Writerly Questions with Kaitlin Bevis

Warm weather has finally arrived and it is time to start thinking about what to read as you lounge around the pool, while your kids play in the park, or during your hour-long commute on the transpo. To help you prepare your summer-time TBR list, every Monday for the next few months I will be talking with some really fabulous authors about their latest or upcoming books.

Summer is well on its way and things are starting to heat up! But things get very hot in Kaitlin Bevis’ new book when the main character takes a little trip to Hades’s home in Persephone

How would you summarize your book in one sentence?
There are worse things than death. Worse people, too.

Oooh, that sounds interesting already!  How long did it take you to write this book?
I started writing Persephone summer of 2010, just about the time Clash of the Titans came out. That quote “damn the gods” just got in my head and wouldn’t leave. Somehow I got to thinking about the Persephone myth, and how much more there may be to that story. I wrote an outline but wasn’t able to devote much time to the story for another six months. In that six months I had a baby, graduated college, and moved to Athens where I joined a local writers group. With a lot of help from that group, I managed to write something worthy of publication in about a year.

Yes, it sounds like you were very busy! How many drafts do you go through?
I revise a lot while I write, so it’s hard to tell. I know I had at least five distinct drafts. The first draft of Persephone was written in third person and was about a third of the length it is now. The next draft was in first person and maybe twice what it was now. I kept adding and whittling away for a few more drafts before I got the plot whipped into shape.

When do you write best: in the morning, afternoon, or at night?
I tend to write at night, but my best brainstorming happens in the car. I live a good thirty minutes outside of town, so if it’s just me and my toddler in the car I have nothing to do but think. I talk through entire scenes and conversations while driving. The other drivers probably think I’m nuts, but it’s honestly when I get the most done. At the end of the day, I hop on the computer and write out all the ideas I had.

If anyone asks, you were talking to your child *wink* Where is your favorite place to write?
The couch. That way I can keep one eye on my daughter, and one ear on whatever show my husbands watching. I can bounce ideas off him if I get stuck, and I don’t feel as much like I’m spending too much time away from my family. It’s a comfortable routine.

That is a great way to spend time with your family, but still get some work done. But what do you use when youre on the couch: a typewriter, laptop, or pen & paper?
iPad. It’s so light and portable. I can bring it with me anywhere. It fits in my purse, and when I’m stuck in a doctor’s office or stopping for lunch I can just take it out and get right to work. I can write, edit, stop and google something, and you can’t beat the global find and replace.

Note to self: get the awesomeness that is an ipad What do you drink or eat while you write?
Soda. Caffeine is my only vice. I need it to stay awake and get all my ideas down! I don’t tend to eat much while I’m writing. Most of my writing happens after dinner.

Do you ever listen to music while you write?
I can’t, it’s too much of a distraction. The song lyrics get stuck in my head. My husband tends to have the TV on while I’m writing and that’s not typically distracting. Though one time my writers group noticed Hades had started channeling Dr. Who (David Tenant). I fixed it, but it kind of works. He’s got the whole timeless thing down.

Guess we know what your hubby likes to watch!  What do you wear when you write?
Pajamas. Sweatpants and a t-shirt. It’s comfortable, it’s the end of the day, and I’m ready to relax. I write until I’m ready for bed.

I wish we all could wear pajamas to work, they are the best attire ever *grin* Do you have any other writing rituals?
The problem with rituals is that they become necessary to your concentration. I’ve moved eight times in the last five years. My husband and I both work, both have school, and now I have a toddler in the mix. Right now I write best at night, but next semester my school schedule may shift and I may do most of my writing in a coffee shop between classes. I have to stay flexible, at least until my life settled down into a more predictable routine.

How do you plot? Chapter by chapter or an overall synopsis? Do you use detailed outlines?
I kind of work backwards. I typically have a very clear scene in my head when I think of a story. I write that and let the story shape itself for awhile. After an initial draft, which really reads more like a summary with a few very detailed scenes, I write an outline. I write another draft, then fine tune my outline, making sure each chapter has something that actually happens in it and furthers the plot of the story. That’s typically when I add subplots. Having an outline really helps, but I’ve never been able to start there.

Well, it obviously works for you which is all that matters! How do you decide which narrative point of view to write from?
My characters decide. Persephone started in the third person but it just didn’t work. It was too distant. I have another novel I’m working on that just didn’t work in first person. It’s just a matter of finding the right voice that works for my characters, and some of them need more distance than others.

How do you choose your characters names?
For Persephone it was a tough decision whether to go with the classic Greek names or rename the characters something more modern. It was a tough call, but I’m glad I stuck with the classics. Sometimes the names find me, and that creates the character.

While I was researching the Persephone myth, I stumbled upon Melissa, which was a title for a priestess of Demeter. To me, Melissa sounds like a young name, a modern name. Not some ancient title. That contrast got me thinking of whether or not the modern gods would have modern priestesses, and what that dynamic would be like.

Ive always been a fan of mythology myself, so the original names hold so much more connotation for me. Who is the first person to read your manuscript?
My writers group. They get to read it a couple of times as I go through each draft. They helped shape the manuscript and I trust their judgement completely. It took awhile to get to that point. It’s hard to let other people read your work and actually ask for criticism because I’m always so excited about my story that I can’t imagine someone having a negative reaction.

A writers group thickens your skin, and they represent all the readers that might react to your book if it gets published. If multiple people in my group aren’t getting something that I think is clear as daylight, then I obviously didn’t do a good job explaining myself in the manuscript.

What did you do immediately after hearing that you were being published for the very first time?
Posted it on Facebook. I called my mom, told my husband, and announced it to my writers group. I think every person I’ve ever met knew in about ten minutes. I was excited :).

It says something about our society that a facebook status is posted before phone calls are made *L0L* Im the same way *grin* If your book were to become a movie, who would you like to see star in it?
Chloe Grace Moretz to play Persephone for sure. She was awesome in kick-ass and everything else I’ve seen her in. She definitely has the range to pull off the changes Persephone is going to go through during the series. Hades is tougher. I picture someone like David Tenant or the guy from Grim, but they’re quite a bit older than Miss Moretz. I wouldn’t want to cast Hades as a teenager but I don’t want him looking like a creepy old pedophile either.

Ive seen Hugo and thought Chloe did a wonderful job. It was a great family movie, though I havent yet read the book. What is the first book you remember reading?
I have vague memories of some story about the mayflower in kindergarden, but the first book I have very, very clear memories of is The Boxcar Children. My mom was worried that I would catch my older brothers “reading isn’t cool attitude, so she offered to pay me a dollar for every book I read. So I read the boxcar children series and the sweet valley series. She still owes me several hundred dollars. 🙂

I loved reading both of those series, and the BSC books, myself  when I was younger. How about now, what book is on your nightstand?
Dragons of Winters Night. We read out loud every night before bed, and right now we’re working through the Dragonlance series. I’m rereading the Hollows series by Kim Harrison right now on my own. And when I’m not reading either of those I’m reading classical literature to study for the GRE: Subject test in English Literature.

Do you have a guilty pleasure read?
Nope. I’m not ashamed of anything I read. I love young adult fiction. I love fantasy, urban fantasy, science fiction, classic literature, everything. I even like Twilight. I think people who get all smug about their preference in literature are a bit silly.

All that matters is that people are reading, right? *grin* How do you organize your library/book collection?
I don’t. Not until Kindle updates their app and lets users organize their books by type on apple products. I am such an eBook person. I’ve bought books I own in print just for the convenience of having them on my phone and iPad. The only print books I own either don’t come as ebooks or are autographed copies. They’re arranged by author on a bookshelf in my office.

Did you always want to be a writer?
For as long as I can remember. My over-active imaginations gotten me in a lot of trouble. I’m glad it’s finally paying off.

If there was one book you wish you had written what would it be?
Tamsin by Peter Beagle. I love that book. It’s so well written, and all the characters were so well developed, even the cats. The book seems to completely change genres about a third of the way through, it starts as this coming of age accepting a major life change plot, then transforms into this ancient ghost story. There’s not a lot of writers who can make that large of a shift feel organic, but Peter Beagle does.

That is rather impressive; Ill have to take a look for that book myself. If you could talk to any writer living or dead who would it be, and what would you ask/talk about?
I’d love to have a chat with Kelley Armstrong. I love her books, particularly her YA series. It’s my dream to go on the supernatural summer tour with her and just about every other author I’m a fan of. I have no idea what I’d talk about. I’d probably freeze up and shove a book at her to autograph like I did when I met Peter Beagle. I seem to lose the ability to form coherent sentenced when meeting famous people. It’s pretty embarrassing.

I met Kelley Armstrong at the Word on the Street Festival in Toronto. She seems really nice, so I wouldnt worry about freaking out! Her stories are amazing and her characters are so interesting.  If you could be any character from any book, who would you be?
I don’t know that I’d actually want to be any of the characters from any of the books I read. There lives kind of suck. I’d like to live in their world with their powers, but all the death and drama that’s so fun to read would not be that fun to live through.

What is the best gift someone could give a writer?
A multi-million dollar book contract :). Short of that I’d say an iPad. I have my word processor, every book I own, all my songs and pictures, and the entire Internet on one device that can easily fit in my purse. What more could I possible need?

Other than food, nothing! *L0L*  What is the best advice someone could give a writer?
Join a writers group and listen to their criticism. They aren’t being stupid, and they aren’t trying to hurt your feelings, they’re working on making your book accessible to other people. Readers don’t have the luxury of being in the writers head and getting an instant explanation for something, and as a writer it’s hard to get that distance when you know your characters and your world so well. A good writers group makes a huge difference.

 What is one random thing most people don’t know about you?
I love cartoons. Sailor Moon, Gargoyles, X-men, Spiderman, Jem and the Holograms, every Disney movie, Pirates of Dark Water, anything with a decent plot. I love them. I’m so excited that my daughter is getting old enough to like at least some of my favorites because now I have an excuse to buy them all.

*starts singing: The musics contagious, outrageous. Jem is my name, no one else is the same…”

 Previous Interviews: Lauren Hunter InterviewSharon Ledwith InterviewEmma Lane Interview

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Author: JaimeKristal

JaimeKristal is a freelance editor and writer. She started her book review blog "Tales of a Booklover" for the enjoyment of sharing her love of reading.

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