MY INTERVIEW WITH KATHERINE GILBERT
I’m Katherine Gilbert. My genre is a little harder to say definitely. It’s somewhere between Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy, but there are ways my writing does and doesn’t fit both genres.
Tell me about Protecting the Dead. How did you come up with that idea?
The novel was inspired by a real apartment complex which existed in Decatur, GA (where my novel is set). It was torn down a few months ago, but my sister and I once visited it on an apartment hunt. Unfortunately, everything there was just a little too creepy, including the apartment she was shown which didn’t quite feel empty. When she asked about the turnover of tenants, as well, she was told, “Oh, our residents never leave.” When the manager then called her to ask if she were still interested a week later, and my sister explained that something just didn’t feel right about the place, the manager said, “I know exactly what you mean.” My imagination took off with all that in its teeth and has never come back to reality.
How did you get interested in writing this particular genre?
I really love books which combine the following: the paranormal, comedy, and romance. Terry Pratchett has long been a favorite of mine, along with Diana Wynne Jones and many others. I tend to see the weird in things, anyway, and then I started having dreams which just seemed like they would make such interesting novels. From there, it was just a matter of finding the time to sit down and see if I could do it.
What kind of research did you do for this book?
I really only looked into a few urban legends in Atlanta (my book is set in one of its many suburbs). One of them is that a nightclub in a creepy old industrial space (and which has since moved to another creepy, old industrial space) is the home of vampires. As I’ve never really been a nightclub type, I did do a bit of internet image searching to find out what the place actually looked like.
Can you tell me about your Series?
My books so far aren’t really quite in a series, although they are all set in the same, wide-ranging alternate, paranormal, magical universe. The only one I’ve published so far is about a paranormal apartment complex in Decatur, GA. Other completed ones which I hope to finish editing to publish in the future are a supernatural detective novel set in London; a creepy magical/gothic story set in an old house on the Battery in Charleston, SC; and a magical conspiracy set in an alternate version of Salem, MA. I’m working on another one, as well.
Do you have a favorite book out of this series?
That’s kind of like being asked your favorite child. There’s some aspect of each of these stories I adore, and they appeal to different sides of my personality, so it’s really hard to choose.
Where did you get the inspiration/idea for your series?
They were almost all inspired by dreams I had, which, when I woke up, I practically screamed, “I have to write this down!”
Was it always meant to become a series?
None of them have quite become series with the same characters yet, although I have ideas for follow-up novels for all of them. So far, there have only been two characters (minor ones) who have appeared in two different novels.
What’s a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?
Well, I have a day job, so a lot of a working day is set around it. I teach college Freshmen, so it sort of depends on what my schedule that semester is for how much I’m getting written or edited. In the semesters where I have 13-hour teaching days or classes which end at 9 PM one night and start at 8 AM the next morning, I’m not getting a lot else done.
Do you have a new book in the making and if so, what’s the name of your upcoming book?
I have one I’m working on and one I’m editing. The one I’m editing (the one set in a creepy home along the Charleston, SC Battery) is Moonlight, Magnolias, and Magic.
How important are character names to you in your books? Is there a special meaning to any of the names?
The vast majority of my characters come named–in other words, they seem to know what they’re called, and I, as the author, just have to get with the program and write it down. Occasionally, there are hints in names, although I often don’t know what they’re hinting at until I get further into the writing process.
Is there a genre that you’ve been wanting to experiment with?
I have a novel starring a merman which keeps swimming up to stare at me, then diving back into the water to swim away again. The supernatural mystery was a new one to me, too, but not much beyond that.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Finding the time! I’m in the middle of one of the 9 PM/8 AM turnaround semesters right now, with six classes and constant grading. When I finally make it to a weekend, I’m trying desperately to catch up on Facebook and marketing (which I’m SO not a natural at). Sometimes, the week would need to include another two days for me to have time to write, too.
What do you think of book trailers? Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book?
I love them! I have no real visual skills to create my own, sadly.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
I’ve hung on long enough to write several books and finally get published. Now, I’m slowly trying to learn how to market my writing. I think my sheer determination has been my biggest win.
What’s the best thing about being an author?
Being able to get into a more tangible form the wonderful stories and characters I can see in my mind. Especially when I can work what I’m thinking into some version of that vivid picture, it’s a truly glorious moment.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
That’s really hard to say. I would like to be able to keep editing and publishing my work. I love my characters, and I write the stories I would want to read. I’d like to be able to keep writing and publishing and find others who enjoy them, too.
Have you always liked to write?
I only started writing fiction in my mid-twenties, and then it was all fanfiction. I wrote literary criticism before that, which I enjoyed in a very different way and which required deep analysis and research. Fiction is all about the crafting of words and emotion, instead, and I love letting my imagination out to play.
What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Don’t. Give. Up. Writing is not easy. It requires hours of thought and struggle just to get several pages out into the world in something like the way it lives in your mind. It takes much, much longer than that to write a whole novel. Then, there’s the endless grind of editing–of reworking a passage until it shines, of finding every nitpicky possible plot hole and filling it. That says nothing of either the immense struggle of finding an agent or publisher or of trying to do self-publishing right. It’s exhausting. It causes you to question every single word. It takes forever. Most people think you’re crazy for even trying. Still, if those worlds are singing in your mind and you really want to try to share them with others who you feel would also like to live in those magical spaces, don’t give up. Be persistent. Be bloody-mindedly stubborn in your pursuit. If this is the path you should be on, just don’t let anything convince you to stop, and be willing to put your heart and soul into making it right.
If you didn’t like writing books, or weren’t any good at it, what would you like to do for a living?
What I do for a living now, probably–teach. It also requires a kind of bloody-minded persistence to try to convince students to really think and dig down below the surface of life.
Do you read reviews of your book? Do you respond to them, good or bad? How do you deal with the bad?
I definitely read the reviews, although I don’t respond to them. For the bad, it depends. The people who just don’t like or don’t get what I’m writing can lead me to sigh a bit, but I accept that nobody’s writing is for everyone. There’s an occasional review, though, which seems to take deep pleasure in trying to cut out my soul with a dull knife and sell it to the devil. Those are quite painful. With any of the bad ones, I complain to my sister. She calls them morons in a very satisfying way. I share the good ones with her, too.
What is your least favourite part of the writing / publishing process?
Probably trying to learn how to market myself. I have absolutely no innate selling skills, and I’m really not that good at saying, “Look at me! Look at me!” which marketing really requires. It’s even more difficult, as my writing doesn’t fall easily into preset genres. It has too much sweet romance and humor to be seen as good urban fantasy (which the genre says should be unremittingly dark nowadays). It focuses too much on story and characters and not on pre-planned romance tropes to be seen as good paranormal romance. Trying to find a way to reach readers who will respond to the story just for what it is, and not for the disappointed expectations of what it isn’t, is a very difficult path and one I’m still struggling to figure out.
What are you working on now?
I’m writing a novel set in coastal Georgia about a rather questionable society which protects the world from bad supernatural beings. I’m editing a very gothic and magical novel about a girl who is just discovering the terrifying legacy she’s inheriting along with an antebellum house in Charleston, SC.
Can you give us a few tasty morsels from your work-in-progress?
From the work in progress (Carrie has been unwittingly recruited into the supernatural organization and is awaking to find that the boy she saw before has brought her to a place she doesn’t recognize): “She sat up, glaring into the far corner of the room at the boy who had somehow abducted her earlier. He was keeping his distance, at least, didn’t look ready to pounce. That was something. But he was still disturbing–was way too attractive, for one thing. She didn’t trust gorgeous men. Then again, she didn’t trust any men, really–or most women, either. Her eyes narrowed. He made a weird picture. He had a black cat twisting around acrobatically from one shoulder to the other, sometimes covering his face, as it walked in front of it. She relaxed, if only a very little. Somehow ‘dangerous sexual predator’ didn’t go along with ‘boy with cat tail under his nose giving him a Hitler mustache.'”
From the work being edited (Annabella has just discovered some sets of antique dolls. They’re in pairs, representing a victim whose soul is stolen for the house–becoming the house’s bride–and another who is killed to seal the demonic deal; she knows she’s the next bride but doesn’t know who has to die): “What I did discover would have made me let out a shriek, had there even been time. The lovely face stared back at me, cold and dead in its porcelain version. I knew I would have run, would have tried to warn her–but that was when the door to the room slammed shut–a blast of those demonic red sparkles overpowering me completely. And, like the ghastly night before, I soon lost consciousness of everything else.”
Where did your love of books come from?
I think that’s an inborn family trait. Even my sister’s name, Armida, is an old family name and comes from a poem by the 16th-century Italian poet, Tasso. We’ve been book lovers for generations now.
Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?
Way, way too many to name them all. Just a few might be: Terry Pratchett, Diana Wynne Jones, and Agatha Christie.
Of all the characters you have created, which is your favourite and why?
I’m afraid we’re back to picking a favorite child again. I love all my characters and love spending time with them. It would be impossible for me to choose.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
It really depends on how the writing is going that day. If it’s one of those wonderful days where the words just flow and spark in all the ways I want them to, then I’m energized. If it’s one of those days where just trying to craft a single sentence so it’s not leaden seems a chore, I’ll be exhausted.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Doing anything the characters don’t want. I can’t do it. It’s their story. I could probably write more marketable stories if I did some things differently, but I just can’t go in directions the characters don’t want.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Marketing would be a million times easier if I wrote to market, but I just can’t do it. The stories go where they want–which is often totally out-of-sync with whatever trends and genres I’m supposed to be following. The marketing would be easier, then–but the writing would become impossible.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I’m really new to being published. My novel’s only been out for about five months now, so I’m still just getting used to this world. I’ve certainly had a lot of help in figuring out what I’m doing from Patricia Kiyono, though. She’s been my absolute Facebook guru. Many others have been generous enough to give me their time and advice in a hundred other ways, as well.
If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?
Hm. Maybe, Life is Weird.
What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?
Hard to say . . . I like the questions you’ve asked. I can’t think of any others!
Where can your fans find you and follow?
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Amazon Author’s page: amazon.com/author/katherinegilbert
Protecting the Dead
by Katherine Gilbert
After a childhood filled with demons and her devil-worshiping parents, Lydia longs for a quiet, normal life, a safe haven somewhere blissfully dull. Being the manager at the Roanoke Apartments seems to fit that bill. But Lydia soon learns that you can’t leave the past behind so easily. She finds herself faced with unclogging drains for werewolves, conducting nightly vampire counseling sessions, and caring for two talkative cats. Then there’s the distraction of Geoffrey, the hottest, and most angelic, boss anyone ever dreamed of. As if that isn’t enough, the demon who nearly killed her shows up to finish the job. So much for a peaceful, simple life…
Katherine Gilbert was born at house number 1313 and then transplanted to a crumbling antebellum ruin so gothic that The Munsters would have run from it. She has since gained several ridiculously-impractical degrees in English, Religious Studies, and Women’s Studies. She now teaches at a South Carolina community college, where all her students think, correctly, that she is very, very strange, indeed.
Where to Find Me:
Amazon Author’s page: amazon.com/author/katherinegilbert
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She was left in her usual state of confusion, as they pulled up in front of another of the buildings, a gray stucco one.
Geoffrey shut off the cart before turning to her. “Glory is a fairly normal resident in appearance.”
Linda fervently prevented herself from analyzing that statement.
“The next two will be a bit harder for you to handle.”
He got out of the cart without allowing her to answer or beg for a reprieve. It was probably for the best. While she wanted desperately to believe that he was just referring to some physical disability they might have, the day so far had taught her not to go in utterly unprepared. After all, her boss was probably right. Any more fighting, and her mind might get pulled right off its last hinge.
She kept this truth close to her, tried to plant a smile on her face, as they approached the apartment door. It was only once he looked at her as though she was suddenly juggling gerbils or something that she realized her smile was undoubtedly fairly manic. She took a deep breath, trying to remain calm. It wasn’t easy. Given all that had happened so far, there was no telling what to expect. If some undead guy wrapped in bandages loped his way toward the door…
She did her best to repress the hysteria her life was teaching her, as Geoffrey rang the bell. Hard not to notice that it sounded out something that resembled the opening bars of Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London.” Those hours listening to classic rock radio were taking their toll.
Tragically, the person who answered the door didn’t make her feel any better. She supposed she should just be glad that there were no trailing bandages that she could see.
The new resident was not the type of monster she had feared, however. They were met, instead, with a wide, but disturbingly carnivorous, smile. Yellow eyes alighted on her boss, and the smile grew even wider. “Geoffrey, darling!” the man exclaimed, pulling him inside. “Get yourself and your delicious little assistant in here.”
Hairy. He was just hairy. Nothing more to it than that. Okay, so his beard, hair, and mustache all seemed to have completed the sort of forays the earlier applicant’s had started, matching up with each other to form more a fur mask than anything else. But there was no reason to panic. That was probably perfectly normal, right?
She repeated this mantra, as another voice met them from the kitchen. “You’re late, the pair of you!” The fact that she couldn’t see the man who said it didn’t make her any less nervous.
“Sorry!” Geoffrey called back before turning to the first resident. “Glory kept us a bit.”
Both men rolled their yellow eyes slightly, as the second entered the room. “You always were her favorite.”
Despite her efforts, the panic was beginning to truly set in now; Linda looked back and forth between them, trying very hard not to go mad. If the first resident had been hairy, the second looked more like a bag of fur that someone had attempted to construct a human shape out of. She tried really hard to believe that they were just suffering from the sort of disease that had put some nineteenth-century unfortunates into freak shows as “dog-faced boys.” Her mind reeled, denial dissolving. But that sort of thing had been eliminated long ago, right?
She decided not to believe in such science, finding that explanation far easier to accept than any of the alternatives.
Geoffrey turned toward her, as she was attempting to keep her eyes from rolling back in her head. “These are some more of our longer-term residents. This is Hugh Baskerville.” He pointed from the first to the second, as she did her best to tuck all the escaping parts of her sizzling brain back in. “And this is Laurence Cheney.”
“But my friends call me—”
“No, don’t,” she begged, knowing what was coming, her face buried in her hand. First, it was… well, everything, and now it was Lon Chaney and a Conan Doyle character. Good grief.
She knew she was being rude, knew she certainly wasn’t being a good assistant to Geoffrey, but she couldn’t quite force herself to look up again. If she did, she was going to see things she couldn’t wholly deny. She couldn’t take that. Whatever its dangers, denial felt safe. There was only so much oddity her brain could withstand, before it just started to explode.
She found herself sitting on the couch a moment later, knew that all these men were watching her, knew that she was direly failing whatever test she was being given. But she just couldn’t help it. It was too much, was far too weird. If only life could be all picket fences and well-tended lawns and SUVs and…
Okay, so she really wasn’t dumb enough to think such details meant an utter lack of misery, but they just seemed so nice, compared to her life. She felt someone sit on the couch beside her, knew it was Geoffrey, even before he spoke.
“Give her a minute,” he whispered, tenderly stroking her blue hair.
That only made her sigh all the more. There were times she truly wished she could be a stereotypical vapid blonde.
That wish, of course, was part of the reason why she’d ended up with the hair color she was now stuck with, but she wasn’t up to such analysis.
One of the residents sighed softly. “I guess we are a bit much for a first day. Especially with our moon phase coming up and all.”
She wished she lived the sort of life which made it impossible to guess what they were talking about.
Geoffrey’s soft touch made her raise her head again, her eyes a little misty, as she gazed at the two residents’ worried yellow eyes. Their normal clothing only made the situation weirder. The one who had greeted them, Hugh, dressed much like her boss tended to. The second one was even wearing a business suit. She was trying not to scream.
Fortunately, Geoffrey surprised her out of the impulse, pulling her close, his arms tender, mouth by her ear. Into it, he whispered a series of soft, soothing sounds. Like at her lunch with Glory, none of them were quite recognizable, except for her name. “Lydia,” he would breathe, before those only half-hidden words began again. “Lydia.” It made her real name so darn tempting that she couldn’t quite remember why she’d ever chosen another, and it finally made her sanity begin to piece itself slowly back together.
She wasn’t certain how long they were like that, knew nothing except his touch, his comfort. Some final spate of words settled inside her as a sort of hope for the future, a thought — even if she had no conscious access to it — that comforted her even more. She felt his soft kiss there, before he finally leaned back. She didn’t really know what to think, after that.
Thank you for taking your time to do this interview ❤