Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Author Interview with KATHLEEN KASKA

Kathleen Kaska is a writer of mysteries, trivia, travel, biography & poetry and lives in Texas.

When and why did you begin writing?

I started writing about twenty years ago, after I became confident about my teaching career and came to a point where I wasn’t spending all my spare time working on lesson plans and curricula. Before that, I read a lot and took creative writing workshops whenever possible.

You’ve published mystery trivia books and a mystery; you’ve also written several plays. Tell us about what motivated the variety and what you love most to write.

I always wanted to write mysteries. But it was important that I write as much as possible about anything. I was also interested in travel writing, and early on, I landed some small assignments, which lead to larger ones. Eventually, I became a staff writer for a monthly publication called AustinFit magazine.

After seventeen years of teaching, I took two years off to write. My husband and I moved to San Juan Island in Washington State. The island has an impressive group of writers, and an incredible community theatre. During those two years, I completed four novels, several short stories, and four plays that were produced by the theatre. It’s amazing what you can do when you don’t have a day job.

I love writing fiction. I just slip into another world and let my characters tell me their story. Non-fiction can be a struggle at times because I have to get everything correct—all the facts, names, dates, etc. When writing narrative nonfiction, which is what I am working on now, I have the added responsibility of staying in the true voice of my character, currently, a man whom I admire, but have never met because he died in 1963.

Do you have a writing schedule or any set rules that you follow?

I’m a morning person and do most my writing early in the day, sometimes as soon as I wake up. But right now my husband and I are traveling and promoting my latest book, so I write whenever I can catch a few minutes.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer?

Nowadays we all know that no matter what your publisher does for you, writers have to promote themselves. I’d much rather spend my time in my fantasy world of murder and mayhem, but I also realize that I need to show my face, engage in social networking, make phone calls, schedule book signings, and actively search out and involve myself in promotions.

What is the title of your most recently published book? Briefly tell us what it’s about and let us know where we can buy it.

My first mystery in the Sydney Lockhart series, Murder at the Arlington, was released in June. It takes place in 1952. Reporter Sydney Lockhart checks into the historic Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Before she unpacks, she discovers the body of the hotel’s bookkeeper. What began as a simple travel-writing assignment now turns into a murder investigation. The bad news is that Sydney becomes a suspect. Determined to clear her name and prove herself a reporter deserving more than just travel assignments, Sydney gets embroiled in the underworld of gangsters and gamblers. In her fight for the truth, she soon faces a more urgent battle—saving her own skin.

Murder at the Arlington is most easily obtained online through Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. For the last five months, I’ve visited dozens of independent bookstores asking them to stock my book and they have been very accommodating. For booksellers, my mystery is available through Ingram and Baker and Taylor.

What are you working on now and when/where do you expect it to be available?

I’m working on the final draft of the third Sydney Lockhart mystery, Murder at the Galvez, as well as a separate mystery series about animal rights’ activist Kate Caraway. Plus the narrative nonfiction that I mentioned, which is about an endangered species.

Writers, especially new writers, are always looking for tips and helpful information. What is the single most important “tip” you can give to a new writer?

This may sound like a cliché, but it’s important to write everyday. Even if you have a very busy schedule, commit to at least fifteen minutes a day. Soon fifteen will turn into 30 and before you know it you’ll be putting down hundreds of words a day; and by the end of a year, you’ll have enough to revise into a viable manuscript.

And don’t get discouraged. I wrote an article about biking-trails on Nantucket Island and tried for two years to sell it to many magazines and newsletters. On a lark, I sent it to a national publication and it was accepted as a feature for the annual travel edition, a much more prestigious publication than the others I had queried.

You enjoy membership in several writers’ organizations. Share with us how membership has, or has not, helped your writing career.

Writer’s organizations can help in several ways. They give you the opportunity to connect with other writers, join writers’ critique groups, take classes, and mainly network. Get involved. A writer needs to learn and experience what is going on out there.

Do you have any upcoming book signings or appearances? If so, give us all the details.

I’ll be a featured author at the 10th Annual Pulpwood Queen Girlfriend and Timber Guys Book Club Weekend this coming January in Jefferson, Texas. This is a book club that was started by local author Kathy Patrick and has grown to become the largest book group in the county.

FUN QUESTION: Whatever gave you, or your webmaster, the idea for your home page? It’s TERRIFIC!

Thanks. I really like the way it turned out. My webmaster is Pam Herber, of Friday Harbor, Washington. She is a close friend, a talented artist, and a fellow writer. Pam has read through several drafts of my mysteries. Since this series is set in the 1950s and my protagonist, Sydney Lockhart, travels from one historic hotel to another, we decided that the postcard image would best set the mood for these stories.

What are the addresses of your website(s) and blog(s):

My web site is http://www.kathleenkaska.com/ and my blog is kathleenkaskawrites.blogspot.com. I also have web pages with Mystery Writers of American (http://www.mysterywriters.org/), http://www.goodreads.com/, http://www.librarything.com/ and http://www.facebook.com/.

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