** MOST FREQUENTLY-ASKED QUESTIONS EVER **
Is [insert book name] going to be a movie?
Right now, there are no plans to turn any of my books into movies. I would absolutely love for that particular dream to come true, but it’s a really long process that involves tons of very selective people deciding to spend a ton of money… and as yet, that hasn’t happened. Of course, if the situation ever changes, I will be sure to share the news with my readers!
Will there be a fourth Bad Girls Don’t Die book?
Nope, sorry! The series has concluded. I felt that the third book left Alexis right where she needed to be. If you need a ghost fix, check out my other books!
Other Frequently Asked Questions:
Click any category to go directly to the list of questions, or scroll down to read them all!
Questions about Katie
Questions about Bad Girls Don’t Die
Questions about Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer
Questions about Famous Last Words
Questions about The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall
Questions about writing and publishing
Questions about interviews, school visits, appearances, and review copies
Questions about Katie
When and where were you born? And why won’t you share what year were you born (or your parents’ names, or your husband’s name, or other personal details)? I need them for my report!
First of all, I am so honored whenever a reader decides to use one of my books for a school project. However, there is some information I simply can’t share, due to privacy reasons. It gets complicated, because that information is readily available about many authors, and your teacher might expect you to find it. However, in the age of the internet, it is very important to protect your personal information as much as possible. Famous authors like John Steinbeck, JRR Tolkien, and Laura Ingalls Wilder may not need to worry about identity theft, but we current authors do!
If you are doing a book report, I encourage you to mention this to your parents and teacher. To make up for this lack of info, I will even send your teacher an email explaining my views on the situation. But I can’t give out my personal info! Perhaps you can discuss with your teacher some alternate questions that are less personal. (Look at it this way… would your teacher want his or her birth date and personal information available on the internet?)
Here are the answers I will share: I was born in Florida in the late 1970s, and I lived in Florida until I finished college and moved to California. I’m married, and I have one daughter and two dogs.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
The first time I remember really writing was in third grade. My teacher, Mrs. Twiggs, had everyone buy a spiral-bound notebook. Then we would spend an hour a week writing. I remember writing the craziest stories, using all my friends’ names. Once I got up to read one, and it took forever. It must have been eight pages long. I wonder what the teacher was thinking!
Then, in seventh grade English class, our teacher made us do a research project where we were researching some choice or decision for ourselves. Mine was, “Do I Want to be a Writer?” I don’t remember what conclusion I came to in the paper, but I guess it made an impression.
It wasn't until well after I graduated from college and was working in the entertainment industry that I realized I was still fascinated by the process of creating worlds and characters. I started sort of offhandedly working on a book, but gave that one up after 100 pages of nothing happening. Then I started writing "Bad Girls Don't Die." On a trip, I randomly happened to grab a paperback of Stephen King's "On Writing," and that's when it hit me that I wanted to finish the book... although it was much later that I set about getting it published.
What were you like as a teen?
I was very lucky, because I went to an arts school (for writing). I was basically free to say, wear, and do whatever I wanted (mostly within reason, occasionally not), and the people around me were supportive and accepting. This is very lucky for me because I was on a downward spiral in middle school. I was learning to be myself and learning that “being myself” wasn’t necessarily going to put me at the top of the popularity charts. I never wore the right clothes or said the right things. In middle school, that put me on the bottom rung of the social ladder, but when I got to high school, I was surrounded by other people who never wore designer clothes or liked or said the right things, either! It was amazing. I sometimes think that if I’d gone to the local public high school, I might have been a lot like Alexis, the main character in Bad Girls Don’t Die.
Do you like to read?
I love to read! I’ve always been a reader, and I think most people benefit from reading. I also think there’s too much pressure on kids to read specific books at an age when they should just be learning how to love the act of reading. When I was in high school, I wrote a lot of five-paragraph essays about books I hadn’t read.
What’s your favorite book?
You can find out about my favorite books (and some other random favorites!) by clicking over to my bio page.
How did you first get published?
I worked on Bad Girls Don't Die on and off for a few years. I would work really hard on it for a few months, then let it sit for six months. Then I would work really hard again… then let it sit. And so on. It was only when I decided to get serious about trying to get it published that I became more consistent and really buckled down, working mornings, nights, and weekends to create a polished draft. I discovered online that a guy I knew from high school was working at a literary agency, so I got in touch with him (this was before Facebook, so it was much more random to reach out to someone you hadn't seen for several years than it is now). He liked the book and agreed to take me on as a client.
When it went out to editors, there was one editor (at Disney Hyperion) who really liked it and connected with it right away. She had some notes, which I thought were great, and when I made those changes and the book went back out on submission, there were multiple offers, but we ended up selling it to the editor I'd already worked with.
What are the best and worst things about being an author?
The best and worst things are the same thing, believe it or not! Being my own boss is both wonderful (I get to tell myself what to do! I get to go shoe shopping in the middle of the day, if I want to!) and horrifying. Because I’m a born procrastinator, and I’m really bad at cracking down on myself! So I love the freedom of being an author, but I need to learn how to manage my time better.
I also love to connect with readers and to hear how my books have influenced them. The other side of that is the constant pressure for authors to always be marketing themselves. Staying on top of all the Twitter, Facebook, blogging, etc., is very hard work! And I hate to think that I’m disappointing people, so I feel a lot of guilt when I fall behind on replies. Which happens all the time, sadly!
My other least favorite thing is when people download my book illegally. Maybe I’m oversensitive, but it actually hurts my feelings. It feels like someone is walking up to me and saying, “I’m going to read this but I don’t think you deserve to get paid for your work.” Writers have to eat, too!
What other jobs have you had?
Currently, I’m a full-time author (and mom. But I have also:
* worked in toy stores, clothing stores, and for my dad (when I was in high school)
* worked at the campus cable channel and tutored athletes in geology (in college)
* worked for a lobbyist (in college)
* been an assistant and a receptionist
* worked in development for TV movies and kids’ television
* worked on a game show
* written and produced infomercials
* and for many years, I was a writer/producer for televised dog shows that aired on Animal Planet (the kind in the movie “Best in Show”) — that was my favorite job ever!
Questions about the Bad Girls Don’t Die series
Will there ever be a fourth book in the BAD GIRLS DON’T DIE series?
BAD GIRLS DON’T DIE is a three-book series (book 2 is called FROM BAD TO CURSED and book 3 is called AS DEAD AS IT GETS). The chances of there ever being a fourth book are incredibly slim, for a lot of reasons. The biggest one is that, as a writer, I feel like I ended the series in the right place.
Where did you get the idea for the book/what inspired you?
The idea for the book came to me one day as I was just hanging out and daydreaming—I thought of two sisters who didn’t know anything about their family history, making up stories to fill in the gaps, and then some sinister activities that grew out of that. Obviously it’s changed quite a bit since then, but the sisters, the story, and the sinister element are still the core of the book. To me, the heart of the book is the relationship between the two sisters, and Alexis’s need to learn how to trust people.
Who’s the girl behind the curtain on the cover of the book?
Well, for starters, it isn’t me! The cover image is actually a stock photo. As for which character it’s supposed to be…? Well, you can decide for yourself. It seems a lot like a “Kasey moment” to me.
I saw the trailers… Is there going to be a movie? (And can I be in it?)
What you saw were my book trailers, which I’m very proud of. It would be wonderful if BGDD were turned into a movie, although right now there’s no plan to do so. If it ever happens, I’ll definitely announce it!
If there is a movie someday, it is highly unlikely that I will have any say over who gets to be in it.
What does the title of the book mean?
The title is a play on the song “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” which was popular in the 1960s. I actually included “Bad Girls Don’t Die” on my list of title ideas as a joke, but everyone at my publisher loved it! After the initial surprise, I came to love it, too! It doesn’t actually refer to anything specific about the events in the book itself–we chose it more for the general feeling of it.
How long did it take you to write these books?
I started the first draft of BAD GIRLS DON’T DIE in 2002. For the next couple of years, I revised when I could fit the time into my busy work schedule. In 2006, I got serious about trying to get published. I connected with my agent, did some revisions for an editor who was very interested, and ended up selling the book to Hyperion in November 2006.
A lot of people say they have two “practice” books hidden in a drawer. For me, this was the practice book! I just kept hammering away it it until it was good enough.
FROM BAD TO CURSED was written over a period of 11 months, and AS DEAD AS IT GETS was about the same.
Is Walter Sawamura a real person?
Good old Walter! He’s totally fictional. I just enjoy having a character who ties my books together.
Did Bad Girls Don’t Die win any awards or honors?
Bad Girls Don’t Die was selected for the Tayshas Reading List of the Texas Library Association and was named to the New York Public Library’s 2010 Stuff for the Teen Age list.
Questions about Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer
Why did you choose to write about Marie Antoinette?
She’s a fascinating person. From the fact that she was taken from her home and plunged into the French court at 14 years old, to the fact that she was completely misunderstood by the public, she was constantly fighting this battle between who she really was versus who the public wanted or believed her to be. To me, that sets up the perfect arc for a character.
Questions about Famous Last Words
What was your inspiration for Famous Last Words?
I was inspired to write this book after finishing Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer. I really enjoyed the process of setting a book in a real location, so I thought about other places I might want to use as a setting. I happen to live in the Hollywood Hills (but in a regular part full of regular houses, not mansions like Willa's neighborhood), and I wanted to try to capture the feeling of my own home city. I also love classic movies and thought it was cool to incorporate films into a scary book.
Questions about The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall
What was your inspiration for The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall?
For a few years, I had been wanting to write a book where the main character is a ghost. Initially, I had planned to set the book at a hotel, but my editor suggested an asylum, and that seemed like the perfect spooky fit. I really enjoyed exploring the way women's mental health issues were disgnosed and treated when I was writing this book. There really was a time when women would be diagnosed with mental illnesses simply because their opinions were too strong!
Questions about Writing and Publishing
Where do you get your ideas?
There's no one way to come up with book ideas, and each of my books has originated in a unique way. But a lot of coming up with ideas is giving yourself permission to daydream and be open to them. I like to start with the question, “What if…?” And when I’m working on new ideas, I do a lot of daydreaming. It helps to try to be around things, people, and places that inspire you. I’ve never gone astray looking more closely at something that truly interests me! All those research projects I hated in high school… It turns out that if I’d just looked for subjects that I actually liked, I would have enjoyed the whole process.
Why did you decide to write for teens?
I never really made a conscious decision; as I worked with ideas, the ones that felt the strongest to me were the ones narrated by and involving teens. In fact, some of my story ideas started out featuring adults, but evolved into young adult stories. I don’t know exactly why, but that seems to be my voice. Plus, I had a great time when I was a teen. I had my ups and downs, but that’s a time in my life I don’t mind thinking back on.
What do you enjoy most about writing for young adults?
When you write about a teen, a lot of what’s happening to them is happening for the first time. I think a lot of us can remember things that happened when we were young, because everything felt (and was) so significant. By the time you’re an adult, you may have met a half dozen people who expect you to change who you are if you want to be their friend. But when you’re sixteen, it makes a lasting impression.
You’ve said you don’t like scary books or movies. So how did you start writing horror novels?
I’ve always liked situations where characters are challenged in some way — when I wrote Bad Girls Don’t Die, I chose a ghost for that challenge, because I thought (and still think) that ghosts are elegant, visual, relatable, and versatile. After that, I continued to write the series, so I delved more deeply into writing “scary” on purpose. Now I’m pretty in love with the process of creating these supernatural forces in relation to my narrators. I’ve gotten more practice adding scary things in — and I’ve never heard an editor say, “Less scary, please!” So I continue to push myself to explore dark themes.
What’s your typical day like?
I wake up, eat breakfast, check my email, help my daughter get ready for school, and then begin the hours-long process of trying to force myself to sit down and write. Because I’m such a good procrastinator, I often make excuses like, “I need to fold this laundry!” or “I need to clean the kitchen!” or “I need to spend three hours on Twitter!” Usually around lunch time, I actually start working. Then, at night, I veg out and read or watch TV.
If I’m on a crazy deadline, my life becomes totally chaotic. I work 12-15 hours a day.
Overall, it’s a pretty good life! I’m a homebody, so it doesn’t bother me that I can go days without leaving the house. My car actually has cobwebs in it.
Do you have a writing process? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m both! When I’m beginning a project, I like to make sure I have an outline for how the narrative should progress, so I always work out the major plot points and character arcs. For my first draft, I tend to rely pretty heavily on that document, for better or worse (and occasionally it’s much worse!). It keeps me writing through the dry periods to have a plan in place. Then, once I begin to revise, all bets are off. I often completely restructure the narrative and change a lot of things. So the finished book sometimes bears a very slight resemblance to the outline. I see all that up-front plotting as more of a tool than a rulebook.
Have you considered writing something other than YA?
Not lately! My plate’s pretty full these days. I enjoy writing short stories, and no short story I’ve ever written has been YA. So I guess you could say I dabble.
Do you listen to music when you write?
If I’m writing, any music I listen to has to be instrumental, because otherwise I get too distracted. But between actual writing sessions, I have a playlist or each project that fits the mood and characters, and I listen to it over and over and over (and over and over!)… It helps keep me focused on the story and characters.
Did going to film school change the way you write?
I don’t have a way of knowing for sure, but learning how to tell a story through the lens taught me to pay attention to visuals. When I write, I picture a scene playing out in my mind the way I would shoot it for a movie. Not so much “a close-up of this character” and then “a wide shot of the kitchen”, but where the characters stand in relation to each other, and how they move, and where they look, and how they “act.” So even if they’re saying one thing, I can change how they act and change the focus of the scene.
How many books are you planning to write?
I hope to write as many books as I can! I have lots of ideas percolating in my brain, and I’m excited to keep telling stories.
How did you find an agent?
Every author has a different “how I got my agent” story. My agent happens to be a friend from high school that I’d lost touch with. I hadn’t seen or talked to him for eight years, and I emailed him out of the blue to ask if I could send the book. He said “sure”, liked it, and agreed to represent me. He told me later that he was really scared he wouldn’t like the book. Luckily for both of us, he did! It just goes to show that what you do in high school, and the people you meet there, really ARE important!
Some people mistakenly believe that you have to know someone in publishing to get published. That’s not true–what you need is a good book and a willingness to work hard. I had spent four years on Bad Girls Don’t Die before I got an agent! And knowing someone only gets your foot in the door. The agent or editor still has to really like your project to agree to take you on.
It’s great to go to conferences and other events in the hope of meeting an agent or having an author recommend you–but the absolute most important thing you can do is write a really good book. A lot of authors get their agents by sending a good query letter to the right agent.
Did you get a lot of rejections?
I got several, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. We sent the book out, and many editors passed. A lot of them had really kind and thoughtful things to say, and some even said they’d like to see whatever I write next. It stings a little, but it’s all part of the game.
(One editor said it had a big Hollywood ending — at first, I thought that was a compliment! When you work in Hollywood, a big Hollywood ending means you’re Steven Spielberg! Turns out that in publishing, it means something a little less flattering. Also, it’s not as fun as you might think to be told you have a “vivid imagination”.)
Will you read my book/screenplay/etc.?
Unfortunately, I can’t read unpublished work–for a lot of reasons. But I highly encourage you to join a critique group or hook up with another writer. (If you’re a published author looking for a blurb, please contact me here.)
My best advice for anyone who wants to write is to go ahead and do it! And don’t necessarily try to write “the perfect book.” I’m a fan of writing for yourself. I wrote a lot of long, rambling stories that never saw the light of day, just because I wanted to see what it was like for a character to experience something. Though most of my writing now is more focused, writing those stories gave me a real sense of how to craft narration, dialogue, action, etc.
I think it’s really important to care for an idea and protect it from the big, bad world. To this day, I’m very protective of my work. Until I sent my book to my agent, only my husband and I had read it. An idea is like a kitten — it’s wonderful and delicate and someone who treats it badly could really hurt it! So I make sure I don’t share too much information with people who might not respond kindly.
I write my whole first draft before I revise. I might read over and smooth out a sentence or two, but overall, I want to get the whole thing down first. As Nora Roberts said, “I can fix bad writing. I can’t fix a blank page.”
Can I get a review copy of one of your books?
Review copy requests need to go through the publicity department at the publisher of the book you’re interested in. I don’t respond to ARC requests. You will find the info for my publishers on my Contact page.
Looking for more info? Here are links to various interviews I’ve done around the blogosphere!
FreeBookFriday Teens – 4/25/09
Still can’t find the answer you seek? Contact me here.