Sunday, April 17, 2011
Chynna's Writing Tips: Interview With Author Kay Springsteen (Kate Tate)
Kate learned a great deal from her little girl and I can see how being touched by her presence has strengthened her heart, changed her perspective on life and stoked her passion for writing. You will absolutely fall in love with Kate and her books, as I have. All of you romance writers-in-waiting out there take note of all of her tips, suggestions and advice.
Without further ado, here is Sweet Romance author, Kate Tate.
CHYNNA: Kate, welcome to ‘The Gift’ blog! So happy to have you join us today. Please tell us a little about yourself.
KATE: I grew up in Michigan with my parents and an older brother. My mom was born and raised in England, and immigrated to the United States shortly after WWII, where she met and married my father. My parents were always very happy together and their relationship with each other gave me the picture of what true romance means. We never had a lot when I was growing up. What we did have was nice and my brother and I never went without the essentials and a few nice extras. But my parents worked hard for everything and they didn't over-indulge us.
After I graduated high school, I attended university with the goal of being a primary teacher. Funding fell through after two years but I have to admit I never pursued it all that hard. By that time, I was interested in getting married and settling down. I've been through a few metamorphoses in my work career over the last years but between life experiences and career choices, I think I've always been heading in the general direction of writing and editing fiction as a career. I haven't attained these goals fully yet, but one day I play to be a writer and an editor—with a recognizable name. This doesn't mean I want fame and fortune or that I necessarily deserve these things. But for as long as I can remember, I've wanted people to see me, know me, and recognize me.
CHYNNA: Kate, you are a writer! And I think you are well on your way to be someone others want to see, know and recognize! Let’s dig deeper into your writing career. Have you always written? Tell us about your earliest writing memories that led you to think, “Yes! This is what I want to do!”
KATE: When I was four or five, my brother (some 11 years my senior) borrowed Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland from the school library specifically at our mom's request for the sole purpose of her reading it to me. It had been a favorite of hers. That got me interested in reading. I became fiercely hungry for stories to be read to me and that led the way to being able to read second and third grade readers by the time I was five, which in my day was actually early, but in today's world, is about where the kids are reading at age five. The Adventures of Dick and Jane were old by the time we received our actual books in the first grade – I was already into Beverly Cleary's Beezus and Ramona, and by the second grade, I was reading about Misty of Chincoteague and other stories by Marguarite Henry. In the third grade, I found Walter Farley's Black Stallion, Jim Kjelgaard's Big Red, and the Nancy Drew Mysteries by Carolyn Keene. By the fifth grade, I had run through all the books of interest in the school library and was checking out adult books in the public library. About this time, I began writing my own stories. I was a loner as a child, but I had tons of friends in my head. I started putting these on paper, awkwardly at first but my teachers and parents encouraged me to keep writing, and one teacher in particular noticed that one of my greatest abilities was in building characters, followed closely by the ability to tell stories. Even when the writing was awkward, she said the stories themselves were good, even great.
So my beginning at writing came about somewhere in the fifth grade, when I was running out of things to read. Life intervened in a big way over the years and somehow kept me from pursuing this as my career choice, including the births of my children, particularly my first child, a little girl who was born with Down syndrome.
CHYNNA: Holy cow, Kate! I think it was in Fate’s plans that you become a writer with all the reading you did! You sound like my Jaimie. Fabulous story. Thanks so much for sharing. I’m so glad you brought up that treasure of yours because I am absolutely in love with your first book, “Heartsight”. I know many of our followers would be able to relate to it too. Please describe this beautiful story and where the inspiration for it came from.
Heartsight came together one day in the fall of 2010. I had actually just finished the second draft to Lifeline Echoes (yes, I finished my second release before I started my first), which had turned out a little bit intense, and I was looking for something that would tug the heartstrings in a different, hopefully less intense, way. A TV show I had fallen in love with, USA Network's Covert Affairs, had a blind supporting character who intrigued me. I went from wondering what it's like for a sighted actor to play a blind person to wondering what it's like to write from the perspective of a blind hero (FYI: it's very limiting and you have to be careful not to write from the sense of sight when in that character's PoV). At the time, I didn't know how he would have become blind, but then I saw a commercial for the USO featuring Wounded Warriors – none of them were blind, but that gave me the idea to make my hero a career U.S. Marine so I could have him feel like he had lost his purpose for living.
Not long into writing this novel, I saw the story of a U.S. Army captain that so closely paralleled this story I was writing (minus the hurricane), I knew I had to keep going. Suddenly, my story was not just a vague work of what-if piece of fiction, but a story that could really happen. I needed an extreme event for my hero to prove himself to himself. I could have simply had him rescue the heroine, but unless she was a very weak woman, he would always have the question of whether she hadn't simply rescued herself and taken him along for the ride. But a child, and a woman actively seeking his help resonated a bit more deeply with me.
Then I decided I wanted my hero to form a connection with the child before he/she needed rescue, which meant a meeting, a breaking through by the child of the barriers the hero had erected to protect himself. Most 6 year olds could probably have done this, but I wanted this story to really stand out. I was writing this as the anniversary of my first child's death approached, the child who had been born with Down syndrome and lived to be 2-1/2 years old. Though it happened in 1986, that anniversary is always going to be there, always going to tug just a bit. I was going through Meghan's photo album and the idea to give the child in my story Down syndrome was born.
So basically, Dan is a Marine, blinded in battle, who is seeking sanctuary on his private space of beach, when along comes Isabella, or "Bella," as she is called, invading his space, pushing a sticky hand into his as he sits feeling he is worthless and has no purpose, and feeling just a bit sorry about it all, listening to the sunrise. Yes, I said listening. By the time Trish, Bella's mom, finds them, Bella has attached herself to Dan to the point that whenever she wanders off, it's become her purpose to locate and spend time with Dan, seeing something in HIM that needs her kind of love, thus taking Bella out of the role of being cared for and placing her into the role of nurturer. After a prickly beginning the three people develop a close friendship. They adapt and adjust their worlds, since Trish is also an artist, and just as a routine is developing, Bella's father resurfaces with an agenda that includes regaining custody of the daughter he'd once rejected. But when a hurricane hits the North Carolina coast, and Bella once again wanders off, the area where they live has already evacuated so her only hope for rescue lies with a blind U.S. Marine.
CHYNNA: Wow. That description was almost as good as the book. You made me cry. LOL! Okay, Kate, let’s dig even deeper for a moment. Can you tell us what it was like caring for a child living with Down’s Syndrome? When did you find out? What ran through your mind? What unique challenges did she, and you, face?
KATE: Being as Meghan was my first child and born when both my husband and I were 26, we had no inkling she would have anything wrong with her. Most people, especially those having an uncomplicated first pregnancy, simply don't think in terms of birth defects. My labor was pretty average, and only about 12 hours long, but the fetal monitor kept showing cardiac decelerations that the doctors found worrisome. The possibility of a Cesarean section was entertained but my doctor tried one last ditch effort to push the labor without drugs, and I learned what pain was when he did a "manual dilation," which was external stretching of the cervix. Yeah, I know, TMI – trust me, it was for me back then, too.
After Meghan was finally born, everyone got very quiet, including the baby. Then she cried and everyone took a breath. But an hour later, the pediatrician was in my recovery room talking vaguely about "signs we're watching." After he beat around the bush forever, I sat up in the bed, disconnected my blood pressure cuff and demanded he tell me what "signs" he was "watching." Although this was May 1, 1984, it my as well have been 1954. His exact words to me were, "She has the classic signs of being a mongoloid baby but don't worry because the little monkeys are very loveable." He said it in his most friendly tone and rather than just delivering a baby, I felt like I had just been sold a pet.
Try bonding with your child who was born a bit different when you were told in that manner. Try accepting the diagnosis. Neither came easily, all because of the way this doctor handled telling us. But motherly love does win in the end. Her life was threatened because this doctor was so incompetent he failed to recognize early congestive heart failure and the atrioventricular canal, a huge hole in the center of her heart that allowed the blood from all four chamber to mix (most heart defects involving holes are only two chambers, called a ventriculoseptal defect). So, in addition to being developmentally challenged, my baby was born with a heart condition that required us to be even more careful in terms of potential colds and other types of infections. She had to see a pediatric cardiologist every 6 weeks and was admitted to the hospital when she was 8 months old because a friend had brought their child over to visit when he had croup.
CHYNNA: Kate, I just don’t know what to say. (You have me crying here again.) How angering that the doctor didn’t detect these issues earlier on! And how terrifying things must have seemed at times. I’m sure, as many of our caregivers here on ‘The Gift’ can relate, it’s much easier to deal with something when we have all the facts. I appreciate you sharing Meghan’s story with us. What is the most important thing you want people to understand about these beautiful children?
KATE: It's not just a cliché that they are full of love. That extra 21st chromosome really does come an extra dose of the love gene. But, more than that, these children can do much more than many people think. They can attend school in the mainstream, and they can hold jobs. They used to be locked away from "normal" kids, hidden from society as something to be ashamed of. Society still does not always look favorably upon a child with developmental delay, and quite honestly, when I hear people using the phrase "I'm a retard," or "he's a retard," I tend to take it very personally. They usually don't truly mean anything offensive by it. They are normally just ignorantly using a slang phrase that has become all too acceptable in society. But it does hurt.
CHYNNA: I’m so glad you brought that up, Kate. There are some people in society who truly need to educate themselves a little more on children with Down’s or developmental delays. I’ve had to deal with some ignorant people along my own journey with my Jaimie and Xander. And that ‘R’ word has always been one I’ve stood up against. Now, after knowing your story in more depth, I will stand up even more strongly! You have a newly released book. Please tell us about it and what the inspiration for this work was?
KATE: My new book is called, Lifeline Echoes:
Voices form a powerful connection. The day the earth rocked LA, Sandy Wheaton became a voice lifeline over the radio for trapped firefighter, "Mick." Less than twenty four hours later, she had fallen in love with him. Shattered when she learned that rescue came too late, she sought solace Wyoming, the home state he had loved. Now, seven years later, she's made a life there as the owner of a popular local bar. But her wounds are still fresh, and she longs to let go of the past and her lost love so she can begin living again. That opportunity presents itself when the local prodigal son returns home. The attraction between them is instant. It feels like she's known him far longer than just a few days.
Excerpt (a sweet moment between Sandy and Ryan after their first date, which was interrupted by a murdered cow):
"You're awfully quiet." Sandy struggled to keep her voice casual.
"Umm, yeah." She watched him set the brake and turn off the engine, moving as if in slow motion. Not just tired. Drained.
Ryan walked her up the steps to her apartment. After she unlocked the door she turned into his arms. His kiss went from soft to heated then back to gentle.
She leaned into the kiss, enjoying the feel of his muscular arms beneath her hands. She hated having to let him go.
"I wanted to watch the stars come out with you, Chicory," he whispered.
She looked up. Even with the ambient light from town, the sky was overflowing with visible stars. "I love the stars. There are so many they almost. . ."
". . . blend together."
Electrical current raced along her spine. "Yes," she whispered, wishing she could see his face.
Ryan turned Sandy so her back was to him and slid his arm around her waist while they enjoyed the view from her tiny balcony. "My mom used to tell us stories about the sky and the stars," he murmured, his breath warm against her neck. "She said the night sky was one of God's favorite old blankets, keeping everyone here on Earth safe and warm. And the blanket has these tiny pinholes worn in, like some comfortable blankets do. The lights we see are little glimpses of heaven on the other side of the blanket."
"Ryan, that's beautiful."
"Next time, we'll get it right." He turned her back to face him, kissing her with slow, sweet longing. "I'll see you tomorrow, Sandy."
CHYNNA: This sounds like another winner, Kate! Your authoring focus is ‘Sweet Romances’. Can you explain what these are for our writers-in-waiting and how they’re different from traditional romance novels?
KATE: In sweet romance, sensuality is depicted through building anticipation between the two main characters, but the more sensual aspects end at or before the meeting of lips. Explicit sexual detail, even the naming of sexually explicit body parts is not permitted in a sweet romance. Graphic language is also frowned upon, as well.
Technically, Lifeline Echoes is not sweet, and frankly did not start out at all sweet. There is a definite villain who causes problems and has murdered at least once. So the story is edgy-sweet. It has a sequel and I have plans for others in that series because these characters in this small town seem to speak to me. I have a tendency to tackle emotional social issues in my writing and I think that gives it a serious edge.
CHYNNA: I do the same thing with my own writing, Kate. It seems to be much easier to get people listening to and talking about these issues through fictional characters than when we speak directly. I hope this changes but, for now, at least we have a platform to address important social issues. You and I have something in common in that we both put our latest books through Astraea—an ePublisher. What’s it like working with an e-Publisher? How is the process similar to/different from traditional publishing?
KATE: With digital publishing, the turnaround from submission to acceptance or rejection is a bit quicker and editing goes faster as well as actual publication. I really do believe e-publication is going to become the wave of the future. Probably not in my lifetime will it completely replace the bound book, but that's definitely the way the trend is heading. I still love my printed books, and yes, I'm vain enough to desire my work in print form so I can actually hold it and caress the cover art.
CHYNNA: I can totally relate to your desire of holding a printed book in your hands. But I’ve also found the ePublishing route fantastic. I’ve had a great experience with Astraea and plan to do more work with them (if they’ll have me. LOL!) Can you give us three or four tips for other writers wanting to write Sweet Romance?
KATE: Watch Hallmark movies and some of the lighter Lifetime Movie Network movies. Pay attention to G-rated and PG-rated movies in theaters and on cable. Generally speaking, these are the kinds of stories considered sweet. Also, pay attention to what advances the story. Sexual tension is okay – in fact encouraged as it builds chemistry in romance – as long as it is tasteful and not explicit and doesn't culminate in anything "on screen" (for Astraea Press, the guidelines are just a bit stricter, to include either a conscious decision to not indulge in premarital intimacy or if it does happen, that regret be expressed and/or consequences shown). Basically, if explicit sensual scenes are necessary to advance the story, it's not sweet romance. Also watch graphic language, cursing, etc. Again, if cursing is necessary to advance the story and cannot be changed to something more diluted and more acceptable in "polite company," it's not sweet.
CHYNNA: Thank you for that insight. I guess the best way to look at it is to write like we’re writing for how we would want our teens and young adults to see romance: It’s so much more than what happens in the bedroom. Where can we find you on the World Wide Web? Any future appearances coming up you’d like to brag about?
KATE: Both Heartsight and Lifeline Echoes may be found at this page:
This is my Facebook author page, and it is the best way to find out where I will be or what else I may be releasing: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kay-Springsteen-Author-of-Romance/143469035711422?ref=ts
This is my blog: http://kayspringsteen.wordpress.com/
CHYNNA: Kate I have loved having you here. With all that we’ve covered today, I’d love it if you could share any final pearls of wisdom you have.
KATE: If you're a writer—whether you've been published or not—keep writing. If the stories inside of you want out, release them. If there is some story you want to read but it hasn't been written yet, be the one to write it. If you want to be published, never give up trying, even after receiving rejections. But above all, before you submit anything, find yourself a critique group and actively participate. And network—make your presence known even before you're published. Blog, visit other blogs and comment, get yourself on Facebook, find other authors – a lot of published authors are active on Facebook and they have not only fan pages but personal pages that they open for fans. You can learn a LOT from following others. And when you learn, pass on the knowledge. It will help you to build a name for yourself if you are approachable.
Thank you so much, Kate for sharing your pearls of wisdom with us. I hope our readers seek you out at your online media connections and read your work. You are truly a gifted writer. We will be doing a review of Kate’s book, Heartsight very soon so be sure to come back again! Feel free to leave comments, ask questions or share your thoughts about Kate’s work with here below.