welcomesas our guest Kathryn Berla. Kathryn enjoys writing in a variety of genres including light fantasy, contemporary literary fiction, and even horror. She writes for all ages: children, middle grade, young adult, and adult.

She’s the author of the young adult novels: 12 HOURS IN PARADISE, DREAM ME, THE HOUSE AT 758, an  GOING PLACES, which received VOYA Magazine’s Perfect Ten rating.

A JOURNEY OF ORDINARY PROPORTIONS  is her middle grade novel for adults. And although ORANGE DOG, a children’s picture book, exists only in her heart, it holds a special place there.

THE KITTY COMMITTEE is her first novel written strictly for adult readers.

Kathryn grew up in India, Syria, Europe, and Africa. The love of experiencing new cultures runs deep and she gives into it whenever she can. Her goal is to visit every continent with the exception of Antarctica, so she still has two to go. She has been an avid movie buff since childhood and often sees the movie in her head before she writes the book.

Kathryn graduated from the University of California in Berkeley with a degree in English. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Norm: Good day Kathryn and thanks for participating in our interview. How did you get started in writing? What keeps you going? How long did it take you to get your first major book contract? 

Kathryn: Like most authors, I started writing as a child—things like family newsletters and embellished versions of my real life.

What keeps me going is the pure joy of writing—putting words together to create a visual image or convey an emotion. I labor over every word I use in every sentence. To me it’s like a crossword puzzle and it all has to fit perfectly. That’s the beautiful and wonderful part of writing. The business side is something else.

It actually didn’t take me too long to get my first major book contract, but it was serendipity. Months.

Norm: Do you write more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the two? Please summarize your writing process.

Kathryn: I write by intuition. Normally, I start with just a concept and around that concept characters begin to grow like a rose unfolding in time-lapse photography. Most of the actual creative process takes place in my head during long, solitary walks when I dictate my thoughts into the QuickVoice Pro app on my iPhone.

Each day, I transcribe my recorded ideas into a Word file where I throw in everything from characters to plot to endings to actual sentences that might eventually find their way into my book. Eventually, I organize those notes and color code them. I almost always know the way my book will end but often don’t know how I’ll get there. As I get to know and understand my characters, they always show me the way. So, when it comes to plotter vs. pantser, I am definitely the latter.

Norm: What genre are you most comfortable writing?

Kathryn: I love writing all genres with the exception of hot and heavy romances, or period pieces.

Norm: What did you find most useful in learning to write? What was least useful or most destructive?

Kathryn: In my quest to become a writer the most useful thing I did was to read voraciously over my lifetime. There’s absolutely no substitute for this. Since I enjoy all genres, I read in all genres. I also read current and classic and I’m usually reading three to four books at a time. If I had to choose only one—be a reader or be a writer—I’d be a reader.

The least useful or most destructive writing behavior is to pay too much attention to the “rules.” To me, rules are meant to be broken and they usually are from generation to generation of writers. Too many authors trying to squeeze themselves into the standards of the day can only lead to an uninspiring body of work. Fortunately, most authors don’t do this—they discover their voice and find what excites them.

Norm: How many times in your career have you experienced rejection? How did they shape you?

Kathryn: Many, many, many, many, many, many times. Did I say many times? It didn’t shape me at all. I’d rather experience acceptance than rejection but it’s just a fact of life for authors. Perhaps I developed a thicker skin and that’s a good thing.

Norm: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

Kathryn: The most surprising thing I learned was that I could actually write a novel. For years I pondered writing one but always thought it seemed like an insurmountable task. An elusive goal that I could aspire to but never reach. And then one day I sat down and started writing…and I wrote about a thousand words a day. And after a few months I realized I had written a novel. Bingo! I couldn’t believe how dense I’d been to think it was beyond me.

Norm: Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

Kathryn: I do. My readers are the best. They reach out via Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. They are just warm and lovely people. Other than those who reach out to me personally, I hear from them via Goodreads and Amazon in the form of reviews. And often that’s a wonderful experience, although not always—no author is immune from receiving an occasional harsh review. My readers who get me or who share personality traits with me most often talk about the characters they love or the characters whom they could hit over the head for their bad choices, but still love.

I was a fangirl before I was a writer. When a book moved me, I always attempted to contact the author to let them know how much I loved their book. Whenever an author acknowledged me or thanked me for reaching out, it made my day, so

I never forget that. I’m also a pretty gentle reviewer these days—anyone who puts in the time and effort to publish a book deserves a pat on the back, in my opinion, even if it isn’t my cup of tea.  

Norm: Could you tell our readers a little about your most recent book, The Kitty Committee?

Kathryn: The Kitty Committee is a convergence of three different concepts that have intrigued me throughout my life. The concept of being an outsider and the lengths that people will go to in order to feel accepted; the concept of grace—being loved (and loving yourself) in spite of our imperfections; and sociopaths, those who are devoid of empathy.

The Kitty Committee is the story of a young girl, Grace, who gets thrown into a social scene she isn’t equipped to handle and thereby relinquishes her power to an older girl with sociopathic tendencies. That’s the story in a tiny nutshell—perhaps a pistachio shell—but all three of the above-mentioned concepts are explored in depth. And of course, there’s a mystery that weaves its way throughout the novel.

Norm: Are the characters in your book based on people you know or have encountered or are they strictly fictional? As a follow up, how did you go about creating the characters?

Kathryn: I think every character I create has personality traits borrowed from many people I’ve known over my lifetime. After all, that’s the only way we can know a person who is not us well enough to create a brand-new fictional character—by observing others. But I’ve never had a character who’s straight-out based on another real-life person.

Norm: What do you hope will be the everlasting thoughts for readers who finish your book?

Kathryn: I hope that it will inspire others to be strong and feel secure within themselves in order to make their own best decisions for themselves and others. And to forgive yourself when and if you make an occasional mess of things. We all do.

Norm: What are you upcoming projects?

Kathryn: I’m going to start writing in August. The story is still percolating in my mind, but it will be a young adult historical novel (if you can call the 1960’s history, which I suppose you can…sigh) and it may have an element of magical realism to it. I’ve never written magical realism before, so this is uncharted territory for me.

Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and your books?

Kathryn: I suppose my Amazon author page is as good a place as any so if you don’t mind my linking it….  

Norm: As this interview comes to an end, what question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has?

Kathryn: This might be the best question anyone has ever asked me. And wouldn’t you know, I don’t have an answer for it. I imagine now it will gnaw at me until I do.

Norm: Thanks again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.

Kathryn: Thank you so much, Norm. I appreciate your time and this platform.