An interview with Kate Inglis, author of 5 books for all ages, including the middle-grade novels The Dread Crew and Flight of the Griffons; the non-fiction memoir for adults, Notes for the Everlost, and the picture books, If I were a Zombie and A Great Big Night. Hear about her addiction to endless revision, the companionship she finds in fictional characters, and how her first novel began with a story she told her child just to pass the time. 25 minutes.
Read the full interview transcript:
[1:10] Interview with Kate Inglis
CA: Are you a planner? Do you know the ending of your story when you begin?
KI: No, I never do. …I feel like the act of writing is how I find the shape. My brain will kind of spit me out somewhere in the middle, a scene that just grabs me. … And then my thinking has to sort of spray outwards in every direction… And so sometimes I have a loose sense of what kind of a story it might be, but I don’t know for certain until I give the characters a chance to tell me.
[2:15] CA: Do you have any favorite fictional characters from children’s fiction?
KI: I love all of Roald Dahl’s characters…He was never afraid of letting stories be truly disorienting …And I remember loving Girl of the Limberlost when I was a kid. … a very sort of unusual, very smart, very nature-oriented girl….
[3:15] CA: …. How do you feel about tormenting your characters?
KI: Oh, like giving a dog a good bone to chew on. … The stuff that really fortifies you and turns you into the person you’re meant to be is the tough stuff. … The stories that I love to write the most are always going to be the ones where people, you can see the gravity of whatever it is they’re carrying…. Because we all have that on us, right?
[4:20] CA: Have you ever written a series? You have…. Did you did you know you were going to write a sequel?
KI: No. … I didn’t start writing The Dread Crew thinking I was writing a book. I just told a story to a 6-year-old in the woods because he was bored and we had a long way to walk. … And eventually it became a book. … I think by the time I was finished writing it, I knew that I would want to write another one.
[6:00] CA: How do you feel about sad endings?
KI: Well I mean, that’s life, isn’t it? … I think there is absolutely such a thing as a sad ending done really beautifully, that still leaves the reader feeling enriched …It’s not so much about Was the ending quote good or bad? It’s, Was it done well? … A story with an ending that some people might consider sad, those are some of the best stories we have.
[6:55] CA: Is there a typical amount of time… that you would spend … drafting vs revising?
KI: I would love to kind of chart that when I write my next novel… I actually love the process of editing. But the process of filling empty pages has always been more of a challenge for me. … I guess it might be 50/50. … The last novel that I wrote, that’s with my agent now, I was probably working on it in earnest for about a year and a half… And then editing has been a very intense probably 8 months. But then that first year and a half was a ton of editing as well. … And as it turns out, I ended up re-sending her 6 drafts. …
[10:00] CA: What would you say is the hardest thing about writing a good story? …
KI: … Getting over yourself. Just getting through to the point where you can keep sitting your butt down in the chair and keep cranking on the word count …. Even when you think you’re no good, even when you think that probably the story isn’t coming together, step away from it for a bit and then come back. Drop yourself somewhere else in the story. But whatever you do, just keep going. …
[11:30] CA: Excellent Do you have a favorite POV to write from? …
KI: I always write it as kind of the observing narrator. I’ve never written in first person. … As the narrator, I’ll kind of jump in here and then out again and then over there in terms of time. …You can sort of reach in with his giant hand and kind of move things around and adjust the pacing and the flow so that it just feels like it’s balanced. And I guess that’s me. I’m the hand, the giant hand.
[13:00] CA: And do you keep a regular writing practice? …
KI: … I’m kind of a plodder. …I write when the spirit moves. … sometimes it’s quite late into the night…I have a hard time sleeping. All I can hear in my head is [my characters’] voices. … And now that I’ve finished writing that book … I miss them. …A lot of people I think would find the process of writing a book perhaps to be really lonely … But I find myself very much kept company by my characters. …There is sort of this long stretch in the middle when you’re creating, when I think we’re most vulnerable to self-doubt, which is I think our sort of zone of abandonment as writers. …. All of us hit that point. … And that’s okay. I just need to keep going through the fog.
[17:05] CA: What scared you as a kid?
KI: …Not fitting in. … And at the same time… I didn’t particularly want to fit in. … I didn’t want to be like everyone else. …The older you get, the more you can make that possible for yourself. You can absolutely fit in and … not have to be like everyone else….
[18:40] CA: How important is setting to you when you write? …
KI: Settings are crazy important. Settings are like another character for me. When I’m developing setting, I feel like a photographer when I write. …The setting of the novel that I just wrote is an abandoned house… so it’s a very evocative place to write in. … It’s a very useful tool to use setting and place as a way of showing and not telling what a character is driven by, what scares them, how they react to the world. … So place is absolutely elemental for me.
[20:45] CA: Are there setting or character exercises that you recommend to young writers?
KI: … I don’t do a whole lot of exercises. I’ll just be in a project and I’ll kind of keep going in the project. …Just start something. … Once you have the bones of a story… do a little bit of freeform… journaling. … almost like you’re being interviewed about the character. … I’m a big journaler, so I’m a big believer in that.
[21:55] CA: Do you have recommendations to young writers for getting or organizing ideas?
KI: … I love having a big journal… And doodling and kind of free association and lists. I only just started writing with Scrivener, and that has been really useful for me in writing … novels. …Another thing that I do is I have a Pinterest, almost like it’s my bulletin board. … So I’ll often kind of clip and save stuff from online that feel evocative to me, somebody’s smile or someone’s boots, pictures of a setting, or maps, or other descriptions, or quotes that inspire me. …. I can kind of go there and tap into those warm mushy feelings about the project. It helps me remember to why I’m doing it, because I’m moved by this vision, by this idea.
[24:05] CA: Very cool. … Thank you so much…
KI: It’s been so fun to chat. … Bye
[24:20] Kate Inglis introduces herself
KI: I’m Kate Inglis. And I’m an author. I’ve dabbled in kids’ picture books and middle-grade adventures and adult nonfiction and adult novels as well. And I’ve been writing ever since I was a kid. And I always knew that I wanted to be an author but I wasn’t always certain what I would say, what stories I would tell. And so much of my adult life has been keeping an eye out for those stories and sort of listening, like through a tin-can telephone, very very quietly for those characters that pop up, and learning how to chase them when I hear that call. So that’s me.
[25:20] Find out more about Kate Inglis
You can hear more creative writing advice from Kate Inglis on Cabin Tales Episode 5.5, “Author interviews about Plotting“; and on Episode 6, “Begin in the Darkness,” about Beginnings; and on Episode 8, “The Never-ending Story,” about Revision. You can find out more about Kate Inglis and her books from her website at KateInglis.com.
[26:10] Thanks and coming up on the podcast
I’ll be back next week with leftovers from my interview with Don Cummer, author of historical fiction for young readers. Thanks for listening.
Host: Catherine Austen writes books for children, short stories for adults, and reports for corporate clients. Visit her at www.catherineausten.com.
Visit the Cabin Tales home page.
Kate Inglis is an award-winning author for adults and children. Her novels, non-fiction, and poetic picture books are infused with the salt, woodsmoke, and fresh air of the North Atlantic coast. Kate is also a photographer and a corporate writer. Find her online at www.kateinglis.com.