Welcome to the latest installment of Breaking In, where I interview authors about their experiences breaking in as writers — how they did it, what it felt like to get there, and how it differed from what they were expecting.
Today, I’m happy to have the opportunity to interview author Kate Blair!
As she notes on her website, Kate is a young adult author, speculative fiction geek, ex-pat, ex-clown and ex-museum curator. Born in the UK, she emigrated to Toronto in 2008. She has two ridiculously young children and a lovely husband.
(As an aside, I will only note that absolutely everything in Kate’s bio strikes me as excellent preparation for becoming a writer!)
Her debut novel, Transferral, was released by Dancing Cat Books in October, 2015.
London, England, present day. This is the world as we know it, but with one key difference: medical science has found a way to remove diseases from the sick. The catch? They can only transfer the diseases into other living humans. The government now uses the technology to cure the innocent by infecting criminals.
It is into this world that Talia Hale is born. Now sixteen and the daughter of a prime ministerial candidate, she discovers that the effort to ensure that bad things happen only to bad people has turned a once-thriving community into a slum, and has made life perilous for two new friends.
When Talia’s father makes an election promise to send in the police to crack down on this community, Talia can only think of how much worse things will be for her friends. Will she defy her father to protect them, even if it means costing him the election?
Transferral, the debut from Kate Blair, is a chilling look at a world gone wrong because of its efforts to do right.
Transferral is available from your preferred online bookseller and select bookstores – see the publisher’s website for more information!
[SGM] Welcome to the blog, Kate! To begin, when did you feel like you’d broken in as a writer?
At Word on the Street. It took place a week before my book launch. They programmed me on a panel with two well-known authors whose work I love (Erin Bow and Eve Silver), and it felt amazing to share the stage with them and speak to a full tent. There was a book signing afterward, and I expected to be a total Billy-no-mates while the two other authors were flooded. But I had a good number of people – mostly strangers – who bought my book and wanted it signed. I was busy the whole time. Plus they gave me a lanyard that said ‘Kate Blair, Author’ on it, which was as good as a medal to me. I wore it all the way home on the TTC and only took it off after my toddler son tried to strangle me with it.
What was your path to breaking in? Did you have a strategy? Did it work, or did you end up getting there another way?
My main strategy was the basic ‘write a good book, get an agent, get it published’. I tried for many years to get my first book published, writing and re-writing it, and I got close with a couple of agents, but in the end it had been edited to death. So I moved on and wrote another book. And a friend of mine who critiqued it liked it, and recommended it to one of her publishers, and he offered me a contract. So that turned out to be very simple, and I skipped the whole ‘getting an agent’ step.
And following up on that, knowing what you do now, what would you do differently?
I might have tried sending the first book directly to smaller publishers. And I would certainly have given up on the first book earlier. But I spent so much time on it, so it was hard to walk away. Now I’m a bit embarrassed of it, and glad it didn’t get published.
Now that you’ve broken in, is it like or unlike what you expected? How?
I have a lot of friends who are writers, so I had a pretty good idea of what the writing life is like for non-NYT bestselling authors. Few make a living on writing alone, so I knew I wouldn’t be quitting my day job. I love being invited to things – schools, readings, other events. It still surprises me that people want to hear what I have to say. Getting reviews has been way more fun than I thought it would be. I’ve been bracing myself for a scathing one and although I’m sure I’ll get one at some point, they’ve all been super-nice.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a sci-fi young adult novel now. It’s about a group of colonists who have just arrived at their destination planet after hundreds of years of travel – generations that never left their starship. In addition to learning the very basics of survival and dealing with the hundred ways nature can kill you (storms, exposure, cold, forest fires, falling through ice), there’s something stalking the supposedly uninhabited forests of their new home. Something that is killing the colonists one by one. It’s basically a dark take on Little Red Riding Hood in space.
How can people keep up with you online?
Thanks so much for featuring me!
Thank you, Kate, for taking the time to share your insight and experience!
Coming up next on the blog: It’s another big week for Breaking In, with an interview with author Melanie Florence coming later this week. And yes, I’m also overdue for a November progress report, so that’ll be coming soon too.