It’s a glorious day here in Realm Makers world, because we have another amazing author to sit and chat with! Today it is the lovely Kat Heckenbach who will be joining us.
Hi Kat, so glad you could talk with us.
What are you most looking forward to about attending this year’s conference?
That’s easy–the people. Realm Makers is where I get to hang out with the friends I’ve made over the years through various online writers groups and Facebook and wherever else. We Christian spec-fic writers lurk around the internet and find each other in the oddest places, and nothing is like finally meeting face-to-face in a place meant just for us!
Will you be coming in costume to the Awards Banquet?
This one is not so easy. I had every intention of dressing up this year, in a costume I planned to make myself…which includes a prop that would be very difficult to carry onto an airplane, but my husband and I planned to take the family along this year and make a full-on vacation out of Philadelphia, so we’d have been driving. That plan has changed, though, and I’ll be flying up alone this year, which means I can’t do the costume I’d intended. (I know, I’m being evasive about the costume itself–that’s because I still plan on making it to wear at a local con and I want to keep it a secret!) So….now I’m on the search for a costume that will fit in my suitcase and won’t alert TSA…
If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Warehouse 13. Oh, wait, you mean someplace that actually exists! Hehe. In that case…
Ireland. Don’t tell my husband, because his dream trip is Germany (although, we could do a whole tour of Europe and both be happy!). I set my YA fantasy series on a fictional magical island off the coast of Ireland partly because that’s my dream place to visit. The rolling hills, the green, the castles, the Celtic music the pubs :). We’ll make it there someday!
How many books do you own?
Do I own, or have I owned? I am a book-buying addict, but I’m also a book giver-awayer. I’m always buying books, a lot of them used, and then handing them off to friends, or donating them to the Friends of the Library bookstore at my local library. So, I’ve owned hundreds. That said, when it comes to books I *want* to keep around–I have this 7-foot tall bookcase that I keep filled, but when it starts getting overrun, I go through and get rid of books I will likely not read again.
The books lying sideways on the bottom shelf are the ones I haven’t read yet. The small sideways stack on the second shelf is the currently-reading pile as well as my Nook and Kindle, which of course each have their own collections of books…
If you could spend the day with one spec fic character, who would it be?
OK, I know how this sounds, but I would pick one of my own characters. I mean, there are some great fictional characters out there that I would love to spend time with–Hermione Granger from Harry Potter, Dustfinger from Inkheart–but my Elven rocker Kalek is closer to my heart than any other. He’s a really important side character in my novels and has the gift of playing the songs of the stars. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the works of his hands.” Kalek brings out those proclamations in the form of music, played on an electric guitar that’s powered by magic. He’s rebellious and intelligent and loyal and has this amazing long curly hair and onyx eyes. So, yeah, I’d love to just hang out in his favorite spot (the temple ruins on the magical island of Toch) and listen to him play and connect with God through His creation.
How did you get into writing?
First of all, I am not one of those writers who always knew, who had written her first short story at the age of six or whatever. I grew up as the girl who was always drawing–on paper, on my school folders, on my jeans, on my Converse. The girl who won art contests. The girl who claimed her life goal was to be a starving artist. After a few years of wandering post-high school, I decided to go to college and become an art teacher. A few years after that, I graduated college with a biology degree. Yeah. Then I ran the math program at a tutoring center, after which I quit to stay home with my son and eventually homeschool him and my daughter.
It wasn’t until a few years later that I had a conversation with my husband that went something like this:
Me: “blah, blah, blah, love my life, love homeschooling, love the kids, love you…something missing, don’t know what…”
Him: “I told you if you ever want to write a book, I’ll be supportive.”
Me: “I never said I want to write a book.”
Him: “Yes, you did.”
So, because I have a spouse who read (pun intended) me better than I read myself, I decided to sit down and write a book. Literally, no prep, no research. I sat down one Wednesday afternoon (I have no idea why I remember it was a Wednesday), opened Word, and told myself that if I got the beginning of a story out, I’d keep going. If what I wrote sucked, I’d never try again. (I do NOT recommend this, btw.)
Two hours later, I had the bones of what became the first chapter of my YA fantasy novel, Finding Angel. It was then that I started learning about writing, and realized I not only can write but actually love it, too.
Why do you write Speculative Fiction? What draws you to it?
Everything about it draws me and has always drawn me, from as early as I can remember. I was a kid who watched shows like H.R Pufnstuf, the Buggaloos, Sigmund the Seamonster-
-and this show, that until I found it on Google a few years ago I was beginning to think I imagined because not one person I ever met had heard of it. It’s called The Lost Saucer and starred Jim Nabors and Ruth Buzzi. I moved from there to I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched, and of course Star Trek. So, it was natural that the books I read as a kid were spec-fic: The Phantom Tollbooth, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, A Wrinkle in Time.
Then it just kept going. I kept reading and watching every kind of spec-fic. I love the idea of other worlds, whether they exist on the other side of a wardrobe or through a portal, or right here and are part of our world but unseen. The whole idea that there is more than meets the eye, more than we can touch and feel and experience in our normal, everyday lives. Magic. Enchanted forests. Mythical creatures. Life on other planets. What I don’t get is how all that doesn’t draw everyone!
Name one piece of writing advice someone has given you that really shone out and helped you.
I’ve gotten the same advice multiple times (worded in different ways) regarding critique, but they all sum up to: “Keep the fish, and throw out the bones.”
Meaning, keep the fish and throw out the bones of the critique. You can’t please everyone. You have to learn to pick what advice to follow and what to ignore. Part of this ability comes from learning the rules–and then learning how and when to break them. So you know when to ignore that person who wants to delete every single appearance of the word “was” in your entire manuscript, but when to listen to the person who points out your overuse of fragments. It also comes from learning who you are as a writer, discovering your voice and strengths and weaknesses.It is something that takes time–it’s not something you’ll figure out overnight. But the first step is realizing that not every piece of critique is actually worth something, and trying to follow it all will put you on a path of perpetual editing instead of toward publication.
Thank you for your inspiring words, Kat. We can’t wait to talk more at the conference.
Kat is a graduate of the University of Tampa, Magna Cum Laude, B.S. in Biology. She spent several years teaching, but never in a traditional classroom–everything from Art to Algebra II—and now homeschools her two children. Her writing spans the gamut from inspirational personal essays to dark and disturbing fantasy and horror, with over fifty short fiction and nonfiction credits to her name. Her YA fantasy series includes Finding Angel and Seeing Unseen and is available in print and ebook. Enter her world at www.katheckenbach.com and www.findingangel.com.