It’s such a pleasure featuring Kat on my blog today! She’s the author of the young adult speculative series, Toch Island Chronicles (which you can read here on Amazon or here on B&N). She’s popped in for a fun interview, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
Kara Swanson: What’s a little-known fact about you?
Kat Heckenbach: I think I’m pretty transparent. Most people who have known me in person or followed me online know my obsessions with Harry Potter, Doctor Who, and Warehouse 13, and my love of dragons and beetles. They know I homeschool my kids, have a bunch of piercings, listen to punk rock, and am an artist who paints fantasy and sci-fi stuff and makes wands. I’m equally right-brained and left-brained, equally math/science and language/art, and equally INTJ and INFJ on the Myers-Briggs. Hm…but something most probably don’t know is I hate playing video games, but am completely addicted to an app/game called Dragonvale. Also, even though I’ve lived in Florida my whole life, I could never go to the beach and be perfectly content.
That’s so interesting! I love Doctor Who as well 🙂 And was homeschooled…
KS: If you could meet one movie character, who would it be?
KH: Can’t I just be plunked down in Hogwarts and meet everyone there? Seriously, it’s a hard call between Hermione Granger, Hagrid, and Professor McGonagall. Hermione because I think we’d get along really well. Hagrid because he could show me all the cool creatures. And McGonagall because I think she’d be fascinating to learn from.
Don’t hate me but…I’m actually not a huge Harry Potter fan. I’ve never read the books or anything. But from what I have heard of Hermoine, she seems pretty cool.
KS: Chocolate or Vanilla? (Is this a trick question? 😉 )
KH: Actually, mint chocolate chip :). Or mocha. Has to be coconut milk ice cream, though, because I am allergic to dairy.
Oh that sounds so yummm! And I’m technically supposed to avoid dairy as well, so I understand your pain :)KS: What novels have impacted your writing?
KS: What novels have impacted your writing?
KH: I think A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels, by Madeleine L’Engle, would be first on the list. I’ve had more than one reader comment that my writing in reminiscent of hers. Which I take as the best compliment ever. I mean, I’m a giant Harry Potter fan (and I think that is reflected in my writing, although hopefully not derivatively so) but my writing style is so different from those books. Another influence I think may be the Inkheart series by Cornelia Funke.
I LOVE Inkheart! And have A Wrinkle In Time on my list 🙂
KS: Who was your favorite character to write and why?
KH: That’s easy: Melinda. She shows up in Seeking Unseen (book 2 of Toch Island Chronicles). As straight-laced as Angel is, Melinda is a trouble-maker. She’s snarky and at times even a bit rude, but she’s just looking to be accepted for who she is. She’s smart and talented, but hides that behind a tough exterior. It was so fun watching her grow during the series. I originally had no intention of writing in her point of view, or making her such a major character, but she just took over.
I have a character who’s like that! Snarky and troubled, but that’s what makes her so interesting. I feel like Noel and Melinda would be friends 😉
KS: What is the biggest way that your novel has changed from the first draft?
KH: My first novel, Finding Angel, was called “wordy” by all my alpha readers. I think at one point it was up to nearly 120,000 words. By the end of all the editing and rewriting, it ended up 93,000 words. The story itself never changed, though. I just got rid of the unnecessary descriptions and redundancy. Now, I fight to work the other way. I tend to write lean and have to go in and beef things up.
KS: What theme that’s been woven into your novel are you most passionate about?
KH: To be honest, I’m not really sure what themes Finding Angel presents. My inspiration came from my passion for science from a creationist perspective. I explore that symbolically by showing a world in which some believe magic and science must be separate, while others see that science is a part of magic.
What a unique perspective for a fantasy novel!
KS: How do you find time to write?
KH: In the beginning, I was just so driven to write, I never thought about finding time. Now that I’ve been writing for several years, and my kids, whom I homeschool, are older, it’s harder. I don’t have nearly as much time. I have to worry about things like marketing, and our lives in general are so busy. I force myself to set aside time whenever I can, though. No rhyme or reason, just squeezing it in during my day.
I can understand that!
KS: What does your writing process look like?
KH: It starts with a general idea for the novel. I have characters and a situation. I don’t even begin writing until I’ve figured out how the book will end, and maybe a few key plot points. I scribble everything down in a spiral notebook. Not a full outline, just bit and pieces. Then I start writing. As I work through the story, I continue to add ideas to the notebook. Scenes I know must happen, clues that must be placed, and things like lines of dialog that come to me out of nowhere. At some point, as the notebook gets more full, I start shifting some of that information to an outline and/or index cards. The cards help me to shift order of events around, and place tidbits near the scenes they should be part of.
Once the whole first draft is written, I set it aside for a while. Then, I pull it back out and do some self-editing and rewriting as necessary. When I feel like I don’t really know what else it needs, I hand it off to my critique partners and let them tear it apart.
Oooh…so interesting! You’re like a hybrid of pantsing and plotting. 🙂
KS: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
KH: Learn to discern. There are so many different kinds of authors, different ways of tackling your projects, different types of writing, different target audiences. You have to align what you do with what works for what you do. This means taking advice that will help you with your personal writing journey, your voice, your genre, your audience, etc., and disregarding advice that will not.
I absolutely agree. Finding your niche and learning how to hone your skills there is such a vital part of writing. Thanks Kat for joining me! 🙂
Want to know more about Kat’s series? Check out her first book here…