Author Interview with Kathryn Fitzmaurice

Get to know Kathryn…

Kathryn was born in New York City, but grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona. She holds a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Chapman University. Her favorite thing to do is walk her dog, Holly, who, she says is so smart, she can practically empty the dishwasher. She also likes organizing absolutely anything, including messy garages, closets, and even cluttered junk drawers. If she could, she would eat the same thing for lunch everyday, which would be a ham, Swiss cheese, and tomato Panini, a green apple, and a chocolate soufflé. For more info, visit Kathryn’s website.

Let the conversation begin!

What initially drew you to writing?

The summer I turned 13, my mother sent me to New York City to visit my grandmother, who was a science fiction author. This was in the 70’s, when science fiction was becoming very popular. My grandmother led a very eclectic lifestyle. I remember we never did anything until late afternoon, and then we stayed up until 2 or 3am. Sometimes, we went to dinner as late as 11pm.

Then when we returned, she’d sit down to write until very early in the morning. She told me she did this because the middle of the night was when people said and did things they normally wouldn’t. She had a collection of porcelain owls, because they were creatures of the night. She studied paranormal events. She discussed things like inner motivations and secret desires. She helped me to write my very first story that summer, and stayed up all night typing it so I could have a real story like she had. At thirteen, it was one of the best times I’d ever had.

She worked very hard that summer revising a novel entitled Chrysalis of Death. And one day, we met her agent for lunch, and after listening to them discuss how my grandmother could make her characters into whomever she wanted, I decided that someday, I’d like to be a writer, too. So after I announced my decision, my grandmother proceeded to send me books about writing techniques, books by classic authors, and literary essays for every birthday and Christmas holiday after.

One of my favorite books she sent me when I was deep into a teenage poetry stage was a volume of poetry written by Emily Dickinson. Inside the front cover, she wrote: “Emily Dickinson is a revered poet. Perhaps the same can be said of K.H. someday. Love, Grandma Eleanor.”

When she passed away, she left me a big box with all of her unfinished manuscripts in it. Those manuscripts have been a huge inspiration to me. One of her short stories that I found inside the box is entitled, “The Lake” and is about a group of zombies who take over a remote area of a forest next to this lake.

So because of all of the encouragement she gave me and to honor her, I decided that when I sat down to write my own novel many years later, that I would name my main character after her and give her a grandmother very much like my own. I gave the grandmother in my story the same characteristics and even had her give a box of manuscripts to her granddaughter. In fact, because I remember her revising Chrysalis of Death the summer I visited, I decided to include it in The Year the Swallows Came Early. So on page 148, my main character and her best friend find this manuscript and talk about it, along with a few of her others stories. I included her book, Chrysalis of Death inside my book.

She never got to read even the first draft of my novel. But I did send it to her agent three years ago, who is still alive and working in NYC. After reading my book, my grandmother’s agent made the comment that she liked how I included my grandmother’s books in my own books, and she thought my grandmother would have been very proud.

How many words do you write each day?

It depends on the day. Anywhere from zero to 1500.

Outliner or seat-of-the-pantser?

Both. With some books, I outline them, and others, I write as I go.

When are you the most productive?

Mornings, most definitely.

What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?

By doing something completely out of the ordinary, something that has absolutely nothing to do with writing. Or, by reading a really well-written book.

Was it easier to write before or after you were published?

It’s the same, really. Except now I know what the process is, which is very helpful.

Are your characters completely fictional?

Most of my characters are based on real people. Some of them are a combination of many people.

Advice for young writers?

To write as much as possible, and to enjoy the writing process, especially revision.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

My grandmother told me to write what I know. This seems to work well for me.

Kathryn

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