Wednesday, February 4, 2015

AMONG THE STACKS: Katie Stephens


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Hi, Katie.   Welcome to The Gal.  Let's start off with something easy ... Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Katie Stephens:
If you discovered a sealed box with "Katie's memories" scribbled on the side, you'd find a lifetime of partially completed stories, plays and musicals.  A retired music teacher and curriculum writer, Katie Stephens has opened that box and switched her need to create from music to literature.  She writes both non-fiction and fiction, where she happily experiments with all genres.
            When her muse takes a break, Katie is a staff reader for freeze frame fiction and a grant writer for the Empire & Great Jones Creative Arts Foundation.  Although her grown children are scattered east and west across the country, she lives solidly in mid-America with three kitties and a husband who keeps asking when she's really going to retire.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are five things most people don't know about you?

Katie Stephens:
  • I dated a Saudi Arabian prince.
  • I used to sing opera and musical theatre.
  • I am the 36th great-granddaughter of King Egbert of Essez, the First King of England
  • I'm a very shy person; I'd rather lurk and watch.
  • I'm a great cook.
The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?

Katie Stephens:
The first book(s) I remember reading was the entire Tom Swift series the summer after kindergarten.  I think I recall this so well because my older brother was into electronics that year.  He would take things apart and then solder them together again.  I'd hold wires and read the adventures at the same time.  Random thought.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are you reading now?

Katie Stephens:
I just finished Suzanne Brockmann's Born to Darkness and downloaded J.R. Ward's The King, the latest offering of her Black Dagger Brotherhood series.  I'm obsessed with cookbooks; I probably have at least 350.  I'm also beta reading for a friend, a sci-fi novel called Working Stiffs.  Look for it in a few months!

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What made you decide you want to write?  When did you begin writing?

Katie Stephens:
I've been writing stories since I was in middle school and making up stories earlier than that.  Even when my career as a musician took precedence, I still found time to scribble some plots and characters in a journal.  I also wrote musicals for my students and curriculum lessons for other teachers.  No surprise that once I retired from teaching, this would be the next step in my life.  One I absolutely love!

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have a special place you like to write?

Katie Stephens:
Not really.  I write in my office, at the library, in the family room, at the park.  Anywhere is fine with me as long as I'm not distracted.  And have a full cup of coffee nearby.  I do have two special places where my stories come to life: in the shower and just before I fall asleep.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Katie Stephens:
I have to have total quiet and I can't move on from a paragraph unless I'm satisfied.  I know writers who will put down 5,000 words a day, but they don't care (or so they've told me) what they have written.  They ay: that's what the editing process is for.  I need spelling and grammar and plot to be good before I move on.  The editing process, for me, is making the story perfect.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where do the ideas for your books come from?

Katie Stephens:
From anywhere at all: a newspaper article that peaks my interest, a history book, a prompt.  I especially love prompts, and have worked with many writers on the Scribophile site with these in mind.  Story a Day in May is a perfect time to use prompts.  I love to share my antiques and often take pictures of items that call to me.  It's just something that hits me at the time, seeing an object and allowing my mind to imagine the story behind it.  Several of my circus stories began this way.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What books have most inspired you?

Katie Stephens:
I'm not really inspired by a single book or series.  I judge a book by what happens when I read it:

Does it keep me enthralled?
Do I want to put it down or stay up all night to finish it?
Does it inspire me to research further on whatever subject it entails?
Does it take me to a place outside of my reality?  Now, that's a story!

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Katie Stephens:
Sometimes my mind races so fast that I can't get everything down in the right order, which takes a lot of time before it makes sense.  And there's the "I know exactly what I want to say, but I'm having a hard time conveying that to my reader.'  I pace a lot when that happens.  Oh, and descriptions.  I struggle with descriptions.  I once started a group of writers were all we did was work on writing descriptive paragraphs.  Otherwise, no.  No challenges at all. :D

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think makes a good story?

Katie Stephens:
A good story is one that produces and answers questions, perhaps teaches you something you didn't know before, keeps you engaged in the plot.  The best story is when you close the book and have to take a few moments to remember where you are, what day it is, what you planned to do next.  You have to shake your head and bring yourself back to your own life.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Katie Stephens:
I tend to write characters with qualities that I desire to have, qualities often outside my comfort level. It's the curse of being an introvert.  I make my characters say things that I would never say in real life.  Not out loud, anyway.  So right now, I don't have a character that resembles me ... yet.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Why did you pick this particular genre?

Katie Stephens:
There's always magic when it comes to romance, so I like to give a little push of the implausible to make the story fun.  I try to include fantasy of some kind in whatever I write; I think people are fascinated with magic no matter their age.  As for sticking within one genre, I'm not sure I'm ready to do that at this point.  I'm having too much fun experimenting.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes your book different from others out there in this genre?

Katie Stephens:
As much as I would like to live in castles and marry a billionaire, fight vampires or be a magical creature, I still like to bring simple stories of regular people to life.  I try to find coincidences, which harbor a magic all their own.  My job, as a writer, is to make the fantastical feel real.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is in your "trunk"?

Katie Stephens:
I like to think I have two trunks.  Theres my car trunk, the only one that is totally clear, always ready to hold some treasure I find.
            Then there's the big trunk I keep in the house, one with dozens of compartments.  I love to open this trunk every morning and take out a box.  I shake it.  Is it a story - first draft or half completed?  Is it a cross-stitch ornament for my kids?  Maybe it's the box of pictures I put off organizing, or the complicated recipe I want to try.  Could it be our "bucket list" - things my husband and I want to do?  Is it my friend or family box, reminding me to spend time with those I love?
            This trunk holds my life at this moment in time.  It constantly changes and always has several empty compartments for anything I want to add or shift.  It's solid and pliable at the same time.  It is me.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

Katie Stephens:
I've been asked to be part of another themed anthology this spring, and I have another circus story for a YA Anthology that's been in the works for several months.  I also have a how-to book that will be out soon.  As a long-term goal, I'm working on a duel anthology of Circus stories - one for adults and one for YA - and a children's series about the circus.  Okay, I'm a circus freak, I admit it!

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Thanks for stopping by, Katie.  You sound like an awfully fun person and have given us some great answers to some hard questions.  Feel free to stop back by anytime :)  
            One more thing before you go.  Where can we find you?

Katie Stephens:
Website ** Facebook ** Twitter ** Amazon


More about the anthology:
When love drops in unexpected, the strangest things can happen.  Nine short stories from sweet to sultry, full of romance, magic and love from award winning and USA Today recommended authors.

Katie Stephens' story is called Alphabetical Disorder.

8 comments:

Michaela Miles said...

Thank you so much for having us, Meghan! Great interview, Katie :-) xx

aubreywynneauthor.com said...

What a great interview. And I really didn't know Katie was royalty. Woohoo!

Meghan H said...

That's why I ask the questions that I ask - so we can find out more about the author BEHIND the book. She had some amazing answers - and probably the BEST list of five things I've had yet :)

Isabella Harper said...

LOVED the interview Katie! :) Thanks so much for having us on the blog.

Meghan H said...

You're welcome. Some of the rest of y'all were interviewed and I can't wait to post them :)

standardishue.com said...

Thanks for the lovely spotlight, Meghan! I had fun answering the questions for this interview. :D

standardishue.com said...

Thanks for the lovely spotlight, Meghan! I had fun answering the questions for this interview. :D

Meghan H said...

You're welcome, Katie!! And I'm glad you did!! I loved your answers - you are a very interesting lady :)