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. (The middle name was my paternal grandmother’s maiden name, it’s a southern thing.) I write nonfiction, horror, and crime fiction under my real name, as well as edit charity anthologies, the latest being Strangers in a Strange Land (Down and Out books).
I write urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and science fiction as Kat Parrish, because the horror and crime fiction I write is sometimes pretty dark. (In fact, it started to depress me too, so now I rarely write horror and only occasionally write crime fiction.)
I recently started writing cozy romance fiction under the name Katherine Moore, which was my maternal grandmother’s maiden name. (Both my grandmothers were named Katherine, and on my mother’s side, it’s a name that goes back something like six generations. Everyone else is either named Mary or Helen.)
I am a woman of a certain age, as the French say. Let’s leave it at that.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I was born in Ft. Belvoir, Virginia—which nobody knows where is—so I just say Washington, D.C. My father was a career Army officer and I still identify myself as a military brat. My father’s assignments took us all over. I spent six years in Germany and two in France when I was a kid. I have forgotten all my German except for a nursery rhyme I can still recite, but I’ve tried to keep up with the French.
Fiona: A little about yourself (i.e., your education, family life, etc.).
I’m the oldest of three, my younger brother is an attorney married to a judge. (Our father and maternal grandfather were also lawyers, so I’m the black sheep.) Our younger sister was a musician and artist. Our mother was a commercial artist who went back to school in her forties to get a post-grad degree in mass communications and became a newspaper columnist, mostly writing about women’s issues and social justice. She was an Eisenhower republican married to a true-blue Democrat and their values meshed perfectly. My parents were older, and they died young. I miss them. (Both were smokers, and both died of smoking-related issues, as did my sister. If you smoke, quit.)
I attended five different high schools, which was tough. Always being the new kid gets old after a while. But the experience taught me a lot about coping with life’s “plot twists.” I graduated from Duke University with a degree in English and a minor in geology. Everything I was taught about dinosaurs has now been proven wrong. (Thank you, Dr. Jack Horner, for that.)
I was a magazine and newspaper reporter for a decade after I graduated from college, then a roommate introduced me to the world of “reading.” He was a film student who read scripts and books for production companies, essentially producing “book reports.” He introduced me to his main clients, producer Lauren Shuler Donner and her husband director Richard Donner. I worked as an intern for them, and then they introduced me to producer Joel Silver, who hired me as his director of development. I went freelance when I left Silver Pictures and have been freelance ever since.
Five years ago, I fled Los Angeles with my best friend and set up shop in the Pacific Northwest. A few months after that, I answered a Craigslist ad for a producer/director looking for someone to write a script in a really short time frame. (Eight days.) Since then, I’ve written, co-written, or rewritten nine scripts, two of which have been filmed, one which is filming, and several that are in pre-production. So that’s exciting.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I am in a list-aiming boxed set of paranormal/urban fantasy stories called Playing with Fire. It’ll be out October 8, so wish me luck. The theme of the collection is “forbidden love.” My story is a modern retelling of the King Arthur love triangle: Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot. I’m very happy with the way “The Poisoned Cup” turned out, as the King Arthur story is one of my favorite tales.
Also, on September 21 (Stephen King’s birthday), I published Misbegotten, my first full-length urban fantasy novel and its sequel, Rezso, which is a novella. I’m very excited about Misbegotten because the genesis of the book was a short story I wrote in 2007.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I was about ten. I wrote a terrible poem that was published in my elementary school newspaper. But I also shared a room with my little sister, who was an insomniac, and I used to tell her stories to make her go to sleep. I knew I wanted to b a writer early on, but I came to fiction through journalism.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
The day before I turned 17, I earned my first by-line for a feature I wrote for my grandmother’s home-town newspaper, The Chase City Progress. My fate was sealed.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I’d been writing short fiction for a year or two and was regularly placing stories in anthologies and collections. But then one day an idea popped into my head that sounded so ridiculous I laughed it off. But I couldn’t get it out of my head. So, I called up a friend and said—“I’ve just had the craziest idea. Vampire Cinderella. Hahahahahahaha.” And she said, “Wait, what?” And that’s how I ended up writing Bride of the Midnight King, which is still my best-selling work, and also the best-reviewed. It’s just shy of novel length, so one of my projects is to go back in and re-edited it so it’s 40K. I’ve since written two novella-length sequels.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I saw an image in Big Stock by photographer NejRon. It showed the back of a woman in a red cape walking down a dark corridor in a palace. The title just popped into my head. I have found that titles either pop into my head spontaneously or I agonize over them. The first of my Ostrander Witches series is called Deus Ex Magical, which I love, but I’m having trouble coming up with sequel titles, although one name I’m playing with is Magically Delicious for a book about a witch whose magic comes out in the food she prepares.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I love ellipses, perhaps too much. A reviewer once compared my writing style to the late, great Tanith Lee, which thrilled me to pieces. I write in both first- and third-person past tense. I like both and read both. In general, I’m not a fan of books written in the present tense, although Suzanne Collins of Hunger Games and Gregor the Underlander series does it very well. I have a hard time with tense sometimes, as my editor points out. And I head-hop sometimes.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
For the stories in the Misbegotten universe, nearly all the locations are real. The house where my heroine Kira lives is the house I rented for ten years. Most of the businesses are exactly where I describe them. I know what all my characters look at and have Pinterest boards with the actors’ pictures up so readers can see who I’m imagining. I lived in L.A. for years and have a love/hate relationship with the city. I find it very easy to slip into L.A. mode when I write those tales.
I recycle and repurpose my own life in a lot of ways. I (as Katherine Moore) wrote a short story called “The Seadog’s Wife” for a collection published by RoseLark. The characters are actors and there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes/inside baseball detail in that story. (Weird and Wonderful Holiday Romance Collection, pre-order for 99 cents!)
I also throw in references to causes and issues that interest me. Even the fantasy and cozy books feature diverse casts and deal with things like income inequality and prejudice. I am keenly aware of my white privilege and how my upbringing exposed me to travel and other experiences many people can only dream about.
The only time that I’ve explicitly based a character on someone I know was in a script I wrote called Killer Instinct. It’s a Tremors-type creature feature with a character named Lula Binswanger. She IS my maternal grandmother in all her fabulousity.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
It’s the other way around for me, unfortunately, because I love travel. When I lived in L.A., I wrote stories based in L.A. When I moved to the Pacific Northwest, I started writing stories based there. My Ostrander Witches series is set in Seattle, although the characters wander all over. My Meredith Manor Hotel and Halliday Theater series (from Katherine Moore) are set in a place I call Silver Birch, Washington that’s really an idealized version of Bellingham, where I lived for four years.
I subscribe to every travel blog and newsletter there is. Some people surf food porn, for me it’s travel porn. If I’m setting part of a book somewhere I haven’t been, I go on YouTube and do a lot of research on travel and hotel sites. It’s fun. I always did like research.
One of my absolute dreams is to book one of those around-the-world cruises that lasts all year. I’d bring my laptop and write something for every port of call.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Everybody! I don’t have the skills to do my own covers, although when I was first starting out, I sometimes used Amazon’s “Create a Cover” process. I also tried Canva, but wasn’t very good at it.
I am addicted to premade covers! For my latest two books (Misbegotten and its sequel Rezso), Indie Author Services created my covers. The current cover for Rezso is actually the third one I’ve had. I originally bought a premade, and then Indie Author Services swapped in a new cover model and changed the font, and then just days before it published, a third cover model was brought in.
One of the things I like about indie publishing is that you can pretty easily swap out covers if you don’t think one is working. The bad side is that those old covers live forever on Goodreads.
I have bought premades from big-name artists like Ravven and Lou Harper and have also had custom covers done by Kelly York and A.S. Oren. I also haunt the Book Cover Designer site. They’re having a sale right now, 10 percent off all covers!
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 am really excited to read the upcoming novel Ink for the Beloved by R.C. Barnes. I know her short fiction and loved the prequel, Pretty Little Gun. She’s brought something new to YA urban fantasy.
My favorite writer is Stephen King. I think his characters are extraordinary. He understands people very well. I like that his characters are ordinary people. He is a man who knows what it’s like to have to pinch pennies and doesn’t look down on poor people. His mix of the mundane and the uncanny is terrifically done. My favorite book of his is The Stand, but I learned so much from his short stories as well. Even though he sometimes has a misfire, and he’s starting to repeat himself a bit, he’s always worth reading. I also love his Twitter feed. He is generous with praise for other people and pointed in his criticism of injustice, corruption, and greed.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
There are actually three people who helped me get where I am today. USA Today bestselling author Christine Pope is someone I know IRL who started out in traditional publishing and then switched over to indie publishing. She encouraged me to try and “pestered” me until I stopped writing short stories and jumped into longer work. She also invited me into boxed sets to play along with her and other best-selling authors, which was huge.
Canadian horror writer G. Wells Taylor also encouraged me, and formatted and designed my first short story collection (Just Another Day in Paradise, which is free on Kindle Unlimited). I also got a lot of help and encouragement from artist/writer John Donald Carlucci, who hired me to edit his fiction magazine, Astonishing Adventures Magazine, where my first short fiction appeared.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Yes. I have worked as a writer and editor my entire career. I started out working at city magazines like Richmond, Los Angeles, Aloha, and then worked as a stringer for Copley News Service, which syndicated my work to papers all over North America. (For some reason, the Winnipeg Free Press bought a ton of my articles.)
My big break as far as fiction writing came when America Online, in conjunction with their micro-news sites patch.com, hired me to write serial fiction for their North Hollywood site. I saw the Craigslist ad on a Sunday night, was hired a few hours later, and my first story appeared that Wednesday. I wrote two stories a week for a whole year, and never missed a deadline. The stories were loosely connected, and at some point, will be collected in novel form. (I have more than 100,000 words to work with.)
I may not be making a living from my fiction writing, but I consider myself a professional. I write nearly every day, after my freelance chores are done. I write a lot for charity anthologies, donating my time and talent when I can’t donate money. I’m proud to have been a part of anthologies like Disarm, Breaking Sad, and the last two breast cancer anthologies Fifty Shades of Pink 2018 and 2019.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I tinkered with Misbegotten so long that by the time I finally published it, it was as “developed” as it could be. Of course, the minute it was published, I was horrified to spot numerous typos, so I would definitely change proof-readers and spring for a final proof from someone like Eliza Dee. I always do a final read-through myself, but there are some typos I consistently miss, like extra periods at the ends of sentences.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I learned that outlining is the best! I have always been something of a “pantser,” but I did a more extensive outline this time, which helped up my productivity. I was consistently writing five thousand words a day. It also helped me flesh the book out to novel length. I’m still struggling with that. My sweet spot was 1800 words.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Liv Tyler to play Kira Simkins, the paracrime reporter and title character of Misbegotten. Clark Gregg to play John Dannon, head of the Los Angeles Paranormal Police Department. Walter Koenig to play Larry Benbow, the folksy, evil vampire “godfather.” I’m not sure who would play the intense Etebari brothers, werewolves who run a security company. The playlist of possible varies daily!
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Go ahead and write. I know a lot of people say you need to “write to the market,” but I’m not sure that’s strictly true. I started writing crime fiction because I loved mysteries. I started writing urban fantasy after reading Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series. Urban fantasy really wasn’t a “thing” when she started writing, and I devoured those books and Carrie Vaughn’s “Kitty Norville” series. Urban fantasy felt like it was the perfect blend of everything I liked in a book. Misbegotten was always intended to be the first in a series like one of theirs.
Also, if you’re writing in a genre you don’t read, it’s going to show. If you don’t read “reverse harem” or “billionaire bondage books,” whatever you come up with is going to be a pale imitation of whatever’s selling. Don’t be afraid to follow your passion and write what you know. That authenticity will make your book better.
I know you’re busy. Write anyway. President Obama wrote books while in office. Rachel Maddow has just written another book. Joseph Wambaugh wrote his first books while holding down a full-time job as a police officer. Get up early. Stay up late. Stop watching TV and binge-watching Netflix.
And when you’ve written something, get it out there. It’s never going to be perfect. (I read for a living, and I can’t tell you how many typos I’ve seen in books that were traditionally published. Including a heinous typo on the first page of a Stephen King novel published by Simon and Schuster. The FRIST PAGE.) You can always fix typos.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Thank you for reading my book. I hope you enjoyed it.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I am reading Jeri Westerson’s urban fantasy book, Shadows in the Mist. I was a huge, huge fan of her historical mysteries series, and was delighted to find I enjoy her UF just as much. I’ll be reviewing it as soon as I finish it. (Writers live and die by reviews. If you like a book, review it. Just a couple of words will do. It’s a great way to support writers you like.)
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
It was probably ThePoky Little Puppy. (I liked rice pudding and so did the puppy.) I do know that Beverly Cleary and her Beezus and Ramona books made her the first author whose name I actually knew. I loved those books so much. And I love that BC is still around at 103. I went from Cleary’s books into Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries and then into adult books. (There wasn’t really a YA category of books back in the day.)
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Silly videos like An Engineer’s Guide to Cats, or videos of baby goats in pajamas running around make me happy. A lot of news stories will make me cry. Stories about ordinary people doing compassionate things will move me to tears. Because I sometimes find it hard to believe there are good people in the world. I also avoid stories that are about child abuse or some similar topic. As a rule of thumb, any news story with the word “baby” or “child” in it does not end happily.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
There are soooo many. Pretty much every writer I’ve ever read. (I have a postcard Isaac Asimov sent me in response to my fan letter that’s one of my treasures. Also, Ray Bradbury’s autograph.) I’d love to meet Benjamin Franklin, true Renaissance man and apparently quite the ladies’ man. (I did research for the movie National Treasure and ended up reading a ton of books about him. I just fell in love with his wit and his wisdom.)
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
What’s a hobby?
Probably photography. I used to have an actual SLR camera, but now I mostly just take pictures with my phone.
I also love traveling when I can, especially by train.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I was a huge Game of Thrones fan and wish that I could have watched every episode with Leslie Jones and Seth Meyers. Game of Jones was hilarious. I was a fan of the first and third seasons of True Detective. Unbelievable was fantastic. I loved the first season of Agents of Shield and the first few seasons of Castle. Lucifer is a guilty pleasure.
I’m all over the place with films. I like totally cheesy action films (looking at you Fast and Furious franchise), and enjoy documentaries like R.B.G. and Won’t You Be My Neighbor? One of my favorite movies is the Craig Ferguson/Brenda Blethyn movie Saving Grace. I also have a fondness for the John Wick series, especially the first and third movies. I like character-driven movies like Best Original Marigold Hotel, and character-driven, issues-oriented movies like Spotlight. I’m not a huge fan of horror, which is ironic, since a horror movie I wrote is now filming. (Soul Eater.)
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
For someone who came of age during the MTV generation, it’s hard to admit that my musical tastes are so ordinary. When I’m writing, I like to listen to soundtracks since music with lyrics distracts me. Probably the newest addition to my playlist is Linkin Park, which tells you how not-up to date I am.
My favorite colors are the jewel tones—purples and burgundies and royal blue and dark green. I dislike orange and yellow. I don’t really like red, but since moving to the Pacific Northwest, I seem to have added a lot of red sweaters to my wardrobe. (Since I work at home, my wardrobe consists of leggings and big shirts in the two weeks of summer and leggings and sweaters the rest of the year.)
Foods—Macaroni and cheese in all its variations. Baked potatoes with sour cream and cheese. Hot angel biscuits with butter. Roast beef on sourdough roll with mustard and red onion. Laura Scudders sugar-free/salt free peanut butter and Knottsberry boysenberry jam on sourdough bread. Poppyseed bagels with cream cheese, tomato slices, and onion.
I like good crusty bread with olive oil. (I don’t really miss butter that much, but I would miss bread.) I spent a year writing about chocolate for the women’s website Bellaonline.com and it was a dream job sampling cookie mixes and hot cocoa recipes. I like my brownies with crisp edges. I once ate my way through New Orleans ordering bread pudding everywhere I stopped. Cab drivers in New Orleans talk about food and restaurants the way they talk about sports in other parts of the country.
I went dairy free a couple of years ago and meat free this past year. (Steak. I loved steak, medium rare.) There are diabetics in my household, so we don’t keep sweets. I eat a lot of blueberries, which are amazing in Washington state. There are times I would kill for a homemade chocolate chip cookie.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Be an epidemiologist. Or un a day spa. Or go to law school. (Even when I was in my thirties, my father used to say, “It’s not too late to go to law school.) Become an Etsy seller. (I love Etsy.)
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
I’d max out my credit card and fly to some beautiful place, preferably with as many friends who were free on short notice. We’d eat and drink and watch the sunset and the stars come out.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
I have a college friend who is spearheading the green burial movement in her state. I hope to be buried in a mushroom suit in some beautiful place without a headstone.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
I have a blog (Eye of the Kat) where I post sporadically.I try to keep the self-promotion to a minimum, and I post book reviews and author interviews and bookish news. I’m fascinated by covers and often write about those.
I also have a Facebook page.
Also, check out my Amazon pages (and follow me).
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Readers interested in sampling my work can find my novella Wixsted Academy in the freebie Academy Moon anthology Tales Out of School. It’s a prequel to my story Full MoonHigh, which was published in a limited-edition boxed set and will be published, along with its sequel, The Transfer, later this fall. The inspiration for me to write a “paranormal academy” story came from winning a free cover from Vicki Adrian in her Facebook group, All Cover Book Designs.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me!