Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
My name is Paul Kater, a 52 year old writer and IT consultant.
Tell us (briefly) about you…
I live in the Netherlands. Despite having a decent feeling for languages I did not get to make that my work, as there was not much demand for Dutch-speaking translators/interpreters, so I went into the IT business as a programmer and several other occupations you can find in that realm.
Before I started publishing something for real I wrote and co-wrote stories on an amateur writers’ mailinglist. Someone who read my first story about Hilda the Wicked Witch kept nagging me to publish that for the world and after a few months I caved and published that first booklet. Until recently I have never written a story in Dutch. How odd is that for a Dutchman?
…and a bit about what you’ve written…
My most famous heroine is Hilda the Wicked Witch, whom I mentioned before. She is not a nasty or mean witch, but one with a mind of her own. Rules only apply to her if they coincide with her intentions to set wrongs to right. So far 9 Hilda books have found their way into the world, the tenth (“Magic on the Rocks”) is on the brink of making it.
I also wrote a few steampunk books, 2 sets of short stories about Lily Marin, a singer with an alter ego she doesn’t want the world to know, and a book called Bactine, about an intergalactic soldier who is sent off to a very odd (steampunk) world where he gets to fight real pirates and evil ship-owners.
…and what you’re working on right now.
At this moment I am writing far too many things. First off there’s the 11th Hilda book. Then there is a proper novel about Lily Marin. A few years ago I started a detective which I am trying to revive and get done, and finally there’s a science fiction story I suddenly thought up. That’s a strange thing because I am writing that in Dutch and in English at the same time. It’s fascinating to do, but at times also quite confusing.
I am also writing something called Rubanna of which I am not sure where it goes, and the sequel to “Bactine”. Then finally there is the second children’s book, the sequel to Charisma the Young Witch.
What are your earliest book-related memories?
Those are from Dutch children’s books you probably never heard of. “Peter Bell”, about a small kid from Rotterdam who is constantly running into trouble despite his heart of gold, and “The boys from the Chameleon”, about two boys from Friesland (a Dutch province) who cobble together their own boat called the Chameleon. And from even further back there is “Pinkeltje”, about a tiny man the size of a pinky, who interacts with the writer of the books. They were very cute.
What are your three favorite books?
Oh gods, that again. Why only three?? *grin*
I would put the Game of Thrones books here (as 1 book), by George R.R. Martin, Dune by Frank Herbert, and Tshai the Mad Planet, by Jack Vance.
How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
Usually I read 2 or 3. Sometimes more. Now I am reading “Song of the Fairy Queen” by Valerie Douglas, “Sherdan’s Prophecy” by Jess Mountifield, “Darwinia” by Robert Charles Wilson, and I am proof-reading a children’s book called “Wizard’s pair” for a fellow writer called James Eggebeen.
Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
am in another world, and good luck getting me out of it before I’m ready.
To re-read or not to re-read that is the question. Definitely re-read. Not everything, but several books are begging for that as there is so much in them that it’s impossible to get everything out of them in the first read.
How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
That depends on the person recommending it. If I know s/he has quite the same taste that I have, I don’t hesitate. Otherwise I’ll first have a look to discover if it’s worth the time and expense to buy and read it.
How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
That depends on the book. I know many people with many tastes. When I think someone could be interested in something I’ve read, I’ll certainly point them towards it. The rest is up to them.
What do you look for in a good book?
Movement and real characters. I don’t like flat people in a story, they need to develop and have a background. I also don’t like idle chatter or too much detailing of environments and places. That becomes boring quite quickly for me.
Why do you write?
To get my creativity out of me. I have a very vivid imagination, many ideas bubble up (saw the list of things I am writing?) If I don’t have writing to “relieve” myself of that, I’d go very crazy.
If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
I’d probably try to do something with music.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Literally everywhere. I can see something that triggers me, hear a snip of conversation, see an image or a landscape. Often people inspire me. The way they are, act, behave, think. People are fascinating, there are no 2 alike.
What has writing taught you about yourself?
Quite a few things. Most importantly it taught me that I can actually do this (something I had never believed) because people tell me they love my writing, and that I have the patience to do this (people usually have no idea how much time this writing eats up!).
How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
At first most people joked about it, some told me I was wasting my time on that and that I could put it to better use. Now I am becoming a bit better known and some people have read my books (and admitted they liked them), there is a clear change in attitude. Some of the biggest jokers are now quite the supporters.
Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
I think stereotypes originated because of real people. They just don’t apply to everyone. Some writers are recluses, not going out or anywhere as long as they are writing. Others need the breaks, the outside and the interaction with people to get fresh ideas. There is no accounting for how a writer gets her or his work done, be it stereotypical or not. As long as it works for the person in question, that’s the main thing.
What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
I’d say the problem of understanding what makes a good book is the biggest. Anyone can write stuff on many pages, but that doesn’t make a book a good book. Don’t be convinced your book will sell just like that. Quality is important, the more as there are so many people coming into the writing arena every week.
Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
Hmmm. I don’t think they were actual mistakes, merely misjudgements. At first I did not think people would read my books so I did not pay much attention to a few things that I am fanatic about these days. Reworks, an editor, beta readers, things and people like that. On the other hand that shows that there is a line of improvement in my work, I think.
Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
Not at the moment. I am happy with what I do, writing my stories, enjoying the feedback from fans, and I am extremely proud that I was asked to join the Alexandria Publishing Group because of the quality of my work. I could not ask for more at this point in my life as far as books and writing goes.
How do you deal with your fan base?
I am honestly still amazed that I have fans. I call them Hilda’s fans, Lily’s fans, the fans of Daniel and Rayko. All of them characters in my books. I’m just the writer, the mediator between the stories and the people who enjoy them. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s wonderful to be in touch with them. Twitter, Google+ and Facebook, as well as my website are great tools for that. I think a writer should be accessible for his readers so she or he can learn what they like and what not. Sometimes that helps in deciding where to lead the next story.
Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me
that I don’t like beer. (I’m a wine person.)
Anything else we should know?
Perhaps people want to know more about me. For that I have a website at http://www.paulkater.com. There they can find a list of books I have written. And if they want to get in touch with me, then I think my facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/paul.kater.author is the easiest place to start.
Thank you for this interview!