Kat Caldwell grew up mostly in Wisconsin, where she learned what it was like to live in an area where there were more cows than people. Being highly allergic to cows, horses and the things they eat (namely hay), she spent many days inside reading, and soon found a love for making up her own stories. Though life’s challenges made publishing her stories longer in coming than she hoped in the beginning, she is extremely grateful for the ability to do so now. You can usually catch Kat writing in the lobby of a dance or karate studio, cooking for her three daughters and husband, or possibly tossing a water balloon around out back.
When did you start writing? How has your style changed since then (if at all)?
I literally started writing around seven years old. I would sit in my closet and rewrite books I had just read, but with better endings (in my opinion). I started writing poetry around 11 and wrote a two-page-long poem for my pastor’s newborn baby that he had almost lost when I was twelve. From middle school to high school I wrote short stories and poems all the time. I filled pages with them. Some I still have. When I was nineteen I started writing my first novel.
At nineteen I was determined to write the next Catcher in the Rye or Great Gatsby. I wanted it to be deep and angsty and something that made you really think. I don’t think I ever defined what the reader would think about, I just wanted to be that author that was in her New York Apartment and just knew more about the world than everyone else. That’s how I see it now, although back then I guess I just wanted to be in the know, on the scene. I wanted people to either love or hate my novels, but to have strong feelings about them. Now, I just want to write the stories that are within me. I would love to end up on the New York Times Bestsellers list, but I’m not aiming for anything in particular, except to write the story inside of me that won’t let me sleep. I assume the reader is out there somewhere.
What makes you/your stories different from other writers?
I guess all of our stories are a bit of the same and a bit different. As an author, I refuse to stay in a category. The idea of being a certain ‘type’ of author kept me paralyzed for years, thinking I would disappoint fans. I was told I would never have a fan base if I just wrote whatever I wanted. But I need to write what I know. I’ve moved around a lot; I’ve lived in four different countries; my life is full of people who don’t look like me, who don’t think like me and who grew up in a different country than me, so perhaps those things make my stories different. I always have people in them that you might not think I would know anything about if you think I’m just a girl from Wisconsin.
What are your three top tips for aspiring writers?
- Be disciplined about your craft. Stop thinking that you have to wait for inspiration. Set specific times of the day or within the week and stick to it.
- Be determined to take criticism well. That is just a mindset that you will need to develop. You don’t have to take everyone’s advice or criticism to heart, but once you put stuff out in the public, the public is free to judge it.
- Write what you know and what’s inside of you instead of trying to follow the passing fad that will get you to the top. Your stories will have more depth if you do.
What’s your typical writing process?
I get a scene in my head that I can’t let go of and just have to get it out on paper. Once that scene is out I pull on it from all angles. I tend to over-write my stories and then have to go back and cut a lot out, but that’s just how I do it. I need to develop the character fully in front of me. I did that with my first book (that is no longer available. Someday I might bring it out again). I did it with my second, Stepping Across the Desert, and with the two I’m finishing now. The only one that I didn’t do that with was An Audience with the King. That was started as a short story, with the scene where she goes to see the King, but then I realized I needed to set it all up and eventually it become a full novel – a shorter one than my others, but a full one nonetheless. When I’m focused on writing I set a goal of 1500 words a day and stick to it as much as life will allow. Even staying up late to do it. I don’t read other books while writing anymore and I tend to only listen to music that my characters would. Otherwise I find it influences the way I write.
What do you find hardest about being a writer?
Making a living from it. I spent years thinking I could write books and sell them to a publisher and then sit down to write another, etc. That isn’t so anymore. At least, not for me. It’s been a long journey of realizing I needed to build a brand, build relationships with people on social media and in life and trust God to do the rest. I’ve been working around the clock the last year to really learn marketing and social media insights and brand-building. It took me that long to figure out it was what I needed to do! I can’t just be an author, I need to be a package deal. So I feel like I’m starting late, being 37, but I’ve never been more fulfilled and happier in it. I have a pace and a purpose and lots of goals. But it is difficult to make enough money for my husband to retire early!
What are you reading at the moment?
I was reading a lot of marketing books this year, but I just started Cherry. It’s a debut novel by Nico Walker. The cover has a quote by the Washington Post saying, ‘A miracle of literary serendipity, a triumph.’ Well, I just had to read it after seeing that quote. It’s the type of review twenty-year-old me would have swooned to receive.
If you could only eat one breakfast food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Irish soda bread with real butter and blackberry jam. Or Irish brown bread. I gained so much weight during my year in Northern Ireland, but it was so delicious. Now I have to be healthier, nearing 40 and all.
What’s something that no one would expect about you?
That I once played piano well enough to write out an original song and win a city-wide contest with it. I no longer play well at all.
You can find Kat on Facebook (katcaldwell.writer), Instagram (katcaldwell.author) and on Goodreads. For more than just books, please join Kat in her podcast, Pencils and Lipstick. You can find it wherever you find your podcast, both on Apple and Android.