In conclusion to “Seriously, I Will Read Your Book“
Young Adult Author Kate Ellison Interview
Kate Ellison, author of The Curse Girl, transforms the tale of Beauty and the Beast into a modern-day fairy tale where reality is not quite what it seems and curses can be lifted with the power of true love.
1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always made up stories. I first wanted to be a writer when I knew there was a job that let you make up stories for money. I was probably around 7. I’ve never really had any other dream in life.
2. What inspired you to create a new version of Beauty and the Beast in The Curse Girl?
I actually came up with aspects of the story before I’d hammered out the entire plot, and I realized how similar they seemed to Beauty and the Beast. Since I’ve always loved fairy tale retellings, I decided to go that direction with it. Originally it was supposed to be a short story that I was going to try to sell to a magazine … but I quickly realized there was too much story for 10k words or less (plus, most markets prefer less than 5k, which was definitely way too short for this story).
3. What process did you go through to create Bee’s and Will’s world?
I always start with whatever sparked the story–for this one it was a mental image of Bee wandering the dark house with a candle in her hand and startling herself with her own reflection in a mirror–and then I’m flooded with inspiration as I start to write. For The Curse Girl, I wanted weird stuff. The kind of stuff you’d expect to find in a Tim Burton movie or something. I really enjoyed dreaming everything up, like Housekeeper’s skin and Rose’s hair. I really liked the vibe in The Replacement, for instance, and I was going for something like that.
4. What aspects of the original story did you feel was important to carry over into your version?
I really wanted to keep a nugget of the original moral, which is that love triumphs over everything else, including curses. I didn’t feel like I needed to keep the whole “falling in love with an ugly person” trope, because it felt overdone. I wanted the ugliness she saw to be in his attitude, not his face.
5. The Fae Lands was an interesting twist to the story. Did you visualize this beforehand or did this come about as the story progressed?
It came about as the story progressed–I wanted them to have access to Marian so they could glean clues from her, and originally I planned for her to come to the house to visit them periodically. But then I thought it would be cooler if there was somewhere they could go to meet her (it let Bee and Will be a little more active, and I felt that made the story more interesting). Plus I didn’t feel that Marian had a good reason to stop by for a visit. That felt too forced.
6. Why did you decide to stop querying and go indie?
Technically I haven’t stopped querying permanently. I got really interested in indie authorship a few months ago because of Amanda Hocking’s story, and I really wanted to try it out. I never thought I’d make millions or anything (I still don’t!), but maybe it’d be a good career move. But mostly, the idea of being able to write whatever I wanted, design my own covers, and write my own blurbs was too tempting to pass up–and I even had a book on hand that I wasn’t planning on querying traditionally anyway. So I asked a few agents if I was sinking my career, they said no, and I decided to give it a try. Now I’m working on about 5 other books for the Kindle. But I am still also seeking an agent and I’m still working on novels that I’d like to see traditionally published. My goal is to have the best of both worlds someday–indie and traditional, but that may change in the future as publishing continues to evolve and more and more things (like SFWA membership and inclusion in libraries) become available to indie authors too. Who knows? All I know is that I definitely want to keep doing the indie thing in addition to whatever else I choose to pursue, because it’s so much fun.
7. What process did you go through to publish your book in e-format?
I read around to find out where I wanted to have my book available, and settled on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords (SW is great for giveaways and bloggers). As far as the actual formatting is concerned, I am incredibly blessed–I’m married to a programmer. Basically I sat down, did a little research into the accepted formats for Kindle, Nook, etc, and presented my findings to him. He looked it over and said he could format my book in about an hour using HTML, and he did. Didn’t cost me a dime.
8. Your current WIP is a zombie story. As a fantasy writer, what made you decide to write something a little more gruesome?
Well, I’m actually closest to releasing a vampire story (it hijacked my imagination and demanded to be told … what else could I do?). But as for the zombie one (which I’ll probably finish this fall) … well, I love zombie stories. They’re a fun apocalyptic scenario, because on the one hand you have all the bleakness of a disease story (like The Stand) but also, the horror of the resurrected dead. You’re fighting death AND your dead loved ones, so people aren’t just putting on lots of hand sanitizer, they’re stuffing axes into their belts. I think it’s a really interesting framework for other issues, like dealing with family drama, exploring ethics, and falling in love, because the stakes are just so much higher. My zombie book is more about a romance and a relationship between sisters than the zombies. They’re just the icing on the cake, really.
9. How do you balance your home life with writing?
I don’t have any kids yet, and my husband spends a lot of time gaming (and he does all the dishes!), so that helps. I also recently quit my day job for a variety of reasons, so that’s freed up some more time too. My cats fully support my writing, because it gives them more opportunities for napping while I’m busy 🙂
10. What advice would you give to other inspiring writers?
Here’s the advice I try to live by: read all you can and write all you can. Read lots of books about writing. Get crit partners. Also, I love that Stephen King quote where he said “The first million words are practice.” Usually it’s totally true.
11. You’ve posted blogs about social media and the positive effects it has on authors and writers. What has been the most effective use of social media for you?
Twitter, hands down. So far I’ve met almost everyone writing-related that way (writers, agents and editors, crit partners, book bloggers, readers, etc). It’s also a great way to get a lot of useful information, because tons of people retweet helpful articles and tips. Blogger has also be fantastic.
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