Today, Kate Birch sat down with me to talk about great first lines, inspiration, and what keeps her writing. Enjoy!
1. When did you start writing?
I’ve loved writing ever since I was a kid. I can still remember play dates with my friends where we sat on my bed scribbling in our notebooks, certain that we were penning the next Great American Novel. Even back then, I was never satisfied with my own writing. I can remember one time in particular when my friend Anne started her story, “The shot rang out across the Australian desert.” Man was I jealous of that line.
I knew right out of high school that I wanted to be a writer. I just didn’t know how to go about “being” one. I got a degree in Fine Art and spent time raising kids, but I always found time to write. I wrote short stories and started many novels that I never ended up finishing. For years I attended a fantastic local writing workshop, Writers @ Work, where I learned from some amazing teachers. During one, I met a professor who ultimately ended up publishing one of my essays in a literary journal; my first ever paid gig as a writer, which was thrilling.
Finally, about six years ago, I got more serious about really finishing one of those novels. I wrote a middle grade novel that I loved and submitted it to agents, crossing my fingers that someone would love my book and sell it and then I’d probably win a Newbury award and everyone would love me and I’d never feel insignificant again. Yeah, so that didn’t happen. But I went on writing. The next book I finished was a dystopian YA that ended up landing me my agent, but ultimately never sold. I kept plugging on, writing a new book each time one went out on submission. I wrote one other book before writing PET. And then hallelujah, finally one of my stories had found a home. And I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of the Entangled Publishing family.
2. Are you a pantser or a planner?
I’m definitely a planner. One of my favorite parts of writing is that initial stage of planning out a manuscript. I adore dreaming up all the possible paths that a story could take. Even though I do have a pretty solid idea of where a story will take me, I don’t have such a detailed outline that the spontaneity is sucked out of the drafting process. I’m always surprised by the twists and turns that come out during the first draft (as well as subsequent drafts) that I never dreamed up while I was outlining.
3. Can you give us an idea of your writing process?
I’m usually a fast drafter. My penchant for writing quickly probably started in the late 90s when I participated in the three day novel writing contest for a few years. More recently, I’ve become a huge fan of NaNoWriMo. I love cranking out a first draft because it prevents my internal editor from getting too nitpicky. I just don’t have time to listen to it. The most difficult part of writing is always starting, whether it’s a new project or just a new day. But the moment my fingers start banging away and I get in a groove, I remember the reason I love to write.
4. Which authors have influenced your work?
As a child, my favorite books were WATERSHIP DOWN by Richard Adams, TUCK EVERLASTING by Natalie Babbitt and MRS. FRISBY AND THE RATS OF NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien. I loved how completely they swept me into a new world. To this day, I can remember begging my mom to read me “just one more chapter”. As an adult, I’ve fallen in love with writers who’ve taken on darker themes like Flannery O’Connor, Jane Hamilton, and Joyce Carol Oates, but I’m also completely addicted to the humor in all of John Green’s books.
5. What are you plans/future projects/new releases that we should be aware of?
I’m so excited about my debut novel, PET, coming out this fall from Entangled Teen Ember. In PET, the government has passed legislation that allows genetically engineered girls to be raised as pets and sold to the rich and powerful as their lovely, new companions. I’m a pet owner and I’ve always believed that my dogs were lucky to live with me because I adore them and spoil them, but it made me wonder if I would want to live a pampered life as a pet if it meant that my life wasn’t really my own. PET is the first book in the series and I can’t wait to begin work on book two.
6. Any tips for new writers?
I probably have the same advice that you’d get from any other writer: write a lot and read a lot. I’m a firm believer in Malcolm Gladwell’s theory in OUTLIERS, which says that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in your field. That’s a lot of writing and a lot of reading. But luckily, if you want to be a writer, it’s also the two things you probably love doing more than anything else.
7. Any tips for old writers?
I’d just refer them to my previous answer 🙂 It never stops being true.