Interview with Kate Gray

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The first time was in high school. While having been a reader (avid, perhaps excessively so) through all the preceding years, writing was not on my radar before then. It might have been junior or senior year when two teachers began to encourage my writing, and I produced a "How To" story for an assignment. It took on a life of its own, really.
It was an alien learning about human first aid/triage methodologies, and in order to make this seem very foreign to the creature, I decided that it was an arachnid species. I can still remember creating the world around the alien, with all the webs, how spidery beings are so very different from us, and how it would influence the learning process.
I thought it was a lark, but my teacher was surprisingly bowled over by what I'd done. She pushed me to write more, and better, and I'm very grateful to her.
What is your writing process?
I have two boys who are now in school all day. Before, when there were half days of pre-k and kindergarten, I couldn't sit still long enough to string together any intelligent thoughts. Our routine is pretty set now, and once they're both on the bus, either it's a running morning (every other day), or I sit down with breakfast, and get my brain loose.
I'm very ADD with my focus, and so I have to write at least a vague outline to keep going in a good direction (that would be forward!). Another mental trick I have to play is to write for 55 minutes, and then get up and do something else for 5, whether it's pull-ups, squats, or run to the WC. Since I would get lost in research, too, unless it's a quick, "tell me the answer to this question" or a synonym lookup, footnoting research needs is key. Of course, I've also learned to be pretty explicit in footnoting, because I've gone back at times and had no idea what I was thinking about with a "check supernova types" basic note.
Once done with a first draft, I leave it for a day or so, start looking for cover imagery, then go back and start the hard proofing - close reading - and the last proof ends up being flow/mistakes, etc.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Strangely, it was a long time ago, and it was called Mr. Pine's Mixed Up Signs. It was the first book I read solo, at the age of 6, and the lasting impact was the power that I felt in being able to decode this amazing mystery of symbols all on my own. Later, it was books like We Were Tired of Living in a House (Liesel Moak Skorpen - the 1969 edition) and Kingcup Cottage (Racey Helps) that captured imagination through wonderful prose mixed with beautiful and engaging artwork.
How do you approach cover design?
Originally, it was a desire to create a fantastical painting of the book, but I quickly realized that it was too much. I'm doing this by myself at the moment. While I look forward to being able to hire a fabulous artist one day, right now I have to manage it.
Now, I try to capture the essence of the book, like a few notes of a song, or a faint whiff of something wonderful cooking - a simple image, with clean lines and clear text. I've actually gone and changed two book covers, out of the four that I had, with that in mind.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
I love Ernest Hemingway's novels that are loosely autobiographical. The Garden of Eden is one of them, and probably my favorite. Trying to imagine him sitting and emptying his guts out for the world to see; it must have been an exercise in catharsis and masochism. His prose is so spare, but so evocative and powerful.
When I was in college, my former nannying charges gave me those 3 Harry Potter books - I'll just call them one item - and it's true that they opened the world of writing and love of reading back up for me. I'd gone off to finish a degree, was wallowing in stress, unable to meet expectations, and those books gave a lifeline that was sorely needed. Plus, by the time you finish the series, you get down to the basic life philosophy I carry - love is the only thing that matters.
And then there's Neil Gaiman, who must also have that philosophy, but his interpretation is usually a lot darker and more devastating. The Graveyard Book is a favorite, as is Neverwhere and of course, his work with Terry Pratchett, Good Omens. His writing is so clever, so dastardly, and yet...you're never left alone in the dark. He always has you by the hand to lead you out again.
Another book that really influenced and pushed on me is by an author friend, Up From the Blue. Susan Henderson wrote it, and you can tell it's loosely about her life, but I felt as though I was reading about my own. That's how she lets you feel the book...that it's as much your story as it is hers. She's a very generous writer and person - I recommend reading it right away!
And lastly, it's not exactly a book, but a blog that is an ongoing chronicle, and must certainly turn into a book someday. emmashopebook dot com has become the single biggest influence on my life. Ariane Zurcher's daughter is just about precisely like my son. The two kids are even only a month or so apart in age, and very close in development, and well, I've turned on a pin about everything I do with him. And I owe it all to Ariane and Emma and their family and friends who have been teaching parents like me that, indeed, love is all that matters, and never to underestimate, always reach for the outer limits, and fight hard for what we love.
What do you read for pleasure?
I love quick and easy mysteries. Laurie R. King's delightfully apocryphal Holmes series is awesome, as is Martha Grimes, Sharyn McCrumb, Erin Hart, Alan Bradley, Ted Oswald (if you want something deeper), Alexander McCall Smith, Charles Finch, to name but a few.
There's also a big stack of history books that have been read this year, mostly regarding the early 1800's, but also the Revolutionary War, medieval history, Elizabethan/Tudor history, and I'm looking forward to reading The Black Count, about Alexandre Dumas.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have a kindle, which is getting ever more crowded with kids' books, but it's so convenient to have a library in one small package. Being able to change page color and text size is great, but so is being able to read in the dark without disturbing my husband!
What motivated you to become an indie author?
The same thing that most indie authors experienced, I suspect: wanting to have control, and being turned down hundreds of times by publishers and agents.
I also suspect that this is going to be the future of books, and that as Johnny Truant and Sean Platt assert, while there is nobody to reject and prevent you from being published anymore - the vox populus will do that job quite well in the years to come.
What are you working on next?
Right now, I'm in the middle of the fourth book for the RSI series. I anticipate getting out the Sleep Trilogy sequel after that, and then some serialized fiction that I have already written - it just needs to be edited and organized!
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Aside from hearing my kids rummaging in the cupboards?
Knowing that each day is a commodity, that it shouldn't be wasted...but I'm not a bed lingerer anyway. Coffee calls to me from downstairs every morning, and I heed it...with zest.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in New England.
It's funny, because with how much we traveled when I was a kid, people usually had a notion of New England being something in particular that didn't always meet with reality. Connecticut is my home state, and even further into perception, people I'd meet would usually think that we Nutmeggers are rich types. I'd have to point out that wealth is indeed present, but so too was the poorest city in the nation, Bridgeport. Right now, we have schools that can barely function and have no money to do more than just get by, and those are cheek to jowl with schools that can spend astounding amounts per student.
I grew up in a clergy family, with pretty socially conscious parents, and was always aware of the larger world, of suffering, of the fact that people struggle every day - and yet those are the folks who try the hardest to help others, a lot of times. We'd travel out west every other year to see my mother's family as well. Those trips were formative, and lasting memories - as was a trip I took down deep into the heart of Mexico, where my aunt and uncle are missionaries.
And then, when you dig deep into the heart of New England, get past all the bleak winters, the crabby people (yes, it's a vitamin D thing, I think), and the Yankee pennypinching, you get into what seems to be a collective unconscious sense of the mysterious. Ghosts, witches, and the unseen world are way too much a part of life around here for me to deny that it influenced me.
We automatically assume that any house over a few decades old *might* be haunted. My husband's company built their current workplace in MA on the grounds of an old asylum - unsurprisingly, the night guards have plenty of stories to tell. There are ghost towns and graveyards, even in our heavily peopled states. Bara Hack, Spidergates, Dudleytown - look them up. Even my summer camp was haunted, but rather than being freaked out by it, we tend to see it as a badge of honor, and we look after our sites.
Not that I want to be alone in the dark in any of them.....
Published 2014-01-22.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Fragment of the Universe
Series: The Sleep Trilogy, Book 2. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 80,810. Language: English. Published: September 13, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure, Fiction » Science fiction » Military
Maeve is fighting for her very self, for control over her mind and body, while still reeling from a revelation that could tear the world she knows apart.
Augustus and the Late Unpleasantness, Episodes One Through Six, Complete
Series: Centennial Mysteries, 1-6. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 85,110. Language: English. Published: April 11, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Historical
This is the complete first volume of the Centennial Mysteries: Augustus and the Late Unpleasantness, Episodes One through Six
Augustus and the Late Unpleasantness, Episode Six
Series: Centennial Mysteries, Book 6. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 18,400. Language: English. Published: April 11, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Historical » USA, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Historical
Augustus finds a very present reminder of his youth, which leads him to some startling conclusions.
Augustus and the Late Unpleasantness, Episode Five
Series: Centennial Mysteries, Book 5. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 12,690. Language: English. Published: March 21, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Historical
Look for the conclusion of Augustus and the Late Unpleasantness on April 11, to be shortly followed by a compiled set of all the episodes for one low price!
Augustus and the Late Unpleasantness, Episode Four
Series: Centennial Mysteries, Book 4. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 12,970. Language: English. Published: March 7, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Historical
There are still more questions than answers in the tiny village of Dunverton, but in the case of the demise of Charlotte Whitegate, things are coming to a head. Look for the next episode on March 21, 2014
Augustus and the Late Unpleasantness, Episode Three
Series: Centennial Mysteries, Book 3. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 14,500. Language: English. Published: February 25, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Historical
Augustus and his new confidante, Constable Wright are tracking a murderer in this third installment of Augustus and the Late Unpleasantness. The next installment will be available March 7, 2014!
Augustus and the Late Unpleasantness, Episode Two
Series: Centennial Mysteries, Book 2. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 13,250. Language: English. Published: February 7, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Historical » USA
Augustus Purce knows that nothing is ever what it seems. He's a pretty fair of example of that old saw, but now he has to take the village constable into his confidence. They have a rather nasty crime to unravel, and though it means Augustus will be dodging in and out of character, he's happy for the mental stimulation. Meanwhile, the rest of the villagers have their own secrets to tend to.
Augustus and the Late Unpleasantness, Episode One
Series: Centennial Mysteries, Book 1. Price: Free! Words: 13,790. Language: English. Published: January 31, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Historical » USA
There are the invisible members of society; they exist all around us. Most of the time, we walk by them, seeing but not seeing. Augustus Purce learned long ago that the best means of avoiding unwanted attention was to become one of the invisible.
A Divided Front: Chronicles of the RSI; Her Majesty's Own
Series: Chronicles of the Royal Society for Investigation of the Paranormal, Book 3. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 64,840. Language: English. Published: February 1, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Historical
While Macconnach races against dwindling hope to reach Isabel, Colonel Arpan and Sir Robert find themselves faced with an enemy they cannot hope to defeat back at the fort. Isabel is caught still in a demon’s web, and must find her way out, while Macconnach makes his way to her.
Ages in Oblivion Thrown: Book One of the Sleep Trilogy
Series: The Sleep Trilogy, Book 1. Price: Free! Words: 76,140. Language: English. Published: January 22, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure
Coming July 2014 - the sequel - stay tuned...! Once upon a time, there was a girl. She was clever and brave, unafraid of danger, but she broke. Not her body, but her mind. And she couldn’t be put back together again…not the same, anyway.
An Awareness of Dark Things: Book Two of the Chronicles of the Royal Society for Investigation of the Paranormal
Series: Chronicles of the Royal Society for Investigation of the Paranormal, Book 2. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 58,140. Language: English. Published: January 22, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Historical » Paranormal
Major Macconnach has tried to leave the mistakes of his past behind, to make a new life. Greatest of all, he wishes to do no harm, to preserve life. Isabel Alderton only knows that he has withdrawn, and will not see her. Too late, Macconnach realizes that someone else has designs on her - will it be too late for them both?
Unseen: Chronicles of the Royal Society for Investigation of the Paranormal
Series: Chronicles of the Royal Society for Investigation of the Paranormal, Book 1. Price: Free! Words: 53,320. Language: English. Published: January 21, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Historical
Major Gordon Macconnach comes to India at the behest of General Lord Hugh Abington, to be his second-in-command, as well as to put his peculiar talents at the general’s disposal. The major is from an old family in the Highlands, which has always had its ties with the Fair Folk. Every generation has borne several Macconnachs with unusual abilities.