Author Kate Klimo | Teen Ink

Author Kate Klimo MAG

January 25, 2012
By MumblingMelanie DIAMOND, Jackson, Missouri
MumblingMelanie DIAMOND, Jackson, Missouri
79 articles 0 photos 210 comments

Favorite Quote:
Don't be a victim; be a titan.

Kate Klimo has been creating worlds since she was in the fourth grade. Now, she is the ­author and editor of an array of published books. Her latest work, Daughter of the Centaurs, is a fantasy that tells of a girl's quest for survival and companionship in a world populated by half-human creatures.

Daughter of the Centaurs is full of mythology and unusual creatures. What made you want to write a fantasy novel?

Ever since I was in fourth grade, fantasy has been my favorite genre. Of course, when I was in fourth grade, I believed that the magical realms I read about – Narnia and Neverland and all – were real. Now, of course, I don't … except that the older I get, the more convinced I grow that this world, the one we live in, is but one room in a large house filled with other rooms. So I guess you could say that I am gradually returning to a state of suspended disbelief, which is very useful in the writing of fantasy.

What was your reaction when you discovered you were going to be published?

I've been a publisher/writer for most of my 30-year career, so I can't say that I experienced the anticipation of publication that other writers might. Nor, however, have I experienced the inevitable letdown authors discover when, on publication date, the earth doesn't actually move. I also generally write my books in their entirety before I get a contract, so when I find out from my editor that the book I have written is actually publishable, that's when I feel a genuine thrill: that all my hard work has paid off! That the book will be read by more than just me and one other person.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers, like me, who hope to be published some day?

Write, write, write. Get up every day and write. I write very early in the morning, when my mind is fresh, before the distractions of the day set in. And don't listen to the voice inside your head that sometimes says you suck. That voice is just subversive noise. If you write every day, and put your heart and soul into it, you're going to wind up, sooner or later, with something that very likely won't suck … at least to some readers.

What is the hardest part for you in the process of writing? How do you overcome those obstacles?

The hardest part of writing is not overwhelming my characters with my own considerable personality. It's a delicate thing, letting your characters come alive on the page, giving them room to breathe. It's so easy to lean on them, to hover over them, to pick them up in my sometimes ham-handed fists and move them around like dolls on a stage, rather than letting them – their characters and their own inner voices – determine their fate.

The other hard part of writing is dealing with reviews. Let's face it – not everybody is going to love everything that's written. But a bad review can really hamper the creative process, make you doubt yourself and everything you're doing. I learned this lesson the hard way.

Did you always want to be a writer?

I always wanted to be a writer. At least since I became a reader. I still have my notebooks from fourth grade, containing the unfinished fantasy novel my best friend, Justine, and I worked on. My parents are dead, but I have recently discovered, going through their journals and letters, that both were frustrated writers. This makes me all the more determined to write my heart out. I'm writing, not just for me and my editor and my readers, but to honor my parents' memory.

What kind of books do you read? How have they influenced what you write?

All kinds. I'm halfway through The Game of Thrones right now. There's some pretty epic world-building for you. I love the books of Tamora Pierce, Susan Cooper, Nancy Farmer, and Peter Dickenson. I love mysteries for the escape, and history, especially biographies, for the details of lives lived in other times. I am working my way through the presidents right now. I'm only up to Madison.

Why did you choose to write a daring character like Malora?

I don't think of Malora as being daring so much as a survivor. I wanted to write about a survivor. Malora is the sole survivor of her settlement, and possibly of the human race. In the last five years, I lost my mother, my brother, and a son. I know what it is to survive, and I wanted to share the ordeal of it, and the ultimate joys.

What do you think makes a piece of writing worth reading?

Its honesty.

What inspires you?

Dreams, traveling, my editor, ­Mallory Loehr.

Why do you write?

Because I am happiest when I am writing.

What do you do when your river of ideas runs dry? How do you overcome that and start writing again?

I give myself permission to stop writing for a few weeks or months. During this time, I usually take a trip and visit someplace new with my husband, almost always on the back of a horse.

Riding, day after day, puts me into a zen state of mind. My inner voice stops chattering and I settle down to just being. During these times, I keep a journal and write letters to friends where I am storing up impressions, stockpiling ideas and images for the day when I am ready to fit them into a narrative.

What sort of schedule do you follow when writing a novel? Are you organized or do you just sit down and write?

I'm pretty organized. I start with an outline, even though I may not wind up sticking to it. The outline is sort of like the Ouija board; you push it around until you hear the voice of the muse actually breaking through and talking to you. Then the outline usually gets abandoned.

I wake up around four and I write until I'm spent. Sometimes I'm finished by 10 o'clock, and can go out and do other things. Sometimes I write all day.

I have to be careful, though, I don't write myself stupid. That can happen. I have to give myself time to regenerate my mind and my ideas. If I drive myself too hard, then I start muscling my way through the narrative, bossing the characters around and depriving them of the independence they need to be surprising and interesting.

What do you hope your readers will take away from your novel?

I hope that reading my book will take readers to a time and place they never imagined. I hope that the characters become lifelong friends with my readers – friends they will want to come visit in future adventures.

Did writing Daughter of the Centaurs change you in any way? If so, how?

I surprised myself by creating a complete world. The more I write about it, the more I discover. And this world feels real to me. I enjoy spending time there. I am always eager to find out what's going to happen next.

If you were not a writer, what would your life be like? What would you be doing?

If I were not a writer, I would be outdoors a great deal more. I would be leading a much more physical life as a horse trainer. Working with horses is one of the most gratifying experiences of my life. I'm only sorry I came to it so late. I started taking lessons, which my husband bought me, for my fiftieth birthday. I started out in classes with eight-year-old girls. My husband and I now have our own horses, and we ride every chance we get. Horses keep you in balance; they make you aware of your moods and quirks. They keep you honest.

What have you learned during the publishing process?

No publisher is going to – poof! – turn you into a best-seller. You have to get out and promote yourself. This is something that one of my favorite writers, Esther Friesner, told me. There is no room for shy and retiring and modest. As a writer, I am a more modest person than I am as a publisher. But I have to learn to get out there and use a little of my publisher's brashness to toot my own horn.

How does writing affect your life, for better or for worse?

Writing makes me a bit more thoughtful person, but it also makes me a bit of a slug. In the best of all possible worlds, I would hook up my laptop to a treadmill and write while I walked.

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