She says in her spare time, she binds books, takes bad photos, and tries to avoid the death traps her cat sets for her. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Arcadia University in 2015 and has been published in several journals including The After Happy Hour Review, Furious Gazelle, and Sick Lit among others.
Kitty, tell us about your road to publication.
Like most people, the road has been curvy, strange, and often in the dark. In 2013, I applied to a writing grad program with no expectations. I was honestly pretty shocked when I was accepted. Grad school, though, was brutal. I think the culture of grad school, specifically writing programs, is designed around this toxic notion of “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” There’s a ton of over-critiquing, tearing down, and weird favoritism. As readers, we all like what we like, and as writers, rejection is part of the trade. But this was at a level beyond constructive criticism and I came out uncertain that I wanted to publish.
It took me a while to move beyond it, but I did. I spent two years publishing short stories and an essay. Then I hunkered down and worked on connecting with an agent. I had several books completed, but despite hundreds of queries, nothing clicked. Then the pandemic hit.
At the time, I was working at a Trader Joe’s, and the situation became dangerous very quickly. There were physical assaults, constant aggression, verbal abuse, and, of course, the ever-present threat of getting Covid. I didn’t think I was going to survive. Plus, I didn’t have health insurance, so if I got sick and survived, I’d be in medical debt for the rest of my life. And I thought, “Screw this. If I’m gonna go, it will be with no regrets.” So I self-published my first novel. And then a couple more.
I found my way to Wild Rose Press more from the prompting of one of my writing circle than anything. She had beta read my book, Stone Heart, which is releasing in August 2023, and urged me to submit it. This time, I bypassed agents and submitted directly to presses and publishing houses. And Wild Rose Press loved it. As I said, it’s been a strange, curvy, and often times dark road.
What is your latest book and how did you come up with the idea to write it?
My latest book is The Second Pillar and it comes out next week, May 16, 2023. It is the second installment in the urban fantasy series Pillar of Heaven. This series follows Kate McGovern, a recent college graduate who, in the first book, struggled to find her first proper job. When she finally finds work as a telepathic executive assistant, it’s for this billionaire jerk who she can’t stand. Think The Devil Wears Prada mixed with urban fantasy. On her first day, someone tries to kill her evil boss. While that might be a good thing, Kate finds out if he dies, the world ends. So the first novel is Kate navigating all these threads - new job, new telepathic abilities, evil boss, and the mystery of who is trying to kill him.
By the time we get to the second book, Kate finds out what she did to save her boss (and therefore the world) was a stopgap measure. Someone is still trying to end the world and Kate has to figure out who is behind these fresh attacks and why. She travels to beautiful Bali in pursuit of bad guys and beach time.
Let's get a blurb:
Kate McGovern has survived her first job long enough to get fired from it. But she has not come out empty-handed. Now a Pillar of Heaven, Kate bears the weight of a quarter of the sky. And she is looking forward to her next chapter, whatever that is. But the world is still in danger.
When another Pillar of Heaven is killed in a natural disaster, Kate must travel to Indonesia to locate the body and pass the Pillar on before the sky teeters and falls. Soon enough, Kate and her team realize the natural disaster was, in fact, supernatural. As powerful enemies strive to destroy the world, Kate, with the help of some new friends, fights to restore the balance. Oh, and she needs to find a new job too.
And now an excerpt:
Kate McGovern did not work for Mr. Waites, billionaire businessman, evil overlord, and general pain in the ass anymore. She had yet to sign a short-term contract he’d offered her as a consultant on an artifact retrieval mission because, well, the delay annoyed him. She knew it annoyed him because she could read minds and she was very practiced at reading Mr. Waites’s mind. He called her into a meeting at his office last week to discuss the contract a.k.a. demand that she sign it so they could get on with finding the missing Pillar of Heaven. Kate had very happily told him she was still considering her options, and then delighted in his chagrin.
However, she wasn’t reading his mind right now. No, she was standing in a faded Starbucks t-shirt and flannel shorts, leveling a Medusa-style death glare at Jack, who did work for Waites, evil overlord that he was, as an executive assistant. Jack had also woken her up at 2 a.m. He grinned then winced, clasped his bandaged ribs while shifting on her pea green couch uncomfortably.
His face was fully healed from the beating he’d taken at the hands of the bad guys, who’d tried to steal a Pillar of Heaven. There was a scar on his temple where a steel-toed boot had nailed him, but Jack had survived. He walked slowly, shuffled really as he battled the pain. The bandages around his trunk secured his fractured ribs, and the gunshot wound in his side was now a scab. He was alive, but not quite whole.
“Why are you out of bed, let alone bothering me on a Monday of all days?” Kate demanded, crossing arms over her braless chest. Any other male would have immediately stared. Her assets were quite lovely. Jack didn’t notice her breasts. He did, however, spot her unshaved legs and made a mental note to send her a coupon for a good waxer. His waxer did excellent work.
For her part, Kate thought that if it had been anyone else knocking on her door at 2 a.m., she would have shut it in their face and gone back to bed.
“That’s why,” Jack said, referencing her thoughts. Jack was a telepath too. Annoyingly so. “He knew you wouldn’t answer for anyone else.”
Kate narrowed her eyes. “That still doesn’t explain why you’re out of bed.”
Jack ignored the question and petted her pea green couch instead. “I think this is the ugliest couch I’ve ever seen,” he murmured.
How do you develop characters and your plots?
For me, developing characters and plots is inherently connected. I usually start out with a scene. The spark of inspiration could come from anywhere. Kate’s story is fairly autographical. I hated working at the coffee shop I was stuck at post college. The scene I began with was Kate plotting coffee espionage — which is her daydreaming about acting out at her job. For example, spilling every single gallon of milk across the floor or squirting the customers in line with syrup flavors. The kind of retail hijinks everyone who’s ever worked retail has entertained on soul-crushing days like Black Friday. The character was an easy leap for me. But the main conflict, which is what the plot is built on, boils down to — what if you get an amazing job after struggling so hard and it turns out to be a nightmare? And then I thought, okay what’s the most cliched move a diva boss would pull? The answer: expecting employees to read their mind. The story builds from there.
When I wrote Stone Heart, I had this really clear vision of this guy full of regret, trying to right a wrong he’d committed and that journey started with getting on a boat. But he was afraid that the weight of his regrets would physically sink the ship. And he was afraid if he fell off the docks, he’d never surface. So that was the basis for what became the opening scene in Stone Heart. From there I worked forwards and backwards asking myself questions. Okay, what if I made his regret a physical object - what would that object be? The heart of his former lover, who he wronged. But he can’t walk around with like a bloody muscle because that’s gross. What if it was a heart made of stone and because we’re talking lovers, let’s make it a diamond. And, one step further, we all know you can’t glue a diamond back together once it’s been cut. So if this diamond heart was shattered, how is he going to fix it?
As a character, Edward was extremely difficult to write. He’s so arrogant! He’s got this excessively narrow viewpoint of the world coupled with his high station and breeding, which has him convinced that he knows best in all things. When I’m writing characters, whether they’re English lords or exhausted baristas, I start with my initial idea of them in that scene and as I write, I look for ways to challenge them. That tells me who they are becoming. That informs who they were and what made them that way.
What’s your next project?
In August 2023, Stone Heart is coming out. This is a departure from my usual urban fantasy. Stone Heart is a sweet, historical romance with a splash of fantasy. Here’s the blurb:
What if the woman you loved gave her heart to you in the form of a perfect red diamond? And what if you were an absolute imbecile and broke that heart into pieces? Edward, the Marquess of Winchester, doesn’t believe in nonsense and he certainly doesn’t believe that the woman he cast aside six months ago was true to him. But when the death of a famous actress leads him to realize he’s made a grave mistake, Edward sets out across 1790s Europe to save his love, battling jewel thieves, demons, and old family foes along the way. The question remains: can he put the pieces back together and heal a stone heart?
What advice do you have for beginning writers?
Put something on the page. Contract ass-in-chair syndrome because you can edit bad writing but you can’t edit a blank page. It does not have to be perfect the first go round. Find what works for you. I have three or four stories open at a given time. When I get stuck on one, I don’t blink, I move to another. And don’t be too hard on yourself! Writing is difficult. Finally, allow yourself to daydream and your mind to wander.
For craft books, I recommend Bird by Bird by Ann Lamont, On Writing by Stephen King, and Steering the Craft by Ursula le Guin.
Great advice Kitty! Thank you for being my guest. Here is the buy link for The Second Pillar and Kitty's contact information
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Any comments or questions for Kitty?