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Kathy Lynn Emerson Interview
by Penny Lockwood Ehrenkranz
Although raised in New York State, Kathy Lynn
Emerson and has lived and worked in Maine for over thirty years. She writes
contemporary, historical and time-travel romance, children's fiction and
non-fiction, biography, history and historical mysteries. In April 2005, she
will release the eighth book in her popular Lady Appleton "Face Down"
WFD: Why did you start writing?
KLE: I have no idea why, but I can tell you that
my first efforts were newspapers for my dolls when I was about ten years
WFD: What gave you the courage to become a
KLE: ...I'd just stopped working and was on
unemployment. While looking for work, I decided it was time to see if I really
could write publishable fiction...mostly I depended on the one thing every
writer needs a spouse with a job that offers health insurance.
WFD: How are you able to juggle writing and
KLE: Writing is my full-time job and my family
understands and respects that. Flexible hours let me take advantage of an
impulse now and again (to) just have fun.
WFD: What do you think is the most common
mistake made by writers?
KLE: Refusing to see that what they have written
might be improved by revision.
WFD: If a beginning novelist is serious, what is
the first step to success?
KLE: Finish the entire novel and start the next
one... chances are you'll have to write a couple of really bad ones before you
figure out how to do it right.
WFD: Many writers are reclusive and find it
difficult to promote their own work. What is your strategy?
KLE: For the first (novel) I sent announcements
out to bookstores and did as many bookstore signings as I could arrange. Now I
have a newsletter, do library programs, speak on writers' panels, and add to my
WFD: How has the Internet influenced
KLE: I don't trust the Internet for historical
research, although it often gives me a starting point. Too many errors, even on
reputable sites. I do log on to the local library network in order to order the
books I borrow on inter-library loan. I also research settings. As for
marketing, I have links on my website to places to buy my books. I do my own
website, so I use that as a major promotional tool. Probably networking is the
most useful aspect of the Internet. I use email to set up signings and talks, to
discuss business with editors and my agent, and to keep up on industry news. I
don't subscribe to very many list-servs simply because I can't afford the time
to read them all, but the few I do get are extremely helpful for networking with
both fans and other writers.
WFD: Speaking of your website, (http//www.kathylynnemerson.com) I noticed you have an extensive bibliography on each of
your Elizabethan books. What is the process you use for researching your
KLE: In a way I've been doing research for the
series for years, collecting reference books on the Elizabethan period and
borrowing many, many others on inter-library loan to take notes. There isn't any
set amount of time for research on an individual book. I'm collecting notes all
the time and some won't be used for years yet. Some will never actually appear
in a book but rather be used to give me a better feel for some aspect of the
In particular I look for tidbits I think are
interesting, in the hope that readers will think so too. For each new book, and
each new short story, I need to do specialized research. If I can use the name
and description of a real building in a real place, I do. If not, I try to make
it as close to what might have been there as possible.
WFD: I noticed detailed descriptions of
day-to-day life and period specific language in your books. How do you determine
what aspects of daily life and language to include?
KLE: After years of research I have file folders
on just about any subject you could name and pull bits and pieces out of those
to use where appropriate. As for deciding what to use, I don't think it's a
conscious choice. I start to write a scene and as it develops the characters
need to be doing something other than just talking so I use whatever seems to
fit the setting and time frame.
I've culled a word list from contemporary
documents, especially letters and plays. I've invented a few curses ("Dragon's
blood") but "bodykins," as a mild curse used by Lady Appleton, comes right out
of Shakespeare. Other terms crop up all the time in my research. I try to use
them only if I can make their meaning clear in context. If I can't, I substitute
something less confusing.
WFD: Your web pages for the Lady Appleton series
is quite informative. You even included a "bloopers" page. What do you do when
you often get letters from fans catching you in errors?
KLE: Most of them are to say they enjoy the
series or one of the books in it. Some ask questions about some detail that
intrigued them. And a few, as you say, point out an error or what they perceive
to be an error. That's why I started the Bloopers Page. The classic is the
Persian cat. I put one in a short story and later in a novel because the
character had been to Persia. Without thinking, I gave the cat the Persian
characteristics we know today--long fur and a pushed-in face. Turns out,
however, that the latter was only bred into the breed much later than the
sixteenth century. Once this was pointed out to me, I was able to delete those
few inaccurate words from subsequent printings of both the story and the
WFD: One final question, what tip do you have
for first time writers?
KLE: Don't give up.
© Copyright 2005, Penny Lockwood Ehrenkranz
Penny Lockwood Ehrenkranz writes for adults and children and has over 150 articles and stories published. Information about her work can be found at http://www.pennylockwoodehrenkranz.yolasite.com
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