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Introducing Katherine Gilbert
Katherine Gilbert was born at house number 1313 and then transplanted to a crumbling antebellum ruin so gothic that The Munsters would have run from it. She has since gained several ridiculously-impractical degrees in English and Religious and Women’s Studies. She now teaches at a South Carolina community college, where all her students think, correctly, that she is very, very strange, indeed.
Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.
The decaying nineteenth-century mansion in South Carolina I mention in my bio was so creepy many people simply refused to enter it. They were the smart ones. About ten years after I finally managed to escape it, I was told by a family friend that it had burned down. He was quite surprised, when I laughed in hysterical relief. Since then, I’ve been fascinated by the gothic and paranormal, although I demand large doses of humor to make life worthwhile.
Could you tell us a bit about your latest book?
Lydia, the main character in Protecting the Dead, has spent the first 18 years of her life being raised by parents who intended from the start to sacrifice her to a demon, so she’s got some definite social anxiety disorder issues she’s having trouble overcoming. She’s decided the way to be happy is to just be the most normal person possible and ignore anything weird or strange. Since she ends up getting a job at a supernatural apartment complex filled with werewolves, cat people, ghosts, vampires, and many other creatures of the night, this isn’t easy for her. Her attraction to her angelic boss doesn’t help matters, either. It’s really a character’s journey from an uncertain past to a future where she starts to realize that embracing weirdness can lead to happiness.
Who is your intended readership?
Hoo boy–where to start? First off, I don’t do dark or gritty. To my mind, life has too much of both those qualities as it is. There are also too many unpleasant people out there in the real world either causing or enjoying the suffering of others. I’ve never wanted to spend my free or dream time with them, so (while this type may show up as a villain) they will never be my protagonists. I actually like a character I can, well, like. In other words, if you root for Sauron over Frodo or Aragorn, I’m not the writer for you.
Two of my greatest loves, as well, are humor and the weird or paranormal, so that kind of tells you something about what you should be expecting (well, if you toss in that there are romances, too). My writing is full of strange, funny, quirky characters in weird, paranormal situations.
Another aspect of my writing is kind of a quirky spirituality. Nothing in my novels will resemble any religion you ever heard of. There are both angels and demons in Protecting the Dead, but they probably won’t fit most preconceived religious notions. Still, I’d rather create worlds where the protagonists and their friends are working toward seeing good happen in the world and helping out all those around them.
It was only after my novel was published that I came to realize how much it doesn’t seem to fit most people’s expectations. If you approach it solely as a romance, the protagonist’s journey is really only partly about her relationship, so this may throw you off. If you approach it solely as urban fantasy, it will seem weirdly humorous and light. If you expect it to be a typical (i.e. rigidly codified Christianity) inspirational, your brain will probably explode. My sister attempted to define it once as an inspirational comic paranormal urban gothic romance. I guess I’d just say it the way I do in my newsletter. My writing is for those times you want humor, romance, and the paranormal–and you aren’t willing to settle for just one.
When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
I actually started out as a fan fiction writer for a show I was obsessed with. At first, the stories all filled in the blanks left by the episodes, but, once the show ended a few years later, I branched out into alternate universe stories. I realized through these that I was actually able to create my own plot and characters. In fact, the characters always know where they’re going, even when I haven’t a clue. I just need to get the time to put my fingers on the keyboard and let them tell me what they want written about them.
Do you have a favorite author, or writing inspiration?
There are a lot of favorite authors for me, but Terry Pratchett probably comes out on top. He mixes humor, fantasy, the supernatural, and real-world truths and concerns with absolutely seamless brilliance. I’ve reread some of the Discworld novels so many times I’ve nearly memorized them.
As to my inspirations, there are a couple. First, my sister listens to every chapter as I write and is unbelievably supportive. It’s wonderful to have someone who really gets me listening to what I’m working on. Second, a lot of my novels come from either dreams or the seed of a real-life encounter. Protecting the Dead was inspired by a run-down apartment complex my sister and I visited. When she asked about the tenant turnover, she was told, “Oh, our residents never leave.” Thus, my brain started sizzling. Third, though, are just the characters themselves. When I finally published this first novel (after years of trying), a friend asked me why I never gave up. I told her truthfully that I couldn’t betray my characters that way. They wanted their story told, so I needed to do what I could to see that that happened.
What advice would you give beginning writers?
Mostly, as I said above, if this is something you really want to do and the stories are just burning in your mind, don’t give up. This is true even when: you’re halfway through writing and either realize you have no idea where this story is going or it takes off in a sudden new direction you never expected; agents and publishers are thoroughly uninterested in your work; you’re bogged down in editing which seems to be driving you close to madness; the thought of trying to “create a platform” for your published work makes you want to hold your head; nobody’s buying your book; or some of those few who review it just say some version of, “Whuh?” Trust in your characters; do the best you can for them and yourself, and, whenever possible, help out others, as you go along.
Do you have any amusing writing stories or anecdotes to share?
In Protecting the Dead, there’s this little old Jewish woman who keeps popping up in Lydia’s dreams. For the longest time, I was as clueless as she was as to who this old woman was and why she kept invading my story. It was only partway through a chapter about halfway through the novel that it finally dawned on me who she was (although, to avoid spoilers, I won’t explain further).
What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies?
My hobbies are mostly mundane (tv, movies, books). As to what I’m passionate about, I suppose spending time with my sister and friends. I love to go on small adventures somewhere beautiful or strange, whether it’s a place I’ve never seen before or one I’ve been to any number of times. Honestly, too, even if my sister and I go nowhere, just spending time laughing and talking with her is one of my greatest joys. I utterly, thoroughly scored in the cosmic sister lottery, and I always enjoy my good fortune.
What’s your next project? Any upcoming book secrets you care to reveal?
I’ve got one book I’m writing and another I’m editing. For the one I’m editing, it involves magic and some demonic secrets in an antebellum mansion on the Battery in Charleston, SC. Sometimes hidden family secrets can reach out to grab you.
Protecting the Dead
After a childhood filled with demons and her devil-worshiping parents, Lydia longs for a quiet, normal life, a safe haven somewhere blissfully dull. Being the manager at the Roanoke Apartments seems to fit that bill. But Lydia soon learns that you can’t leave the past behind so easily. She finds herself faced with unclogging drains for werewolves, conducting nightly vampire counseling sessions, and caring for two talkative cats. Then there’s the
distraction of Geoffrey, the hottest, and most angelic, boss anyone ever dreamed of. As if that isn’t enough, the demon who nearly killed her shows up to finish the job. So much for a peaceful, simple life…
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