1. What’s your name? Where can we find you? Blog? Twitter? Facebook?
Hello! My byline is Kathryn Brown Ramsperger, but feel free to call me Kathy.
2. Other than writing, what is your favorite hobby or thing you enjoy for fun?
I try to read one new novel, and one of the classics every month.There is nothing like sitting by a window with your cats smelling the grass right after a rain, reading the afternoon away. Although I love audio books because it lets me read more. I mix it up with nonfiction because I’m also a life and creativity coach. You can find more info on that at groundonecoaching.com. I love anything Creative: from fashion to photography, from singing to travel. (Yes, I consider travel as a creative endeavor.) What brings it all together is a long, meditative walk in Nature.
3. How long have you been writing? What genres have you written? They don’t have to be published.
I’ve still got stories I wrote in grade school. The story I remember most was about an errant pumpkin. I wrote my first novel in college, but I never tried to get it published. My first full-time job was as a journalist. My entire career has involved writing: National Geographic and Kiplinger publications, poetry, publishing Red Cross & Red Crescent publications, and now writing nonfiction online. I breathe, therefore I write. Can’t imagine a day without it!
4. What has been the greatest influence to your writing? Other authors, life experiences, etc…
Oh, countless people: My professors at Hollins University, especially Dara Weir and Richard Dillard; so many renowned writers who led me to the right avenue when I was searching down empty alleys; and my Southern family, who bottle fed me on The Story on long, lazy days rocking away the heat on a porch swing.
My time living and working overseas inspired me to write about immigrants and refugees. I also get a lot of my stories sitting in cafes and observing when I travel. My biggest early influences were Ernest Hemingway and Eudora Welty. I wasn’t able to meet Hemingway, but I went to every reading I could find that Eudora Welty held. Her readings were workshop-like; she was a wonderful teacher, and she was a photographer as well. I get inspiration from every writer I meet.
5. Are you currently writing anything now? If so tell us about it? If not make something up…
The most exciting fiction I’m working on right now is the sequel to my novel The Shores of Our Souls. Its working title is A Thousand Flying Things. It continues Dianna’s story, and Qasim may just show up. The first part of the novel takes place in Southern Sudan. Not the most conducive place to find the love of your life, but a great place to grow and learn who you really are. This part of the second novel is hugely autobiographical because I worked in Africa in the 1990s, though not in Sudan. I was also the one who looked through the countless photos of wounded children during war–photos deemed too graphic for the public, and that was an education about children in war and refugee families. Both are a a big part of this sequel.
6. How do you typically begin your projects? Do you create outlines and character profiles or jump in head first with the initial idea? And do you focus on just one at a time?
To tell you the truth, I wish I had a template for beginning a book project, but every one is unique and needs a different approach. I usually write first, then outline, then organize to the outline, then revise and revise. This way my characters lead me, and I don’t have to lead them. An image of a scene comes to me before I ever begin writing. My favorite way to start any project is with an interview. I interview my main characters, and that way they already have a voice when I begin to plot. I’ve never had writer’s block because it’s like meeting a friend for lunch every day. Ever had a lack of things to talk about with a good friend?
7. What aspect of your writing do you consider your strength? Your weakness?
I guess you can tell characterization is my strength. People tell me I’m good at dialogue, too. I close my eyes and I can see my story unfold like a movie, so my prose is pretty visual. I may have finally gotten plotting down to a science, but I struggled with it for years. So many wonderful books taught me the best techniques, and a shout out to Paula Munier who wrote the magical and practical Plot Perfect, which has become my encyclopedia for all things plot. I despise revision and proofreading, even though I’m good at both, because I’m obsessed with getting to the perfect final draft. Which may be why I have an animosity toward them…my perfectionism.
8. After publishing, the next trouble facing writers is marketing. What do you typically do when marketing your novel? Do you have tips you’d like to share?
I did marketing for the American Red Cross and then the International Red Cross & Red Crescent. When I told people what my job was, they’d ask me, “Why does the Red Cross need PR?”
I’d answer: “Because if they didn’t have marketing, there would be no Red Cross. No one would know they existed.”
The same is true for writers. It’s important to get the word out, and now we have social media as well as live book tours to engage our readers. If I hear about a way I can promote my book, I do it. I consider writing a business, and business means an investment in marketing.
My biggest tip: Get away from your computer and get to know people. Have conversations with as many people as you can. Ask how you can support them. Ask them for feedback on your writing. Friends share their stories with you, buy your books, and spread the word about your writing. Friends want you and your writing to succeed. Just this morning, a friend gave me the seed for what may become my next short story, which takes place on the Mediterranean Sea.
9. What advice would you give a writer who is starting out?
- Apprentice with someone who is willing to mentor you. Remember the people who helped you and pass it on when you become more established.
- Practice! Write until you find your own Voice.
- Use grammarly. Or something like it. As someone who used to approve and reject nonfiction manuscripts, your writing had to be stellar if it had lots of typos. I was a nice editor; one or two typos were okay. More than that and it went in the trash.
- Learn all you can about the publishing world itself, what they want, and what they don’t want. Which will change. Try to give them what they want. After you get your first big break, you can begin to write more of what you want.
- My screensaver says: “Never, ever, ever give up!” Winston Churchill was supposed to have said that in the aftermath of World War II. Writing is its own kind of uphill battle, and there’s a reason my dad called me “the little engine that could.” My nonfiction got published early on in my life. My novel’s available today because of my persistence and resilience.
- You’ve got what it takes if you desire to write. Now learn, practice, knock on doors, get up and dust yourself off if you get knocked down. Keep going. You’ve got this!