Friday, October 11, 2013

Author Interview - Katherine Ernst & "The Long Game"

Katherine Ernst
Katherine Ernst graduated Magna Cum Laude from Loyola Law School, New Orleans and worked as a high profile criminal and corporate fraud attorney in Philadelphia.  After practicing for a short time, she gave up the practice of law to focus on writing novels.  Katherine lives in Pennsylvania with her amazingly supportive husband and their three cats.  She is represented by Pooja Menon of Kimberley Cameron & Associates.

What is your genre of choice, and why?

I don’t know that I’ve settled on a genre or category.  I’ve written a Middle Grade contemporary that landed me my first agent, a Young Adult fantasy that landed me my second, and now I’m publishing a New Adult contemporary which will be my first release. All of my books, however, are about people who don’t fully feel like they fit in, one way or another. I think it’s the theme of my life.

How many books have you published? (self or otherwise)

My first book, The Long Game came out Oct. 7 under the pen name J.L. Fynn. It’s actually a co-written project with my long-time collaboration partner, Chelle Bruhn.

Tell me about your current project.

I’m now working on the prequel to The Long Game. It will be available in January, and I agreed to write the first half, so I need to get it done so Chelle has enough time to finish it.

Where can I buy copies of your work?

What are you reading right now?

Found in You by Laurelin Paige.  I adored her first book Fixed on You, and I’m loving the sequel as well.

What keeps you going on those days when writing gets hard? (e.g., a favorite quote or a personal motto)

My favorite writing quote is: “Whether or not you write well, write bravely.” Also, for me, writing is always hard.  Each day I wake up dreading getting down to work, but I love conceptualizing my plot and I love editing the manuscript into tip top shape, so looking forward to that payoff is what makes me muscle through.

What advice can you give other aspiring writers out there?

Just keep writing.  It’s trite, and it’s not what people want to hear, but there is no better advice.  Also, if you have quick success, don’t believe your own hype. If it takes you a while to find success, don’t think that means you don’t have talent. I’ve seen both issues trip up new writers.

What cautions do you have?

Beta readers or critique partners are critical.  However, make sure you find readers who are compatible with you and your vision.  You need people who will help you make your book the best it can be. Not people who will want to make it a completely different sort of book. (Real life example: one author was telling me her beta reader was upset because she hated any writing in the first person and hated manuscripts with paranormal elements—and this author was writing YA Paranormal romance.  Not a good fit!)

Do you work on more than one project at a time?

I might be editing one project while beginning to write another, but in terms of writing, I stick to one project at a time.

Do you have a process? (e.g., outlining, character creation, location)

Doesn’t everyone have a process? I wish my novels came fully written, but I haven’t figured out how to make that happen yet.  (Soon.)  No, I have a pretty involved process and it works well for me.  First, I beat sheet out the book. (Using the Save the Cat method.) Then I outline the book, which involves writing what will happen in each chapter in fairly close detail.  (The outline usually ends up being 1/4 of the length of the final manuscript.) Then I write the book. Then I edit it.  Then I edit it four more times. 

Where do your ideas come from? What inspires you?

Lord knows. Usually I’ll be doing something or watching something and think, “What if X happened?” I always say that the trick to being a writer is just taking yourself seriously.  Everyone has interesting ideas, but most people let them fall away without exploring them.  A writer takes the initial what-if question and keeps asking more questions until they have something resembling a plot.  My husband had been interested in writing for a number of years, but he always said he had no ideas. I told him he just needed to take his ideas seriously. In the last two months he’s decided to do that, and in that time he’s outlined an involved adult fantasy novel and has written the first fifteen chapters. Take yourself seriously!

If you could do it all over, is there anything you would change about finding an agent and finally publishing?

That’s an interesting question. My first agent was Amy Tipton of Signature Literary Agency.  I absolutely adored her, but she was unable to sell my MG contemporary manuscript (that’s the way the cookie crumbles). The next book I wrote was YA fantasy and she doesn’t rep fantasy, so I had to find a new agent. I was then picked up by Pooja Menon of Kimberley Cameron and Associates.  She’s still in the process of selling that book. (Fingers crossed). Plus, while that long process is going on, I decided to independently publish a third book. That’s not exactly the most straightforward of paths, but I can’t say I regret anything.  Sometimes, you just can’t know what the future holds until you get there.

What has been your toughest criticism? What has been your greatest compliment?

When I first started writing I hadn’t yet made any writer friends and I went on this site called Critique Circle.  I actually met some good people there, so I’m not suggesting it’s all bad, but some people love to tear others down. I put up the first couple chapters of my book for critique. The main character of that book was based on a teenage version of myself, and I had many stinging critiques including one woman say that she not only hated the main character, she thought she was not appropriate for teens to read because she was such an awful person. (To this day, I still don’t understand why. The chapter was about the character thinking about being nervous on her first day of school!) When I finally queried that book, I got a lot of positive feedback from agents, which goes to show you shouldn’t let negative criticism go too much to heart. 

The greatest compliment?  Wow, we’ve gotten a lot for our book The Long Game
.  It’s been humbling.  Getting a five star review from NY Times Bestseller Emma Hart was huge.  But having a stranger message me and tell me that she reads 2-3 books a week, but can’t stop thinking about my book and feels that it’s in her top 5 favorite books of all time—that was incredible.  

Who is your greatest influence(s)

My husband Max. We have so many wonderful conversations not only about my writing, but also about books—figuring out why they worked or didn’t. He makes me a better writer, and person, every day.

Who are your favorite people to follow on Twitter & why? (e.g., authors, non-authors)

@mstrcatscinema is a funny one. (Although my husband might be behind it…)  It’s all amusing cat-related posts. Other than that, to be honest, I don’t spend a lot of time reading other people’s tweets on twitter.  I interact with people who follow me and who I follow back, but I don’t spend a lot of time watching famous people. (Is that wrong?)

Do you have any other passions besides writing?

I love singing along to music, including, but not limited to, karaoke. I’m a *huge* political junky, although I’m trying to keep it out of my social media these days. I am also an enormous New Orleans Saints fan.  Who dat! 

When did you know you wanted to write?

I’ve always liked writing, but I only started writing creatively three years ago.  I was also one of those people who thought I had no ideas because I didn’t take myself seriously.  Now that I think of myself as a writer, I never stop having ideas.

 Do you have a day job?

I used to be a full-time attorney.  Now I just do a little legal work here and there. I also do some other odds and ends, but for the most part, I write full time thanks to my amazingly supportive husband.

Final question, why do you write?

Because even though I hate it, I can’t live without it. There’s something about writing that’s addictive. And now that I’ve gone through the publishing journey, I realize that’s addictive too.  Putting in so much hard work promotionally and watching it pay off is incredibly gratifying.  I don’t think I’ll ever stop doing this.