Kathrin Hutson: Editor, published author
Meeting the Rising Writer No. 12
Welcome back! You know, for those of you who left out of town for Thanksgiving or work or whatever. If you didn’t leave, then I unwelcome you back. Kidding. Anyway, today we’re going to get to know a little about a good friend of mine and fellow editor, Kathrin Hutson. She has a cool name, a cool job, and she’s a great writer! Kat believes by using her full name in publications and work, it becomes an extension of herself, like a fingerprint in a way.
When Kat isn’t writing, she is an editor for her own company, KLH CreateWorks, the Collaborative Writing Challenge and its umbrella publisher (CW Publishing House), and she was a Story Coordinator for CWC’s third collaboration, “Ark” (sci-fi adventure). She plays piano, sings, and writes music, entertains her two dogs, Sadie and Brucewillis, and she travels with her husband.
Thank you, Kat, for agreeing to a virtual interview today.
What is your biggest challenge as an editor?
My biggest challenge as an editor is one that I impose upon myself, surprisingly. I love what I do so much that sometimes I take on too many manuscripts at once, and I can get overwhelmed. I edited an 85K word manuscript in eight days once, as my fastest time of editing, and that was on a rare deadline. I try to give myself 2-3 weeks for a manuscript, depending on the length and the type of editing needed, and so far I haven’t misjudged the time needed to do so. Sometimes, though, this only gets accomplished when I work myself maybe harder than I should…on five or six different manuscripts at a time. I feel deadlines are really important to keep, especially when authors are waiting on me to get their work returned to them. Nobody likes to be kept waiting in the dark, and it’s even less fun to be told your manuscript won’t come back in time and will take a little longer. So I stretch myself sometimes, which isn’t always a bad thing. I’ve learned a lot about time management, and sometimes it just can’t be helped.
How did you get into editing for so many companies?
I started my company on my own, realizing that I had helped so many of my friends with their own writing in the past and that I could actually offer the same services for authors everywhere, just as a career. Doing that was the first step, and everything kind of fell into place after that. It’s just a matter of reaching out and connecting with people. When I contacted Laura Callender, founder of CWC, I originally wanted to join as a writer. At that time, all the projects were scheduled and had no open slots, but she told me a Story Coordinator position was open. So I took it. After I worked with her on various projects and she saw what I could offer as an editor, it just kind of fit together. I did, at one point, ask her if she wouldn’t mind just handing everything to me at the end so I could edit it because I fell in love with CWC and I wanted to make sure it got the editing attention it deserved. There was an empty Chief Editor slot with CWC, and I filled it. Just a few months later, Aaron Hughes, owner and Managing Director of RRPI, contacted me himself. I think he’d seen some of my work within a few writer support groups and had taken a peek at my blog (where I write posts on writing and editing tips) and after we chatted, I was asked about taking RRPI’s Editing Director position. Everything clicked into place there, as well, and it’s been a crazy ride ever since.
When did you start writing?
I started writing when I was 10 years old. That was fifteen years ago, so I guess it’s been some time. I remember the first time I attempted to create my own story (which turned into an unfinished manuscript of 240 pages about magic and fairies, and that’s one thing I’ll keep forever but never continue). It was my tenth birthday, and I kept dreaming about my favorite movie at the time, Fern Gully (note the fairy theme, here). In my dreams, I wanted so badly to change the ending of the storyline, and one day I finally realized that I actually could, if I were to sit down and rewrite it myself. Of course, I didn’t actually rewrite the movie, but that realization opened the doors to the possibility of creating whatever I wanted into a real, tangible thing in front of me. My writing has turned away quite a bit from fairies and into the realm of darker fiction, but since my tenth birthday I’ve been hooked.
What are you currently working on? How did you begin working on it?
I both love and dread talking about this project, because it’s bigger than anything I’ve ever done before, and it’s a little terrifying. “Sleepwater Beat” is a Dystopian Sci-Fi set in the near-future US. The main character, Leo, is a homeless girl of 22 who is one of a growing group of individuals who have developed the ability to affect other people—psychologically, mentally, and physically—with the “superpower” embedded in certain kinds of words. Basically like X-Men abilities through storytelling. The novel also covers government/military control, pharmaceutical and media conspiracy, human trafficking and experimentation, black-market dealings, guerilla warfare, and a hint of LGBTQ flavor. What in the world possessed me to scramble all these things together? I’ll never be able to answer that question.
It started quite literally as an experiment in and of itself about a year and a half ago. I had a general feel for these ideas, and wondered what it would be like to write a long short story (about 35K words) purely comprised of short scenes without “filler” (because we all hate writing filler, right?). The trick was that I also wanted to scramble every scene into an order as far from chronological as I could possibly get. I managed to do that pretty well, and the experiment was a success, even though I would never do it again. I brought this piece to my weekly writers’ group when I lived in Charleston, SC, and they loved the ideas. Their input also inspired me to change some details, add new characters and plot lines, and I realized this thing now clawed through its outer layer to transform into an entire novel. In its original form, it was easy for me to touch on topics I found entertaining. While I’ve been turning this into a novel, I’ve realized that I actually feel quite strongly about a lot of these Dystopian themes, and this may be the work closest to my heart at this point. I’ve written Sci-Fi short stories before, but this is a break out of genre for my experience with writing novels, and I’m so excited to be branching out.
If everything goes well and I don’t lose my mind, “Sleepwater Beat” should be out Spring of 2016.
What inspires your writing?
Life. But that’s a terribly vague answer. I’m inspired by other phenomenal books, hearing other authors celebrate their writing landmarks and victories, and by the crazy things I witness going through my own daily existence (which itself is wonderfully entertaining). Any time I watch detailed, vivid, well-plotted TV shows (and sometimes just their trailers or commercials will do it), I want to write. Any time I imagine something I’d love to have happen to me, but I know never will (mostly in fantasy, because I’ve always wanted to wield my own magic), I want to write. Certain music and dreams have also been powerfully inspiring, having crafted full characters and even entire stories before I could ever get them down on paper.
What/who are your favorite or most reliable support groups?
I’m so fortunate to have phenomenal support groups within the professional realm on a daily basis, as I work so closely with other authors and their work (yes, as an editor, but I get to connect with them through my author side as well). This is the CWC community—writing collaborative fiction is something that I recommend any author try. Melding your brain with others’ is a unique experience you can’t really get when writing something on your own. The RRPI community (staff and authors) plus all those who interact with us in RRPI’s Rambling Café Facebook Group, are another wonderfully supportive group. And then, of course, there’s your (Cayce Berryman’s?) very own Authors’ Tale Facebook Group, which is run so well for authors to come together, share prompts, pieces of fiction, new projects, and overall support and encourage one another. There are so many more I can’t even begin to name, but I have yet to be a part of any writing group/organization that has been anything but positive, inspiring, and beneficial. The writing community (and within that the Indie Author community, but those blend so well) is an amazing resource for any author or new writer. There’s nothing quite like mashing up with other writers who tend to be the only other people who really understand the struggles and joys of pouring yourself into creating a written work—plus all the crazy writer foibles and personalities that come along with it.
I can’t forget to mention that my family and non-writer friends have been a phenomenal pillar of encouragement and love for me in my writing. I realize more and more how excited people are to “know a published author,” and they’ll do whatever they can to spread around that news and celebrate all my victories with me. My husband is a category of support all on his own. He doesn’t write (or read much fiction for that matter), but he knows how important my writing is to me, loves to see me doing what I love and gaining so much joy from it, and he has supported me physically and emotionally in my dreams since the day we met. He’s one of the biggest factors in my ability to have “quit my day job,” start my own company, and become this professional behemoth of constant working with my own writing and that of all the talented new authors which whom I’ve worked.
What are your thoughts on collaborative writing?
Collaborative writing is a whole different world, and if you’re willing to meld brain power with one or more other writers and throw caution to the wind, the results can be explosive. I’ve worked as both a Story Coordinator and a participating writer in some of CWC’s collaborative novels, and I’m also currently engaged in two other collaborative works (soon to be published by CW Publishing House early next year). In a lot of ways, it’s easier than writing a novel on your own. For one, you don’t have to write a complete novel, just sections of it. On the other hand, it can be a lot more difficult than writing solo, because you don’t have full control of the plot or characters, and it’s difficult to plan what your next contribution will be until you read everything else that’s been written. It’s definitely an experience I’d recommend to any writer looking to stretch their imagination and skills.
What is the biggest mistake you think you make while writing? How do you overcome it?
My biggest mistake in writing is not writing. I don’t believe in writer’s block—I always have ideas floating through my head, begging to be put down on paper. But I do manage to psych myself out about whatever I’m working on, which manifests mostly as copious amounts of procrastination. Sometimes I overwhelm myself with the ideas, journeys, and worlds churning in my head, and that’s when I start doubting whether or not I’ll ever be able to write what I want in a way that accurately portrays how passionately I feel about these amorphous blobs of ideas. I once went three whole years without writing a single word of fiction after I’d let these fears wreak havoc on my village.
Overcoming it is a journey in and of itself, but I’ve managed to find two main things that help me get through this. The first is interacting with the writing community and the people with whom I’ve built some seriously influential relationships there. I have a handful of writer buddies who are always there to talk me through my doubts, read my works-in-progress, and give me feedback and support. Hearing another writer’s opinions on my own work always gets me excited to keep going, even if it’s to improve upon the things they point out as lacking in said project. The second thing is to give myself both a daily word quota of whatever project I’m currently pumping out while also having a personal deadline for finishing a first draft (and consequently for publication). It’s amazing how much I’ve been able to accomplish with the simple checklist item of “write 1,000 words every day.” It’s not that much when I look at it that way, but I can effectively write a complete novel in three months if I stick to it diligently.
Were you always good at writing?
Of course not. I’ve written plenty of stuff I would never show to anyone, because I know it’s not worth the time it would take to read. I have, however, written the equivalent of probably fifteen full-length novels if I combine all my fiction from the last fifteen years and give it one giant word count. Maybe more, I can’t be sure.
Three things make an author’s writing “better”.
1) Writing. Writing, writing, writing, all the time, no matter what it is or if you never plan on publishing it. Practice does actually make perfect.
2) Sharing your work with others. There is a wealth of knowledge and input out there in the world, and every single author both has great feedback to give and could benefit from others’ advice. If you think your writing is absolutely perfect, chances are it needs some work.
3) Read as much as you possibly can. In your favorite genres, in genres you hesitate to try, fiction, non-fiction, writing buddies’ work. We absorb a lot through seeing good writing in action, and you can really learn a lot from enjoying a piece and periodically studying what it has that makes it so great.
What do you hope to achieve with your writing?
I want to make readers feel something. Anything, whether it’s fear, pride, lust, excitement, fury, annoyance, love, sadness, whatever. As long as emotions spew from the words, out of the characters and action, and into the reader’s heart, I’ve done my duty. Of course, there’s also the element of pure entertainment, of good writing that makes people devour the pages in giant chunks, and sometimes of supporting ideas or feelings I have about large-scale topics within the world as we know it. Basically, I want to achieve everything.
What books or writing projects have you completed/published in the past?
You know, it’s so nice to have an answer for this question. I published my first Indie novel just this past October. “Daughter of the Drackan:
Book One ofGyenona’s Children.” I finished this novel in 2007, and it took me this long to edit the living daylights out of it and finally get it out into the world. Its sequel, “Mother of the Drackan,” is in the final review stages and will be available spring 2016. If you decide to read it, I always love seeing new reviews on Amazon and/or Goodreads (whether you absolutely love it or not).
My short story “And You Will Not Be Afraid” was also published this last October by CW Publishing House in our Halloween Anthology The Grim Keepers.
There are so many projects I’m a part of being published between next week and this coming April, but I’ll stick to what’s currently tangible.
Do you research your book? If so, what have you learned through your research?
I’ve never had to research any of my Fantasy projects…hence the fantasy. I like being able to make things up completely as I go, but if a certain journey spans “across the land,” I find the only research needed then is to create a map of my world for reference. It’s rudimentary at best, and less research than it is extra creation.
However, working on “Sleepwater Beat,” I’ve found that research is absolutely essential. Sci-Fi, no matter how close in the immediate future, requires research on regarding any of the genre elements, whether it’s technological, scientific, or medical. I’ve had to do a lot of digging into certain areas of the country, city populations, regions mainly comprised of certain trades. I also had to do a lot of research into medicine and entry-level brain function. One of the huge components of this project is the introduction of a new drug on the market, which has a lot of addictive potential and negative side-effects, but transforms a number of different industries with its benefits. I have to know how the human brain works in order to figure out how this fictional substance would affect it. Another good thing to remember, when writing fiction that’s a close parallel to reality, is to make sure none of your company names actually exist in the real world. I’ve googled almost every company name, just to make sure that I wouldn’t be “slandering” somebody’s business that already exists. It’s a lot of work, but I’ve had a few writing buddies who have read this as it’s being written tell me, “I can tell you’ve done a lot of research. This is great.” I used to be really afraid of research, thinking it unnecessary and shying away from it, but it definitely pays off.
Do you have any advice you’d like to give other writers?
I answered part of this when you asked, “Was I always good at writing?”—my top three suggestions for improving one’s writing being writing, getting involved in a writing community, and reading everything you can.
Besides those things, I’d say the most important piece of advice I can offer is to give yourself more credit as a writer. This applies to:
a) congratulating yourself and taking pride in all the hard work you’ve put into your writing,
b) trusting your skills and instincts when it comes to whether or not you’ve “done something right”,
c) knowing that, more often than not, you’re getting the right ideas, characters, and scenes down, even if they still need some work, and
d) that you can do this.
Yes, writing a novel is hard work. Writing something people love is even harder. But that’s what we do—we write because we have to, because we can’t help it, because it makes us who we are. And as long as you stick with it and keep going, keep exploring, experimenting, pumping out words and being just a little vulnerable to feedback, advice, and yes, even praise, you will write that fantastic piece people adore. You can experience the success that comes with seeing your work in print, with hearing how much people love your work and how they can’t wait for more. You just have to give yourself more credit.
How can readers and fellow writers discover more about you and your work?
BONUS QUESTION: If you woke up and had a power with your words, what would it be and what would you do with it?
If I woke up with the ability to spin a beat, it would probably be the same one the supporting character Mirela has. With her words, she brings on a fabulous, all-encompassing, heart-wrenching sense of peace and love. I’m totally a hippie at heart then, I guess. I would make people feel like they knew (for as long as my words lasted) what the meaning of life is.
Thank you, Kat, for participating in an interview. Thank you to those who read and hey, you may have earned a little insight from our editor side of things. 😉 If you read it all, that is. So if you didn’t, go back up. She shed some secrets. (Not really secrets, but you know…whatever gets you to read it all).
I hope you take time out from your day to look at the excerpt in the Facebook group. If you’re not a part of it and want to offer your critique and feedback, join in! We’d love to have you.
Other than that, please comment below if you have any questions for Kat and if you want a good read, check out “Daughter of the Drackan.” It’s great!
Have a great day,