By Kate E. Stephenson
In this second week of December 2012 (woohoo Holiday Season is here!), I hereby call to order the 11th meeting of Kate’s Book Club. Every week, we shall be reading a tome either (a) penned by an author named Kate or (b) that includes a character named Kate. If you missed our last meeting, no worries—check it out.
Club members, this week meet Kate Douglas.
A life-long California native, Kate Douglas has been lucky enough to call writing her career for most of her adult life, but it wasn’t until she discovered the world of the sexy paranormal that she really found her niche. As Kensington Publishing’s lead author for their Aphrodisia erotic romance imprint, she is currently working on her new Spirit Wild series set in the world of her popular Wolf Tales Chanku shapeshifters. Married for over forty years to her very own hero, Kate is mother to two amazing adults and “Dabba” to six perfect grandchildren. Kate gives credit for much of her success to the amazing cadre of generous and talented authors who have helped her over the years, and is a firm believer in the philosophy of “paying it forward.” Follow Kate’s howls on Twitter and Facebook or drop her an email; and find all her books here.
Now settle in for a fantastical ride as Kate answers all our questions:
Who named you Kate and why?
I named me Kate. My name is Katherine and I grew up Kathy. HATED it. Junior high and high school were in the early 1960s, the era of the “Chatty Cathy” doll. Score one against the name. Score two was the fact that I was number eight of seven other “Kathys”, all of whom had blonde hair and boobs. I had dark brown hair, was a little over 5’6”, weighed about 85 lbs and boobs were something other girls had. As soon as I moved far enough away that no one knew my nickname, I changed it to Kate. I’ve been Kate ever since, though my mother hated the name until the day she died. Said I sounded like a tugboat captain. Personally, I was thinking Kate Hepburn.
How did you become an author?
I think I’ve always been a writer—I started out writing commercials for a country/western radio station (KCEY) in Turlock, California, back in the early 1970s. I also drew a cartoon strip for mosquito control agencies nationwide for seventeen years, and that included writing newspaper public service articles and more radio spots. (Anyone remember “Skeeter Mosquito” booklets in school during the early 1980s?) I wrote some freelance stuff and then was a newspaper reporter on a small weekly paper in the mountains out of Fresno (The Mountain Press). But, before all that, back when I was pregnant with our son and working as a substitute teacher’s aide at the high school in Turlock, a friend gave me a Harlequin romance to read. It was Leopard in the Snow by Anne Mather. I loved the book, but the thing that stuck with me the most was that I realized I wanted to write books just like that one. It had a great story, but the thing I loved best was the happy ending. I am still a huge fan of happy endings!
Anyway, fast forward about eight years. We were living in Fresno and I had just been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. While I’m in remission now, at the time I had a neurologist who told me I’d be in a wheelchair before I was forty, and that meant finding some way to earn an income that didn’t require walking. Stressed to the max, one night I dreamed an entire story. Sounds bizarre, but I woke up in the middle of the night and wrote down as much as I could recall on one of those yellow legal pads. I still have it.
Rite of Passage has never been published, though I did enter the first three chapters in a writing contest and won first place. I was convinced I’d be published within the year. Little did I know! I finished the book and began submitting it to publishers, and I can honestly say I’ve been rejected by the best editors in the business. Finishing that story was the best feeling I’d ever had, though, and I got serious about my writing.
I didn’t have an agent, but I wasn’t really trying to get one then. I’d seen too many examples of “a bad agent is worse than no agent,” and without any means of figuring out who was a good agent, I spent a number of years writing, mailing manuscripts to editors who would not accept multiple submissions, waiting up to a year on the rejections that always came, while writing something else.
I discovered the new world of epublishing in 1998. By then I had a computer with limited dial-up Internet, but I submitted a story to Hard Shell Word Factory, one of the first of the pioneer epublishing houses. Luckily, they were also an honest one, since a number of epubs came and went, taking their authors’ careers with them. Honeysuckle Rose was my first published full-length romance.
Unfortunately, in 1999, very few people knew what an ebook was, so sales were depressingly low. I kept writing, though, and continued to publish with HSWF: On Wings of Love, Cowboy in My Pocket, and finally Last of the O’Rourkes, which was a spinoff of Honeysuckle Rose. I had to write that one—the heroine, Kat Malone, was a minor character in Honeysuckle Rose, and she wouldn’t shut up. I swear she sat on my shoulder and harassed me for years until I wrote her story.
Cowboy in My Pocket has been re-released as an ebook, and I’m bringing the other three out over the coming year. I think they’re all good stories, or I wouldn’t go through the hassle of editing and getting them up as self-pubbed ebooks, but since epublishing was such a small market when I began, they were never seen by most readers.
Still dreaming of a NY publishing contract, I finally got a wonderful agent on the strength of the manuscript for Last of the O’Rourkes. Jessica Faust had only recently started the BookEnds Literary Agency. She did her best to find a publisher for the story, but I think my aggressive, take-no-prisoners heroine and my food-critic hero with sexual-identity issues were a bit too over the top for the times. Harlequin was interested, but with conditions. “We love your kickass heroine and your sexy hero. Can you tone her down a bit, and what if you wrote him as a cowboy?”
Which is why it came out as an ebook for HSWF. In the meantime, I had discovered Ellora’s Cave Publishing in 2001. They were the very first dedicated to writing erotic romance. Not erotica, which is more the characters’ sexual journey, but real romance with the euphemistic bedroom door not only wide open, but with spotlights glaring. I had a short, somewhat erotic novella already written, so I sent it off to the editor at EC. Within the hour, I had an emailed acceptance. Lionheart released in December 2001, and in one month paid me more than I had earned with all my sales of Honeysuckle Rose. I wrote four more stories in the world I’d created for the lions of Mirat: Night of the Cat, Pride of Imar, Synergy and Bold Journey. A couple years ago, I wrote one more to tie up a few remaining threads—Best Friends Forever is only available as an ebook, though the first five are in print in two volumes: StarQuest 1 and StarQuest 2, available from Ellora’s Cave.
By 2004 I had just about given up on ever getting a publishing contract in New York. My erotic romances were doing well and, I was enjoying writing the really hot but still romantic paranormals. Then, in 2004, good friend Margaret Riley decided to open her own publishing house and she wanted something hot and over-the-top to launch Changeling Press. The first Wolf Tales novella, Stefan, was born. It was followed by Alexandria, Anton, Keisha, and The Gift, and readership was growing by leaps and bounds.
My agent asked me if I had anything hot she could show to editors in New York. I sent her those first five stories and Jessica got them in front of editor Audrey LaFehr at Kensington Publishing. Audrey loved them, but didn’t have an imprint where she could place them. She went directly to the head of the company, who authorized a new erotic line of books. Those first five novellas became the first Wolf Tales novel, and launched the Aphrodisia imprint. And that is how my career with New York finally began. The first book is in its 11th printing and the series ended up with a total of twelve novels and nine novellas. I am currently writing a spin-off series called Spirit Wild. Before the first one, Dark Wolf, comes out in May 2013, Kensington is bringing out all of the Chanku novellas which first appeared in print anthologies as single ebook releases. Those will start showing up in January.
What was the muse for your first completed/published book?
My first published book, Honeysuckle Rose, was not my first completed manuscript, and I vaguely recall it being inspired by a commercial I saw on TV, though I don’t remember which one. In fact, commercials have given me ideas for other books as well—68 & Climbing was a result of that old soda commercial where a bunch of secretaries are ogling construction workers on a project just outside their office window. My Wolf Tales Chanku were born after an Internet search about obscure wolf sub-species. The Chanku are a species of wolves native to the Tibetan steppe, and the minute I saw that name, I had my series.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently finishing copy edits for Dark Moon, the second story in my Wolf Tales second generation spinoff, the Spirit Wild series. I am absolutely loving the chance to get back to my Chanku “world.” I loved the characters from the first series, and many of them are reappearing in the new stories, though merely as secondary characters. The emphasis is all on the second generation and their lives in a world if humans were aware shapeshifters live among them. It’s giving me the chance to get more involved in the politics of essentially being an alien species that has first claim to Earth by virtue of discovery. They’re still discriminated against, but handling it well, and of course there’s that whole “libido rules” thing going on. They are definitely sexy stories!
What is your greatest accomplishment to date?
That would have to be our two kids, who are now adults with children of their own. My husband and I (we’ve been married over forty years and are still having a good time) were pretty involved parents, and I think we would both agree that raising two smart, funny, nice and truly interesting adults is probably the greatest thing we’ve ever done. Of course, the fact they’re currently raising smart, funny, nice and truly interesting grandkids for us is an even greater accomplishment.
What’s your favorite word?
Recently, and only for personal use it’s the F-bomb, usually said under my breath. For public use it’s “Thank you.” Two words, but a single thought.
What’s your least favorite word?
Who’s your favorite literary character?
Freckles, the hero from Gene Stratton Porter’s book by the same name. Freckles was a romance, but it was all about honor and integrity, and I try and put a bit of Freckles into every hero I write.
What’s your favorite quote?
Winston Churchill: “Never, never, never give up.” And another one of his: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
If you weren’t an author, what profession would you like to try?
Anthropologist. I double majored in English and Anthropology in college, and I loved everything about anthropology.
If you could do one thing in your life over, what would it be?
Spend more time talking with my dad. He was only 55 when he died of cancer, and he was such an interesting man. Smart, funny and very charismatic. Long after he died, we discovered he was also a man hiding secrets, among them the fact he wasn’t English as he’d always claimed. He was 100% Russian Jew, and my family name of Dent should have been Trelisky. Amazing what genealogy can turn up, but I’ve met cousins I never knew and have the proof in photos and such. Fascinating stuff.
And now my lovelies, it’s time to read! From Kate Douglas’ Dream Catchers, Book 2: Dream Unchained :
Mac drew his feet up under the blanket and tucked all that soft warmth around himself. “Damn that feels good. I think it’s even better than coffee.”
A moment later, Dink flopped down in the chair beside Mac’s, wrapped head to foot in another blanket. “I heard some rattling and clanking downstairs,” he said. “Sounds like your cook’s putting some fresh coffee on. I’ll get us some in a few minutes.”
Mac grunted in assent. He turned and glanced toward the sliding glass door, but Dink had closed it and the glare of the growing sunlight reflected off the glass.
He couldn’t see Zianne. “Is…?”
“She’s asleep. Still a squirrel. I left her wrapped in your jacket.”
“Thanks.” He sighed.
Mac rolled his head to the right and stared at Dink. “You’re kidding, right?”
Hell, no I’m not all right. “We’ll know in approximately two more days, I guess.”
Dink grunted again.
Two more days and Mac would know if all his efforts might actually pay off. And if they didn’t?
He sucked in a deep breath. Exhaled. “Cameron was scheduled to meet the last two Nyrians during his shift last night, which means that by now all of them should have access to functioning human bodies. The first group will be coming to Earth tonight—once they have their soulstones—as soon as it turns dark.”
“So what happens today?”
Mac glanced at Dink. There was none of the investigative reporter about him this morning. No, he just sounded like a very concerned friend. Right now, Mac figured he needed the friend more than the reporter. “Today a couple of the stronger Nyrians are going to show Finn and Morgan how to disincorporate and move through space.”
“Holy shit.” Whispered softly, more a prayer than a curse.
Mac shrugged. “That’s the only way to get them on the ship. Breaking down to molecular particles and traveling with a host Nyrian through space. Sounds good in theory.”
“I can’t believe you actually got volunteers.”
“Morgan Black and Finn O’Toole. Both good guys, physically strong, very sharp. The Gar shouldn’t be expecting an attack, but they’re always well-armed. According to Nattoch, the Nyrian elder who’s sort of their leader, the Gar carry weapons that can disrupt the Nyrians’ energy field. Doesn’t kill them, but can effectively immobilize them. It shouldn’t affect humans, though. Once Finn and Morgan arrive on board the ship, they’ll have to rematerialize and disarm the guards so the Nyrians can retrieve their soulstones.”
And Nyria help them, Zianne’s soulstone as well. She was dying. Would die within the next few hours without an infusion of power from one of her fellow Nyrians, but even their generous gifts of power couldn’t hold her here forever.
Not without her soulstone.
Mac sighed. So much could go wrong. So damned much.
Dink reached across the narrow gap that separated them, took hold of Mac’s hand and squeezed it tightly. “This is the one thing I hate most about being a reporter. Learning the plans, knowing the danger, and realizing there’s not a fucking thing I can do to alter the outcome.”
Mac squeezed back. “You’re here, Dink. That matters more than you realize.” He gazed into his friend’s silvery eyes, but there was too much emotion, too much to even consider right now.
Mac glanced away as the sun broke free of the horizon in a blinding blaze of orange and pink against a cerulean sky. It was easier to blame the tears in his eyes on the brilliant flash of sunlight shimmering off row after row of white satellite dishes, marching west across the array with inexorable certainty.
The sun would continue to rise, the days would pass, the world would go on.
But life? Not such a sure thing. Not anymore. This might be the last day for Zianne, but if things went wrong with their plan for rescuing her people, it could be the end of more than the few remaining Nyrians.
If they couldn’t stop the Gar, if the Nyrians were somehow compelled to continue powering their huge starcruiser, it could very well mark the end of everything, at least as far as Earth was concerned.
Seriously, how could that stop there! Well, you know where I’ll be… off to finish this book!
Kate’s Book Club is a column on Kate-book.com featuring interviews with authors named Kate, as well as reviews of books starring Kate characters. It runs on Kate-book.com every other Wednesday at 10:30am, and is written by the self-admitted bibliophile Kate E. Stephenson, who you should follow on Twitter here. Oh, and write to Kate to suggest authors and books we should read for future columns.