#Interview: Kat Micari, #Author of “Penumbra”

by Red Haircrow

LARGE-penumbra-cover (2) Kat Micari is an author and artist living in the northeast of the United States with her husband, son, and two cats. She enjoys reading a clever turn of phrase, walking in nature, and dancing to the music of the universe. Above all, she loves creating and encouraging others to create.

Description: “Fed up with the dirty city and a disenchanting life as a fashion model, Beauty’s world is at least safe. But the illusion of safety shatters the night that she frees herself from her self-imposed fears only to be thrust into the magical underbelly of the city, where forces that want to save humanity and evil beings that want to feed off humanity’s despair fight for balance and power.

Forced from both the comforts and the trappings of her old life, now hunted by a cadre of sinister, rat-faced business men, Beauty’s only hope is to join with a strange magical ally. Together, with the help of fae creatures in unlikely guises, they must seek out an enchanted, improbable artifact that can heal the city before evil tips the balance, once and for all.

This powerful coming-of-age fairy tale follows the path of a young heroine who chooses to take fate into her own hands for the first time in her life, and of the consequences that her choice has on the magical beings of the city. “

  • Available at Smashwords.
  • Published: April 10, 2013
  • Words: 12,522 (approximate)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 9781301418626

INTERVIEW

What genre(s) do you write? Why do you write the stories that you write?
I write science fiction and fantasy primarily, but one of the joys of being an indie author is not being trapped by specific labels.  The stories that I write tend to feature women who have strong convictions and inner strength, even if they don’t realize it at the beginning.  I also write poetry and music that can be cutting but allows me to tell my version of Truth.  And I write because I have to.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I was very young when I started writing.  It was always on my list of things I wanted to be when I grew up.  I wrote my first play and novel by the time I was done with 8th grade, and I had a wonderful 9th grade English teacher who read and edited all my angsty, violent short stories.

Who or what was your inspiration for writing?
I have always had very eclectic tastes in authors.  I grew up on L.M. Montgomery and Laura Ingalls Wilder and Lynne Reid Banks.  My older brother worked in the public library so would bring me home all kinds of books that were going to be thrown away or put in the used book sale – so I read Orwell’s Animal Farm in 6th grade, tackled my first Shakespeare plays around the same time, and was obsessed with the Star Wars novels in high school.  I began reading more fantasy and sci fi in high school, alongside historical fiction, and while in graduate school, I became a fan of Julie Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and Deena Metzger’s poems and stories.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Creating works of art and handicrafts, making music, spending time with my son and my husband, being out in nature, cooking and baking – I like to keep myself busy.

Where do you hang out online? Website URL, author groups, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc?
Author Blog: http://katmicari.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kat.micari?ref=ts&fref=ts
Twitter: https://twitter.com/katmicari
Tumblr: http://katmicari.tumblr.com/
I am also on Goodreads and Library Thing, but I haven’t done much with them yet.  You’re welcome to come and find me there, if you’d like.

What books are currently on your nightstand?
I recently finished the ARC for Madeliene Claire Franklin’s The Heirophant which is excellent!  And I’m not just saying that because she’s a friend.  And I’m currently working my way through Thomas Jefferson’s Memoirs on my Kindle.  I’m reading this VERY slowly as it’s a four part collection of his letters as well, and I break up the reading with other works.  Right now, it’s the letters that he’s writing from Paris leading up to the revolution, and he’s communicating with several of the framers of the constitution.  And it’s just fascinating to get a first-hand account about the development of the Bill of Rights and the foundation of the United States, especially with the political climate we’re currently in.  I got that book (and many books) off of Project Gutenberg, and I hope to someday be able to donate a lot of money to them.

Do you remember the first novel you read?
Offhand, no, but it was very likely an American Girl novel.  My grandfather’s best friends would get each of us children a bag of books for Christmas every year, so I had entire collections of the American Girl books, and it was through them that I was introduced to many great books, including gorgeous picture books, early classics, etc.

What would you like readers to know about you the individual?
I think the most revolutionary thing you can do as an American is to question everything, eat real food and be as healthy of body and mind as can be, and avoid the consumer-mob mentality as much as possible.  Creation over consumption.  That being said, buy my book!  No, seriously, I wish that everyone would find their purpose in life and then find the courage to follow that purpose, even if it means living outside of societal norms.

Where are you from originally?  Family?
I am from upstate NY, which means that I feel very strongly the turn of each season.  My husband and I spent four years in southern CA, which we enjoyed, but we moved back to the northeast because we missed our family and a real fall and winter.

Is there anything unique about your upbringing that you’d like to share with readers?
I was fortunate to have parents that encouraged me to think for myself.  My father taught me the fine art of debate.  My mother taught us to stand up for ourselves.  This helped me eventually overcome issues from bullying in 5th to 8th grade.

Your Writing Process

Why do you write?
I write because I must.

What excites you about writing?
I love asking “what if” and “why”, and writing allows me to fully explore these questions.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
For the past couple of years, it’s been carving out bits of time here and there.  I only had the goal of writing 100 words per day (about 20 minutes) and often didn’t even make that goal.  But starting next week, after we settle in from our move, I should be able to dedicate at least an hour a day solely to writing.

As I have several creative pots on the stove, in addition to caring for a two year old, my work days will involve sneaking in social networking, advertising, responding to emails, and blogging during the day while my son plays.  As he gets older and activities hold his attention longer, I hope to be able to set up my drawing/painting/sketching alongside his art projects and we can create together.

I will write or edit during his nap time (1 to 1 ½ hours), and when my husband is home to split caregiving or in the evenings after my son is asleep, I will be writing or painting or making music or working on freelance creative work.  We are going to try to go on one family outing a week, preferably out in nature to restore our overworked selves.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Write.  Just do it.  Don’t make excuses.  Don’t keep putting it off.  If you have the burning desire in you to create, shut out everything else.  I have to sometimes talk myself into beginning – I say I’m too tired, or I want to just sit and relax, but once I begin to create, the time melts away and there is such immense satisfaction.  If you have a story burning within you, let it out.  Life’s too short to keep putting off your dreams.

Is there any other genre you have considered writing in?
I love historical fiction, and while getting my BA in history, I took an independent study and began a novel on Mary, Queen of Scots.  I never went further with it because I realized there are two or three other novels out there on her and worried that I had nothing new to bring to it, but the research and notes are all saved.

Do you listen to music or have another form of inspiration when you are writing?
I do have a writing playlist.  It is an eclectic mix of classical, New Age, jazz, electronica/trance, and movie scores.  I don’t like anything with words.  I used to create a specific playlist for each new work I was writing, but I realized that I was using the creation of the playlist as a way to block myself from actually writing, so I stopped.

Most people envision an author’s life as being really glamorous. What’s the most unglamorous thing that you’ve done in the past week?
Changing poopy diapers?  Packing to move?  Leaving my day job?  Okay, that last one was super satisfying, even if it wasn’t glamorous.

How long does it take you to finish a book from start to submission?
I haven’t been able to time myself, so I don’t know!

Do you prefer writing series books over non series or does it matter?
So far, I’ve only been working on one-offs, or books that might loosely be part of the same series.  But I love to read series, so if the opportunity comes for a storyline that takes place over many books, then I will explore it!

Do you track work count or write a certain number of hours per day?
I try not to as it would get way too depressing!  I do check my word count when I’ve finished a round of writing, just to satisfy my own curiosity.  I just snatch my moments when and where I can.

Your Books

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
Penumbra is my first completed work of any length.  So I guess that makes it my favorite at the moment?

When a new book comes out, are you nervous about how readers will react to it?
Of course!  Any time someone puts something they created out in the world, whether a work of fiction or a painting or a meal they’ve spent hours making, there’s that fear about what the response will be.

What can we look forward to in the upcoming months?
I will be releasing a free short story entitled “The Cephalopod Maid” in the next few weeks, and an illustrated collection of political and social poetry by the end of July.

What kind of research do you do for your books? Do you enjoy the research process?
It’s tailored depending on the story.  For example, “The Cephalopod Maid” draws on some Luvcraftian references, so my research involved reading some of his works and doing online research into that world, as well as finding visual images of various squid and octopi.  Penumbra had very little research as it was set in modern times and the creatures are my own imagining.

Do deadlines help or hinder your muse?
Loose deadlines help, but I really just try to schedule each week. I find a daily to-do list INCREDIBLY helpful, but realize that I tend to assign too much for myself to accomplish in one day.  So I try to remain flexible.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?
Again, this depends on the story – the length of story, the depth that I am creating a new world or using reality, etc.  I keep a working outline with important details (the name of an artifact, character descriptions) but I keep it flexible, and I know I’m going to be making changes as the story goes.  Generally, I try to outline the major plot points and then let the characters decide how they’re going to get there.

What was your first published work and when was it published?
Penumbra is my first and only thus far, and it was published this past April.

Your Characters

Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?
My characters are from my imagination, but my imagination is fed by my experiences in life.  I adore people-watching, but I do it because I find it fascinating and interesting, not because I’m deliberately filing things away for later use.  But I’m sure some of the character traits I notice spill over.

Is it hard coming up with names for your characters?
Not generally, no.

Have any of your characters ever haunted your dreams or woken you up during the night demanding attention?
I’ve had insomnia due to characters and scenes playing out in my subconscious in a kind of lucid dreaming state, but I don’t know that I’ve ever woken up because of them.

Which of your stories would make a great movie?  Who’d play the lead roles?
The pacing of Penumbra lends itself well to a visual medium.  I’m talking with my husband about eventually turning it into a graphic novel or webcomic, and I think it could make a great film as well.  And I’d want relative unknowns to play the leads.

Do you make a conscious decision to write a certain type of character with a certain occupation, or do the characters decide for themselves what they want to be?
The characters decide for themselves, generally.  Usually a plot is born out of my characters, which includes their occupation.  I don’t ever start out with a generic person thrown into a situation.  To me, the story is about the characters, so they have to live for me before I know where the plot is going.

What in your opinion makes good chemistry between your leading characters?
Dialogue.  It always comes down to dialogue.  In the editing process, I do at least one line edit where I take each sentence and examine how it stands on its own.  With dialogue, I scrutinize it even more closely, looking at whether it’s something that particular character would actually say and how it plays against the other character.  The difficult thing in Penumbra is that one of my main characters hardly talks at all!

Random Questions

Name one website you visit every single day.
I read the Foglio’s Girl Genius every time it updates.  It is my addiction.  The story, the artwork, and the characters are all amazing. It has a great mix of comedy and drama.  I’ve been hooked 2005.  Other than that, I try to alternate where I spend my time online so I’m not spending too much time on the internet instead of being active with my family or creating.

Where do you get your daily dose of news?
If I’m looking for updates on my own, I go to NPR.  I will click on links via Facebook and Tumblr to other news sources, if an article interests or outrages me.  And I’ve learned to try to avoid the comments sections of any article because they always suck me in and leave me with a headache.  I’ve learned that in order to write and create, I sometimes need to shield myself from the media.  I stay aware but try not to get sucked into the sensationalism of the media.

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