Sunday, 27 April 2014

Interrogating Katie Stewart

Katie Stewart not only writes imaginative books, but also designs magical covers

How do you strike the balance between writing something you want to write and writing something that people want to read, in terms of the compromises you make, if any?

I don’t know whether I should admit it, but I don’t really think about what other people might want to read when I’m writing. I get an idea in my head for a story and I just write it – the way I would like to read it. I think if I was constantly concentrating on what others might think of what I’m writing, then it would become stilted, not really my story at all. I don’t think I could ever write a book simply because I think it’s what other people would like to read.

What excites, attracts or appeals to you about the genre(s) you write in.

In a word – imagination. I know that authors who write in any genre have to use their imaginations, but fantasy goes beyond any other sort of writing. You get to take what is, twist it around and make what may be. You can create whole new worlds with whole new social systems, customs and religions and still say something about this world that we’re in now. I always loved the idea of magic, too, the idea that things around us can produce a power to do something.  Music, for instance. Listen to music, shut your eyes and you’re transported to somewhere else. It can change your emotions, your outlook. If you let it happen. What’s that if it’s not magic?

Do you have a box, drawer, folder etc where you keep thoughts and ideas for future stories? Such as names you have come across, bits of dialogue, ideas, characters - even if you have no idea when you might use them?

No, I’m afraid not. I keep my ideas in a sieve called my brain. I probably should keep a notebook. Heaven knows I have enough notebooks around the house, but generally I don’t, though since I got an iPad, I have been known to tap in the odd note or two. There are also a few slips of paper around the place with rough maps on that I’ve used to help me get a new world into my head, but nothing organised. I’m a terribly disorganised person really.

How do you manage plot bunnies (ideas that invade your mind that aren’t usually helpful to the story you’re writing but breed

I keep them in the sieve I just mentioned. Usually though, I feed them for a while until they’re solid enough not to fall through the holes. Then they just sit there until I have time to do something with them. I have been known to have two or three stories on the go at the same time, though. That means that some of the bunnies have grown very big and are stomping their big feet demanding attention all at once.

How much of you is in your characters? Which of your characters is the you that you’d most like to be? Or be with ?

When I first read this question, my first response was, ‘well of course not, most of my main characters are men’, but although I don’t consciously put myself into my characters, I don’t think you can write without putting something of yourself into it. So yes, there must be some of me in my characters. However, I don’t think there’s any one character that’s even close to ‘me’. They’re a hotchpotch of lots of different people.

As for a character I’d most like to be, I don’t think I’d want to be any of them. I do terrible things to my characters all the time. I’d hate it if anyone did those things to me.

Do you become so wrapped up in your writing that your spouse wonders if they're married to you or one of your characters?

I have a part-time job as well as doing book cover design, so I don’t have the luxury of getting wrapped up in my writing. It’s a do-it-when-you-can sort of thing. I also have a family who cannot seem to get the idea that writing is a job and I’m not to be disturbed. So unless I ‘chuck a wobbly’, I will get a head popping around the door every five minutes wanting to know when tea will be ready or if I know where something is. When I’m doing the final draft of a book, I am likely to chuck a wobbly and lay down the law more often, but the rest of the time, I’ve learned to switch in and out of writerly mode at will.

What type of book do you like reading? Is it the same genre as you write?

I like reading any type of book as long as it’s a good one, but I prefer books that are character driven, rather than plot driven. I firmly believe that an author should read a wide variety of genres to give them a better idea of writing in general. As a fantasy author it’s easy to pick up ideas from a book that’s not fantasy and turn it around to be fantasy. One of my books first popped into my head when I was reading Les Miserables (my favourite book, by the way – full of fantastic characterisation). I think if you stick to only one genre, you’re likely to get stuck in the tropes of that genre and find it hard to be original.

What lengths do you go to to convince us readers that your book has the X factor?

Ah, now, that’s something I’m not particularly good at. Not because I don’t think my books have the X factor, but because I was brought up to stand back and not be boastful. So standing up (so to speak) on the internet and singing the praises of my own books is something that feels really strange and wrong somehow. I do all the social networking like they suggest, but I still tend to be a bit of a wallflower.

How do you feel when a reader points out the spelling mistake(s) you have made?

I’m very grateful. I’ve read a few books (traditional and self-published) where the editing has been atrocious. I take pride in my work and I want it to be as good as it can be. So if someone wants to point out a mistake, I appreciate it and go and fix it.

What do you like most about visiting KUF/GR/forums?

The people I talk to KUF and GR are wonderful people – friendly, helpful, caring and funny. They’re a great way to let off steam when things are getting me down or to share good news with. There’s none of the arguing and posturing that you find on some forums. Furthermore, I suspect a lot of my book sales have come from/through them.

What is on your near horizon?

A lot of clean washing that needs ironing. Oh, you mean as a writer? At the moment, I’m working on a new book – another YA fantasy – but at the speed I’m writing, publication is not on the near horizon. I’m also trying to get some illustrations done so that I can send ‘The Dragon Box’ to print. I also want to send ‘Song of the Jikhoshi’ into print, too.

Where can we find you for more information?

I have a website –  , a blog at or I can be found on Facebook at


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  2. Ouch! I just wrote such a profound comment, tried to "preview" it, and it disappeared.... I'll try again....

    Love your writing, Katie, and good interview Joos! Katie, you said, "I always loved the idea of magic, too, the idea that things around us can produce a power to do something." Yes! If there is no magic in life, there's no fun! I don't write fantasy, but in my first novel, "Telling Secrets", there is a magical little dog (aren't all dogs magical?) who moves the story along. In the book I'm currently writing, we slip magically through time with one character, in order to "whisper in the ear" of the main character. I'm a firm believer that when we believe in magic, we believe in all possibility!

  3. Hi Peg, thanks! Yes, I agree! But as Roald Dahl said, "Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.”