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 always hope there will be at least some people who want to read what I want to write, because I’m not sure I could write fiction that didn’t excite me in some way. (Non-fiction, maybe, but then only if someone was paying me to do it, and that’s a different thing.) But I think publishing is always a bit of a compromise, especially if you write for younger readers – in my children’s books, for example, I take out adult material, use younger characters and simplify the prose. I try to end up with a book that might have excited me as a child.
What excites, attracts or appeals to you about the genre(s) you write in?
I love the world-building in fantasy, and I read/write to escape from the ‘real’ world so ancient history or science fiction works for me, too.
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?
Oh yes! I have a notebook stuffed with ideas and clippings etc, also a box full of paper files containing research, ideas and character notes for books and series in various stages of completion. I have a few folders on my computer, too, where I’ve started writing actual chapters.
How do you manage plot bunnies (ideas that invade your mind that aren’t usually helpful to the story you’re writing but breed like...er...bunnies)?
They probably belong to another story, so I’ll banish them to one of the files mentioned above. I usually have a plot outline for the book I’m writing, so the bunnies tend to respect that but breed like wildfire when I’m between books… that’s when they become a problem! There are so many of them, I don’t know which book to write next and end up rushing around in circles tripping over the things.
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 ?
I think there was more of me in my earlier books – I’m a bit of a worrier and a wimp, so the girls came under fire (from American reviewers, particularly) for not being feisty enough. My latest series however has a sword-brandishing, flame-haired warrior princess who rides a white horse, has a fairy prince as a friend, and is heiress to the throne of England. Her name’s Rhianna Pendragon and she’s a bit younger than me, obviously, but that’s my fantasy character!
Do you become so wrapped up in your writing that your spouse wonders if they're married to you or one of your characters?
Er, yes. We divorced because of that – it actually says so on the Decree Nisi.
What type of book do you like reading? Is it the same genre as you write?
Same genre – fantasy/SF/historical fantasy – but for older readers. However, I do enjoy good YA (such as The Hunger Games), and I sometimes write that kind of thing too so there’s an overlap.
What lengths do you go to to convince us readers that your book has the X factor?
I am not sure an author (or publisher or PR team) can ever convince readers of that – the X Factor is something readers decide upon, and no amount of telling them is going to change what they think! I settle for gently reminding people my book exists, and after that hopefully readers will take over.
How do you feel when a reader points out the spelling mistake(s) you have made?
Nobody has ever done this… though there’s always a first time. As far as my backlist goes, I should hope that after the professional editing process and several proofreads at my publishers there aren’t any mistakes, but typos do occasionally creep through. I have heard of cases where a small error on the cover means an entire print run being recalled from the shops and pulped, so it can be an expensive mistake to make! With an ebook, though, any errors are easy to fix, so no excuses really. (And now I shall have to proofread this interview with a fine-toothed comb… how many did you spot?)
What do you like most about visiting KUF/GR/forums?
KUF is a really friendly place to visit, and I have it bookmarked on my computer. By GR, do you mean Goodreads? I just keep my book list and author page updated there, and occasionally review books I’ve read rather than take part in the forums. I see that as a place for readers, really, so when I go there I have my reader hat on.
What is on your near horizon?
I am trying to decide which book to write next, so all those plot bunnies are still racing around… and still breeding, help!… but I do have a finished YA about Genghis Khan that I am thinking of self-publishing this summer. I’m also going to be a Royal Literary Fund Fellow this autumn, which will be interesting.
Where can we find you for more information?
My website: www.katherineroberts.co.uk
FREE ebook: Horse of Mist - a short prequel to the Pendragon Legacy series for young readers, introducing Rhianna Pendragon.