Continuing our Q&A with thriller novelist Kathryn Mackel, best-selling author and acclaimed screenwriter for Disney and Fox. She also writes fantasy novels and children's books.
Her thrillers include The Hidden, The Surrogate and The Departed. Kathryn is also a member of International Thriller Writers, Inc.
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WHAT ARE YOUR WRITING HABITS?
Ugly. I try to write a couple hours every morning, a couple more mid afternoon, and maybe one or two after supper. Like most writers, I can be distracted by a moth fluttering on the window. And though we’re empty nesters, I can manage to find laundry at a moment’s notice.
When I’m under deadline, I need to leave home to write. A friend has a beach home in Maine that I borrow. Or, if I can’t leave the state, I often go to my church—a little New England building—to write.
ARE YOU AN "OUTLINE" WRITER OR A "MAKE IT UP AS YOU GO" WRITER?
Both. I work from a general outline. But every few chapters, I rework it. What I try to do is outline in detail four chapters at a time. Because I began life as a screenwriter, I use the ‘three-act’ structure to build my stories.
ARE YOU A FULL-TIME NOVELIST?
Yes. Though I still pick up screenwriting work when I can.
WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU HAD "MADE IT"?
I “made it” with a script sale. Screenwriting supported me for the first five or six years of my career. (I’ve been writing full-time for ten years now). I switched to novels because it is a much more satisfying process. I haven’t “made it” yet. I still have to hustle for contracts.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR ASPIRING WRITERS?
Write, even when you’re not inspired. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Don’t be afraid to rip apart your book and start all over. Writing is like our Christian walk ... we need fire to burn away the dross. That can hurt but what emerges is something precious.
Read and LEARN as you read. Pick the masters of the genre you’re writing in and see how they structure chapters, reveal plot points, present their characters. But be sure to find your own voice. And that goes back to rewriting to find the gold.
I had sold five children’s novels (HarperCollins) before I wrote my first adult novel. I struggled with pretentious prose, decided I would fail horribly. Then I just fell back on my kids’ voice…because it’s me. And I let the process transform that voice, rather than trying to create a new voice.
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Come back tomorrow for the conclusion of our Q&A. Meanwhile, visit Kathryn Mackel online at KathrynMackel.com. Her novel The Hidden is available from Amazon and other fine retailers.
KATHRYN MACKEL, PT 1
KATHRYN MACKEL, PT 3
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