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e-interview: kathryn lively

August 2002

Kathryn Lively

Kathryn Lively is the author of Little Flowers and Murder Most Trivial, and contributed to the books Saints of the Jubilee and Women in the Wild. Kathryn is also the webmaster for the Catholic Writers Association and book editor for Echelon Press, and she maintains the web site of author Tony Burch and published electronic books through her imprint, Francis Isidore Electronic Press.

If that weren't enough, Kathryn is also working on the fourth draft of a mystery novel and the first draft of a comic thriller, and she is teaching herself Dreamweaver and PHP. Plus, Kathryn has a great sense of humor and she's a Beatles fan. All the right stuff!

In the E-INTERVIEW, read how Kathryn organizes her work schedule and makes precious time for writing. And what inspired her to write in the first place. She has some sound advice for writers, and offers up her own formula for the perfect muse scenario.


You have so many projects going at once. How do you organize your daily work schedule?

I work full-time, and because my husband works odds hours I do most of my writing on the fly - when I can and where I can. That is why I am more comfortable writing the first drafts by hand. I'll carry a notebook with me, and when my husband and I go to our neighborhood coffee shop I write while he grades papers.

As for which project takes precedent, all I can say is that everything is tiered: paid assignments first, then novel projects, then planning time for new projects. At any point when a novel is ready to be sent for submission, that becomes second priority.

Your range of work is very large and varied (from writing to web development). Did you attend college and study any writing-related subjects?

I went to college originally to study journalism, and ended up with a degree in English. I found after taking a few creative writing classes that I preferred writing fiction to non-fiction, so I switched major's midway through college. I still write non-fiction, but not as much as I used to.

Your web log is fascinating. What prompted you to start this?

Monkey see, monkey do, I suppose. :-) Many of my writing colleagues had weblogs, and I studied the "blogging" tools and noticed how easy it is to use and post writing without having to use FTP. I also thought the weblog would be a good way to promote my writing.

When did you start writing?

I'll answer this with the answer I gave to a writing newsletter. This says it best:

The very first writing award I won came in the fourth grade, when my one-page Halloween story about a meeting with the ghost of Thomas Jefferson won a class-wide contest. At that time I was somewhat interested in government and dreamed of running for President one day (what child doesn't at one time or another, I imagine), hence the story's subject, and I did not think of making writing a profession until two things happened to me that shaped my future.

The first was a conversation I had with my principal, Sister Josephine O'Leary, when I was about twelve. She asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, and I honestly did not know. She then mentioned that I had a flair for writing and ought to pursue that. For some reason that memory had always stayed with me.

The second incident occurred when I was fifteen and staying with an aunt over the Thanksgiving holiday: I discovered the book "Elvis is Dead and I Don't Feel So Good Myself" by Lewis Grizzard and read it one day. Right then, after I calmed down from laughing so hard, I decided that was what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to be a journalist, but more than that I wanted Grizzard's job! I spent my junior and senior years in high school working various jobs for the school newspaper, editing and writing some Grizzard-style commentary. During my senior year in college I was managing editor of the school newspaper, though by then my writing interests had shifted to prose. I had some great writing teachers in Pat McLeod and Bob Stanton, both published authors.

Do you find yourself enjoying web development as much as writing?

I do. I am trying to teach myself PHP and Dreamweaver and all sorts of other programs. There is great satisfaction to be had when you are able to create something like an animated graphic or a dynamic webpage, just as there is great satisfaction in finishing a novel.

What inspires you to write?

So many different things. I have had ideas comes to me in dreams, and I have been inspired by even the most ordinary things. I suppose if I went to the coffee shop tonight and did some people-watching I could craft a story in my head. I suppose you could call me an idea person, I have more ideas than I have time to write. :-)

What method do you use when you write? For example, do you write out a rough draft of the storyline, or jot down characters and a few scenarios, or do you just start writing where your notions muse takes you?

I have found the following method works for me the best: I sketch a rough chapter by chapter outline of the book, then I write a sample first sentence for each chapter. I wait a few days, then I start writing the story by hand. I give myself a goal of five whole pages a day, taking weekends off. I do this until the first draft is finished, and I don't go back while I'm writing to correct anything. That's why we have second drafts. :-)

If you could choose a perfect setting for writing (be it a favorite room, or a particular season of the year, etc), what would it be?

I need white noise around me while I write. I usually go to a coffee shop or a bookstore, find a comfortable chair, and go!

What advice would you give other writers?

The best writing advice I received came from a former writing teacher: if you want to write, write! I expand on this a little bit: write, read what you've written, then revise. When you're done, revise again!

What is the best book you have ever read?

I could never pick just one, but I really loved "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe" by Fannie Flagg. Its one book I could read over and over.


Links to Kathryn Lively:

Click here to go to Kathryn's official web site.

Click here to order Little Flowers by Kathryn Lively.

Click here to download the free e-book Murder Most Trivial by Kathryn Lively.