Today I’m lucky enough to have Katherine Macdonald, author of The Fey Collection, The Fae of the Forest, the Mechanical Kingdoms, A Curse of Hope and Shadows, Faeries of the Underworld, The Phoneix Project, and other great books.
Katherine writes books in various genres, among them fantasy, romance, fairytales and dystopian, and she just published her newest book, Forest of Dreams and Whispers, which you can get right here:
A mortal raised in the land of Faerie, and a prince who’s curse can ruin a kingdom. This gender-swapped, enemies to lovers, Sleeping Beauty retelling is the first of The Fae in the Forest, with book two coming 2023– Forest of Dreams and Whispers
Questions about the writing process:
How do you select names for your characters?
Like most authors, I love my names to have meaning. Sometimes, it’s just *feeling* more than meaning—I have a faerie assassin in the back of my mind at the moment called Iveline, which is pretty and sounds “right” and can be shortened to Ivy which makes her less terrifying than she’d like. Most of the time, though, I carefully research the meaning of the name. Asami in my steampunk Beauty and the Beast retelling means “Beautiful” in Japanese (she’s French-Asian), Aislinn in my upcoming Snow White retelling means “Dream”—something that holds significance for her family. Very rarely a name just fits a character, and I use it no matter the meaning. “Adeline”, the name of the heroine from my A Curse of Hope and Shadows series (think Beauty and the Beast meets Downton Abbey) means “noble” which is beautifully ironic given her status. I didn’t know that beforehand, but the nobles in that story have Russian-sounding names, but the lower classes have European/French-sounding ones, to highlight the differences in station.
What’s the hardest scene to write?
Action! I’m so, so jealous of Shakespeare being able to write, “they fight, Tybalt falls” because boy do I wish I could just skip over it all. Whenever I’m reading, I have a tendency to gloss over action scenes—I only care about the outcome. I’ve developed a few techniques to help me get through them, but it’s still such a slog! I typically have to imagine the scene like it’s in a film, or even watch some action sequences to get some inspiration.
How long does it take you to write a book?
Approximately 3 months for a draft, longer with edits. I aim to write 500 words a day and usually go over that, and bit by bit, a story comes together! I like to let books “rest” between drafting and editing, and sometimes I’ll move on to my next project during that stage. It’s a bit of a writing assembly line!
What’s your goal with writing? Hobby/full time?
Writing has allowed me to go part-time, which is huge! I don’t think I want to go full time, though. I work as a teacher 3.5 days of the week (technically in all days with 3 half days) and I think teaching makes me a better writer and writing makes me a better teacher. It’s an amazing, challenging, highly satisfying job—and it actually makes me more productive, because I have to use my time efficiently. No staring at the screen for me!
I’d like to make as much writing as I do teaching, and I’ve still got dreams of traditionally publishing at some point!
Plotter or pantser or somehwere in between?
I always, always have a plan. It’s essential to my “write 500 words a day” aim, and waiting for inspiration to strike just wouldn’t work with my schedule. I do, however, leave some things to the moment. Action scenes/how the characters work out a problem—partly because I hate action, and also partly because I need to be in the room with them. I also leave certain romantic elements up in the air. I rarely plan a couple’s first kiss, for example—I let them tell me when it should be and BOY am I frequently surprised. I think it feels a lot more authentic that way.
Thoughts about writerly things:
Book reviews, do you read them?
They say you shouldn’t, but how else do you learn, and also, a lot of the nice ones can be incredibly inspiring! I wouldn’t have written a second book without feedback from the first—and I wouldn’t have grown as a writer without them.
And how do you handle the positive and the negative ones?
Amusingly, as an English teacher, I will sometimes argue with even the positive ones. “Great world-building in that book, really?” Ha! I try to prepare myself for what people will say before it’s published. I anticipate things people won’t like, and I remind myself that a lot is subjective. You will have people praising one element of a book that others despise—particularly when it comes to slow-burn romance.
I tend to avoid reading the really low ones as they’re often just nasty, but I will sometimes get a friend to do so just in case there’s useful feedback there. There usually isn’t, because so much is subjective as I’ve already mentioned. Definitely the best advice I can offer!
What’s the most important thing in a hero?
Your hero should be relatable, but that doesn’t mean they need to be average or likeable—just that their big “want” is so well written you can understand them even if they’re totally different from you. I am not a disabled, touch-phobic high-functioning sociopath, yet I empathised with Kaz Brekker and his quest for revenge. I am not a teenager struggling with my sexuality, but I still adored every second of Heartstopper. I’m not a hunter entering a competition almost to certain death, but I completely understood Katniss’ desire to protect her sister. Make your audience want your character to achieve their goal, and make sure you know what that goal is from the start—even if it changes.
What about in the villain?
The best villains are understandable, maybe even empathetic ones. Ones whose motives are pure even if their methods are not. Ones where you can understand why they are the way they are and why they have to fight the way they do. Villains that can love, or have people they want to protect are even better.
Do you prefer stand alone novels or series as a reader?
Depends on my mood! I love a really good standalone that sucks you and stays with you and doesn’t leave you wanting or waiting, but who doesn’t love a really good series that makes the characters seem like friends by the end?
Do your family and friends support your writing?
My younger sister was my first fan—I used to tell her stories when we were children and one day thought I should start writing them down. To this day, she’s still willing to help me work out a problem and will give me honest, helpful advice. She will tell me when something is dumb and I will thank her for it!
What do you do when not writing?
I teach, and I parent, and that’s pretty much my life! I suppose I also enjoy drawing, and bimbles along the beach.
Favorite music right now?
I, like 90% of the world right now, am listening to the new Taylor Swift album.
10. Do you have any pets?
I have a cat called Roe, a dog called Ivy, and a human child I made myself who absolutely won’t leave me alone!
A big thank you to Katherine for patiently answering all my questions. And remember to follow her on your faorite social media, to receive updates about her books.