Today I have author Kathleen Irene Paterka joining me for an interview.
Firstly, let’s talk about books…
When did you first know you wanted to be an author, and what was your first story about?
When have I NOT wanted to be an author? When I was 8 years old, I read my first ‘big-girl book’ (i.e., no pictures, all words and plot). It was a Trixie Belden novel (mid-grade level mystery fiction), and I couldn’t put it down. I knew right then that someday, I would be writing my own stories for people to read. In high school, I fell in love with the gothic genre (Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, Dorothy Eden). My first story, ROSEHAVEN, was a gothic. Though ROSEHAVEN has never been published, it was a very important work for me. It taught me a lot about the craft of writing, and the structure and composition of a storyline. Those 400 pages also assured me that yes, I could actually write (and finish!) a novel.
Tell us a bit about your latest novel:
ROYAL SECRETS was published July 1st. It’s the story of Lily Lavender, a woman whose family not only owns the Royal Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas, but is also descended from the British royals. The story is about romance and royalty, brides, weddings, and naturally, Las Vegas! I had tons of fun writing the book. I’m an avid royal watcher, so the tie-in to the British royals was a no-brainer. Plus, my daughter lives in Las Vegas, home to plenty of wedding chapels. Last (but not least), there’s my day job as staff writer at Northern Michigan’s very own fairy tale castle, Castle Farms of Charlevoix. The Castle hosts numerous weddings throughout the year, which gives me a front row seat for watching brides and grooms. Romance and royalty! It all seemed a natural fit.
I can’t wait to read it! Do you see your own personality traits in your central characters?
Interesting question. My stories are all written in first person, which makes the voice easy for me to connect with. The central female characters are women, each strong in their own way, who struggle to deal with issues in their lives (ex: FATTY PATTY ~ weight and self-esteem). They each flounder, but eventually things do get worked out. In retrospect, that seems to be the central theme of my life. Events happen beyond my control (my husband Steve’s health issues, including numerous heart attacks and a horrendous staph infection which left him paralyzed); I’ve needed to step up, assume responsibilities and shoulder things I never imagined I’d have to deal with. That must come from some inner strength I didn’t realize I had. I suppose each of my characters is like that.
What’s your own personal favourite, of all your published works?
Without a doubt, FOR I HAVE SINNED. It is a novel of faith and commitment, written in the male perspective, first person point of view. The story revolves around a Catholic priest (Fr. Greg) who is battling his own inner demons, as well as antiquated rules and regulations set forth by the church. The novel confronts bigotry and prejudice, plus the issue of celibacy. I was afraid to publish FOR I HAVE SINNED (my husband liked to refer to it as ‘the book that gets Kathleen ex-communicated’). Much to my delight, however, it has been very well received, with rave reviews. Many of my fans and friends have told me that it is their favourite book, and they find it hard to let go of Fr. Greg. I did, too. FOR I HAVE SINNED is definitely my best work (and my favourite).
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a new piece of women’s fiction called ELEANOR (for want of a better title). The storyline evolved from an event I experienced a few years ago. My husband Steve had been hospitalized for a heart condition; I was sitting next to his hospital bed at 5 am, when I woke with a start to the oddest noise. At the time, I had no idea that Steve had just taken his last breath, and what had woke me was the infamous ‘death rattle’. A skilled team of doctors and nurses with a crash cart zapped him back to life. Following his open heart surgery, I started thinking about how lucky Steve was to have suffered a heart attack while in the hospital. He never would have survived if we’d been at home, asleep in bed. ELEANOR is the story of a woman who is wakes to a curious sound coming from her husband next to her in bed. She goes back to sleep… only to find him dead the next morning. A shocking secret he’s been keeping is exposed upon his death, destroying the idyllic life they’d built, and leaving a stunned Eleanor to figure out how to go about beginning to put her life back together.
Sounds like another great read, and it’s great that you can take some inspiration from such a traumatic experience from your own life.
Who’s your favourite author and why?
I’m hesitant to name a favourite, as my reading tastes are eclectic. I adore the works of Jodi Picoult (women’s fiction). Her writing is pure magic, with simple words and phrases sprinkled here and there throughout the pages, keeping me totally engrossed. For legal thrillers and such, I turn to John Grisham. He knows how to put a story together that will keep me flipping the pages well past my bedtime ‘just to see how it ends’. My overall favourite: Stephen King. I’m not much into horror, but his novel “11/22/63” is a masterpiece. King, a living literary icon, is a master at creating believable characters who find themselves in unbelievable situations. I think that is the key to success with any story. Create wonderful characters that readers love… they will follow the characters anywhere.
How much research do you usually do before you start writing?
It depends on the story. My debut novel, FATTY PATTY, was about an overweight woman who takes to the pool and swimming laps to lose weight. The story didn’t need much research. I’m a lap swimmer, so the pool is familiar territory to me. Plus, when I was in high school, I weighed 300 lbs. I’ve been at a normal weight since college (155 lbs.) but I’ve never forgotten those extra pounds, the hurtful things other kids said, or the terrible nicknames they called me on the playground. My current work-in-progress, ELEANOR, revolves around two women, one of whom is a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago. I was in Chicago earlier this year, and had the opportunity to interview one of their professors. She gave me a tour of the campus and the lecture halls. For my novel LOTTO LUCY, I visited a Jaguar dealership in Las Vegas, Nevada, and got to drive a Jag convertible. It was an absolute blast! Who says research can’t be fun?
Next, I hear you are addicted to buying office supplies! What’s your favourite office item?
Pens, pens, and more pens! I adore any kind of pen. I lived in Belgium for a few years as a student, and was fascinated by their use of fountain pens (with fresh ink). Nowadays, I’ve surrendered my fountain pens for ‘rolling ball’ pens. I love the shape and feel of a nice neat pen between my fingers. Give me a good pen, something to write on, and I’m in story-heaven!
I’d love to visit Michigan someday. Tell us something interesting about where you live:
Michigan is split into two peninsulas, joined together by the 5-mile long Mackinaw Bridge. I live fifty miles south of the bridge, in a beautiful little town called Charlevoix, located on Lake Michigan. Winters can be bitter, with plenty of snow, but Charlevoix is gorgeous in the summertime. We’re a resort community with a year round population of 3,000 which swells to 10,000+ during the ten weeks of summer. Very popular with the boating community, Charlevoix has a picturesque drawbridge in the middle of downtown. The bridge operates year-round and is raised on the hour and half hour for the gleaming yachts and sleek sailboats entering our harbour. I live on the north side, and my day job as staff writer at Castle Farms takes me across the bridge to the south side of town each day. Often I find myself sitting in long streams of traffic (especially at the end of my workday) while the bridge is raised for boats. In Charlevoix, the locals jokingly refer to this as I’ve been bridged!”
Finally, what advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Believe in yourself. Do not listen to the naysayers (and yes, there are plenty of them out there). Protect the work. Do whatever you have to do to protect the work (i.e., turn off social media, quit checking sales stats, don’t over-commit to things that gobble up writing time). If I’m working on a rough draft, I do my best to concentrate solely on that. If I try to do too many other things, I begin to lose focus. By writing every day, I keep the intensity and structure of the characters and their storylines fresh in my head. Write every day. And no matter what happens, don’t quit. Never quit. This is a devastatingly tough business. Once you’re published, it doesn’t get easier. It just gets different. Connect with other authors. Be kind. Be generous. Most of all, be smart. Don’t quit.
Fantastic advice! Thanks so much for joining me, Kathleen.
Thank you, Sarah! It was a pleasure!
Kathleen Irene Paterka is the author of numerous women’s fiction novels which embrace universal themes of home, family life and love, including ROYAL SECRETS and the James Bay series (FATTY PATTY, HOME FIRES, LOTTO LUCY and FOR I HAVE SINNED). Kathleen is the resident staff writer for Castle Farms, a world renowned castle listed on the National Historic Register, and co-author of the non-fiction book FOR THE LOVE OF A CASTLE, published in 2012. Having lived and studied abroad, Kathleen’s educational background includes a Bachelor of Arts degree from Central Michigan University. She and her husband live in the beautiful north country of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.
Connect with Kathleen: