This week I’m delighted to have an interview with fellow indie author Kate M. Colby and I’d like to say a huge thank you to Kate for taking the time to answer my questions. Kate is the author of the terrific new adult steampunk dystopian novel The Cogsmith’s Daughter, the first in the Desertera series and has recently published 100 General Creative Writing Prompts so you never need be stuck for your next writing idea! You can find out more about Kate and her books at her website katemcolby.com.
1) What inspired you to become a writer? Was it always something you wanted to do?
I’ve wanted to be a writer for almost as long as I remember. I think my love for storytelling began with my mom, as she would read to me every night before bed…until I started reading (or making up!) stories for her instead. When I was eight, my teacher had us write and illustrate our own picture books. Mine was about a young girl escaping a plantation and following the Big Dipper to freedom. My teacher loved it and encouraged me to keep writing. And I did.
2) You studied Creative Writing as part of your degree, along with English Literature and Sociology. How useful was the Creative Writing component to what you are doing now and would you advise other people to study Creative Writing?
My academic training in Creative Writing has definitely been helpful. Ironically, my poetry classes have helped more than my fiction courses, as they allowed me to hone my descriptive abilities and sharpen my word choice skills. Though, of course, studying the basic elements of fiction and storytelling was a huge help as well. Would I advise others to study Creative Writing? Not necessarily. To be a Creative Writing student, I think you should “be” a writer in spirit. But to be a writer, I don’t think you need to be (or have been) a Creative Writing student. If you can tell a good story, that’s the main thing. Given time and practice, you can learn the nuances of writing and the rules of grammar in other ways (online courses, reference books, from your editor), but studying it will definitely fast-track your abilities.
3) You published The Cogsmith’s Daughter in 2015. Without giving away the plot, can you tell us a bit about the book, its ideas and inspirations please?
My initial inspiration for The Cogsmith’s Daughter came from The Arabian Nights. In that tale, the king believes that women cannot be faithful. Therefore, to avoid being cheated on, he marries virgins, then has them executed the morning after the marriage is consummated. After proofreading several student reviews (I was working as an aide to the English department at my university), I thought to myself: What if his practices were the law? What if adultery were punishable by death? And that is how the concept of The Cogsmith’s Daughter was born. However, being a sociology fan, I worked in several themes beyond morality and criminality. You’ll also see themes relating to bodily- and self-empowerment, social stratification, and the line between independence and romance.
4) What does your writing process look like? Do you plot everything out and then write the first draft, or do you let the story take shape as you write?
I like to do a lot of internal processing before I begin writing. I’ll let my plot points, characters, and themes stew before I write anything down. When I do plot, I always plan the beginning, middle, and ending. In fact, usually I know the ending of the story first. I try to plot as much as I can, but if my characters want to take a little side journey, I let them. Some of my favorite scenes have emerged organically as I was writing, without my even realizing what was happening.
5) Who are your favourite authors? Do you take inspiration from other books, films, real life, or a combination of all three?
As far as classic authors go, I’m a sucker for William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Jane Austen. I just love the way they weave words together. As for modern authors, I’m really big into reading fellow indie authors right now. I’ve recently discovered Hugh Howey, and his high-concept dystopian worlds and straight-forward style are right up my alley. Overall, I take inspiration from all forms of art. Most of my science fiction inspiration comes from movies and events that happen to me in real life (I’ve got a great urban fantasy novel brewing after living in a city for the first time!), but I also find a lot of inspiration in concept albums and powerful song lyrics.
6) You’ve embraced the world of indie publishing. What do you see as the main benefits to being an indie author and what advice would you give to someone just starting out, especially if they’re trying to combine writing with a day job?
The two main benefits of being an independent author are creative freedom (aka control) and flexibility. As an indie, I can write whatever I want, help design my own covers, and set any pricing and marketing plans I like. At the same time, I can change anything I’ve done at any point. My biggest advice to aspiring indie authors is to figure out your publishing route. Some authors choose to do everything (editing, cover design, formatting) as cheaply as possible, with the intention to “upgrade” later. Others shell out a decent amount of cash and put out the highest possible quality product from day one. Both have pros and cons, and you have to figure out what works for your budget and ego. Also, learn all you can from books, blogs, and podcasts, and never be afraid to ask other indies for help. We’re very friendly!
7) Finally, you’re obviously a very busy person, but how do you like to relax when you’re not working?
In my downtime, I enjoy spending time with my husband and our feline son, Thomas. We watch (too much) Netflix, which I try to justify as “research” if the show or movie is science fiction in nature. I also enjoy playing video games, wine tasting, antiquing, and traveling.