Hi chaps, today I've got a great interview with the lovely Keris Stainton for you all to read to cheer up your grey, muggy morning. Keris' latest novel, Starring Kitty, is due out next week and she was kind enough to stop by and answer a few of my burning questions about the book and her writing process:
Hi, Keris! First off, can you tell us a little bit about Starring Kitty?
Hello! Certainly. It's the first in a series of books about three friends, Kitty, Sunny and Hannah (they'll have a book each). They enter a film-making competition and while they're working on the film, Kitty is trying to deal with her mum's illness and also falling for a girl she's just met...
Talk me through an average day when you’re working on a novel. Do you have a set number of words you have to write per day or do you set yourself different targets?
I used to be very bad at this. There's a lot of waiting in publishing and whenever I was waiting (or planning or editing), I wasn't writing. This year I decided to make a change and set a target of 1000 words a day, every week day (which is 250,000 for the year) and it's really changed everything, I've been so much more productive and I'm enjoying it much more. Plus I buy myself a treat every 10% which is fun too.
Some writers relate take great inspiration from music while they’re writing. Do you listen to music while you’re writing? If so, what artists/bands do you like to listen to while you write?
I did this for Jessie Hearts NYC and it worked brilliantly, but for some reason I haven't really managed to do it again. I'm about to start the second draft of the next Reel Friends book, so I might try to make a playlist today because it definitely helps. There are some songs that were on the Jessie playlist that even now make my fingers twitch with the urge to write.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? Have you always been this way?
Total pantser. Always. I occasionally try to do a tiny bit of plotting - even just making a few notes about what I'm going to write the next day - but I'm much happier just blurting it all out. And then the next draft is MURDER.
Can you tell me a bit about your journey with Starring Kitty? When did you first come up with the idea and what were the timescales involved between the first draft and the novel being released?
After Emma Hearts LA came out in June 2012, I was working on another book in the series about Bex, Emma's sister, falling for a girl. My publishers eventually told me they didn't want it and I ended up blogging about it as a story I wasn't going to get to write. The same day the blog went up, Non Pratt at Catnip had blogged that she was looking for an LGBT romance so I got in touch with her and had a bit of a chat, but I was also changing agents so I didn't get to meet with Non until early 2013 and my agent situation wasn't sorted out until the summer. In the meantime, the plan changed from the Bex book to the Reel Friends series and I sent the first draft in at the beginning of this year. The turnaround since then has been pretty quick, but basically it will be two years from the original 'spark'.
How important do you think social media is in today’s market for a writer?
Oh I think it's essential. I'm a total social media obsessive (you might have noticed) - it changed my life. I met my agent and editor through Twitter and many of my best friends online. Plus the entire YA blogging community just makes my heart happy. For research, for relaxation, for support and sometimes commiseration… I don't know what I'd do without it.
What would you say is your worst bad habit when it comes to writing?
So many bad habits! Too much Twitter. Too much faffing about 'researching' on Google Maps. Too much internet in general. In the actual writing, I tend to back off from the really hard stuff (the hard emotional stuff, I mean) - and it always has to be teased out of me by my editor. Plus I worry about dragging endings out and so I think I often wrap things up too quickly. But I saw Rainbow Rowell say she does the same so I'm in good company there, at least :)
Is naming characters important to you? What processes do you go through to come up with names for your characters?
Yes, but it's not something I can really explain. Names just click. With Della Says: OMG! I really couldn't get on with the book until I was happy with Della's name. With the current book I've ended up with two characters with basically the same name (Daniel and Danielle) and I don't want to change either of them. But I'm going to have to and I'm fretting about it. Every time I hear a name, I run it past the characters in my head to see if it works. No luck so far. (Hmm… Carly…)
What did you hope to accomplish by writing Starring Kitty? Do you think you have accomplished what you set out to do?
Oh that's a good question! Basically I wanted to write a romance like my other books but that just happened to be between two girls. I didn't want it to be about fear or angst or bullying, I wanted it to be about first love. I hope I've accomplished that. I'm certainly very happy with it.
Aside from writing, how do you like to spend your free time?
So. Much. TV. Also my kids are home educated, and while I don't actually teach them, we do spend a lot of time together. My 5yo is sitting next to me right now and for every question I've answered in this interview, I've answered about 300 of his. (Just now: "Would a fish cuddle a wild cat?")
Thank you so much for your time, Keris. Before you go, could you tell me about any projects you have in the pipeline we can look out for?
I've just finished the first draft of the next book in the Reel Friends series, Spotlight On Sunny, and the first chapter of that will be online soon. There's another VERY exciting thing in the pipeline, but I'm not allowed to say yet, sorry. And thank you so much for having me!