Interview: Kathy Lynn Emerson

Not only is Kathy Lynn Emerson incredibly prolific, she’s one of the most versatile writer’s I’ve ever met. I suspect any writer would be happy to have her career. What a great example she is of a working writer!

I have read and enjoyed several of her historical novels. Enjoy this interview!

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You’re an incredibly versatile writer, with two historical and one contemporary mystery series (not to mention nonfiction works) under your belt. How do you decide which genre you will write next? What inspires you to tell these particular stories?

I earn my living and pay my health insurance by writing so, although I wouldn’t write something I find personally distasteful just for the money, I do take into account where I might sell what I write. If I have three or four different ideas for books in mind, and one could be marketed only to a small press for a tiny advance, then I can’t afford to focus on that one right now. That would become what I call my “back burner” project while I spend the bulk of my writing time on something that will actually pay the bills. I’m fortunate in that I enjoy writing more than one type of book. I become completely absorbed in whatever kind of story I’m telling. If asked, I don’t think I could choose a favorite. Fictionalized historical biographies, especially those set in the Tudor era, are very popular right now. That’s wonderful for me because that was the first sort of book I ever tried to write. At that time (1976), no one was interested in publishing them and I moved on to other genres. Now things have come full circle. I have the opportunity to write about some of my favorite historical figures—projects that would have been on that back burner a decade ago—AND make a living.

What could be better? So I’m currently writing the series for Pocket Books, under the pseudonym Kate Emerson, with THE PLEASURE PALACE already out and sSecrets of the Tudor Court: Between Two Queens coming out in January 2010. In between those books, I’m still writing the Liss MacCrimmon Scottish American Heritage Mysteries, under the pseudonym Kaitlyn Dunnett (A Wee Christmas Homicide (Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries) was released on September 29, 2009—my 40th published book), and I’m filling a file folder with notes for future stories in my ten-book mystery series set in the Elizabethan era, which is written under my own name. I’ll get back to those when I can. The most recent publication there was a short story in ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE.

Share some of your writing goals. What’s next for you?

One goal is to write historical fiction that is as accurate as I can possibly make it. The Tudor novels are giving me the opportunity to do that. Each one tells the story of a different real woman at the Tudor court . . . but not one most people have ever heard of. I find such women much more interesting than any of Henry VIII’s wives, or even Elizabeth I herself. BETWEEN TWO QUEENS, which will be published in January 2010, is the story of Anne Bassett, maid of honor to four of Henry VIII’s queens and lady in waiting to Queen Mary. Much of her life story is recorded in letters that were confiscated when her mother and stepfather were arrested for treason in 1540 and I don’t change anything that is known about her. But there are intriguing gaps in our knowledge. For those periods of her life, I create fictional events that seem to me to explain the remainder of what we do know. Currently I’m working on the third book in this series, BY ROYAL DECREE, which is the story of Elizabeth Brooke, Marchioness of Northampton, and covers the period from 1543 to 1558. When that is finished, I’ll be writing another book in the Liss MacCrimmon mystery series.

What’s the most interesting book you’ve ever read?

Okay, this is a HARD question. I’m not sure it’s the most interesting EVER, but one that is certainly a unique reading experience is Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel.

Favorite authors?

Again, this is hard to pin down. Favorites change and I’m constantly discovering new writers. Dorothy Dunnett is always on the list, however. So is Judith Merkle Riley. I enjoy Elizabeth Peters’s mysteries and Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden books as well as his bigger fantasy novels in the Furies series.

Book you’re currently reading?

I just finished Aaron Elkins’s Skull Duggery (Berkley Prime Crime Mysteries), a mystery novel, and I’m reading (for pleasure and research) a biography of Elizabeth I that has its focus on her relationships to other women. It is Tracy Borman’s ELIZABETH’S WOMEN and I’m reading the U.K. edition, but I imagine it will be out in the U.S. before too much longer.

Any type of writing ritual you have?

It is more a habit than a ritual. I get up, have toast and coffee while watching a bit of the TODAY show, top off the coffee mug, and head into my office for whatever awaits me. Today it was answering these questions. Most mornings it is the next section of the work in progress.

Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, how did you get past it? If not, why not?

I believe in it, but I’ve never experienced it. I am usually working on two very different projects in different stages of completion. Currently one is a Tudor historical and one is a contemporary mystery. When I reach a point where project one has hit a snag or I feel progress is slowing down, I switch to project two. I find, when I am able to take a break from one project and work on something else, especially if project two is totally unrelated to project one, that I go back to the first book refreshed and full of enthusiasm and that whatever problem I was having with project one has resolved itself. By that time I’m usually also ready to take a break from project two.

In your opinion, what’s the measure of a successful writer?

The ability to write books that someone else wants to read.

Advice for other writers?

Don’t give up.

Where can we learn more about you?

I have a separate website for each of the names I write under. The main one is http://www.KathyLynnEmerson.com. For my historicals it is http://www.KateEmersonHistoricals.com. And for my contemporary mysteries it is http://www.KaitlynDunnett.com

Anything else you’d like to add?

For those interested in the real women of the sixteenth century, I have a Who’s Who of Tudor Women at http://www.KateEmersonHistoricals.com.

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