Monday, October 17, 2011

Meet the Author: Kat Heckenbach

Last week, I reviewed the fantastic book Finding Angel. This week, I'm pleased to welcome the author of Finding Angel, Kat Heckenbach, to Magical Ink!

Kat Heckenbach is a graduate of the University of Tampa, Magna Cum Laude, B.S. in Biology. She spent several years teaching, but never in a traditional classroom–everything from Art to Algebra II—and now homeschools her two children. Her writing spans the gamut from inspirational personal essays to dark and disturbing fantasy and horror, with over forty short fiction and nonfiction credits to her name. Her debut novel, MG fantasy Finding Angel, is available in print and ebook. Enter her world at www.katheckenbach.com and www.findingangel.com.

Kat, how do you get ideas for stories? Specifically, what gave you the idea for Finding Angel?

I hate to say it, but a lot of them just drop into my head. One of my stories that is in Aquasynthesis—“The Artist”—literally popped into my head fully formed. I was sitting on the couch and, poof, I *had* to go sit and write it. Another, “Like Stink on a Dog,” which was published online in Daikaijuzine, came about when two old guys started arguing in my head. I couldn’t get them to shut up without writing down what they were saying. (And, yes, I know just how nuts that sounds.)

Some stories come from prompts/themes for anthologies I had hopes of getting into. Those, however, tend to head off in completely different directions and end up no longer fitting the intended anthologies, then wind up published elsewhere.

Others…I have no idea where they come from. Bits and pieces of things that happen around me, daydreaming, who knows what.

As for Finding Angel, that’s easy. I was one of those kids who LOVED all things magic, and any book, movie, or TV show about other worlds. When I decided I wanted to write a book, I went for that idea—a girl who loves that stuff finding out she is from someplace else, and she has the kind of magic she’s always yearned for. The conflict for the story itself built from the characters and setting that formed as I wrote. I didn’t outline before I started writing, so a lot of the book came as a surprise to me.

When did you start writing? Do you feel that God specifically called you to write, or is it something you took up on your own?

I started writing in August of 2007. I had literally never done any creative writing before sitting down to write Finding Angel. There was just something bothering me after my 37th birthday, some need to do something, fill some unnamable void. I was talking to my husband, Jeff, and he said, “If you want to write a book I’ll be supportive.” I had no idea why he was saying that to me, until I found myself driving to Barnes & Noble to clear my head. Yep, right to a book store. Memories came flooding back. Me, as a teen mostly, scribbling on a legal pad, and crumpling up everything I wrote. Me wishing I could see my name on the spine of a book but thinking it will never, ever happen so why try.

I realized writing was something I’d always wanted to do but never thought I had it in me. So I sat in front of my computer one day and just started. I told myself that if the words flowed I’d write a novel. If not, I’d never try writing again. A lot of pressure to put on myself, I realize now, and I’d never advocate that approach for anyone! But I had to do it, and the words flowed.

As for whether I feel God called me—I honestly can’t answer that. I believe He gave me the talent to write, and therefore knew I would someday. I think much of my life prepared me for this, and God’s hands have always been in my life. I guess you’d have to interpret from that whether it was a “calling” or not. I prefer to say God designed me this way.

That's a cool starting-out story! Do any of your characters take over the story, or do they generally stay well-behaved?

Interesting question! My characters do things that surprise me all the time. I do a little outlining when I write, but not gobs. I have scenes pop into my head and I scribble them down, or random ideas, but I don’t plan things heavily, and often the characters lead the way and I just follow along writing down what they do. As for behaving themselves….if they did that there probably wouldn’t be much story to tell ;).

Why did you decide to write fantasy?

I have always just loved it. My earliest memories of beloved books are fantasy. The Phantom Tollbooth, A Wrinkle in Time, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (which I suppose is really more sci-fi), and anything that had magic and/or other worlds. It stayed my favorite genre my whole life. I was a huge Piers Anthony fan in high school, and more recently I’ve fallen in love with JK Rowling’s writing, and Cornelia Funke’s, and so many others. It simply comes natural to me.

So which fantasy creature is your favorite?

This may sound cliché, but dragons. Definitely dragons. They are just so cool! All fire-breathing and impenetrable scales. And they are beautiful. Powerful and graceful and intelligent.

Did you base any characters off of someone you know personally?

That is such a dangerous question. My family has gone nuts trying to figure out “who” certain characters are in Finding Angel. And yes, I do sometimes start with a real person in mind, but the character comes to life and takes over. The character may retain some of the original person’s traits, but most will be completely different. And many characters are bits and pieces of multiple people melded together. Others, as far as I know, have no resemblance to people I know.

Who is your favorite character that you've created? That you've read about?

In Finding Angel, I’d have to say Kalek. I love the idea of an Elven rocker. He’s mysterious, and rebellious and regal at the same time. And his Talent (his strongest magic skill) is quite unique. (Do I tell what it is here, or keep ‘em guessing? Hehe….how about a hint? All of Creation sings, but only one guy can make you literally hear it….)

A character I’ve read about—that’s harder. I have so many favorite books and they all come with a favorite character. Hermione in the Harry Potter series and Dustfinger in the Inkheart series are two I can name off the top of my head.

Kalek is cool! The part where Angel met him was one of my favorite parts in the book! How do you go about writing a book or story?

It depends on whether it’s a pop-into-my-head story or something I have to plan out. But basically, I tend to write in spurts. I may go weeks without writing, then an idea will hit, hard, and I write almost nonstop until the story is out. For novels, I tend to write entire chapters like that.

What do you do if you have a severe case of writer's block?

Panic. Hehe.

Actually, I take time off. I try to focus on other things, like drawing or reading more. I figure writer’s block often comes from being burnt out. We all need breaks now and then. Usually if I just back off from writing for a while and get other things taken care of my muse will show up when I least expect.

Can you tell me a little about future projects you have planned?

I’ve started on the sequel to Finding Angel, which takes place a couple of years after the end of Finding Angel. It’s part Angel’s story and part, well, a new character. Can’t say exactly if we want to avoid spoilers. I have an idea for a third book in the series—one that will involve time travel. I want to write something with that because the idea of time travel is one of those things that makes my brain squeak. Can’t wrap my mind around it properly. There will also be a fourth book, a kind of prequel, that tells the story of one of the bad guys and how he became a bad guy.

Outside of the Finding Angel series, I am working on a paranormal thriller involving some characters from a short horror story I wrote, “Willing Blood,” that can be found in The Absent Willow Review.

Of course I’ll keep writing short stories. I contribute fairly regularly to Avenir Eclectia, and I enjoy short story writing too much to give it up regardless of finally getting my novel published. I had started doing short stories mainly to glean publishing credits, but it turned into something I love.

More Angel books! Who-hoo! What is your favorite funny writing quote?

I’m not sure if this really qualifies as funny, but, I love:

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”

― Madeleine L'Engle

Nice! I think that's another quote that I need in my quote book. Thanks for taking the time for these questions, Kat! :) Readers, be sure to grab a copy of Finding Angel, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.

4 responses:

Kat Heckenbach said...

Thank you, Heather! Again :). I think it's so cool you're a Kalek fan, too. Just so ya know, he gets a little more focus in the next novel :D.

H. A. Titus said...

That news makes me very happy! :)

Sarah Sawyer said...

Nice interview, Kat and Heather!

Kat, I loved Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH as a child too...and I know few other people who are familiar with it. Growing up reading fantasy does making the writing of it come naturally. :)

Heather, I found your blog through a link at Mary's blog, and I've enjoyed browsing.

Kat Heckenbach said...

Thanks, Sarah! I've found the same thing--not too many people I know have read Mrs. Frisby. But it is one I have read over and over.

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