Please welcome Catherine Winters, author of the Imperial Vampire series. Check out our interview, where she discusses her series, and offers some fun advice on editing and marketing.
If you are interested in being a Guest Author, please check out this page.
- Tell us your name, and a link to where we can find you (blog, Facebook, etc).
I’m Catherine Winters. You can find me at writingwinters.com, Facebook/writingwinters, Twitter @writingwinters, and on Google +WritingWinters.sites.
- How many books have you written? This can include both published and unpublished works. Describe each of them in 1-2 sentences apiece (if published, feel free to include the links as well).
I’ve finished four novels, and have three in progress. My first novel, BLACK, is an urban fantasy about vampires in Denver. It was published in 2012. Its sequel, RED, will be out in September 2014, and the third in the series, GOLD, is in the editing stages now. The three books follow novelist Josephine Berendt as she falls in love with a 600-year-old vampire and learns to navigate top-tier, international vampire politics. BLACK is available at Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/lu2qggl and at all major ebook retailers and through my publisher, Turquoise Morning Press.
The Imperial Vampire series continues with BLUE, GREEN, and SILVER, of which BLUE and SILVER are in progress.
I’ve also written a literary novel, MADNESS, which I’m currently shopping to agents. My NaNo project this year is LIFE AT SIX, a romantic suspense.
- Tell me a little bit about your current WIP.
Currently, I’m slaving away to finish 50K on LIFE AT SIX for NaNo, and then it’s on to editing GOLD, hopefully in time for a 2015 release. LIFE is about a widow with a six-year-old daughter who starts dating again two years after losing her husband. Unfortunately, the guy she falls for isn’t anything as he seems.
- What does writing preparation look like for you? Do you do full outlines and character profiles, or do you just start with a general idea and write?
‘m a complete and total pantser. Usually I’ll be hit with a scene, or sometimes a single image, that inspires me to write, and the novels spin out from there. In the cases of RED and GOLD, I knew the characters I was working with, and the stories were a little better-formed than usual because I was already immersed in that world.
Sometimes, stories simmer on the back burner for a long, long time. MADNESS stemmed from a story I’d written in college, some seventeen years ago, but its themes needed more exploration. During that expansion process, I added a new character and changed the setting, and ended up with a completely different – and much better! – story. LIFE AT SIX had about 3K words written a couple of years ago, and the ideas about its basic plot coalesced enough in the intervening time for me to feel confident I could do something with it in November.
I usually tell people that I don’t so much write stories as I transcribe what the people in my head tell me. My fiction is largely character-driven, and I tell the stories as they’re told to me, whether or not I happen to like them or the characters telling them to me.
- Editing is a challenge for many writers. Give us some of your tips for editing efficiently and well.
Just as I plot-as-I-go, I’m a big fan of editing-as-I-go. I tend to start every night’s writing by reading over what I did the night before, and fixing all the little stuff that got by me (repetitive words, misspellings, minor continuity errors). Roughly every fifty pages or so, I print the whole thing out and attack it with highlighters and Post-It notes. I find it helpful to see the work in a different format, and print works best for me – probably because it’s so easy to mark the thing up and refer back to certain pages or passages. By the time I hit 30 or 40K, I have a good idea of what I’m trying to accomplish with plot, and what my characters should be learning from it all. Then I finish the manuscript, leave it alone for a few weeks, and go back to a printed copy of the entire thing to edit it start to finish.
Mostly, I try not to get too hung up on the editing aspect until it might be helpful. If I’m halfway through a novel, and I just feel utterly blocked, I know it’s probably time to edit. It gives me a chance to step back and see the big picture, catch things I might have missed that need expansion, cut things that aren’t helping. Editing is only good if you have something to edit, so my focus is getting the story on the page first, and worrying about the logistics of it later.
- Research is another challenge writers face, but is an important part of the writing process. What are some of your research tips?
Confession: I suck at research. I don’t like to do it, so I admit, I cheat. I try to write things I know already, and when that fails, I take to Wikipedia. A lot. And basically all of the internet, but Wiki usually has decently cited articles for almost any subject. My philosophy on research is that a reader with any knowledge will always know if you get a detail wrong, but they can’t notice a detail that isn’t there. And really, my style is pretty spare, so leaving things out is not a problem for me. Most of my work is very in my characters’ heads, very much about their reactions to what happens in their lives.
So probably that’s an answer to the question “How can a writer get out of doing research?” but since that’s how I feel about the whole thing, that’s how I handle it.
If I can’t get away with the internet (or library books), I will ask people in real life or scout out locations. I recently took a day trip to Vail, CO, just to get the lay of the land, because you’re never going to get the feel of a place from reading about it (Bram Stoker being the obvious exception to this rule!). But there’s almost always someone in the world who knows what you need to, and there is honestly no better tool than the web for research. University professors, professionals, and experts in their fields are just an email away.
- if you have been published (self or traditionally), what type of marketing did you find worked the best for you? What was the least helpful?
Facebook ads are great for getting fans, and getting your name out there, but they don’t translate to sales. My highest sales so far have come from dropping promo materials absolutely everywhere. I carry branded pens and bookmarks with me everywhere, and I leave them anyplace I can. I give a lot away to servers – along with a decent tip, of course! – and I mention my books to absolutely anyone who might even vaguely be interested. I have my first book signing at the end of the month, so I hope that goes well, too!
- What genre do you write in? What are some of the challenges to writing this particular genre well? Most of my novels, and the ones I love the best, are Urban Fantasy. Specifically, vampires. Yes, I know they’ve been done to death (Heh. Death.), and that’s a challenge for marketing purposes, but I think the market is still there. I’ve been reading vampires for a quarter-century, so I know people love the genre.
The main challenge with a very specific genre is not to let the genre *be* the novel. A concept can’t really be a plot or a character. Craft still matters, and making readers care about your people – even the undead ones – is paramount, or you won’t be able to build a fan base. As I’ve said, I’m a very character-focused writer, so even though fantastical things are happening, my plots are still about people being people: complicated, flawed, heroic, wicked, well-rounded people. That’s what I look for in books to read, too, no matter the genre.
- What are your writing, editing, marketing, and research goals for 2013?
My goals for the next year are to find representation for MADNESS, publish RED, and get GOLD on the schedule for the next year. I also look forward to finishing LIFE AT SIX and BLUE. And turning a profit would be excellent!
- Pretend I am from a publishing house and you are looking for me to take on one of your books. Pitch it to me in 1-2 paragraphs.
Oh, my goodness, the pitch. Sure to strike terror into the hearts of writers everywhere! Here goes:
Madeleine Holbrook has made a career of difficult men. The lonely, the socially awkward, the busy, the anxious – as long as they sign the contracts and pay the bills, they get her attention and her discretion. But after almost a decade of such…esoteric work, Madeleine’s ready to retire and take a vacation from men.
Ian McLaren has seemed to make a career of socialites half his age. Frivolous, handsome, and perennially unattached, he’s made sure no one will take him – or his secrets – seriously. Caught between the bottle and his best friend, he needs an escape – and Madeleine just might be his way out.
At roughly 70,000 words, MADNESS explores the boundaries of friendship, the dangers of desire, and the consequences of the lies we tell ourselves.
7 thoughts on “Guest Author: Catherine Winters”
This may be the first vampire novel that has actually captured my interest in a while. I likey. I will have to check this out. Thank you for sharing, Sarah.
I agree….it caught my attention as well!
I like her savvy just well enough to read her books. Totally honest and no nonsense 🙂
Same! Glad you enjoyed it!
Thanks so much for having me, Sarah! I really enjoyed the interview.
You are so welcome! Thanks for doing it!