Interview Transcripts

Event start time:

Thu Jun 02 19:02:36 2005

Event end time:

Thu Jun 02 21:11:22 2005



Legend:
Questions from the Audience are presented in red.
Answers by the Speaker are in black.
The Moderator's comments are in blue.

Mary Rosenblum

Hello all.

 

Welcome to our Professional Connection live interview!

 

I'm very pleased to introduce you all to Kate Daniel, my guest tonight.

 

Besides all of Kate's credentials as a writer, I knew her as the sysop of the old GENIE days...that was a site

 

in some ways similar to LR with live chat and boards. She got to deal with the wild and wooly chat and the interviews of the time. It was VERY early internet days then.

 

So now our roles are reversed and I'm the one doing the interviewing. J

 

Kate Daniel has been a professional writer since 1991. During that time, she has sold over a dozen short stories and nonfiction articles, as well as eight novels, six of which were mysteries for young adults. Current projects include collaborating on a fantasy and several independent projects.

 

Kate, welcome! I'm so pleased to have you here tonight!

Kate Daniel

Thanks, I'm delighted to be here.

ashton

Welcome, Kate! When did the writing bug hit you?

Mary Rosenblum

That's a good place to begin!

Kate Daniel

Oh my. It actually hit me when I was a child. Back when I was about in fifth grade.

 

I read "Little Women" and emulated Jo. :)

 

I tried my hand then at writing a mystery...

 

but I couldn't figure out how to solve it! So I decided I didn't know how to plot

 

and more or less gave up on the idea. In addition

 

some well-meaning teacher told me that I needed to improve my spelling

 

(which was and is rather erratic) if I wanted to be a writer.

 

So I went ahead with my first love of music and got a degree

 

in piano. Then, years later, when I'd become a freelance programmer

 

I got onto Genie, as Mary mentioned, and was encouraged

 

to try again. By that time

 

I was over forty. But THAT time I had a computer with a spell-checker

 

and I made it. A few years ago, my mother sent me a copy

 

of some stuff I wrote back in fifth grade. I shuddered. But it was obvious

 

that the bug had always been there! .

Mary Rosenblum

I have to say that one of the things that annoys me is the tendency for teachers to equate technical issues...such as spelling...with the ability to write creatively. Tech problems you can overcome.

 

It sounds as if that's what your teacher was doing.

Kate Daniel

Yes, it was. I'm glad we have computers now!

Mary Rosenblum

Oh, I LOVE my spell checker! LOL

wingedwarrior24

Besides reading and writing, is there anything that has helped you write well?

Kate Daniel

Living. That sounds trite

 

but it's true. There's a part of a writer's brain

 

that sits there and takes notes on what happens,

 

that asks questions and looks for reasons,

 

that asks "what if?" I think it's THAT, more than anything,

 

that makes a writer.

Mary Rosenblum

And my own take on that is that you do this

 

whether you're at the Laundromat or on an 'adventure'. Yes?

Kate Daniel

Indeed! Of course, adding various experiences

 

helps a great deal. Above all, I recommend

 

travel. And asking questions when you do, and observing

 

people. What they do, how they live

 

and how they are both the same and different, wherever you go.

Mary Rosenblum

Amen to that!

tkat_2

Jo was my favorite character in "Little Women". Did you have any other favorites?

Kate Daniel

Oh my! SO many... That's one of those questions that's almost impossible to answer

 

because the answer varies with my mood! But besides Jo, I was

 

Dorothy in Oz, and Rouge in Golden Hawk, and assorted TV characters and

 

well, I can't remember them all! But while people thought I was that kid in the third row...

 

I was ranging the galaxy from an early age.

speck

What do you read now as an adult?

Kate Daniel

Science fiction, and mystery, and romances.

 

I'm currently on a re-read kick of Georgette Heyer

 

but I always make time for nonfiction. The more of that you read

 

the more you have Real World connections. History and science are my main interests there.

info

Does your mood ever dictate what you write? Like, do you write something devastating if you are mad and such?

Kate Daniel

Occasionally. But that sort of thing is usually a snippet,

 

not a full story or novel. If I have a project in hand,

 

which is usually the case, I mostly stick with it. But I can always

 

sidetrack and write that snippet. It will find a place in my work later!

ashton

Do you ever have those days when you simply can't write anything useful and you hang it up?

Kate Daniel

Oh, lordie, yes! In fact, I've had some dry spells that made me think I'd never get anything solid written again!

 

What's kept me going at those times is the fact that it HAS happened before

 

and the drought has always broken. Also, knowing that other writers have gone through the same thing helps.

Mary Rosenblum

Do you do anything special to try and end those dry spells when they hit you? Or just wait 'em out?

Kate Daniel

Oddly enough, what usually helps the most is doing something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT

 

even if it's no more than writing out the way I think a favorite TV show *should* have ended!

Mary Rosenblum

You know, that's exactly what I have found to work when I hit 'walls'....just start something else...even if it's

 

just writing out a hot love scene for no reason. :-)

Kate Daniel

Those are always fun!

 

grins evilly.

Mary Rosenblum

Yep. :)

ashton

Did you ever think you'd be where you are now...many novels later and still with ideas for the others to come?

Kate Daniel

Maybe back in fifth grade... but when I started, no.

 

I wondered, as so many do, where I'd get ideas. That was before

 

I found out that ideas can be found anywhere and everywhere. Now I've got

 

more ideas and interests than I'll be able to write if I keep going for another half-century!

 

Which, btw, I fully intend to do!

Mary Rosenblum

You and me, both!

 

Here's an interesting question. I'd like to hear your take on it.

wingsofeagles

Which do you think is most important, talent or skill, in writing well?

Kate Daniel

Wow. Good one indeed.

 

If you don't mind, I'm going to go back to my original field to answer that.

 

As I said, I've got a degree in piano. Now, assuming no physical problems

 

anyone can learn to play the piano to some degree. It's a skill, and it can be taught. I know, I taught it.

 

However, while anyone CAN learn how to play, how *well* they play may come down to talent.

 

I do believe that that's a factor. Some people will have it, some won't.

 

Likewise, anyone can learn the skills that enable them to communicate well in words

 

but how well they do is a question of talent. Now, mind you, I'm not sure to this day

 

if what I have at writing is skill or talent. I think I have some talent. I thought (and think) I had some at piano.

 

How much is a question for my readers, or hearers, to answer.

 

But all I can do, and MUST do, is polish my skills to the best of my ability.

Mary Rosenblum

I agree with you but I'm going to stick my take in here, too, because I hear a lot about this issue of skill vs talent

 

and my feeling is that all too often, talent is perceived as black or white, you have it or you do not.

 

I don't believe it is that at all. Everyone has talent in writing to some degree from zero to say, ten,

 

and I also agree it is your readers who will score you. The skill matters because even a ten who writes stuff that the reader can't follow isn't really telling a story to that reader.

 

How does that sound?

Kate Daniel

I agree. I'm very fond of saying that the world usually isn't binary, black or white, right or wrong, talented or not.

Mary Rosenblum

Oh, I agree with that one wholeheartedly.

 

Interesting path we're taking tonight, here. Good question, wings.

 

I have a member of the audience who is having trouble sending his comments up here, Kate

 

but I think they're a good addition.

 

Let me see if I can put them up here.

 

What he said was that Marlon Brando was asked if he thought acting was an art or a craft and he replied 'It's a craft."

 

And Stevijo's thoughts on this were:

 

That the art lies within us, is what we are, and craft is how you express it.

 

I think that's very well put.

Kate Daniel

I agree. Again, an analogy.

 

Again allowing for physical handicaps, almost anyone can learn crafts such as embroidery

 

but the altar cloth I once saw in a Mexican village, the Great Seal of Mexico done so well

 

that you would have sworn the eagle had feathers instead of stitches

 

raised that example of craft to the level of Art. It belonged in a museum.

 

So, craft is necessary and important. But put your heart and soul in, and you have the chance

 

of achieving Art.

stevijo

Craft is the tool kit with which we learn to express and to refine the art.

Kate Daniel

YES!

Mary Rosenblum

Nice, Stevijo. Thanks!

marly

How many projects do you usually have going at one time?

Kate Daniel

It varies. (You'll notice I say that a lot!) Usually about two or three

 

but that doesn't count the ideas that pop up. Sometimes one will hijack me

 

but usually, I have a nonfiction project cooking somewhere, and a story

 

and a novel. The problem comes when I let one take over, because that can be an invitation to block.

Mary Rosenblum

So you move from project to project to sort of stay in motion?

Kate Daniel

Exactly. However, I've found that I usually can't do more than one in a given day. For example

 

I may get going on the nonfiction, and it will take over. If I try to jump into the middle of the novel

 

when my mind's still full of the nonfiction, it doesn't work too well. Usually I'll spend several days

 

on one, then switch, then several days and switch again.

Mary Rosenblum

Let's talk about your YA...I know we have quite a few people here who are interested in writing for the YA (Young Adult) market... what do you write there?

Kate Daniel

I've actually done two types of YA.... six mysteries, and one book

 

that could better be called a Teen Problem novel. I tend to get mysteries into most of what I write,

 

even much of my science fiction. But the problem novel was different, because it happened to hit close to home.

 

It was about a kid who was adopted looking for a birth parent. My son is adopted. So, as I said, I had a personal connection.

Mary Rosenblum

Have you written these books and then sold them, or have you written them from a proposal?

Kate Daniel

I actually sold my first book on proposal. That is NOT standard

 

but I was writing it for a packager, rather than the publisher. Packagers handle such things as series,

 

for example, the Nancy Drew books. There you can often sell on proposal even as a newbie. BUT

 

it's not the easiest way to go, and it means you don't own the rights. That's important

 

and you also don't get paid as much. Which is also important! But yes, I sold on proposal.

Mary Rosenblum

Kate, want to explain what a packager is? I think that has probably stumped a few people here.

Kate Daniel

All right. A publisher might decide, as happened in my case, that they wanted a new line of YA mysteries

 

but they don't want to discover all those new writers. So they go to the packager and say, give us twenty (for example)

 

mysteries and we'll publish them. The packager lines up writers, edits the books

 

and takes a large part of the advance, as well as all or part of the copyright. (Again, this IS important!)

 

In the case of series, you usually have no rights. Since my books were original, not part of a series

 

I own HALF of the copyright. The big advantage was that I got into print without having a completed book

 

but the disadvantage is that I don't own my work completely. And, of course, I made far less money!

 

I'll be honest, though.

 

This was several years ago, over a decade, and I'm not sure if that path is still open.

Mary Rosenblum

Actually, it is in some variations. Which is why I wanted to bring it up with you.

 

Magic the Gathering not long ago was taking a lot of stuff from new writers in a similar way.

 

And it is a route into publishing for unpublished writers who do not have a book written, BUT...the drawbacks are, as you point out.

 

that the work is either written 'for hire', which means you own no rights...or the pay is awful and you don't get much in royalties and don't entirely own the work.

 

The point I wanted to make here is that you find these opportunities by networking.

 

This is yet another reason to go do conventions or conferences and meet writers, editors, publishers. Nobody bites. Well, except Harlan Ellison.

Kate Daniel

LOL!

Mary Rosenblum

And he has mellowed with age.

Kate Daniel

Networking on line was how I got started.

Mary Rosenblum

There you go. :-)

 

And actually that's even more possible today.

 

Even if it's nothing more than email an author from his or her website and telling that person how much you like their work and why.

Kate Daniel

(I'll say here that writers ALWAYS love fan mail!)

Mary Rosenblum

No kidding! :-)

Kate Daniel

On the subject of controlling your work, I have a horror story, so to speak.

 

My first book was titled BABYSITTER'S NIGHTMARE. It sold very well, so the packager asked for a sequel.

 

I wrote a non-sequel sequel... BABYSITTER'S NIGHTMARE II had a different cast of characters,

 

a different locale, a different plot, but still a babysitter in a world of hurt

 

and it did well. BUT. The packager then came up with the idea to do a minor series

 

of Babysitter Nightmares. I think they did three or four more, with different writers.

 

I never saw an additional penny for that, because this WAS packager work. If I hadn't been with a packager

 

I might have gotten a slice of the whole deal. As it was, I just got the two.

Mary Rosenblum

Rights really do matter, as I keep saying, and it pays to find out just what a contract really means.

Kate Daniel

I did go into this with my eyes open; I have to say that. I wasn't cheated. But I wouldn't do it again.

Mary Rosenblum

What age group were your YA books for?

Kate Daniel

Well, I thought of them as being for fourteen-sixteen. The publisher and packager thought twelve to fourteen.

 

I wrote them, though, for myself at age fourteen!

Mary Rosenblum

So what makes a book 'YA'? How is it different than an adult mystery?

Kate Daniel

The biggest single difference I can express in two words.

 

Think Zits!

 

In other words, remember what it was like when you were a teenager yourself.

 

A zit on the night of your big date was a Catastrophe, horrible beyond belief.

 

You focus ON THE KIDS and their emotions. Sure, I had murders and thefts

 

but the teenaged emotions, the feeling that Everyone Is Looking, the incredible importance of everything --

 

that's what gets the tone. The other part of the equation is, keep adults secondary.

 

You can have a kid who is close to their family, or alone; close to teachers or estranged

 

but keep the focus ON THE KIDS, more than ever occurs in any real teen's actual world.

Mary Rosenblum

Got any suggestions for how people can do that...get the feel for teen state of mind...if they don't have teen kids?

Kate Daniel

Memory helps. Especially if you, as so many writers were, felt on the outside as a kid.

 

Think back to how you felt, how you thought. But since the world is constantly changing and teens today aren't what they were forty (or whatever!)

 

years ago, get to know some kids. Volunteer at a school. Work at a library.

 

Borrow a friend's kid and take them to the movies. Pick up teen-focused magazines.

 

Go to the movies where you're the only person in the audience over the age of eighteen.

 

All of these things can help you both know what *today's* kids are like

 

and help you to remember those timeless aspects of the age group as a whole.

Mary Rosenblum

Chat rooms frequented by teens are probably another good place to learn.

Kate Daniel

Yes!

 

Although I'd suggest lurking rather than pretending to be a teen. :)

jr souza jr

In going through your site I noticed your blurb about 'Sweet Dreams'. You say that although it is classified for YA it isn't, in your opinion. You mention delving into grief and self-identity...so what makes it YA or not, and why did the editors/publishers leave it classified YA?

Kate Daniel

It's YA because it does have teens for the focus, but that one in particular was focused on somewhat older kids --

 

at least in my mind. The protagonist has been betrayed (spoiler coming up!)

 

by those who should be closest to her, her family. Any kid who has lost family

 

or been abused may feel it too intensely. I never thought of that one for twelve-year-olds.

 

But unfortunately, far too many kids have learned first-hand that those who SHOULD take care of them

 

are in fact the enemy.

 

So the classification is probably correct.

penandink

Where do you see YA fiction writers in the future? Growing?

Kate Daniel

Growing and changing. There's likely to be far more online

 

and I encourage everyone to keep aware of the various experiments going on in online publishing

 

but the great thing about writing for YA is that there's always a new generation coming up.

Mary Rosenblum

I agree with that online comment especially…and ebooks. I think the ebook will take off more rapidly with the younger audience.

Kate Daniel

Yes, indeed. And I'm trying to keep myself in shape to catch and ride that wave!

gail

I cut my EYE-teeth ;-) on Nancy Drew mysteries. To my recollection there was never any overt violence, much less murders. Is this still the norm today?

Kate Daniel

No. I've got more virtual blood on my hands than Lady MacB.

 

That one that was mentioned earlier, SWEET DREAMS, had the protagonist’s parents murdered before the book opened.

 

I've put villains over cliffs, drowned them, and arrested them. It's hard to avoid this

 

when kids today watch TV and movies that feature murder as a main theme.

 

To be honest, my main thought was always focusing on the teens, but I never held back from the gritty reality of death.

Mary Rosenblum

I agree that you really do need to face that in the general YA markets.

catydorr

I have problems finding teen magazines that accept "good" YA literature--so much of it seems to be how to catch the fashion--keeping friends, etc--where do you find the teen-mag that really look for literature that deals with real teen issues?

Kate Daniel

To be honest, most of the time the Real Issues sort of thing comes up in question and answer columns

 

and often will deal with cheating boyfriends and the like. It's a question of reading

 

between the lines, so to speak. Get the general themes, the focus,

 

but then go ahead and come up with a solid PLOT that can interest any age,

 

and make the characters teens. I think it worth mentioning, in this regard, that I've got adult fans

 

for my YA novels. Jean Kerr once said that the definition of a GOOD children's book

 

was one that could be read by an intelligent adult without gagging. The same applies to YA.

Mary Rosenblum

I like that definition, but I think generally there is quite a bit of adult crossover in YA. A lot of the current YA is quite good.

wingsofeagles

Is it normal to be good at, say, NF, but really bad at F?

Kate Daniel

I think it depends on the writer. My own predilection is for fiction; I really felt awkward the first time I tried nonfiction

 

since so often my ideas either involve murders or other star systems/times! But the craft

 

is often the same on both sides. You may have a strong preference, or more of a flair for one than the other

 

but this gets us back to the craft vs. talent question. Craft can help you do a good job even in the half of the writing world

 

that isn't your natural bent. But by and large, if you can do one you can do the other. Possibly not as well, though.

Mary Rosenblum

I was going to say that the field of nonfiction is strongly craft driven.

M

It’s a matter of giving an editor a well written piece that she needs, and slant and topic are the main criteria

 

and many people do have a talent for coming up with a new twist on familiar topics.

 

What kind of nonfiction do you usually do, Kate?

Kate Daniel

So far, writing about writing, and crime, and science. IOW, I haven't gone that far away from my roots!

 

(I really need to write something about piano!)

jr souza jr

Myself and several of my 50+ year old friends are big fans of Jonathan Stroud, Garth Nix, Paolinni and Rowlands.

Mary Rosenblum

Crossover!

typedoh

Do you think that the success of the Harry Potter series has had an impact on the YA genre?

Kate Daniel

I absolutely *adore* Harry Potter. Not that I'm prejudiced or anything!

Mary Rosenblum

Oh, me, too. What's NOT to adore?

Kate Daniel

Yes, I think it has an impact, but mainly in that it has gotten a lot of kids reading who might not have done so otherwise.

 

As a result, I tend to get impatient with those who complain about the books. For that matter, comic books and video games are great when they get kids reading.

 

GET THEM READING. That's the key.

Mary Rosenblum

You get no argument from me!

wingedwarrior24

Do you ever put traits of yourself in your characters?

Kate Daniel

Yes. :) It's hard to avoid it, to be honest. For example, I often tend to second-guess myself

 

and to question what I do. That turns up in a lot of my characters. It's harder for me to write a decisive

 

self-confident character. But putting myself in those shoes may in fact help ME. Let's face it, even when we're writing

 

to entertain, very often writing can turn into therapy! I mentioned that teen problem book earlier.

 

When the adopted teen told her folks that she wasn't REALLY theirs, I was replaying some very real arguments, from the other side. It did help.

Mary Rosenblum

Interesting. I've always felt that we put ourselves into our characters whether we do so intentionally or not.

softy

What is your favorite genre to write?

Kate Daniel

Cross-genre. Seriously, I love fantasy. I love science fiction. I love mystery

 

and I love to mix them up! But by and large I do prefer to go to other worlds, other times.

 

So I guess you'd have to say f/sf. But mystery works very well within that context!

penandink

Do you have young children in your family that read your books? How do they feel about your stories?

Kate Daniel

My grandchildren are a bit too young, as yet; I'm eager for them to get old enough!

 

But I've had nieces and nephews who not only enjoyed my books but enjoyed taking them to school... "my aunt the writer" so to speak. J

 

I love that because it lets people know that, hey, writers aren't up in the clouds someplace, we're PEOPLE!

miss speld

How long have you know Katharine Kerr?

Kate Daniel

Since shortly after I got onto Genie, so I'd say since about 1990.

Mary Rosenblum

You're working on a collaboration with her, right? Is this a fantasy novel?

Kate Daniel

Ahhh.... actually, no, that one's already in print and has been for several years.

 

Not fantasy... it was science fiction/mystery. With baseball. :) And published, believe it or not, in England!

 

It was a case of "be careful what you ask for."

Mary Rosenblum

How so?

Kate Daniel

She written a science fiction mystery titled POLAR CITY BLUES. I loved it and told her she should write a sequel.

 

One day she said, hey, guess what! There's going to be a sequel! And YOU are going to write it! And thus was born

 

the collaboration that became POLAR CITY BLUES. We did most of the outline together

 

using her world and characters. I wrote the entire first draft. She worked with me on the revisions.

 

It was a full collaboration. And it came out well.

Mary Rosenblum

Cool!

marty

What are you working on at the present time?

Mary Rosenblum

Yes, what is waiting in the wings? :-)

Kate Daniel

I'm trying my hand at a couple of new things.

 

First, in terms of nonfiction.... Long Ridge gave me the idea for this, btw...

 

I'm not only working on an article, I'm keeping notes for an article *about* writing the article... this is on interstate commerce.

 

Sounds boring, but I'm focusing on one aspect that hits home every time I drive on the interstate.

 

But for fiction, I have a short story that's a sequel to one I wrote for one of Esther Friesner's Chicks In Chainmail anthologies.

Mary Rosenblum

Oh those were SO fun.

Kate Daniel

And something new... an action/adventure mystery with a female lead.

Mary Rosenblum

Cool! Is the mystery novel length?

Kate Daniel

Yes, it is. Plus a possible collaboration with a friend that we THINK is going to be a series.

 

Mystery and psychics. BTW, we came up with this one BEFORE the TV show The Medium became a hit

 

so I guess we've just got good timing. :)

Mary Rosenblum

I'd say so! Pitch that baby quick!

Ma

Or is it already sold?

Kate Daniel

No, alas... my friend/partner just got married, so things have been on hold! (Once she comes down from the honeymoon mindset, we get back to it.)

Mary Rosenblum

Great timing, as you say. Oh, by the way,

 

I just heard from someone that Berkeley Prime Crime is doing paranormal mystery right now...you might try there.

Kate Daniel

OOOH! Thanks!!!

wingedwarrior24

Did you go through rejection after rejection and still come out swinging?

Kate Daniel

Good one! Short form answer, yes! Long form:

 

Back when I first joined that writers' workshop, I was encouraged to start submitting stories immediately

 

and I did. I had talked to enough pros by then to know that rejections were part of the game.

 

So I decided that I'd paper my hall with rejection notices. If I hadn't sold anything by the time the hall was done

 

I'd think about it, and decide if the rejections had been encouraging enough to go on. If so

 

I was going to do the spare bedroom. Fortunately, I made the first sale before I was halfway down the hall.

 

But I've never forgotten one pro who told me he'd set a goal of a hundred rejections.

 

He hit that and kept going. He sold on the 103rd try. So YES, keep swinging!

Mary Rosenblum

Amen!

 

Okay, I have to put you on the spot JUST once, and then I'll let you escape, LOL.

ashton

Is there one author you'd give anything to meet or have met?

Kate Daniel

Actually, that's not as hard as you might think. Robert Heinlein. There are plenty of writers past and present whose work I love,

 

whom I'd love to meet/have met, but I will always regret having gotten going in the field too late to have met RAH.

Mary Rosenblum

Ray Bradbury for me.

Kate Daniel

I had the honor of meeting him.

Mary Rosenblum

oooh...cool!  Kate this has been a very fine chat!

Kate Daniel

I've enjoyed it, Mary.

Mary Rosenblum

You have been a great guest and I think we've all thoroughly enjoyed our evening.

 

I hope you have, anyway!

Kate Daniel

I certainly have!

Mary Rosenblum

Thanks so much for coming, and I'll certainly ask you back again!

Kate Daniel

As a writer/editor friend of mine always said, "Write on!"

writeaway

This has been an informative evening. Thanks Kate. And as always, thank you, Mary

Kate Daniel

Thank all of YOU. :)

Kate Daniel

bows gracefully.

Mary Rosenblum

You probably need to rest your fingers! We'll wish you good night and thanks SO much for joining us!

Mary Rosenblum

Thanks for coming, all, and good night!

 

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