TN: Today my interview is with Kat Michels, story teller and award-winning author. When did you know you were a writer?
KM: I started writing stories and poems as soon as I learned how to write. However, oddly enough, I never considered myself a writer. It was just something that I did, and despite the fact that I did it well, it wasn’t one of the things that I considered a passion. It was more of a compulsion, just something I had to do.
In retrospect, I can see the moments where the burgeoning writer in me tried to get out, but got shoved back for one reason or another. The truth of the matter is that for most of my life, if people asked me if I was a writer, my answer was no. It wasn’t until I was in college, for the second time, that a professor asked me to stay after class one day because he needed someone to write the narrative for a documentary, and he had picked me. I told him that I wasn’t a writer, and he matter-of-factly informed me that yes, I was. He had read all of my papers and I was clearly a writer. As he was not the kind of professor that you ever wanted to let down, I gave it a shot and it turned out he was right. I wrote the narrative, the documentary turned out great, and we won a couple of awards. The next year he tapped me again for a similar project with the same result. Not only was I a writer, I was now an award-winning writer. Not even I could ignore that.
TN: What is your writing style?
KM: Like any good writer, I can change my voice to fit the particular piece I’m working on. However, I would say that my most natural voice can best be described with a quote from the movie Dragnet, “Just the facts ma’am.” I tend to be utilitarian with my words and eschew flowery prose that may confuse the intentions of the piece. Which means I generally have to go back through in subsequent drafts to properly flesh it out. But to start with, I put down the bare bones and work from there.
TN: Why did you write your first book?
KM: My first book was a children’s book that I intended to give to my sister at her baby shower for her first child. I had written it and I was going to do some rudimentary illustrations, print a single copy and give it to her. However, every time I asked someone to read it and give me feedback, they asked where they could get a copy. I realized that I needed illustrations that were better than I could provide, so I found an illustrator. In the end, the book wound up as a present for baby’s first Christmas, instead of the baby shower.
TN: Why did you decide to self-publish?
KM: I self-published my first book because I needed a cost-effective print and an easy way for friends and family to grab a copy. When I started work on my second book, I figured I had already started down that road, why not continue?
TN: How did you come up with your cover design?
KM: The covers for my children’s book were done by the illustrator of the book, and my novel’s cover was designed by a graphic designer.
TN: What software did you use? for print? for eBook?
KM: For my children’s books I used Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Acrobat for the print version, then used Calibre to convert the PDF into an eBook. For my novel, I used Adobe Photoshop for the graphics, Microsoft Word for the formatting then exported that to a PDF for the print version. Then, like the children’s books, I used Calibre to convert the PDF to an eBook.
TN: Do you have any tips for someone who is considering self-publishing?
KM: Every project is subject to the golden triangle, which is composed of Time, Quality and Cost. You can only have two of the three for any given project. If you want it fast and cheap, your quality won’t be great. If you want it fast with good quality, the cost is going to be really high. If you want cheap, and excellent quality, it’s going to take a long time. If you’re greedy and try to attain all three at once, your work will suffer and your readers will know. Always remember the golden triangle.
TN: What do you do when you are “stuck?”
KM: I’ve discovered that I don’t get writer’s block, I get writer’s fear. I’m afraid that what I put down won’t be good enough, or that I’ll never be able to adequately convey the picture in my head on to the page, and this fear paralyzes me. I become incapable of putting down a single word, because I know that it will be the wrong word. It’s taken me years to overcome this, and the best way I’ve found is to write. Whenever I want to write the least, is the exact time that I need to be writing. So I force myself to sit down and put words on the page. If I’m really dug in, I’ll do a free write with whatever is in my head, even if that means typing, “It’s going to suck,” over and over again. Every time I do this, I eventually get to the point where my brain gets tired of beating itself up, and I start writing something worthwhile.
TN: Describe the plot for one of your books.
KM: My novel, In A Time Never Known, is historical fiction that takes place during the American Civil War. This is the official back cover description – “Wife, mother, spy. Anna is hiding a dangerous secret from her family, especially her Confederate General husband. However, it is not her covert work for the Union that she finds the most daunting, it is dealing with her spoiled Southern belle daughter. When Kady discovers that her mother has been leading a carefully constructed double life, she must choose whether to work by her mother’s side in the shadows or return to the pampered life of a Southern planter’s daughter. Cast into the bloody fray of one of the deadliest wars in our history, In A Time Never Known is the story of women who courageously defy the expectations of the era to do unprecedented things, altering the course of American history and their own lives.”
TN: Which one of your books is your favorite?
KM: While my children’s books are my favorite to work on – they’re just fun – my novel is definitely my favorite overall. I love the opportunity to really flesh out a story and build a world that the long-form provides.
TN: Thank you Kate for sharing this interview with us. My readers can discover more about Kat and her books on her blog: www.katmichels.com