Subscribe to Jessica's exclusive newsletter

Subscribe to Jessica's newsletter

* indicates required

Monday, March 28, 2016

Interview with Mystery/Thriller Author Katherine Hayton

As if having Awash in Talent accepted for publication wasn’t thrilling enough, with it came acceptance into the literary community of Kindle Press authors. It’s my pleasure to present some of their wonderful work for you here.

New Zealand author Katherine Hayton writes thrilling mysteries. The Three Deaths of Magdalene Lynton, in which a detective must solve a cold case or meet the same fate as the victim, will be published by Kindle Press tomorrow and is already available for preorder.

JK: Tell us about your last release.

Katherine Hayton: Breathe and Release is about a woman who wakes in hospital with amnesia, and the parallel story of a woman who is being held captive in an underground cell. Can she remember in time? Can she escape her prison? Can everyone hold their breaths long enough to get to the end of the book? All these and other questions can be answered by purchasing a copy.

JK: What are you working on now?

KH: I’m working on a sequel to The Three Deaths of Magdalene Lynton called The Second Stage of Grief. (That’s the stage with all the anger and the resentment and the “how dare you die” kind of stuff going on, so expect a fair bit of inflicting misery on other people.) It should be off to the editor for April so I can sit back and relax for a few minutes before I start drafting a brief outline for the third Ngaire Blakes Mystery.

JK: You’ve met with great writing success recently. Is your life anything like it was two years ago?

KH: Oh yes, but with slightly less time. I thought the writing was the hard part, and then I found out about the marketing and the website and the maintenance and the panels and the promotions and the... Changed for the better, obviously!

JK: What part of the writing process do you dread?

KH: Which bit am I working on now? That bit. That bit sucks the bomb.

JK: Any weird writing rituals to get you through those tough spots?

KH: Why? What do you mean? Who’s looking? Nothing that seems weird to me. I do talk to myself a lot, usually when I’m typing, but I’m happy to do that in front of people as well, so I don’t think that counts.

JK: What is your favorite quote and why?

KH: It’s never too late to be the person you always wanted to be – George Elliot. I think I like it because I’ve started again later in life to try to make something of myself, and this saying reminds me that I can keep doing that until I’m dead.

JK: What are your future ambitions?

KH: I’m looking forward to when I can retire from work. I enjoy my day job a lot most of the time, but I think I’d prefer working if I didn’t have to. Like volunteering for things. You stand on a street corner with a bucket and the job sucks for the most part, but if you turn in your bucket and walk away when you feel like it, what are they gonna do? Yeah. That’s some awesome power there. Going in every day to a job you enjoy but which you can walk out of at a moment’s notice if it comes down to it. That would be good. Anyone reading this, if you’d like me to experience this as a reality please feel free to order thousands of copies of my book so I can bring my retirement date forward. You’re awesome. No you are.

JK: Are you a romantic?

KH: Ahhhh, no. I’m a realist. A realist who would actually appreciate it if her partner bought her flowers for her birthday or her anniversary or just because once in a while. But not in a romantic way. In a “Look at what I got while you received nothing you bunch of losers—In Your Face” kind of way. Maybe I’m a competitive romantic?

JK: Let’s test that theory. What is the sweetest thing someone has done for you?

KH: Stayed with me for twenty years.

JK: Aww. You might be a romantic. Let’s test you again. What’s the best movie ever made? 

KH: Being John Malkovich. And why? Malkovich. Malkovich. Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich. And that bit about the 13th and a half floor was genius. And making Cameron Diaz look frumpy. How’d they manage that? And dropping out of the Malkovich dimension onto the New Jersey turnpike. You can’t write that stuff. Well, you may be able to if your name’s Charlie Kaufman, but I can’t write that stuff.

JK: I adore Malkovich and Charlie Kaufman’s writing, too. They way they follow their own illogic while always inviting the viewer to come along for the ride is something I’m always aiming for in my writing.

Thank you so much for stopping by. All best for your Kindle Press release, The Three Deaths of Magdalene Lynton.

Find out about Katherine’s latest work and sign up for her mailing list at her website. She’s always ready to share short stories and funny thoughts with her readers.

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Fourth Largest Book Festival in the United States

Partial view of the Tucson Festival of Books from the second floor
of the student union 
Only the fourth largest? In its eighth year and looking forward to the ninth, the Tucson Festival of Books sees more than 130,000 visitors over two days, with hundreds of workshops and exciting author events.

This year has been my third time at the festival, but the first time I enjoyed it as a reader only. In 2011, I was pushing my own boundaries by volunteering to run some events at the festival, and in 2012, I volunteered and helped out at the Fireship Press booth. Unforgettably wonderful experiences, yes. But the freedom of being able to do what I wanted (and especially to get out of the burning sunlight whenever necessary) combined with showing my mother around the festival—she bought a wondrous quantity of books—to create bookish bliss.

Mystery authors J. A. Jance, Margaret Coel, and Anne Hillerman
at Southwest Women of Mystery 
First, we attended a panel called "Southwest Women of Mystery" in a ballroom that can hold 640, and it was packed. I'm not too current on mysteries, so I had no idea these authors were so popular. Rightly so. Each author displayed a great sense of humor as well as adventure while they discussed their research, the Southwest, and the way their work is received in Native American communities. I ended the hour with huge respect for all of them.

The Fireship Press booth, with Loose Leaves titles visible 

The Writers Studio Tucson booth with festivalgoers and bright sunlight 
We used some free time after the the first event to visit my friends and associates at the Fireship Press and Writers Studio Tucson booths. Both are Tucson literary institutions not to be missed if you are a reader or a writer.

Next my mother and I had tickets for a session titled "Star Wars, the Shannara Chronicles, and Outlander: From Book to Screen and Back." If I thought the first event was packed, I stood corrected at this one. Everyone in the state of Arizona wanted to hear this talk. Under any other circumstances, Terry Brooks (author of the Shannara Chronicles) and Chuck Wendig (author of a ton of great stuff, including the novelization of The Phantom Menace) could fill a stadium by themselves. But they were sharing a panel with someone who commanded every reader's rapt attention. When Diana Gabaldon is in the room, anyone else is forgotten.

Terry Brooks, the moderator, and Chuck Wendig wait to the side of
Diana Gabaldon's celebrity. 
Diana Gabaldon graciously humors one of her many admirers. 
Diana Gabaldon's approach to the event was a study in literary celebrity. When she appeared from the ready room, the auditorium applauded. Then, as regal as you please, she walked slowly down the aisles, allowing the masses to take her picture as she processed. It wasn't over when she went to stand next to her copanelists. That was when the queue formed for taking selfies with the famous author. Festival volunteers had to call and end to it so the panel could actually start.

Diana Gabaldon talked about the Starz adaptation of her Outlander series, Terry Brooks shared his experience with the brand new adaptation of his Shannara Chronicles, and Chuck Wendig discussed his graphic novel Star Wars adaptations, thus the "From Book to Screen and Back" title. I adore Chuck Wendig's general wisdom and appreciated the practical way he answered an audience question about film rights. Upshot: make sure you get paid for all your rights. Terry Brooks was amazing, too, with his quips about the adaptation process and a striptease that ended at a T-shirt reading "The book was better." Diana Gabaldon got the most questions and I heard a level of detail to be expected only from utterly obsessed fans, which all of them appear to be.

The best thing about this panel was that finally, after years of my fruitless efforts to convince my mother of this fact, she said, "I guess the book and the movie are different formats and you can't really judge them by each other." Amen! If Diana Gabaldon says it, it must be true.

Charlie Lovett, the UA professor moderator, Carol Goodman, and
Jennifer Lee Carrell at Shakespeare Mysteries 
After a sack lunch and a yummy gelato from Frost, we went to a session in one of the large tents. The attraction for a panel called "Shakespeare Mysteries" was the Shakespeare part. A First Folio had been residing in Tucson for the past month and there was a big Shakespeare theme at the festival, including a booth where you could put on a ruff and crown and take your selfie with Will. Among other accomplishments, these three authors had written mystery novels with Shakespeare as a character or based on his writings. As a historical fiction lover, I was salivating over their ideas and research process and was dying to buy their books. We did, and got them signed. Where else can you do that in such a gluttonously huge quantity?

Marja Mills speaks about her relationship with Harper Lee and her family. 
We started the second day at the Arizona Daily Star tent. We didn't know with what authority Marja Mills would be talking about Harper Lee, and we didn't count on the tent being so totally packed. It was silly of us. Of course everyone wants to know what Marja Mills thinks about Harper Lee: she lived next door to her and her sister for a year and a half! Marja wove a tale of a charming pair of brilliant sisters who could tell you stories for hours on end, and a town where everyone was in everyone's business. Most importantly to me, Marja believes Harper Lee wasn't in favor of the publication of Go Set a Watchman, but what's done is done.

The Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies booth. Their imprint
Bagwyn Books is publishing my Seven Noble Knights on December 15! 
My mother has a moment with J. A. Jance. 
I think most bibliophiles would be satisfied with one of these events alone. But there's all this and so much more going on at the Tucson Festival of Books. Great local food, children's events, Science City, more bargain books than you can count, a literary circus, live music, a mariachi competition, and, and, and... This year, there was also the convenience of the First Folio being in the Arizona State Museum, which is walking distance from the festival. So we started with contemporary mysteries and ended with the Bard himself. No wonder it takes a week to recover.

See you in 2017!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Today at Unusual Historicals: First Ladies

Unusual Historicals is celebrating Women's History Month with a series of posts about "First Ladies." My humble contribution is up today. It's about the woman who married Count García Fernández and gave him six children, Ava de Ribagorza. Was she or wasn't she a traitor to Castile? The world may never know, but I explore what little we know of her contribution here.

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Great Things to Come

Drowning in anticipation. 
UPDATE: At 4:12 p.m. in my time zone, I had Kindle Press's decision. Awash in Talent is going to be published by Kindle Press! I'm in very pleasant shock. Thank you all so much to all of Awash in Talent's supporters. I hope to personally thank those of you I'm already in contact with; if we aren't already corresponding, drop me a line. Yippee!

As of this writing, I haven't had word as to whether or not Awash in Talent will be published by Kindle Press as a result of its Kindle Scout campaign. As I wrote last week, there were a lot of unexpected elements about this experience, moments in which to learn important lessons. The last unexpected aspect has been that it would take more than a few days to be handed a decision.

Of course I'm searching for meaning in the silence. For example, I know an author who was published by Kindle Press with statistics of being Hot & Trending almost half the duration of his Kindle Scout campaign. On the other hand, we have this author's campaign, in which she was Hot & Trending 98% of the time and was still not picked up. Maybe there's something to the idea that only authors who are already popular can get this contract. (What's the point of attracting those of us who haven't yet found the success we desire, then?)

My husband says the silence is a good sign. It takes time to decide to publish a great book. Maybe right at this moment, the editors are sitting around a conference table, and one of them is saying, "I love Awash in Talent. We should publish it, and no one here is going to stop me." I would be excited to know I had at least one editor on my side! This scenario is based on the editorial meetings we used to have at Fireship Press. I usually got the book in question pushed through, with the notable exception of one of my favorite novels of all time, The Fiery Alphabet. I had to wait until I worked with Loose Leaves, where its literary quality wasn't a liability, to make that editorial dream come true. (Fireship Press is under new management now.)

Like other waiting periods in a writer's life, this one is full of guesswork and the impossibility of processing one's delicate writer emotions or making alternative plans because without word of what's happening, we don't know which emotions to have or plans to make yet. Writers' lives are full of this kind of blank space. No wonder we so often go crazy!

I've let everyone know what I want out of my Kindle Scout campaign. I've done everything in my power, and so have many of you, who nominated Awash in Talent. It's out of our hands now. (Breathe.)

In other news:

The posts about Awash in Talent's Kindle Scout campaign were so popular that my humble blog surpassed 100,000 lifetime views. It's a thrilling milestone, and I plan to celebrate it, albeit belatedly, in April.

Next weekend is the Tucson Festival of Books, the Christmas for all Southwest book lovers. If you're in the area, see you there! I'll be recovering for a while, but will share all the fun Monday, March 21, and on Wednesday, March 16, I have a treat lined up for you with Unusual Historicals. Be sure to check back.