This is a long-known way of approaching writing: drawing from your own experiences, you are the authority on your life after all, using your own experiences is a natural way to write something with substance. I certainly used this early on in my writing career when I needed to jump-start ideas, I made a whole list of big things that have happened to me in my life, what my fears are, etc. But also, you can also use micro-experiences to really add life to your stories: that exceptional cheese you tried on a vacation, the way a bag of M&M's crackles when you tear the paper, a special bottle of Rioja imported from a Spanish vineyard, with a label that looked like it was hand-written. All of these little details that created a lasting memory for you can be used to make your stories feel more real. Writing fictional worlds does not mean you have to replace all details with made-up ones. Adding in these small snippets of real-world experiences can breathe life into your drafts, they don't have to have a huge light shined on them, they can just be small additions that as readers get hooked on your words, they may not realize they are becoming more immersed by these small additions.
I also use this when writing my characters, adding something to their dialogue that I heard someone say before, or a certain way that someone uses their hands to express themselves. Ideas and inspiration are all around you, you just have to pay attention.
Author Interview with Katie Zaber
Tell me about yourself. What inspired you to write?
I’ve always been creative, but never took up writing until I was recovering from surgery, was on a lot of meds, and let my imagination loose. Once off the meds and healed, I edited the story, building and rearranging, working through drafts until I was happy.
Describe your desk / writing space.
I sit in front of a walnut stained secretary desk with a hutch holding an array of keepsakes. Albums, picture frames, my Snoopy collection, souvenirs, and nostalgic knickknacks line the shelves of the hutch.
My work space is a wonderland of post-it notes in three different colors: pink, neon-yellow, and green. On the right corner of my desk, shoved between the monitor and notary stamp, is a yellow, mini-spiral notebook that contains book outlines, plots, and ideas. Little sticker tabs separate the notebook into different sections. The tabs not in use are floating on the surface of pamphlets and lists of login information to accounts I hardly visit.
A leather bounded diary with nautical embellishments, complete with anchor bookmark, holds random thoughts and sketches. A mechanical pencil can be spotted, hiding between the yellow notebook and leather diary. Its extra parts—erasers & extra graphite are strewn about the entire desk.
Between the post-it notes there are three hacky sacks. There’s also a rectangular leather box with a brass kaleidoscope made to look like it was used on a whimsical pirate ship.
It’s a happy mess.
Do you have a writing routine or do you write when inspired?
I try to stick to a schedule, but that normally doesn’t happen and I end up writing when inspired.
How do you come up with the title to your books?
When I write a book, I usually have a broad idea of what I want to call it, but I usually decide when I’ve finished the first draft. Almost like a parent meeting their new born. They might have an idea of what they want to name the child while pregnant, but that can change when they see the baby face to face and realize he isn’t a Jim, he’s a Stephen. Kind of like that.
What was the hardest scene for you to write? Which scene was your favorite to write?
Intimate scenes. They are my weak spot. I feel like I can never get them exactly right.
My favorite ones are when I’m describing something for the first time. When I introduce the reader to a new environment, object, or food, my goal is for the reader to feel the mist and sun on their skin. I want them to see in minute details what the character is looking at and taste the juice running down their cheeks as character bites into fruit.
What inspired your book/series?
The song, Lord of the Dance. Somehow, it was stuck in my head and my imagination took over. I pictured a king singing the song—a much more sinister version—while destroying a village of people who disobeyed him. At first, the story was going to be about him and how his reign ends, but I didn’t want to tell it from his perspective. That’s where Megan comes in.
What are you working on next?
Right now I’m finishing up DNA—Demons N Angels, a book about a woman named Evie who mysteriously gets pregnant. After a DNA test proves that her husband is not the father, her life becomes complicated.
People become possessed around Evie, telling her to kill the baby or protect it at all costs as she tries to rebuild her life after a heartbreaking divorce. Throughout the book, she realizes that her child might be a celestial being, but isn’t sure if it’s angelic or demonic.
It’s almost done, and I hope to have it on sale midsummer.
I’m also working on the third book in the Dalya series, title is undecided. It’s roughly 20,000 words, and I hope to have it out this fall.
What authors or books have influenced your writing?
There’s a few. I’d say Margaret Atwood, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Chuck Palahniuk are some of the biggest influencers. However, I’d like to think I’ve absorbed a little bit from every book I’ve read.
If you could live anywhere, in this world or fantasy, where would you live?
I’d love to live on a winery in southern Italy. The architecture is breath-taking and I love the small villages with cobblestone streets, knowing your local artisans by name and buying locally from them. There’s something really romantic and peaceful about that small village lifestyle that I hope to one day experience.
If I got to live in a fantasy world, it would be made of chocolate and it wouldn’t be frowned upon if I ate everything.
What is your favorite meal?
I’m a steak and potatoes kind of lady, but the steak needs a decadent brandy cream sauce and buttery garlic whipped potatoes.
Coffee or tea? Wine or beer?
A good cup of black tea with a little bit of sugar and milk is my go to in the morning. If I drink coffee, its half milk, and I don’t count how much sugar.
I love moscoto and fruit wines.
Describe yourself in three words.
Curious, Spaz, Sensible
My kids and I did a fun project recently that they really got into, I added a little water to Crayola washable paint, and we poured small amounts onto thick paper, then blew it around with straws. Granted, this can get messy in a hurry, but it's easy clean-up. After they dried, we turned them into friendly monsters, drawing eyes and fingers or funny appendages on them.
Vale Born Book 3 is DONE! I'll edit it once before I send it off to my editor, then more editing, then copy editing! I'll start that in August after I finish my July goal, which I'm more than halfway done with! My novella for the upcoming novella set Laura L. Hohman and I are working on together is shaping up to be a really fun read. Exciting/busy times!
ON MY SHELF
I recently finished Crown of Gilded Bones by Jennifer L. Armentrout, and what a ride it was! I admit that if I didn't have reader faith in her and her series (this is the third book of four) I would have DNF'd around 25% in. There was a lot of history being explored, a lot of it was really confusing and hard to keep track of. But, I pushed through and I'm really glad I did. Great fantasy series (with a lot of steam!) great adventure and shocking twists that made me say "No she didn't!" 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Now I'm reading...
Ashes and Blood by Katie Zaber!
I'm only about 10% through the book, but I'm loving it so far, it's a fantasy that reminds me of my own book in some ways: a portal fantasy with Fae, strong female protagonist, great action and adventure. I'm excited to spend some down time reading it!