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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" series.

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 old.

WFD: What gave you the courage to become a full-time writer?

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 family?

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 website.

WFD: How has the Internet influenced you?

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 books?

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 period.

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 novel.

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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