A Conversation with Katelynn Kazemzadeh

It was a quiet September Saturday when I connected with Canadian author, Katelynn Kazemzadeh, over Skype to discuss writing process. It was early still and we both grabbed respectively mugs of Earl Gray. Kate is currently on her way to finishing her first novel, I’ll Keep Your Secret Safe and I was eager to learn more about it. Kate and I first met months ago through the online writing group, Writeblr Connects, while we all get to know each other and chat often about the act of writing and our processes, often what we’re writing remains pretty mysterious.

So when we sat down to talk, I had to ask, “What are you working on exactly?”

Kate smiled. She said, “My main work in progress is I’ll Keep Your Secret Safe. I’ve been working on it about two years.” I’ll Keep Your Secret Safe is a fan fiction novel, set in an alternate universe, part of the Fairy Tail fandom, and is currently being released in chapters.

“I was inspired to take the fake dating trope and flip it on its head. I just thought why hasn’t this been done?” Kate said. This novel follows the character Lyon, who in this novel, is gay and the story revolves around friendship between him and his friend Juvia. He’s been picked on, he’s characteristically flamboyant, and he asks his friend Juvia to be his fake girlfriend. “She’s a great friend. She has his back and becomes his knight in shining armor,” Kate added. Outside of just their friendship, I’ll Keep Your Secret Safe also explores Lyon’s relationship with his step-brother, Gray. Lyon and Gray work to mend a difficult relationship, while Lyon’s fake girlfriend Juvia begins to take an interest him. “There’s a bit of a romantic subplot,” Kate said.

Next, I dared to ask, “Is this your only work in progress?” If anything, I know we writers are famous for having several on-going novels all at once. But Kate said, “I really try to focus on one project at a time. Though I do have a next book – Winter’s Mourning.” Kate described to me a novel still in worldbuilding stages, though clearly already well thought out and unique. “The concept was originally inspired by Greek mythology,” Kate said. “I began to think about why Hades, the Greek God of Death, never had any children. I imagined him as the god of death without the ability to create life. This concept kind of spiraled into a story about the son of a god of death. Originally interested in the deals and the bartering the god of death would have to do to have a son. It’s still heavily being researched.”

As for the setting, Kate said, “I really wanted to divert from the standard medieval forests and castles. I’m more into the temples.”  For this project, Kate is researching Mediterranean, Sumerian, African, Polynesian cultures and even drawing from East Asian influences. The setting will be inspired by water, ocean, and islands. “I’m creating my own Pantheon,” she said with a laugh.

From there, we moved into talking about process. I wanted to know, what’s gone into writing these novels?  Kate said, “When writing I’ll Keep Your Secret Safe, I just sat down for NaNoWriMo and said, ‘let’s do this.’ I just started writing and kept going.” Before I could even ask about Winter’s Mourning, Kate said, “With Winter’s Mourning, it’s going to be a little bit more research intensive. I still need to build my Pantheon.” Every story acts a little differently. Some are slow to write and others come more easily.

I asked, “Do you recommend trying NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) to start a project like that?” For those of you unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo, it is an online competition that runs for the full month of November, where entering competitors push themselves to write 50,000 words in one month. It comes out to be 1,667 words per day.  

“I’ve done NaNoWriMo a few times,” Kate said. “The first year was rough.” She told me that she ended up stopping shortly into her first season for a family emergency. Though when she describes her second year around, she announced proudly, “I won.” And she’s won a few times since.  Outside of the November season, NaNoWriMo sponsors a few other, similar events, with a more flexible word count goal. “I’ve done the camps a few times and I like to set goals of 10,000 – 20,000 a month. I think that’s a good amount. You don’t get burned out that way like you do at the end of NaNoWriMo. By December, I’m so burnt, I can’t write. I only edit in December.”

When I asked Kate if she plans on entering the competition this year, she said, “Yes, though I’m going to split it.” 50,000 words is a lot, so Kate has found a new solution to getting there without risking the December writing burn-out. “I’m splitting it with friends three ways: twenty thousand, twenty thousand, and then ten thousand.”

Switching gears a little, I had a few remaining questions I’d wanted to squeeze in. First, because I love to talk about writing advice, I asked, “What advice do you have for someone who is just starting out and trying to learn more about the craft?”

“Honestly, [writing’s] an intense experience.” Kate said, “Write what you love. There will be days where you hate it, where it’ll make you pull your hair. You can take breaks, but it should be something you’ll want to keep coming back to. There will be days where it’s crap and who cares if it’s crap, sometimes you have to write the crap to figure out how to write it better. There are going to be scenes and chapters that you hate and there will be scenes and chapters that you love. Don’t give up on it.”

“It’s so true,” I said, taking a moment to make sure I’d taken down every word. Writing is an intense experience and sometimes don’t give up is just the thing you need to hear. “What about inspiration? What inspired you to get started?”

“Everything,” Kate said quite seriously.  “I’ll read a prompt and it’ll start me down a slippery slope into world building. Little stories suddenly become whole worlds and I’m like… great. Good job. I’ll read a book and have an idea or see words on a page and think of something. Someone will say ‘wouldn’t this be cool,’ and I think, yeah it would and right from there I’m already thinking of a scene. Anything. Everything.”  

“You’re lucky,” I told her, laughing.

“Sometimes the plot bunnies get out of control,” Kate said.

See more of what Kate’s working on over on her Aww, Muffin

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