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Interview with Indie Novelist Katharine Grubb

Texas wildflower bouquet (photo by Tui Snider)
Texas wildflower bouquet (photo by Tui Snider)

Unexpected Texas Reviewed by the 10 Minute Writer

Today, my offbeat travel guide Unexpected Texas is being reviewed by the 10 Minute Writer, a.k.a. Katharine Grubb. Check out her blog to to see what she has to say about my book. (Let’s hope it’s good!)

Katharine and I recently met on Twitter, via #StoryDam writing chat, and I’m glad we did because she is lively and inspiring. Speaking of #StoryDam chat, Katharine is going to be our featured guest tomorrow night. Join us on Twitter at 8:00 p.m. EST. Follow the #StoryDam hashtag and don’t be shy; we’re a friendly crew!

Review: Falling for Your Madness by Katharine Grubb

I recently read Katharine’s novel Falling for your Madness and loved it! Here’s my review:

You could easily read Falling for your Madness just for fun. There is nothing wrong with that, but I love it when stories work on more than one level, and this one certainly does. In Katharine Grubb’s fast-paced story, “boy meets girl” and all that you would expect from a romance, but her plot is clever, creative, and unpredictable.

Like a modern-day Jane Austen, Katharine Grubb’s characters are not just witty, but they offer insights into societal norms and gender roles. I giggled several times as I flipped the pages, but I also found myself wanting to talk the book over with someone. Unlike most rom-coms, Falling for your Madness actually makes you think about human behavior, dating, and relationship expectations.

For this reason, Falling for Your Madness makes an excellent book club selection. It’s light-hearted and fast-paced, while raising topics that would be fun to debate with friends. But don’t just take my word for it, check out the reviews of Falling for your Madness on Amazon. While you’re there, pick up a copy for yourself!

(Full disclosure: I actually read Falling for Your Madness on my iPhone one night during a bout of insomnia, so the “flipped pages” I refer to above are strictly metaphorical!)

Who is Katharine Grubb?

Katharine Grubb is a wife, homeschooling mother of five children, and indie novelist. She spends her days homeschooling, baking bread, cooking, cleaning and tackling laundry. She considers herself a writer of smart-alecky, contemporary fiction of faith and sometimes romance too, because falling in love is fun. The first of her books to be published is Falling for your Madness, a romantic comedy about chivalry, true love and the power of words. If you buy it, you’ll be awesome. If you review it, you’ll be her friend for life.

Interview with Indie Novelist, Katharine Grubb

1. When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?

I remember being four years old and holding a pencil and piece of paper and my first thought was not “let’s draw a picture” but “let’s tell a story” and then I probably cried because I didn’t know how to write. If only I would have known that someday I would be able to type 100 words a minute, and this skill would serve me when I wrote in ten minute increments.

As I grew up I was Louisa May Alcott and Laura Ingalls Wilder fan girl. And I wanted to be them. They were girls! They were writers! They wore Holly Hobbie bonnets!

2. Are you a “plotter” or a “pantser”? (Plotters plan everything in advance. Pantsers write by the seat of their pants, and figure things out as they go along.)

I’ve learned that plotting is the best way for me. The Truth About the Sky was a pantser book and it took me five years. Falling for your Madness kind of struck me like a lightning bolt, so it didn’t really count as either. And my latest novel Soulless Creatures was far more organized and I was most comfortable with that method.

And now I’m writing a book about how to write a book, so I’m preaching the whole plotting Gospel. I do see the value in learning how to free write (which is just self-controlled panting) in the beginning stages of writing a draft. So the answer to the question, obviously, is YES.

3. How did you hone your craft? Are there any particular books about writing or online resources that were especially helpful to you along the way?

Back in 2006, when I decided that I probably wouldn’t, as a stay-at-home mom of five kids under 8, be called by Fox to write for The Simpsons, that I should, instead, learn how to write a novel. I read everything I could get my hands on. But the best resources were How To Grow A Novel by Sol Stein, STORY by Robert McKee, the books and blog by Victoria Mixon. I would NOT have the confidence for any of this without The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

4. How long do you toy with an idea before deciding to create an entire book out of it? In other words, how do you decide which ideas get to be books and which don’t?

That’s a great question! Personally I think ideas need time to really cook. I have a novel now that in my cooker, which is, in my mind, kind of crock pot like. I know it’s about a tour guide in Boston who has really suffered and he protects his teenage sister, who has PTSD, during the Marathon bombing, but not too much else. It’s like the characters need time to talk to me and each other and somehow their story streamlines. I’m very sure that there will be tons of stuff I throw away. It’s just part of the process. I don’t really know how I decide, but there’s something in my gut that just knows.

5. You have 5 kids. Wow! Is your family supportive of you and your writing goals? Did you have to “train” them to accept the idea, or was it easy-peasy?

From the summer of 2006, when I decided to get serious, they were ALWAYS my biggest cheer section. They think that I deserve the Pulitzer. They’d hack into Amazon and leave my books dozens of five star reviews simply saying “This book is awesome!” if they knew how. But from a practical side, that’s a bit of a different story. I call myself the 10 minute writer because, in theory, I write for ten minutes and then go do Mom stuff for ten minutes and, in theory, they were supposed to leave me alone. This worked. Sometimes. But woe to the kid that wants apple juice during the wrong ten minutes.

6. Do any of your kids share your love of writing?

All of my kids are very creative and tell stories in different ways. My oldest daughter, who is 15, wants to be a novelist and has participated in Nanowrimo. She wrote 60K last year! My next daughter, age 14, is this amazing world-builder — she’s got this complicated stack of notebooks that are unbelievable in their detail, but she’s not interested in her worlds having conflicts, so no story, just peaceful world. My second son, who is 10, is showing signs of being a graphic novelist who draws cute pictures of football playing penguins. And my 8 year old princess nags me, almost daily, on whether or not I’ve mentioned to my agent about her one page story, “The Coconut of Death.” So yeah, they get it. And it’s really, really fun to watch them pursue their passions. My oldest son, who is 12, is an engineer. He tolerates the rest of us.

7. Tell us about your self-publishing journey. How much did you do yourself and which items (cover design, editing, formatting, etc) did you farm out?

I wasn’t even going to self publish at all in the fall of 2012 when I wrote Falling for your Madness But my beta readers were very excited about it and kind of pushed me in that direction. Turned out this particular reader just happened to have a daughter who did graphic design. So enter Bree Jordan, graphic designer. She did the cover for The Truth About the Sky and she’s on board to do future projects too! I had connections with some English teacher types who did the editing. I did all the formatting all myself because I have nothing else to do with my time. I learned A LOT!

8. What advice do you have for those who wish to self-publish their novels? Did you do many things differently with your 2nd novel?

Not too much. I wish now I had more knowledge and connection when it came to marketing. But in this culture, the whole one reader at a time strategy really is the best way to go.

9. Writing can be a lonely process. Do you feel the need to interact with other writers? If so, how do you satisfy your need for community?

Oh! I am a freak for social media. Besides Twitter, I have a lot fun on Facebook too. The writers that I met four and five years ago are now like my BFFs and they’re the ones that I call for critiques and advice and celebrations. I couldn’t do this without my social media peeps.

10. No spoilers here, but I enjoyed how you added a few fantastical elements without turning Falling for your Madness into a complete paranormal romance. Were you tempted at some point to take the magic farther?

I think I was a little bit, but the focus of the book was David’s humanity and the development of his and Laura’s relationship. I wanted my readers to identify with them and not get too distracted by the fantasy elements. I’m not a fantasy writer, nor a fantasy reader, really. I just wanted enough to add to David’s motivations, get him out of a fix or two and let the magic the set up for a few jokes.

11. Have you considered creating a book club guide for Falling for your Madness? Your story raises interesting questions about relationships and equality. A reading club would have a blast discussing the issues in your book.

That’s a great idea! I agree. It really would be a great book to get into discussions about. I’ve had fun hearing what my readers have taken away from it. I’ll get right on this, can you come and do my laundry while I write? ;)

12. I think Falling for your Madnesswould make a great rom-com movie, don’t you? (Hollywood, are you listening?) If this were to happen, who would you cast in the leading roles?

This is the question that you really need to ask me in person. If you did, I would close my eyes, swallow, possibly touch you on the hand and say, with reverence and awe: Benedict Cumberbatch has always been David in my mind. And then I would probably have to catch my breath and take a sip of water.

(I need a minute.)

Okay, now.

As for Laura. I left her appearance intentionally vague because I really wanted my female readers to think that she was Laura. So it could be anybody. And Mickey Rooney is Merle. And a young Kathy Bates is Faye. And Beyonce is Ruby. And Matthew’s mother, from Downton Abbey is Aunt Honoria and Patrick Stewart is David’s father. I haven’t thought about this at all.

13. I haven’t read your latest novel yet, The Truth About the Sky. How is this one different from Falling for Your Madness? Did the idea come to you in a similar way, and was the writing process similar, or was it a completely different experience this time?

The Truth About the Sky was actually written before Falling for your Madness. I started The Truth About the Sky because I was obsessed with “Arrested Development” and I thought that Lucille Bluth would be very interesting in the setting I grew up in — Northeastern Oklahoma. So I tinkered around with her, I named her Jeanah, and I wrote about what would her dysfunctional family look like in the contexts of what I knew. I really, really knew Evangelical church life, the contrast between Bible Belt and New England, a pregnancy that required bedrest, being dissatisfied with a job, trying to please narcissistic family members and being courted by a really creepy guy. I pantsed this all the way for about four years before I figured out the big plot — which is how to live a life of grace when everyone around you is a mess. The main story is not a romance, like Falling for Your Madness, but there are romantic elements to it.

14. What are your next projects? Do you like to juggle more than one writing project at a time? If so, how do you do this?

My next project is called The Ten Minute Novel and it’s a nonfiction book that takes a novice writer and coaches them how to sculpt a novel in very small increments. It’s going to be released in the spring of 2015 by Hodder and Stoughton. I really only have time for one big project at a time, so between this book and my social media life and that whole family gig, I’ve got my hands full.

15. What’s it like having an agent and a publisher now?

It’s thrilling and terrifying all at the same time! The best part is the feeling of legitimacy that this is what “real” writer life feels like. I also am very pleased with the coaching and vision of MacGregor Literary and I feel like being in the company of their other writers holds me to higher standard. But then, occasionally, I freak out a little and wonder if I can pull this off. But you know what? I CAN. These wonderful people wouldn’t be behind me if they didn’t think I could do this.

16. What are your long-term goals for your writing?

To conquer the world! After the release of The Ten Minute Novel, I want to release Soulless Creatures and then see what that Boston tour guide story will be, it may be called You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone. And the blogging and the tweeting and the Mom life. I’d like to have written 30 books before I’m done at like, age 80 or something. Seriously, I need help with the laundry . . .

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