Sunday, May 17, 2015

Meet the Author: Kathryn Lance

I really liked this interview by Liza Shaw, whose blog The Reading Head reviews books and their authors. This interview appeared on   in  Meet the Author.

Today I’m very lucky to interview Kathryn Lance, author of Pandora’s Promise, the third novel in her Pandora’s Trilogy.

Hi, Kathryn, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I’ve been a professional writer since the mid 1970’s, but I’ve retired from fulltime writing to make a living and now just write things I personally care about.

When did you decide to become a writer?
I knew I wanted to be a writer as early as second grade, and that never changed. I didn’t realize till I was much older that you can actually make a living at it.

So, what have you written?
In my 40 year full-time writing career I published more than fifty books, both fiction and nonfiction, some under my own name, others ghosted for other people. I wrote several books on fitness and health, some for doctors. I also wrote dozens of articles on those topics, for various magazines. Before books and magazines, I wrote hundreds of soap opera scripts for four soap operas. For two years in there I worked as an editor and writer for Scholastic Magazines. The first in my Pandora’s Trilogy, Pandora’s Genes, won the Best New Science Fiction Award from Romance Times in 1985. Until I heard about the award, I honestly had no idea that in addition to a science fiction adventure I had written a romance!

Where do your ideas come from?
Most of my best ideas come from dreams. Pandora’s Genes started as a mysterious dream that I could not get out of my mind until I sat down and wrote it to find out what happened.

What genre are your fiction books?
Mostly science fiction.

What draws you to this genre?
I have loved science fiction since I was in grade school. It stretches the mind, answering the question “what if?” I have always felt that in many ways science fiction stories are more REAL than mainstream stories.

Do you have an interesting writing style or quirk?
I am rather laissez-fair about my use of commas.

Do you ever get writer’s Block? Do you have any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
YES! There have been a few times when I was unable to write fiction. I cured it by forcing myself to write AT LEAST ONE SENTENCE every night before going to bed. The rules were that I could write more than one sentence—as many as I wanted– but I couldn’t go to bed till I’d done that one sentence. Very often I found myself writing several sentences; occasionally even a whole page or two. I actually wrote about half of “Going to See Grassy Ella,” a children’s comic adventure novel, using that method. I’ve recommended it to my writing students, and everyone who tries it finds it very helpful.

Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Practice, practice, practice. Writing is like a muscle--it only gets stronger when you exercise it. If you have trouble writing at all, then use my One Sentence Before Bed method for as long as it takes you to put something together.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Bob Cenedella, a wonderful novelist and radio/tv writer, was my actual mentor. I worked for him on a couple of soap operas. The best advice he ever gave me was: “Never write anything you don’t believe. If it seems unbelievable, find a way to make yourself believe it.” This advice has been helpful in everything I’ve written since, from articles to face-lift books, to the Pandora’s Trilogy.

For your own reading, do you prefer e-books or traditional printed books?
I have come to prefer e-books, which I read on the Kindle app on my iPad and iPhone. Mostly the iPhone, actually.

What books have most influenced your life?
The Brothers Karamazov transformed me when I first read it at age sixteen. I ended up majoring in Russian in college, and once visited Russia on a study-tour. I re-read it every few years and find that I get something different—but profound—out of it each time. I am planning to read a highly-touted new translation on the Kindle app very soon.

What do you think makes a good story?
Character and conflict.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I live in Tucson, Arizona, so I love to do outdoors things. I’m a docent at two nature parks and lead tours as well as interpret plants and animals of the desert. I also enjoy bird watching and hiking.

Here I am, on the far right, leading a tour at Tohono Chul Park

What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t despair; it’s all good.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Find a really good feedback group or writing class and attend faithfully. Practice. Don’t give up. Or start your own feedback group, but first get and read Writing Without Teachers, by Peter Elbow, which will tell you everything you need to know about creating a really useful feedback group.