Today I get the pleasure of hosting Kate Sparkes, the author of Bound, who agreed to let me interview her! In case you missed it, here’s the lovely link to Kate’s cover reveal, which I participated in at the beginning of June.
First, let’s start off with some basic information about her debut novel, Bound. (Questions are numbered and in bold, answers underneath.)
1. Where did the idea come from for the book?
I always joke that they say to write what you know, so I wrote headaches. There’s some truth in that, though. My headaches frequently send me to a dark, quiet bedroom, which means a lot of long, lonely, quiet hours for stories to percolate in my aching brain. I wondered what would happen if someone had headaches that turned out to be caused by something more significant than atmospheric pressure and aspartame, and my love of fantasy led me to consider a magical connection.
That gave me the beginnings of a character. The plot came when I asked what would happen if a nice, fairly average girl accidentally rescued a bad guy, and their lives just kept on colliding. Those two ideas combined and took me places I never expected, but that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing about.
2. What genre does your book fall under?
I’m going with “Mature YA Fantasy.” Young adult themes, mature situations (though nothing as explicit as some readers would like, sorry!), romance, adventure, magic… it’s all so hard to pin down.
3. Give us a one sentence synopsis for your book.
When nineteen-year-old Rowan Greenwood accidentally saves the life of one of her people’s most feared enemies, she learns that all of her childhood wishes might just come true– that is, if the one thing she’s always wanted doesn’t kill her first.
(hint- it’s not finding Prince Charming.)
Now, let’s get to the juicy bits!
4. What does your writing process look like?
It varies, depending on the story. I’ll usually let an idea stew in my brain for a long time before I actually tackle it, letting ideas and plots mingle while the characters develop. Once I feel like I have the outline of a solid story with enough conflict and purpose to drive it, I’ll sit down do a very rough outline, and then get the first draft out. I don’t edit as I go– if I do, I never finish anything. I aim for 1000 words an hour when I’m drafting, but how long the draft takes depends entirely on what else is going on in my life at the time. Much as I’d like consistent 4000 word days, I’m usually lucky to get 2000 in. The first draft of Bound took a good seven months.
After that, I let it sit, read and revise, then have beta readers rip it to shreds. If the story seems worth pursuing, it’s on to actually investing money in it. I had an amazing editor for Bound who showed me how to make the story shine. Developmental edits can be pricey, but I’m glad I went that route for the first book. Then more edits by me, volunteer proofreaders, and starting the publishing process.
It sounds simple, but it takes a long time. I might work on more than one story at a time, and can’t devote more than a few hours a day to work. That first round of pre-beta revisions took a few years for Bound. I’m working on bringing that down as I become more experienced and confident.
5. Do you have any strange writing habits?
I’m not sure what counts as “strange”. Rewarding myself with chocolate during edits seems pretty normal. Characters having conversations in my head does, too. Most of my habits hurt productivity rather than helping it, so I probably shouldn’t share them.
6. What book do you wish you could have written?
That answer varies depending on what I’ve read recently that’s blown me away. Almost anything by Stephen King, especially his recent stuff. Unwind by Neal Shusterman had a concept and execution that I envy, and I wish I’d created Celaena Sardothien from Throne of Glass (Sarah J Maas). She kicks ass, but is still so human.
7. What is your least favorite part of the publishing/writing process?
Right now, I’m going to say writing the blurb (sales/cover copy) for a book. Deciding how much to give away, making it sound appealing, and trying to make it different nearly drove me mad. I spent three weeks on it, and am happy with the result, but it was torture.
I don’t think I’ll like marketing much, either.
8. What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
Any variation of “just do it”. I spent years not writing, thinking that it wasn’t the right time, that I was too young to do it right, that someday I’d have more time and energy to tackle it properly. But the only way you get better is by practicing. So what if your first stories are crap? You need the experience. Shove them in a box and move on.
Part two of that is “finish what you start”.
9. What has been the toughest criticism you’ve been given as an author?
Being told my heroine was unsympathetic at times was rough. It can be hard to balance reader expectations with what seems realistic for a character. I felt that she had a right to be bitchy after being abducted, injured, terrified and lied to. Other people thought she should be apologetic for it so she’d be more likable, that she should be nicer to a man who she didn’t trust. It was hard criticism to take, and I hope I’ve found a balance even if I refused to give in completely on that.
Interestingly enough, no one seems to judge my male character when he’s being a jerk. But that’s another topic entirely.
10. Do you have any literary character crushes?
SO many. Most of them are just flings, though. Right now I’m starry-eyed over Jayden Feldall in Krista Walsh‘s Evensong series (cocky bastard, how I adore him), and when I was beta reading Emergence for KL Schwengel I developed a bit of a thing for Berk. Barbie (Dale Barbara) from Under the Dome. LOVE that guy. I haven’t spent time with him in years, though, since I lost my copy of the book. I hate what they did to him in the TV series. I need to buy that book again just to get rid of the bad taste. I don’t tend to go for super dominant males, so I have a hard time falling in love with a lot of characters in Romance these days. The exception to that is Soren in Tiffany Reisz’s Original Sinners series. *drool*
I also tend to pick the wrong “team” in love triangles. [spoiler alert!] Loved Gale in The Hunger Games. Not a fan of Peeta.
11. How did you go about naming your characters? Do you choose names based on meaning/significance, or the way they sound or look?
I’m terrible with names. Really. Rowan and Aren didn’t get their names until I’d been working on Bound for over a year, and one character has had four different names (long story). The name has to fit the character. It’s nice if it has appropriate meaning, but I go more by the sound and feel of it. Names have to be easy to remember and pronounce, and I try to avoid anything that’s being used in a lot of other books.
Actually, I almost rejected Aren’s name because of its meaning. I thought I’d made it up, but then found it on a baby name site. It gives something away about his character, but I doubt most readers will look it up before they read. It was and is perfect for him. I let it stay.
12. Did anything surprise you about your book? An unexpected plot twist or uncooperative character?
Aren surprised me. He started as a major character, but didn’t get to tell his side of events. Events late in the story made me realize that I needed him to narrate at least a few chapters. With every draft he took over more and more of the story, and his voice became stronger. Even in the last round of edits, he got another scene and took over one that Rowan had told before. It’s been a difficult process, and getting into his head meant I had to do a lot of extra work solidifying his motivations. But I’m happy with the result.
13. What was the hardest scene to write in Bound?
No spoilers! The hardest single scene to write was probably the climax. My editor told me that what I had didn’t make sense in terms of character motivation, and it was melodramatic. It needed major re-writes, and I ended up adding a lot of words, but it was definitely worth the hard work.
The other thing I found brain-meltingly difficult was writing scenes where characters explain world-specific concepts like how magic works. It can be hard to do that without slowing the story down, but so far readers seem pleased with how it’s all worked out.
14. What does your protagonist think about you? Would he or she want to hang out with you, the author?
Good question. I doubt either Aren or Rowan would jump at the chance to have a coffee with me after everything I’ve put them through. I certainly haven’t gone easy on them so far, and there’s worse to come.
15. If you could change ONE thing about your novel, what would it be? Why?
Hmm. There are things I’d change about how I wrote it. I’d show it to at least one reader sooner, before I thought it was perfect (ha!). But as for the story as it stands now, I don’t think there’s anything I’d change. There are no perfect books, but Bound is exactly the story I set out to tell.
16. Bound is the first book of a trilogy. Do you have the remaining books plotted? Do you know how the series ends?
Book two is drafted and in revisions right now, and I’m hoping to release it in February 2015. Book three is mostly plotted. I know how it all ends (and it’s hard not to talk about it, because it’s so exciting!), but I still have work to do on the middle before it’s ready for me to start drafting.
17. What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has?
I don’t know. It would be really cool if people picked up on seeds I’ve planted for things that come up in later books and asked me about them, but I can’t say what without getting spoilery.
18. What are you working on now? What is your next project?
Right now I’m working on revising book two of this trilogy. Once that’s off to beta readers, I’ll get back to edits on my Urban Fantasy novella, which early readers have been excited about. That’s always been a side project, but I think it’s actually going to make it to publication.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this interview with Kate, and are as excited about the release of Bound as I am.
And now for one of the most important parts…purchase links!