Kate L. Mary is an award-winning author of Adult, New Adult, and Young Adult fiction, ranging from Post-apocalyptic tales of the undead to Speculative Fiction and Contemporary Romance! Her YA book, When We Were Human, was a 2015 Children’s Moonbeam Book Awards Silver Medal winner for Young Adult Fantasy/Sci-Fi Fiction, and a 2016 Readers’ Favourite Gold Medal winner for Young Adult Science Fiction. Her book Outliers was a Top 10 Finalist in the 2018 Author Academy Awards for Sci-Fi/Fantasy Fiction, a Finalist in the 2018 Wishing Shelf Book Awards, and the First Place Winner in the 2018 Kindle Book Awards for Sci-Fi/Fantasy Fiction.
GJ: Can you describe your journey to publishing your first novel?
KM: For a year and a half after finishing my first book, I played the waiting game. I researched agents, sent queries, sent out full manuscripts when they were requested, and crossed my fingers. At the time, self-publishing was still a dirty word to a lot of people, and I hadn’t yet realised how the industry had changed or all the benefits of being an Indie author. I did eventually get that agent, and I still have her, and a four book deal (new adult romance) with Kensington, but not until after some major bumps in the road.
My first book, Collision, was released in June of 2014 by a small press that I won’t name. I was thrilled to get a deal with them even though they weren’t big because, like I said, at the time I didn’t really consider self-publishing a viable option. The very idea of putting a book out myself seemed daunting and more than I could handle. I’m a mother of four and at the time we were preparing to move from California to Oklahoma for what would be my husband’s final active duty assignment in the USAF, so there was a lot going on.
Things with the small press started out shaky and only got worse. There was very little communication and they weren’t following their end of the bargain, so I wrote a strong worded yet professional email to them listing the issues I had. To my surprise, I received a response the very next day telling me that they were not only pulling the one book I had out with them, but also canceling the contract of the second book they had planned on publishing. At the time, I was devastated. I went from being a published author to having no books out. Desperate to get my book back up, I went through the steps of self-publishing it by having a quick cover made through Fiverr, struggling through learning to format it myself, and then publishing it on Amazon. It was back up within a couple days, and I suddenly realised that self-publishing wasn’t as difficult as I’d thought it would be.
The second book that small press was supposed to put out was Broken World, the first book in my zombie series, and it also happens to be a fan favourite and is still, even four years later, my biggest seller. I released it in July of 2014 and that month alone it sold over 500 ebooks with almost no advertising from me – I didn’t have any money to advertise. I hadn’t anticipated it doing so well because while searching for an agent, I’d read over and over again that there’s no market for zombie books, but the fact that I sold over 3,000 ebooks within the first 4 months that Broken World was out proved otherwise. That’s when I realised the truth of how the traditional publishing world is run: publishers choose the market. They don’t want zombie books, so most of the time they don’t put them out. But in the Indie world, authors can put out whatever book they want (assuming it falls within the terms and conditions of the retailer), and readers love post-apocalyptic fiction.
Since then I’ve tried on several occasions to submit books to traditional publishers, but have always been disappointed. Again, it’s a lot of waiting around while my agent sends the manuscript off, and more often than not the editor who requests to read it never even gets around to it. Each time I’ve waited a year – or more – for responses that never came before finally giving up and publishing the book myself. At this point in my life, I don’t know if I will ever submit anything to my agent again because I make a very nice living on my own, but it’s nice knowing she’s there if I decide to.
GJ: You write across many genres. Do you intend to release books in all of these genres in the future or are you concentrating in one area? Are you considering any other genres in the future?
KM: I’ll write any story that grabs my interest. Usually, that’s something in the science-fiction genre, either post-apocalyptic or dystopian for the most part, but I’m not going to limit myself to that. I’ve had many authors, and even the editor who signed my four book traditional deal, try to talk me into creating a brand, meaning sticking to one genre. For me, writing is fun, and the joy of being an indie author is getting to control my own career. I don’t want to only write about zombies, just like I don’t only want to write about dystopian societies, and for the most part my readers will give my other stuff a try.
GJ: Can you put your finger on why you have a post-apocalyptic / zombie obsession, like so many?
KM: Thinking about a possible apocalypse is like playing a game of what if. What would you do if you were in this scenario? How would you survive? Where’s the best place to go? It tests your problem solving skills. I think that’s why so many people love the idea of an apocalypse, and I know it’s why I love writing about it. Zombies just add another layer to the problem, making survival twice as difficult. I also think a lot of people don’t really get how ruthless humans will be in this type of a situation – or maybe they don’t want to accept it – and zombies add some action that helps break up what would otherwise be a monotonous routine of learning how to survive in a changed world. Reading about people scavenging cities for food and supplies could get tedious, but reading about it and knowing they could bump into a horde on the next page makes it twice as exciting.
GJ: What is the most rewarding part of the writing process for you?
KM: It’s so nice to get feedback from fans. I’ve had days where I’m struggling to get words down or I’ve gotten a rejection from a publisher, only to open my email and have a message from a reader telling me how much they enjoyed my book. It’s rewarding knowing all those hours I spent molding that story has paid off, or that readers love a certain character as much as I do.
GJ: Do you have much contact with your fans? If so what is the weirdest question you have been asked and what is the most frequent question you have been asked?
KM: I have a reader group on Facebook where I interact with fans on almost a daily basis – some weeks I’m more active than others – and it’s nice seeing how excited they get when I announce a new book or show them a cover before anyone else gets to see it.
I can’t remember one specific question that’s weird, but I do have one reader – you know who you are – who CANNOT let go of Angus James, one of the characters from my Broken World series. At least once a week he comments on a post by simply typing Angus James. It’s funny, because this is the character everyone started out hating so much, but by the end of the series he was a favourite. He’s actually my favourite character as well, because he was so fun to write. I even dedicated one of my books – Twisted Memories – to him.
That would also be my most frequent question: Are you going to write more in the Broken World/Twisted World series? The answer right now: No.
As much as I loved writing those books and love those characters, it got to be a lot of work. The story spans eleven books and twenty years, and it got to be really difficult to keep track of all the details by the end. Plus, I like how it all wrapped up in Twisted Fate. It was an ending I hadn’t seen coming and one I never would have expected when I wrote the first book, but it took the characters to a place where I like to think they were able to find some peace and happiness.
GJ: What can we expect from you in 2019/20?
KM: Since I write whatever grabs my attention, I don’t really plan ahead that much. I’ve already released one book and one novella this year. The novel, Tribe of Daughters, is about a matriarchal society in a post-apocalyptic world, and is by far my favourite book I’ve written. I’ve thought about writing another book in that world, but I won’t force it, so I’m not sure when that will be.
My next release, The Book of David, came out on March 8th and steps out of the sci-fi genre, instead centring around a religious cult and the girl who is betrothed to the leader’s son. It’s the second book I ever wrote but has been through quite an overhaul since then, and while it’s definitely a different story for me, I really enjoyed writing it.
The Brightest Darkness, book two in my new zombie series, The Oklahoma Wastelands, comes out March 18th and will take readers back to Altus, OK, which is where I lived for 3 years. Since my zombie books still do better than everything else I write, I plan to get the third book done this year, but at the moment, I don’t have a date or title.
In May the long overdue third book in my Moonchild series will be released. This is a mix of genres, including post-apocalyptic, futuristic steampunk, and dystopian. I’d planned on having the third book, Redemption, out in April, but some personal things have forced me to push it back to May 16th. Still, I’m excited for readers to revisit this world.
Other than that, I’m not sure. I have soooo many books I want to write but not enough time to get them all done, and after the stress of the last few weeks, I’m planning to take a short breather once I’m finished with Redemption. Although, since I love writing so much, I doubt it will be long.
GJ: What genre of books do you generally read and can you name a favourite in each, or at least a book that stood out for you?
KM: I like post-apocalyptic, dystopian, and science fiction for the most part, although I do read other things now and then. My list of favourites include The Stand, The Hunger Games, Shatter Me, and 1984, because these are books that really inspired me to get into the genre before I started writing. I’d always wanted to be a writer, but I could never really stay focused on any of the stories I started. When The Hunger Games became popular, I was reminded of how much I’d loved 1984 when I read it in high school. I read it again, and then read The Stand again, and after that I began devouring dystopian fiction and really studying the world building in the stories. Now, building a new world from scratch is one of my favourite things about writing.
GJ: What has been the highlight of your writing career so far?
KM: I’ve won a few awards at this point, and it’s always nice getting recognition for hard work. When We Were Human, my post-apocalyptic YA novel about an alien invasion, was a 2015 Children’s Moonbeam Book Awards Silver Medal Winner and a 2016 Readers’ Favourite Gold Medal Winner. Then last year my dystopian novel, Outliers, won first place in the 2018 Kindle Book Awards for Sci-Fi/Fantasy Fiction. It’s also currently a Finalist in the 2018 Wishing Shelf Book Awards – the winners will be announced April 1st.
GJ: What advice would you give to new writers looking to writing to publish?
KM: Connect with other aspiring authors online so you have a good support system. Not only do you need friends to bounce ideas off of, but you will also need feedback about your work to help put your best foot forward. Join a writing community and find other authors who are at the same point in the publishing journey so you can critique each other’s work, and remember, even when you think your novel is perfect, it isn’t. Hire an editor. Being able to self-publish is amazing, but too many authors these days don’t revise enough and fail to hire editors, which is flooding the market with sub par books. Everyone needs several extra sets of eyes. Everyone. Don’t think you’re the exception to the rule, because you’re not.
GJ: How prepared are you for the apocalypse?
KM: Not very! We don’t own any guns or have any food stockpiled, so the only real advantage we have is that I’ve written and read a lot of apocalyptic books. Hopefully, that helps me navigate the chaos a little better than other people. K
GJ: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me. You can connect with Kate via the links below.
If you enjoy Kate’s books then you’ll enjoy my debut novel, In The End, an apocalyptic thriller that will leave you breathless.
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