Hey there everyone!
Thanks for stopping by the site today. I recently had the pleasure of getting to know the sweetest person, writer Kathryn Lee Martin, through the Writers Around the World series. We had a nice “chat” and I learned so much about her life as a writer. So, grab a coffee, tea, or latte…and enjoy!
Hi there, Kathryn! Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by the site. First things first. What name do you like to go by, and do you use a pen name for your writing?
Hello and thank you very kindly for having me, Jackie. My name is Kathryn but please call me Ryn. It’s the nickname I’ve adopted over the years after some friends had trouble spelling my name and it stuck from there. At the moment, I have not yet had a chance to adopt a pen name so for now I just write under Kathryn.
Okay Ryn, ( I love that name BTW!) where are you from and where do you live now?
Does the middle of nowhere count? That’s what I’ve heard plenty of people refer to it as over the years, among other less pleasant things that aren’t fit for print when they have to drive the whole way out here to visit. Despite being somewhat remote from civilization, I’m blessed to have grown up in and still call the outskirts of a small town rural area near the Blue Mountains of South Central Pennsylvania home.
That sounds like bliss actually and a perfect place to write. 🙂 So, how long have you been writing?
Oh wow, that’s a tough question because I’ve been stumbling around and learning to dance with words through trial and error for most of my life and tripped over my own feet so many times it’s not even funny. But if I had to put a rough number on it for serious writing in general, I buckled down and started honing my craft through practice and getting kicked around quite a bit back in early high school, so I’ve been at it for about 13 years at this point with the past few years actively submitting the manuscript, though I still have so much more to learn.
What age group and genres do you write in? The same one all the time or have you written in more than one
I am a farm girl at heart, so I saddle up the literary horses and take young adult readers on one heck of a “what if” themed trail ride that often involves science fiction, fantasy, and westerns. There’s just something I love about being able to tell some of the grittier, darker stories for that particular age group. Most of what I write explores impossible odds and dire futures, falling into a fusion of post-apocalyptic science fiction (with a fantasy bend) meets the gritty lawlessness of the old west with some historical World War II undertones. In addition to dark sci-fi westerns, I do have a whimsical side and love to tinker with fantastic kingdoms, swords, time-travel, mythical creatures and steampunk-themed fantasy on the side.
We know how important it is to read widely in the age group/genre you write for. What’s a book you’ve read and loved?
Whereas I have far too many books to name that I’ve enjoyed reading over the years in both sci-fi and fantasy and an ever growing stack of great new stuff I’m working my way through, (we would be here all day if I listed them all) the series that stole my heart and lured me into wanting to become a writer was easily Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain series. I’ve always had a soft spot for coming-of-age fantasy stories and I can recall so many wonderful days spent getting caught up in the quest Taran and his companions were on.
With so many great books, it’s hard to resist them all! What’s a book out of your genre/age group you’ve read and loved?
Again, there are way too many to list in one spot but hands down the honor goes to The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. This was a book that had a profound impact on me since first reading it and I’ve always admired not only the writing itself, but the subject matter it handled in general. It’s one of those books that I highly recommend you read in your lifetime if you get the opportunity.
Writing is the greatest profession there is—obviously! If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be? Don’t hold back. No limits on this one!
If I wasn’t a writer (and my eyesight wasn’t so poor,) I would absolutely love to be in the specialized trade of restoring old books by hand, or be a certified tradeswoman in the art of customized book binding (the old school way, by hand with the artisan tools and everything.) There’s just something intriguing about seeing old books being salvaged and restored to as close of an original condition as they can be brought back to so they can be passed down through generations and preserved. That and I love working with my hands, so crafty things are up there with farming.
That’s really neat. Restoring old books by hand seems like it would be so difficult, but amazing!
Sure, it’s possible to like both, but which do you like better—drafting or revising?
I’m passionate about the process of drafting and capturing my imagination on paper almost as much as revising, but if I have to pick between the two, revising just narrowly edges drafting out for the win. I love to tinker with things by nature and being able to sit down with a completed draft allows me the freedom to get lost in the story and fall in love with it all over again, only this time, I can alter some things that aren’t working, keep some wayward characters in better check (or let them run wild even worse) and then pretty much destroy most of it in spectacular fashion and rewrite it all over again just because I need an excuse to brew another pot of coffee.
But in all seriousness, I enjoy being able to improve the work itself and take it to a new level through revising. It can be a very humbling experience to hear both the good things and the not so good things through the feedback I receive, and I often enjoy returning the favor with looking over other people’s works as a CP as well because you never stop learning little ways to improve upon the craft.
Do you plan first or write as you go along?
Yeah…about that (insert nervous smile here.) It’s really neither here nor there on the planning part sometimes because with me it changes depending how I feel about it at the time. In the past I used to try to plan every single little detail out on paper but no matter how much I thought I had it down each time, (or thought I knew about my own story) there was and still is always that one character or event that just decides to take my carefully constructed outline and just torch it right in front of me because why not. That and it drives me in circles if I get too worked up over figuring out all of the details upfront and feels too mechanical and scripted for me personally which ties up time that could be spent just writing the story. I do try to at least write a somewhat detailed, long synopsis of how I envision the story arc overall as well as some key scenes, foreshadowing, and so on that I want to see happen, and run from there. It also allows me to really get to know my characters and their world better so adjustments can be made along the way and I can turn it over to them at some point.
I do keep a loose series overview for books that have series potential which I use to connect things along the way and to set up future story points from early on to make things easier in the long run. And while I do try to keep it close to the outline when I actually write the story, sometimes, things just happen and you have to roll with it and see where it takes you. Sometimes it works, sometimes it’s the worst choice made in a long time. I never really know until I get it down on paper and can look at it better.
What’s your favorite day of the week? How come?
I don’t really have a favorite day of the week in all honesty since I just take it one day at a time as it is and am thankful for each one.
Where do you usually write? At a desk? Outside? In the car? Be honest. Where does the magic usually happen?
I am pretty sure that at this point my cluttered desk sits at the center of what should be the South Central Pennsylvania equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle. (It’s not half as mysterious or as cool as the actual Bermuda Triangle.) So much coffee, tea, and hot cocoa has gone missing at this one location that it might as well be classified as one though. But when I’m not hoarding coffee cups at my desk, I’m usually setting up shop wherever I can get some quiet. Sometimes it’s outside, sometimes I’ll just build a blanket fort. It largely depends on how I’m feeling.
Are you a morning person or late night owl? What time do usually write?
I’m definitely a night owl. A significant part of my writing time usually happens after dark but it varies sometimes to daylight hours depending on the situation and when I can actually get the time to write. I’m way more productive at night because it’s quieter around here and I can focus better.
What made you write your story in the first place?
An innate love of writing drives most of it, but the characters and a need deep in my heart to tell their stories sets the journey. I’ve always been one to play the “what if” game when it comes to writing and well, these particular characters just wouldn’t leave me alone, so I decided to run with it and see where it took me. It’s funny in a way because no matter how much I tried to put this project aside and talk myself out of it, something just kept me working at it and before long, I got to know these characters like old friends and I wanted to know how their story ends. It’s like that with most of my projects. I love the characters too much to let them down by not writing their stories and sharing them with the world.
What’s your favorite food?
I’m pretty much fueled by coffee and marshmallows at this point, but I am also rather fond of good ol’ fashion homemade PA Dutch chicken pot pie, shoefly pie, shepherd’s pie, teriyaki chicken, sesame chicken, sugar snap peas and anything with potatoes in it.
What’s your favorite drink to drink while writing?
Coffee with hazelnut creamer. I’m pretty sure I’ve helped keep a local Amish canning company/coffee shop in business for the past few years at this point with the amount of bagged local ground coffee bought from their shop each week. And when there’s no coffee, Irish breakfast tea, hot apple cider, hot chocolate, water, or apple juice are just as good.
Do you have any hobbies, besides writing?
I’m probably pretty boring when it comes to hobbies, but I enjoy spending time outside with the animals as well as sitting quietly by a window while getting lost in my own little world daydreaming about fantastic worlds and the characters in them. I also like to keep a small garden each summer, tend my roses, spend time outdoors just enjoying nature, and sometimes play a few video games when the weather is too bad to be outside for long. Other than that, spending time with my family.
Do you have a job other than writing? Being a stay at home parent counts in case my question isn’t clear!
Promise not to laugh? Before deciding to pursue my dream of writing after some significant health issues blindsided me and forced me out of it, I worked with gourds. I worked at a small town gourd crafting company as a part of its seasonal field crew as a hand pollinator, harvester and sorter depending on the season, was a specialized parts maker, worked part-time in their finishing department (basically putting final touches on the gourds themselves like parts and stuff,) and from time to time helped out in their retail store when they needed extra people for open houses. Basically, I was a professional master of the odd jobs. At the moment though I’m a stay at home “critter mom” helping out around the homestead and trying to get everything back to some semblance of normal.
I promise, I’m not laughing at that at all. In fact, I find it fascinating! Tell us about your family.
My family is relatively small but extremely close-knit, now more than ever. I’m not married yet and have no children, but I do play the role of “critter mom” to a border collie, two cats, three goats, and a donkey. I can’t say enough about how thankful I am for my family. They’ve been incredibly supportive with all that has happened the past few years health wise and with my desire to pursue my writing. We’re pretty much simple, God-fearing folks who are quick to turn to our faith over fear when it comes to things and too stubborn to give up no matter what the circumstances. My father works with sheet-metal, my mother loves to play music and is also a stage three breast cancer survivor, and I have a younger sister who is an artist working towards her own dreams of eventually being in a gallery with her paintings. So we’re a pretty artsy group across very different mediums.
Who’s usually your first reader(s)?
I have been very blessed to have befriended quite a few people I would consider to be first readers for my work over the years. I always run my earliest drafts by them before I build up the confidence to send the novel off to wherever it needs to go. Three are the kindest young ladies from the west coast I have the privilege of sharing my work with and the others are three brilliant gentlemen and an equally brilliant lady who make up the small town, local writer’s group I am a part of.
What has been your biggest writing accomplishment so far?
My biggest writing accomplishment so far aside from actually writing the book is being blessed to join Golden Wheat Literary and having Rebecca Angus as my agent. Up until that moment, I’d only ever dreamed of reaching this point with my writing. Being out on submission is a dream come true because for the longest time, I had trouble believing I would even reach this point.
Seeing as Rebecca is my agent too, that makes us agency sisters. So cheers to that! Rebecca is a great person to have in our corner, that’s for sure! But as we all know, getting published isn’t easy. Why do you keep trying?
Because I’m far too stubborn to quit chasing this dream. I have not worked this hard and crawled my way through the dust this far to give up and go home just because it’s hard. If anything, that only encourages me to keep moving forward because in the end when I do eventually reach that point in being published and am able to share my story with the world, I will be able to look back and know that every setback, every disappointment, every test of faith, every moment good and bad of this journey was worth it in the end and that nothing is impossible.
What’s your biggest struggle when it comes to writing?
Crippling self-doubt and a severe lack of confidence overall at times are the thousand pound beasts in the room at any given moment with me. There are days when I look at my project (or anything I write in general) and wonder if I’m the right person to be writing this book, if I’m just wasting everyone’s time, or if I’m even meant to be a writer at all. There have been days where it gets so bad I just want to quit writing altogether and destroy everything I’ve ever written and not look back, but then I look at the project and remember why I started in the first place and remind myself that yes, I can do this and it will all work out. I’ve come too far to quit. It’s a rough road out there sometimes but that’s some of the roughest terrain for me personally to navigate on any given day.
Many writers struggle with those same thoughts. I think it helps us to know we’re all in the same boat.
So what’s your next step? Revising? Writing a new book? A sequel?
I’m still on submission with my initial debut project as of writing this, so my next step involves a few things to keep me busy during the wait. At the moment I’m tinkering with a sequel to that project, drafting out some outlines for its overall series and getting ready to tackle working on an unrelated project.
Do you have any advice for writers still in the query or sub trenches?
Absolutely. It’s tough out there folks and is a difficult, heartbreaking (and very much humbling) journey. You will need to bring your patience and determination for this. My advice is that when you feel like giving up, remember why you started and keep pressing on. Never give up on your dream. You never know when that request is going to come in or what good things may be right there in front of you.
Remember that you will be rejected at some point, many times even, (everyone is at some point so you’re not alone) and some of those rejections will hurt and some may also be constructive. Learn from them and keep going. Every “no” is one step closer to a “yes” so don’t let rejection be something that makes you stop writing or makes you give up on your dream. You’re a writer. You will make it no matter how long it takes. Just keep going.
If you haven’t already, find yourself some good critique partners to chat with about writing and your projects. Also be open to being a good critique partner to others. Feedback is a valuable tool so keep an open mind and be open to hearing it, even if you take your project in a different direction in the end. Keep working at it and improving your craft because no matter how good you think a project is, it can always be made better in some small way. I also suggest investing in some good coffee, tea, hot chocolate (or whatever your favorite beverage, comfort food, and so on might be) because they can make a rough day feel better and can make a really good day even more amazing.
Above all though, have fun and keep that passion for writing alive on your journey through these trenches as you navigate them. You’re a writer on the journey to publication and are amazing for doing so. Don’t ever forget that.
I love that advice so much…What will you do when you reach your writing goal? Who will you tell first?
When I pick myself up off the floor after hearing it’s happening and realize that I’m not dreaming, I have a few people to tell once I stop crying long enough to do so. (I’m pretty sure I’ll cry when it happens.) My CPs and family especially, but I’ll probably call my younger sister first. And once that goal is met, I’ll set new goals to work toward all over again.
If you could travel to any place in the world, and experience any culture (for inspiration of course!), where would that be?
Let’s see. If I could travel anywhere in the world, it would have to be to Wales and Ireland. I’ve always loved castles, history, and reading about the culture and cuisine of these two countries in particular. Having the opportunity to experience it all in person would be an amazing dream come true. For now though I’m an armchair traveler.
Thanks so much for your answers, Ryn. I wish you the best of luck on your journey, both towards publication and in the every day. Please stay in touch. We look forward to hearing your publishing news one day soon!
So thanks for reading everyone…To reach out to Ryn, you can find her on Twitter: @RynSageQuill.