I’m very lucky to be interviewing Kate Preston author of A Vintage Year.
Where are you from?
- Born and pretty much raised in Toronto, with brief stints in Montreal and Calgary. After I was married my husband was transferred to Mexico City where we lived for just shy of three years and had two of our three children there. We moved back to Toronto in 1998. In 2011 we moved to Montreal, where we live now.
Tell us your latest news? Current Projects?
- I am working on a new novel that is more in line with my work-professional life. The backdrop is renewable energy and climate change, but the real story involves a main character, a renewable energy entrepreneur who is battling his family in the oil business, and his long-time nemesis who decides he needs to get into the same business. His love interest is a woman who is his new lawyer, and who is also recovering from a concussion she got three years earlier.
When and why did you begin writing?
- I have always loved reading. Well-written stories with a great plot and characters will occupy my thoughts when I am not reading, and consume any free-time otherwise. When I was finishing up my master’s degree in environmental studies and political science and I kept wanting to write different “endings” for the historical people I was studying or the events taking place. I vowed that once I finished my Master’s degree I would start writing fiction.
What genre are your books?
- I write very selfishly — I write books I would want to read, so I’ve written comedy, character development stories and thriller-suspense stories. The first story I ever wrote was an environmental thriller — it’s still sitting in my drawer crying for a rewrite. All my stories involve intelligent main characters who make some decisions that get them into trouble. I don’t think of A Vintage Year as a romance, to me, it’s more about the growth of the main character, Harris Tucker. In order for that to happen, I developed a love interest that gives him a reason to grow up.
What draws you to this genre?
- For A Vintage Year I wanted to study a character based on the question “What happens to professional athletes after they retire?” We always see them in front of the camera, but what happens to them after they retire when they’re suddenly out of the limelight. How do they handle it? What do they do with their lives if they don’t become broadcasters? We visit Harris eight years into retirement after a relatively successful tennis career. He is the ripe old age of 40 and it turns out his life isn’t exactly the dream it had once been.
Give us an insight into your main character(s):
- Harris Tucker is a spoiled brat at the beginning of the story. Many of us may not like him very much at first. He is loud, selfish, demanding, and difficult to be around. I put him into a situation where he was backed into a financial corner. The idea being that he needed to realize that he no longer had anyone to rely on except for himself. Deep down he had to be a good person. He just needed the opportunity to find that better side of him. So, I gave him that opportunity by putting him on a farm as a farmhand — something he wouldn’t in a million years even think could happen to him. Eventually, after quite a few stumbles, he is able to find a new path and lease on life.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
- I think that I have developed more confidence over the years as a writer. When I first started developing a story, I thought writing fiction was easy. That is the thing about great fiction: well-written fiction makes it look like it’s easy to do, so you think you can do it just as easily. The thing is, writing good stories with believable characters is extremely difficult and I have so much more respect for superior writing than I did when I first started out. In one of the many writing books I’ve read (I wish I could remember which one), the author reminds us that our readers are smart and that the best thing we can do was trust that they understood why or what our characters were doing.
What do you do to get book reviews?
- Working with book bloggers is a great way to get known, but finding them is work in and of itself, it involves a lot of trolling of the internet! I love Story Cartel. You get very honest reviews there, so that means you have to be prepared for criticism. Ironically, I can’t count on my friends for reviews, nor do I want to. I must have sent the book out to over 50 of my closest friends (all women), and I received many people jumping up and down with enthusiasm about the book (I was really touched and flattered) but getting them to write reviews on Amazon is like pulling teeth — it could be my age group, but we’re not THAT old and we’re certainly all computer literate! I’ve thought of inviting them all over for a glass of wine (or two) and sitting them down in front of the computer! Reviews are important — both negative and positive.
Do you have to travel much concerning your books?
- I definitely write about where I travel. I’ve written two stories based in Mexico, one is a bit of a farce, I’m trying to clean it up a bit and the other was my first novel — my “drawer novel.” A Vintage Year takes place in Santa Barbara, where I was travelling with my sister, who lives in California. I was inspired as we drove through wine country in February. Even then, it was a stunningly beautiful place. The current book I’m working on takes place on the east coast of Canada, an area I’ve only visited twice, so the town is fictitious and I never mention which province it’s in. I love to travel, but I guess I’m inspired to write a story after I’ve been to a place, as opposed to choosing a plot line and then going to the place to research it.
What’s your views on social media for marketing?
- Social media levels the playing field for all authors — as long as you use it. I admit, I am not as active on Twitter as I should be — I am more of a lurker than a tweeter — not because I don’t want to be, but ironically, I just don’t think I have all that much to say that people will find interesting. My life is pretty standard so who wants to hear that we wake up to the sounds of the cat barfing up her breakfast every morning? However, when I do have something to say about a great book or movie, then I will use Twitter. I also blog about some daily life kinds of things — mostly cooking since I love cooking and baking. When I find things that I know will be useful to others, I write about those too, so, for instance, one of my most popular posts is Reading eBooks for Free.
Which social network worked best for you?
- Blogging for long stuff, Twitter for short stuff. If I had great photos and videos I’d get into Instagram — but, where I live and work isn’t all that visually inspiring and I spend a lot of time at home and work, and the gym when I have some free time. I don’t want to spread my social media self too thin, so I would rather concentrate on a few.
When did you first, without hesitation call yourself a writer?
- I started writing fiction as a hobby. But then I used a lot of those skills to get back into the working world after staying at home for several years. When I started writing non-fiction and getting recognized for my work, then other people started asking me to write for them as a ghost writer. I realized I must be all right as a writer.
What is your least favorite part of the writing process?
- Ugh! Filling in the details. I love creating the story outline, and even the next level of detail, making discoveries about the characters and the plots as I write, but I HATE filling in the necessary details that will make the story make sense to everyone else. You know it’s going to take forever and on a good day you might be able to write five or six whole pages of your first draft. On a bad day when the juices aren’t flowing, you might get half a paragraph done and call yourself all kinds of horrible names.
In ten words or less, Describe your writing style.
- Traditional, intelligent characters, beautiful scenery, interesting story
What books have influenced your life the most?
- I loved Helen McInnis’ Ride a Pale Horse, and subsequently read all of her others after that. I love her mix of politics, intelligent and mature characters and suspense. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Anne of Green Gables Series by LM Montgomery . Mandy by Julie Edwards (Andrews). The entire CS Lewis Narnia series captured my attention too.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
- I discovered Liane Moriarty a few years ago, and absolutely love her work. I just discovered Michael Cunningham. I asked for any of the books on the Riffle Christmas list this year and got A Wild Swan and Other Tales and The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende. A Wild Swan is a collection of modern day, reinvented fairy tales.
Do you have any strange writing habits?
- I literally lock myself away for a week at my parents’ place when they are away — with no internet and no cable TV and I work about 7 to 12 hours a day, exercising by hiking and watching old movies on video as rewards for reaching certain goals.
If you had a super power, what would it be?
- Definitely the ability to fly. There is so much of the world to see and I am lacking in time and money!
What secret talents do you have?
- I speak French (not bilingual, but I’m pretty darn good) and can get by in Spanish (although I used to be almost fluent).
Do you have any advice for other writers?
- Read books on writing, (I have a list of my favourites on my blog), attend local writing classes at your college or high school in the continuing ed dept, join writing groups and book clubs. If anything, these outlets will show you that others are in the same boat you are and can provide you with support.
Practice, every day if you can, and on days where you don’t feel like it just sit there for ten minutes.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Website and blog: http://www.kateprestonbooks.com Twitter:@kprestonbooks Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Kate-Preston/e/B00XZDOJB0 Book Links: Kobo, iTunes, Barnes and Noble Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25488648-a-vintage-year
Thanks so much, Megan, for giving me the opportunity to share with your readers!
Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.