When I *became* an author (I really should say “a published writer”), something amazing happened: I started meeting other people who wrote books, many of them my heroes. Somehow having a printed and bound edition sitting in a Barnes & Nobel brings credibility to your otherwise quite common love for writing. Admittedly, there are far better writers out there with much grander ideas. But as I frequently say to wanna’ be authors, “The only difference you and me is that I already wrote my book.”
In the course of these past two years I feel as though I’ve joined a club. An exclusive writers club. For professionals. (How did I get in?). And a club, honestly, that I feel incredibly fortunate and far from worthy to be in. It has provided me the opportunity to rub elbows (always a funny expression) with some extraordinary people. This fall, for example, I’m embarking on the second Fantasy Fiction Tour along the West Coast. Four more authors have been added to the line up including Donita K. Paul, a woman who, for all intents and purposes, has been nothing short of the Momma of Christian Fantasy. A true pioneer.
The point: The simple fact that I’ve endured the hundreds of hours of writing, drafting, editing and promoting a manuscript that a legitimate publisher deemed print worthy has given me access to some wonderful news friends. In this regard, CSFF is extremely similar–with the exception that it’s far easier. 😉
Rebecca Miller, the brain behind CSFF, started the tour in the hopes of giving a new voice to the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy genres. By encouraging an online community of people to spread the word about authors and books, she has engineered a club of enthusiastic people willing to do some great grassroots marketing. (And we love her for it!). One of the benefits is–you guessed it–getting to meet (or at least email) many of the wonderful authors the tour highlights.
Kathryn Mackel is no exception.
Kathryn is a true writer, producing and editing a vast body of work. And if not for the tour, I’d have no real reason to email her (other than as an adoring fan), nor the means to be introduced to her. But thanks to CSFF, not only are her books within easy reach, but so is her ear (if we remain kind, courteous and to the point). Rather than hording email to myself, I decided that this month, since she made herself available, I’d request an interview.
She said yes.
(Yankees) And even though she is a Red Sox fan (Yankees), I decided the (Yankees) interview was worth posting (Yankees) on my (Yankees) site.
I’m breaking it up over the next three days. Today’s portion is mostly about her present work, Vanished, the reasoning behind it and influences. Tomorrow, knowing I have a bunch of writers who read here (thank you!), I’ll be posting the portion about her own trade skills and thoughts on the craft, and Wednesday we’ll wrap up with some more personal questions. And while you’re waiting, you can visit her website to learn more about her work, and then stop by her blog to learn more about, well, her!
Thanks again for stopping by. And please make sure to check out what the other bloggers on the tour have to say by clicking on their links at the bottom of this post.
Oh yeah, and just in case she swings by and is reading this, feel free to ask her any questions by leaving a comment!
Interview with Kathryn Mackel – Part 1
CH: Thanks for joining me on my blog, Kathryn. It’s a pleasure to have you on the CSFF Blog Tour, and I know there are a number of people who will be very interested in your books.
First off, you have a new book out called Vanished. For those that aren’t familiar with your writings, you pioneered the term “Christian Chillers,” and Vanished seems to be no exception. Where did this love for creeping Christians out come from?
KM: I love suspense thrillers. My plan was to hop into Brandilyn Collinsâ€™ or Ted Dekkerâ€™s footsteps but the editor at my first Christian publisher (Thomas Nelson) wanted something with a bit of the X-Files feel to it. Iâ€™ve often complained that in secular horror you get the supernatural without the One who is the creator of all. Christian Chillers are an opportunity to say â€œhey, yes, there is an unseen world AND the Almighty Father is Lord of what we can see and canâ€™t.
CH: Concerning Vanished, the concept is pretty scary and hits home for a lot of people; a bomb going off right here on our own soil (not to mention some supernatural dealings). It seems we’re surrounded by terrorism and reports of terrorism today. How much have past events here in the US and abroad influenced your premise and perspective for Vanished?
KM: I think September 11th was a wake-up call for all of us. Combine terrorist events with natural disasters, such as Katrina or the recent earthquake in China, and we have to understand that, any second, our world can be shaken. We Christians like to hope weâ€™re prepared for the last trumpet call and the clouds to open, but are we prepared to help our next-door neighbor or elderly couple down the street? If the power is off for a few days, or if weâ€™re inundated with three feet of snow or children are separated for parents, are we prepared to offer helpâ€”and hope?
CH: Vanished obviously isn’t your first work. How does it rank in “the favorite books I’ve written” list? What qualities really make it stand out to you as an author?
KM: Iâ€™ll take the usual author dodge and say my favorite is the one I just finished. (Which is BOOST, a secular YA coming out from Dial Books in September.) But I am very fond of Vanished and very invested in my characters. I know where they are, and I know how theyâ€™ll escape from where they are. I canâ€™t wait to hear guesses from my readers!
What challenged me in the writing of Vanished was keeping various story lines going, getting to really know characters and yet push a book through only a few short and desperate hours. What intrigued me was the exploration of regular peopleâ€”like the cop on the beatâ€”as they react to extraordinary events. My cop Sergeant Logan has been seeking God for some time when the story opens but, in the aftermath of the bomb, as heâ€™s saving lives and chasing the terrorist, he comes to understand he canâ€™t do it all-canâ€™t do anything, reallyâ€”on his own strength.
CH: What was it that first inspired you to start writing? How long has this been a desire of yours? Was it an overnights success story or did you have to “pay your dues” and wait a long while before seeing your first book on a shelf?
KM: I was always a good communicator and am a trained technical writer. But I didnâ€™t write any fiction beyond church plays because I just assumed I couldnâ€™t. I loved to make up stories in my head long past itâ€™s appropriateâ€”unless one is a writer. I used to think, â€œIf I were a writer, Iâ€™d be writing.â€ Turns out, being left-handed and HATING to write by hand had something to do with my not writing. Two things got me started in fiction. The first was the advent of computers, and the second was taking my first fiction-writing course at the tender age of 41.
In one sense, I was an overnight success story because I sold the first book I ever wrote and the fourth screenplay. Butâ€¦there was a lot of dues-paying in terms of just living life, growing in Christ (He pays those dues!), and learning to be a professional.
[Catch Part 2 tomorrow!]