggling balance” is for you.

 

Balance and Backstory

Still confused about backstory, how much to include, and where to add it? Think of the plot like an engine pushing the story along:

“Because fiction requires a mighty engine to thrust it ahead—and take the reader along for the ride—backstory if used incorrectly, can stall a story. A novel with too little backstory can be thin and is likely to be confusing. By the same token, a novel with too much backstory can lack suspense. […] Remember this: The fantasy world of your story will loom larger in your imagination than it will on the page. Continue reading Balance and Backstory