Section Two: The Writing Life
What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine? Do you use pen and paper or computer? Work at home or at the library/Starbucks, etc.
I have a tiny purple office in the back of our house, with a rather lovely desktop on a cheap computer desk from Wal-Mart. Also, a shrine to my particular household gods, like Batman and Yoda, and a fellow whom it’s better not to mention by name, because that can get awkward. I write almost exclusively on the computer. I say “almost,” because I do write sticky notes to myself, generally things that pop into my head at inconvenient times, like when I’m eating dinner or sitting on the toilet. “The cabby has been to the magic store,” or “Aconite, asafoetida, and hemlock.”—stuff like that. I used to write longhand, but that’s become impossible because my mind just goes too fast and pen and paper just can’t keep up. I get frustrated and distracted and start thinking of what I want to do when this frustrating thing is over, and nothing is accomplished. Working in my office, at my desk, gives me a certain amount of structure in that it’s easier to turn off the writer’s mind when I leave the office; that can be a real problem for me if I carry my writing all over the place. And the computer makes it very convenient to pop onto the Internet for spontaneous research if I get curious about something.
But the spatial thing, that’s really the only routine I have. I’m very bad at routine. When I have a story going I write. When I don’t, no amount of routine or forcing myself to write is going to help. In fact, it’s hurtful. So I allow myself to be who I am and follow my own pattern, not someone else’s.
When I do have a story going, my day looks like this: After “doing the morning thing,” which involves sitting on the couch and staring into space while the coffee takes effect, having breakfast, forcing myself to participate in some kind of physical activity, etc., I open up whatever document I’m working on. I keep separate documents for each chapter, because I find that easier to deal with. The first thing I do is re-read what I did the day before, because that’s when I have a fresh eye and can add bits and pieces of body language and expression that might have got left out, or change strange or repetitive words. (This is a process that continues on and off pretty much up until publication.) Then I go on, just getting words down. If I get stuck I get up and walk around the house or go to a different room. But as long as I’m “working”—i.e., involved in my working day—I have a difficult time letting it go until I’m done for the day.
How do you balance writing with other aspects of your life?
Well, I could say “Very badly,” or I could say, “What other aspects of my life?” But neither of those things would be entirely true. Although, in a real way writing IS my life. The stories, the characters, have a veracity and importance for me that other things fail to achieve.
But I suppose what you want to know is more about time management. I don’t have much difficulty with it. Partly this is because my life has thrown me some…I hate to call them advantages. I have a disability that makes it impossible for me to hold down a job in the outside world. So I don’t have that conflict. And it’s a good thing, because when I was trying to be that normal person I couldn’t write at all and it nearly destroyed me. I have no idea how some people you hear about work 40 hours a week in some office and then come home and write their novels. I simply can’t do it.
I don’t have any kids, unfortunately, so I don’t have the same demands of family as other people. And I’m a terrible housekeeper. I don’t think I’ve mopped the kitchen since the Fourth of July. I do laundry, but that’s not much of a conflict: just pop a load in while I’m wandering around thinking of something else and get back to the desk. Everything else can wait. Oh, and I’m super introverted. I could happily not leave my house for months at a time. So it’s not like writing takes away from a fantastic social life, or anything like that.
When do you write?
Depends. Most weekdays, except Fridays (because my husband has Fridays off), and often Saturdays. I generally start around ten-thirty or eleven in the morning and quit around four in the afternoon. But if it’s going really well, or if there’s something I very much want to get down, I’ll go back to it in the evenings or start earlier. When I was writing A Maid in Bedlam, the third Caitlin Ross book, I was spontaneously waking up at five every morning; I’d start writing around seven, go until five in the evening, break for a couple hours, and go back, sometimes until ten at night. And I did this seven days a week. It was like my head was on fire. I think I got the entire first draft done in five weeks—140K words—and it was all good enough that I had very little editing to do. Sometimes it’s like that.
What is the strongest criticism you’ve ever received as an author? The best compliment?
Strongest? I honestly can’t think of any mind-blowing criticism, other than the critique of the beginning of a fantasy novel I got from a friend, who wrote me a ten-page screed dissing my manuscript because it wasn’t the book she would have written. I hate it when people do that: fail to see your story, with all its good and bad, because they’re going into it with the expectation of some other story in their heads.
The weirdest criticism I ever got was from Gardner Dozois, from The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy. He was soliciting humorous stories, so I sent him something that I’d read out a lot and that inevitably had the audience rolling in the aisles. It was called “Some Dang Alien Thing,” and it was about this crotchety old guy in a rural area saving his neighbors from being abducted by aliens. Well, I got a rejection letter back, and it wasn’t the typical “This doesn’t suit our needs at this time” kind of thing. It was actually from Mr. Dozois, saying that he didn’t understand why my story was funny. To this day, I have no idea how he could have missed it. Everyone else who’s read it says it’s the funniest thing I’ve ever written.
And—this is probably going to sound cheesy, but it’s true—the best compliment I get is just people telling me they enjoy my stories. I can never hear that enough.
How do you deal with rejection and/or negative reviews?
This is very difficult for me. I haven’t had to deal with many negative reviews, fortunately—since I’ve put my work out there, it seems everyone who actually reads it likes it. But rejection is hard. Especially since all I’ve ever wanted to do is write, it gets very personal for me. Getting a rejection, it’s like being told I can’t be who I am, can’t have the life I want and it’s completely out of my control. So, I have the habit of going into a really bad depression and giving up on writing for days or months or years, which I would not recommend to anyone as a coping mechanism. It’s part of the reason I decided to take my work Independent, actually. Doing that over and over was killing me. And since I consciously took myself out of that cycle, I’ve become more and more aware of how damaging it is (which I’ll be talking about more in a different part of this interview).
I guess, in the end, I dealt with rejection by using it to motivate me to make a positive change in the way I approached my work. And that’s a good thing.
Website: http://www.katherinelampe.com is my official website, but I actually am terrible at keeping it up. If anyone wants to take on web design, please contact me!
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/KELampe
Goodreads author page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2707900.Katherine_Lampe
What format is your book(s) available in (print, e-book, audio book, etc.)?
All my books are available in both print and electronic format.