Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
My name is Katherine Parrish Tomlinson. I write crime, horror, and non-fiction under my real name and fantasy, sci fi and urban fantasy as “Kat Parrish.”I am not the Kat Parrish who writes children’s books. I use different photos for my different identities (a corporate headshot for Katherine, a ore “vintage” photograph for Kat. I don’t make a secret that I’m both writers, it’s just that my Katherine Tomlinson fiction tends to be dark and profane and disturbing and I would hate to upset the readers who enjoy my fantasy. So, separate “brands.”I was born at the end of the baby boom.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I’m an Army brat. I was born at Ft. Belvoir, which is right outside Washington D.C. Nobody has ever heard of it, so I usually just say I’m from D.C. We moved around a lot when I was a kid, and that sometimes made me feel like I didn’t belong anywhere at all. When I was ten, we moved to Verdun, France and I discovered the phrase, “Citoyenne du monde” and adopted that as my nationality.
Fiona: A little about yourself (i.e.,your education, family life, etc.).
I’m the oldest of three children born to an artist and an Army lawyer. My mother went back to college in her 50s to earn an advanced degree in mass communications and became an activist newspaper columnist. My father’s specialty was civil rights. My younger brother became a lawyerand an anti-death penalty activist, but he was an award-winning artist in high school and still takes phenomenal photos. Our younger sister was a talented artist, musician, and writer who unfortunately died young. Which still makes me sad.
I have an English degree from Duke University (Durham, North Carolina) and a minor in geology. I worked my way through school and managed to graduatein three and a half years with no student debt. While I enjoyed my time there, the skill that landed me my first job (editorial assistant at a small lifestyle magazine) was my ability to type 120 words per minute, a talent I honedin my junior year typing class in high school.
I worked at a succession of lifestyle magazines in Virginia, Hawaii, and California and then, after ayear’s hiatus to take care of ailing family members, I returned to Los Angeles and landed an internship at the Donners’ Company (director Richard Donner of Superman fame and his wife, producer Lauren Shuler Donner of the X-Men movies). They introduced me to producer Joel Silver (Matrix, Lethal Weapon) who hired me as a reader and then promoted me to Director of Development. I worked for him for eighteen months before going off on my own as an editorial consultant, doing everything from ghost-writing scripts to developing cookbooks.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I just finished a novelette (In the Pink)that will be in the 50 Shades of Pink 2018 charity anthology benefitting breast cancer, put together by romance author Kallysten (Note to Ms. Fiona, she doesn’t use a surname)
Also, I’m delighted to announce that a spy film I wrote, Adrift, is now filming in the US, Mexico, and Japan.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
My sister and I shared a bedroom when we were little and I used to tell her bedtime stories because she was an insomniac. I wrote a short story for my high school literary magazine that got censored and then, the day before I turned 17, I earned my first professional byline for a story about a historic house in my grandmother’s small town. It ran in the Chase City Herald and I’m unreasonably proud of publishing professionally when I was still a teen.
I started writing fiction seriously in 2007 after I entered a contest on a whim and won second place (and $100!). I answered a Craigslist ad from a writer/artist named John Donald Carlucci who was looking for someone to edit his bimonthly ezine, Astonishing Adventures Magazine. I began writing short stories like crazy.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
The first time I saw my byline when I was 16. The first time I really felt like a fiction writer was when I was hired to write a serial novel (two chapters a week for a year) for the AOL-owned micro-news site patch.com. There was a huge, rotating cast of characters and I was delighted with the project. It was called NoHo Noir and there are still some of the stories floating out there, along with fabulous illustrations by Mark Satchwill.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My very first book, which has never seen the light of day, is called The Chanson of Dagonet. I love the King Arthur legends and have read ALL the books and seen ALL the movies. And I had run across a reference to a character named “Dagonet” in Idylls of the King. Dagonet was Arthur’s fool. Nobody else seems to have ever mentioned him so I thought—what a great point of view to tell a story that everyone already knows.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I decided that I was going to give the story a French gloss, so I did a ton of research into place names and characters. I was right out of college when I started writing it, and my French was still good enough that I could pick my way through ancient French books.So I decided to call it the “Chanson” to make it sound like a classic work along the lines of La Chanson de Roland.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I have a hard time with tense. My editor makes fun of me for slipping in and out of past. I also apparently have a problem with comma splices. Which is why I have an editor and a proof-reader. I use too many ellipses and dashes. I tend to fall in love with supporting characters.
I write a lot of fantasy/urban fantasy romance and I find writing the “romantic” scenes the hardest. I just want to get on with the story. I keep things pretty “behind the curtain.”
One of the freelance jobs I’ve had is developmental editing a very successful author who writes “romances” that are really kind of porn-y. And the scenes go on for pages and pages. And for me, that’s boring. It’s like sitting around and watching other people get stoned.
My style? I do a lot of internal monologue. I like writing in first person because I think it is more immediate. (And to all those haters who say that serious writers don’t use first person, I have three words, “Call me Ishmael.”)I try to be very precise in my use of language without being overindulgent. I love words, especially antique words (see Shakespeare geek) but it is annoying when a writer says something is “incarnadine” when really, all that needs to be said is that it’s red.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
There are a couple of elements that show up time and again in my fiction. I like seeing justice done and that comes out in both the dark crime and the lighter fantasy and romance stories. My novella Tears of Idrissa has some pretty political overtones, particularly when it come to the way immigrants are treated here in the U.S.
I will also take inspiration wherever I find it. Possibly the best short story I’ve ever written—and the one most anthologized, “In the Kingdom of the Cat,”—was written after I watched a documentary about what happens to unclaimed bodies in Los Angeles. The story came to me almost as if it was being dictated and I had it edited and out in the world in a day. That has never happened again.
I use my friends’ names all the time. If you’ve ever met me, your name is probably in something I’ve written.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
No, but I spend a LOT of time researching.I have a novella in the boxed set Magic Rising that’s set in Eastern Europe. I was looking at YouTube videos and reading travelers’ diaries and browsing Pinterest Boards. I am an avid consumer of travel porn anyway, and can spend hours on the various blogs and sites. I’ve had a passport since I was born, and it hasn’t been used nearly enough lately. (My last trip was to Vancouver, B.C. for my birthday last year so I’m due another one.)
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
It depends. I buy a lot of premades. I’ve snagged really affordable covers from outstanding designers like Ravven and Lou Harper and many others whose work is featured on sites like Book Cover Design. I have a friend who makes a lot of covers for me in return for my services as a beta reader.I have covers for stories I haven’t written yet. I’m very excited about the cover Indie Author Services has done for me with shots from Neostock, a new, cinematic stock service that has great diversity in its models. That’s for a zombie apocalypse novelette that will be in a boxed set this fall.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
For the crime and horror stories, the message is probably, “Karma is a bitch.” For the romances, I’d say, “Love wins.”And for everything else—“Magic is real.”
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
I’ve read a couple of great books by new authors lately, Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler—if you love food and wine, you’ll love it—and Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue. Heartbreaking book, beautifully crafted.
My favorite writer is Stephen King. I’ve been reading him forever and I’m still trying to catch up. (The maiden name of the telekinetic girl in Firestarteris Tomlinson, which always pleased me.)I think he’s the American Dickens. He is extraordinary at creating characters. I really like the way he writes about women. And old people. And blue collar people. There’s no, “Aren’t they salt of the earth” condescension there. He grew up poor and he worked hard and he’s still working hardeven though he’s going to be 70 this year and rich enough not to ever write again. I don’t always like his books (Insomnia??? Yikes!) but if he’d only ever written The Stand, I think he’d be remembered.
Also, he has a social conscience. There’s an enormous disparity of wealth in the United States and it’s getting worse. The political party that’s in power right now is doing everything it can, collectively and individually, to hurt anyone who isn’t wealthy and white. Like J.K. Rowling, King has used his voice and his influence and his money to make things better and to speak out. I admire that.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
I’ve always gotten a ton of support from my friends, a lot of whom are authors. Authors Christine Popeand Shay Roberts encouraged me and gave me tips they learned on their way to becomingUSA Today bestselling authors. John Carlucci of Astonishing Adventure Magazineis a friend and ally.I also have the support of Canadian horror author G. Wells Taylor, who designed the cover for my first short story collection, Just Another Day in Paradise.So, I’d collectively say that my one entity is my “squad.”
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Yes. In one way or another, I have made a career of writing, whether it’s knocking out 40K ebooks on aromatherapy or writing low budget scripts or even writing synopses of scripts and other people’s books my whole life.It’s all words. Because I have friends who are successful enough that they don’t also have “day jobs,” I can see that it’s possible to be a full-time writer and that’s my goal.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
The most recent novella published was an urban fantasy/romance tale I called “Vaikus,” which is the Estonian word for “silence.” At the time, I thought it was a great title but now it sounds pretentious and weird to me.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I experimented with point of view and flashbacks, which I don’t use very often. There’s a novel called iBoy by Kevin Brooks that does something amazing with POV that’s so subtle, I almost gasped out loud when I realized what he was doing. Fantastic writing. Disappointing movie despite the awesome Maisie Williams being in it. That kind of craft is way beyond me right now.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Vaikus is an urban fantasy love triangle with a gargoyle playing matchmaker. So for the heroine Sofia, the bad boy Dion, and Ben, the good guy, casting would be: Haley Lu Richardson, Nicholas Hoult, and Josh Hutcherson. With Goran Visnjic as the warrior-turned-gargoyle. And if we could get Idris Elba in there somewhere , I’d be a happy woman.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Far better writers than me have put together their rules for writing and they’re worth looking at.Authors Publish has posted a list of 35 writers and their rules. You can find that article here.But I’d also say that if you’re going the self-publishing route, make sure you have a war chest. If you write it the readers won’t necessarily come and you can only do so much tweeting and Facebook posting.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Thank you for reading my work. I hope you enjoyed it.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m reading The Bookseller by Mark Pryor for the mystery book club I started when I moved to the Pacific Northwest. I also just read William Gibson’s Mona Lisa Overdrive for a client, which was fun. I’d somehow never read it.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I was very fond of a children’s book called The Poky Little Puppy. First, because who doesn’t like puppies? But also because rice pudding was mentioned. I was loved rice pudding when I was a little kid. My parents would have read me the book because I couldn’t read until I was in first grade. So technically, I suppose the first book I read b myself was my first grade reader.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Silly things make me laugh. Videos of baby goats in pajamas. Most news stories make me cry. So many terrible things happening to people through no fault of their own. One of the reasons I like Stephen King so much is that he can make me laugh and cry.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
So many different people—and that’s not even counting Prince Harry. Probably Benjamin Franklin, Renaissance Man. Because he was a scientist and a diplomat and he liked the ladies and he had wit and style. And so many women I admire, past and present. Eleanor Roosevelt, Sally Ride, Georgia O’Keefe. But if I had to settle for one, it would probably be Ben.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Not in the real sense unless you count taking photographs with my phone. And reading. I’m a Shakespeare geek, so if there’s a production within 30 miles, you’ll find me there. I also like to travel. I’ve lived in three countries and visited all the continents but Antarctica and Africa. I wish I were a more “craftsy” person because I’d love to design jewelry.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Because my schedule is so erratic and I’m writing in the little spaces in between earning a living, I don’t want that much TV.I’m a huge fan of Game of Thrones though. What great parts for women. When I’m in “crime writing” mode, I sometimes check out episodes of my all-time favorite crime show, Da Vinci’s Inquest, on YouTube. My taste in movies is all over the place. On the one hand, I really enjoyed The Imitation Game, on the other, I can’t wait for the Infinity War.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors,music?
I love every shade of blue and purple. I look like a dead artichoke in any shade of yellow so not surprisingly, it’s not one of my faves. I’ve played around with my hair color through the years. I was born a brunette but spent a lot of years as a redhead. I love all those greens and pumpkin colors too.
My sister used to win all the music trivia games in clubs but I’m hopeless. I like Linkin Park but that’s about as contemporary as it gets. My brother LOVES music and is always posting clips on FB.
Food. I love food. I have done a lot of food writing (and in fact have a chocolate cookbook coming out in 2019 as well as a series of “cozy romances” set in a bakeshop). I like sweets that combine chocolate with almost anything but coffee. (I am a failed adult in the caffeine department. I have only had two cups of coffee in my entire life.I’d much rather have hot cocoa.)
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
In an alternate reality I would be an epidemiologist because I’m fascinated by diseases. I’ve read all those books like The Hot Zone and Ken Alibek’s Biohazard, which is the scariest book I’ve ever read—all about Russian biowarfare experiments.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
If it’s winter, I’d jet to Iceland or Norway to see the Northern Lights, which is something I’ve wanted to do since I first heard about them. If it’s fall, I’d head for Japan to see the amazing displays of autumn leaves. In spring, I’d head for D.C to see the cherry blossoms. In summer, I’d head for whatever ocean I haven’t seen yet and take snorkelling lessons. And in between, I’d eat what looked good and wash it down with wine. (I’m diabetic, I pretty much eat nothing but protein and salad and don’t drink, so that would be festive.)
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
I have a friend who is an advocate for Green Burial and that appeals to me. I’d like an apple tree growing out of me instead of a headstone, I think. Maybe carve an infinity symbol into the trunk.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Katherine Tomlinson`s amazon page
Kat Parrish`s amazon page
Thanks so much, Fiona!