10Qs for Kathryn Johnson. This is one busy lady! She is the founder of WriteByYou.com, an author’s mentoring service based in Silver Spring, Maryland. Kathryn writes under her own name and as Mary Hart Perry. She also has served as judge on the Edgar Awards Committee for the Mystery Writers of America and is Vice President of the Mid-Atlantic region of the same organization.
With all this going on, Kathryn took time to answer my questions. Here are her answers:
The series I’m currently doing is under my pen name, Mary Hart Perry, and they are Victorian thrillers based on the lives of Queen Victoria’s daughters. Each book stars a different daughter. Princess Louise is in the first novel, The Wild Princess. Princess Beatrice is in Seducing the Princess. Crown Princess Vicky will play a lead role in the third novel, which features a hunt for Jack the Ripper. Each book stands alone, and has its own story. But some of the characters from earlier or later books “visit” the story.
2: Lately a lot of prequels have popped up on both the book and movie market. Have you ever considered writing one?
I think writing a prequel about any of the queen’s family would be fun. But I haven’t come up with one I’m dying to write just yet.
3: Have you ever considered writing a teen book?
Yes, and I have written books for teenagers in the past. I did 10 suspense novels for teen readers some years back, writing as Nicole Davidson, for Avon Books. Actually, the princess thrillers are appropriate for and have attracted teen readers, since the heroines are still fairly young. And in the third novel, although Vicky is a mature woman, her daughter and niece are teenagers, and they figure prominently.
4: When you start your research for a book, do you use pen & paper to jot down thoughts or do you use a computer?
Oh, yes, tons of paper…and photocopies of articles from the internet…and notes taken at libraries where you can’t bring the books home. I’ve used the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC quite often when researching my books.
5: Do you have any specific writing rituals?
I’m embarrassed to say that in order to coax myself into the chair I often need something to eat or drink. If I can get away with a cup of tea to get me started, I’m doing well. But how can I not grab a biscuit or pastry or piece of chocolate to go with it? Because of this ritual of treating myself with something edible to jumpstart my writing process, I have to be careful to exercise daily.
6: Movies based on a book can be great to visualize the story but they can also be a disappointment. What movie based on a book disappointed you?
Hard to answer this one. You see, I agree with this, so if I’ve read the book I avoid watching a movie based on the book. I don’t set myself up for disappointment.
7: Have you ever used characteristics from someone you know in one of your books?
Oh, all the time! I don’t copy an entire personality, but I do use mannerisms, or physical details, or ways of speaking. And if someone has been particularly nasty to you in real life, it’s fun to write them into the story as a villain…and then kill them off. Fictionally speaking, of course. It’s so therapeutic!
8: What inspires you most to write? Breaking news? Nature? People? History?
Both history and human nature, which is people of course. Through time, very little changes. And we share so many emotions, dreams, desires, and needs. That makes it possible to write a story with universal appeal.
9: What was your favourite subject in school?
English literature. I was so in awe of writers. But I couldn’t imagine becoming one. It seemed too, too impossible.
10: A billionaire gives you a million dollars on the condition that you may spend it but not gain any assets (like in the Richard Pryor movie “Brewster’s Millions.” How will you spend your million?
That’s easy. I’d used it to help my extended family. Like many families, some of the members have health problems, or professional challenges, or personal needs that could be dealt with better with an injection of cash. The rest, I’d give to one of my favorite charities. The House of Ruth, for abused women and children, for one.