An ADHD-riddled mother of three, who can’t help the one-liners, writing started as something to help my brain settle and became a passion. I’m obsessed with the supernatural and paranormal. I don’t believe but I want to!
MM: What do you love most about writing? What speaks to you?
KW: Everybody said to write the stories you want to read, so I did. I didn’t see why horror and urban fantasy couldn’t be sex-positive or have mentally-ill protagonists or be working class… or have wolves that are based in reality (grumbles under her breath about “alpha” wolves).
And it might be egotistical, but I reread my stuff all the time because of that. I literally wrote the stories I want to read. Flawed, three dimensional people,(usually smart-asses… we all have our favorite tropes), who ultimately mean well, and just happen to kick so much ass, surrounded by plots where nobody picks up an idiot ball to move things along.
MM: So, what have you written?
KW: I have four collections of short stories published.
Uncommon Animals, Monsters of Pittsburgh, and Last Call center on Mina and Matty Grekov, two runaway werewolves. In between fighting monsters, they try to find “their normal.” Which is to say, figure out how to really live after a lifetime of abuse.
Uncommon Animals has seven stories (shorts and novellas), each with a different emphasis on the various genres that make up Urban Fantasy, but with my snark and sensibilities laced through it all, even the Romance. Ultimately, it’s about Mina and Matty building a life that they love, and finding a family.
Monsters of Pittsburgh continues Mina and Matty’s adventures with another seven stories. This time around, the life they built is tested by the resurgence of their abusers.
Last Call is the final seven Mina and Matty stories. Really, I wanted to showcase them happy in their choices, even when those choices weren’t easy.
Hedge Doctor is my other “Pittsburgh” collection. A minor character from the other three books got his own spotlight, and I got to try my hand at YA fiction. Set between Monsters of Pittsburgh and Last Call, we follow Jeff Hanson, talented witch, through the last three weeks of his senior year. It not a traditional coming of age story, nor is Jeff a tradition YA hero, but I’ve never been good with traditions.
And then there are my door-stopper novels. Set in the same ‘verse, they won’t see the light of day until I finish the series.
And my Chelsea Childling stories… (yeah, I’m prolific.), a series of free short stories on my blog about someone discovering the monster hunting world.
MM: When did you know writing was for you?
KW: Right after my last pregnancy. It was a rough one, lots of complications, and my recovery was slow. ADHD can be awesome because of the hyperfocus, but it’s a son of bitch when you don’t have the stamina to burn off the excess energy. Writing seemed to relieve that need. And then I couldn’t stop.
MM: What are you working on at this minute? What was the inspiration for it?
KW: Well, I’m always working on my novels, huge-ass, doorstoppers with a complicated, multi-layered plot. I might finish them this decade. I wanted to play with High Fantasy tropes, the Barrier Maiden, the Knight-Templar, The Bard, Prophecies, etc, and give them a modern, Urban Fantasy twist. The first one is written and needs copy editing… badly. The second of seven might see a final draft this year.
But on stuff people can read, I’m writing Chelsea Childling: Newbie Monster Hunter. The monster hunting community in my Pittsburgh stories was not typical of the rest of my ‘verse, so I wanted to explore that side a little.
MM: What was the first story you ever remember writing, and what was it about? How does it compare to your writing now?
KW: In fifth grade, we wrote, illustrated, and published books. Mine was a Where the Red Fern Grows knock off and super depressing. I even killed the dog.
Now, I’d make the cougar a monster and the dog would live.
(Max, Hex, I promise, I’m not killing Chelsea’s dog!)
MM: Do you work to an outline or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you? Plotter or Pantser?
Both and neither?
This is so hard for me, because sometimes the story comes whole and complete, and I write with little to no changes.
And sometimes, I get a single image or line to base the story around and it takes so many drafts to get it right.
On average, I’m a plantser. I have a lot of rules for magic and creatures and magical creatures, so plots and plotting can be easy or difficult.
Basically, my ‘verse has sprawled out on the couch and taken its pants off, and I’m okay with that.
MM: What draws you to flash-fiction, to #FP? What do you love and hate about it?
KW: Flash fiction started as a challenge. I tend towards wordiness and wanted to see if I could be concise. Could I tell a story in less than 1000 words? The answer turned out to be ‘kinda.’ I can’t not write in my ‘verse, which means that very few of my stories are genuinely stand alone. You can read them and enjoy them, but you like them more if you’ve read the others.
MM: Who are your writing inspirations? How do they influence your creativity?
KW: Oh my. Stephen King, Frank Herbet, Robert Jordan, Anne Rice, Brandon Sanderson, Joss Whedon, Kevin Smith and Terry Pratchett are the biggies.
Madeline L’Engle, Anne McCaffrey, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Neil Gaimen are the minors.
So big complicated plots, with lots of layers and symbolism, grounded by fleshed-out, complicated characters, who don’t always do the right thing.
MM: What is your favorite motivational phrase or musing on writing, and … why? What about it really hits home? 🙂
KW: Anonymous poem on pinterest:
Adverbs aren’t evil; said isn’t dead
Please stop hitting the wall with your head
Active is grand, but not always best
Sometimes its passive that passes the test
Some write with style, others write plain
Let’s all agree writing’s a pain
The ‘rules’ can be broken, twisted, or bent
All that matters is you are content
Make your own story, write your own way
This has been the writer’s PSA
For me this the best advice for writers, and for critiquing writing. It’s not my job as a beta to make your story “good” by my standards but to help you write your story.
MM: What is the hardest thing about writing for you?
KW: Waiting for my beta readers. I can’t help tinkering, even before I get feedback.
MM: What do you tell yourself every time it gets hard? Every time the stars stop aligning? What do you do when writer’s block knocks on your creative door?
KW: Music is a big part of writing for me. Can’t find the right mood? Find the right song! And if all else fails EDM always motivates me to just write. It’s how I got through college.
MM: Do you have any secret and wacky writing rituals that help the words flow?
KW: Dancing. That music thing I mentioned before can be accompanied by dancing when I really need to get stuff done.
MM: As a writer, what would you choose as your spirit animal or avatar? We’ve heard the craziest things, and we’re curious!
KW: My avatar is totally a wolf. I have a wolf tattoo and wolves are all over my work. I’m completely shameless about it.
MM: What advice would you give to aspiring writers and poets, anyone who wants to free the art within? What helped you make it to this point?
KW: Don’t worry about the “rules”. Just write what you want to read.
MM: What genres do you find yourself most drawn to? In your books and in your #FP’s?
KW: Urban fantasy. That meld of horror, fantasy, romance, sci-fi, and action-adventure is so freeing to my mind. Genres are meant to be mashed together, like a good gulash. Just throw what you have left over in the oven and bake. It’s going to be delicious.
MM: Sooo … reading anything good lately? Any recommendations?
KW: While currently rereading Madeline L’Engle with my kids, I get my personal reading fix from my writing buddies these days. So I’m going to shamelessly plug my friends here. Check out Gina Drayer (my fellow Crimson Heart writer. Wonderful fluffy, light romance with lots of humor), Ophelia Bell (if you like your romance with dragons, she’s your lady), Jeanne Marcella (lovely prose and amazing characters, incredibly detailed universe), and Sarah Moll (who’s amazing book comes out in July.)
MM: Any last thoughts for our readers?
KW: If you love the arts support them. Buy that t-shirt your favorite webcomic is hawking. Go to local music shows. Pick up that sick painting from the street artist. Art shouldn’t be a sometimes thing but an always thing. Buy the funky throw pillows and bright orange couch, then crochet the perfect blanket to go with it. Live art, always, every day.
MM: How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Chelsea and Jackson
By Kate Whitaker
The full moon through the skylight left the room illuminated, but cold. Chelsea lay in the bright, silvery light, wondering what had woken her.
Warm hands brushed her bare back, and Jackson murmured, “Shh. It’s okay, go back to sleep.”
She rolled over, sprawled across his body, and rested her head on his chest. The damp chest hair that greeted her face was unpleasant for several reasons. Cold and clammy against her cheek, it meant night sweats. But Jackson never stressed out.
He barely works up a sweat during our training sessions.
His arms wrapped around her. “Nothing, my little nun. Just one of my nightmares.”
She tightened her limbs, squeezing as much of him as she could. “You okay?”
His chin tapped the top of her head as he nodded. “I’m used to them.”
“Used to them?” her voice came out more annoyed than she intended. “We’ve been together for almost two months. How the hell did you keep something like this from me for two months?”
His low chuckle raised goosebumps along her skin as fingers trailed up her bare ribs towards her breasts.
She smacked his chest. “Seriously, Jack!”
He sighed. “You’ve been a little preoccupied, and like I said, I’m used to them. Generally, I wake up in a cold sweat, and head to the bathroom. Once I’m calm, I come back to bed. You didn’t notice, because I didn’t want to bother you.”
He snugged her closer. “It’s okay. I’m okay.”
She twirled his chest hair. “Obviously, it’s not. My therapist says regular nightmares that interrupt your sleep—”
He laughed. “Yeah, my caseworkers sent me to lots of therapists over the years. Nothing to be done about my nightmares. They just are.”
“Caseworkers?” Chelsea listened to his still-pounding heart through his ribs.
There was no answer for a long moment, then he sat up, pulling her along. “I was… the thing is, Chelsea, most monster hunters are fucked up people. There’s a few hunting families that go back generations, but mostly, we get into this game for the same reason you did: somebody you know and love gets killed, and nobody is going to believe that it’s a vampire or whatever. So, you have to take care of it yourself. And you keep going after monsters until you have a bad night. Then the fight is all over.”
His hand traveled down her back, returning to her shoulders as he talked. The gesture seemed more about taking comfort than giving any.
“But me… I was six, and my brother was ten. Our mom had lots of problems.” He huffed a laugh. “Well, really, she had two problems, booze and men, but they brought on the rest. And when she was in full swing, when the house was full of strung out and drunk strangers, Chuck and I took off. We didn’t have a dad, and if none of our friends could take us, we’d spend the night at the local park.”
She gave him another full body squeeze. Pampered and loved all her life, she couldn’t imagine not trusting her parents or them abandoning her.
His hands gripped her hips for a moment, before he continued. “Well, one night, we ran into a reaver.”
“What’s a reaver?”
Jackson let out a rough breath, almost, but not quite a laugh. “A type of vampire. Think the exact opposite of a nightling. Instead of being inhumanly pretty and intelligent, they are saw-toothed, red-eyed, hairless, brainless, killing machines. One bite, and you turn or you die.”
He shrugged. “We ran, of course. Chuck boosted me over the fence, but he scraped his knee getting over the top. Reavers go nuts at the scent of fresh blood.” He swallowed, his throat twitching along the side of her head. “It tore him apart in front of me.”
Tears welled up in her eyes.
Jack’s voice took on a determinedly cheerful quality. “And so began my stint in foster care. I was pulled from the neglectful arms of my drunk mother and passed from family to family until my sixteenth birthday. On that day, I walked out of my latest home and started hunting.”
“Why did you wait so long?”
For the first time since she awoke, Jackson truly sounded like himself as a huge laugh bubbled out of him. “I thought I was fucking crazy. I was six, remember? I told everybody about what I’d seen. Which meant a good decade of therapists explaining to me about how I made up a monster so I had something tangible to be mad at, instead of the ‘obvious’ abduction gone wrong that ripped my brother to pieces.”
“What changed your mind?”
Jackson quieted. “A friend got attacked by a reaver.”
“And you had to watch, again?”
He nodded against her hair, once more. “Yeah, but at least I knew I wasn’t crazy. So I took off, hunting monsters.”
She sat up in the weak light, unsure of what, if anything to say. The moon washed out all the color. His black hair lacked its reddish highlites, and his brilliant green eyes were a pale imitation of themselves.
A forced smile stretched across his face. “It’s all right, Chelsea.”
“You still have nightmares.”
He shrugged. “I don’t know a monster hunter without them, including you.”
“A monster hunter,” he finished with her. “You just have a mean left hook, nightmares, and want to revenge-kill nightlings.”
“The nightmares started before Dink was killed.” Her voice wobbled into the pale light. “It was my parents’ murder.”
His fingers dug into her hips again, pulling her closer. Despite their lack of clothes, there was nothing sexual in the gesture, a first from Jackson Hawk.
She found herself talking about her dreams. “I’m in a clear box, looking out at a storm. The pouring rain is deafening in there, and slowly, the air is being sucked out. I can’t breathe, and I can’t hear anything except the rain, but I can see the water covering the box.” Just talking about it made her heart slam against her ribs.
Jackson’s hand slid up her back, pulling her gently against him. She leaned in, soaking up his closeness. Soft, warm skin over hard muscles and scars. More and more Jackson felt like home.
Don’t believe that.
She had to remember that Jackson lacked any desire to stick around, and she couldn’t leave, yet. But she had a life beyond killing monsters to go back to. And Jackson Hawk couldn’t say “no” to a woman if his life were on the line.
“So,” he said after a long silence, “you and Dink ever hook up?”
She shook her head and sat up again. “No. He—after my parents died, I went self-destructive, lots of drinking. Dink took it upon himself to keep an eye on me, make sure I didn’t drink too much, stumble into traffic, or get raped.”
“You two seemed chummy that night.”
Chelsea shrugged. “I wasn’t interested, and he knew it. He heard me bitch about pushy guys often enough.” Tears welled up and spilled over. “Maybe— ”
Jack shook his head. “No ‘maybes’, my little nun. Going over the past won’t prevent it from having happened.”
She studied him in the moonlight. Dark shadows painted the skin under his high cheekbones, and the sheen of humor he usually sported was absent. For the first time in two months, she finally began to feel like she knew him.
Chelsea slid her hands up his arms. “Only one shot, Jackson?”
“Monsters aren’t known for their mercy.” He snuggled into their bed, taking her with him. They shuffled and maneuvered, trying for the best way to lie together. Between one breath and the next, the balance was found. Warm and protected once more, Chelsea fell back asleep.