AND THE WINNERS ARE…Libby Middelson (Rescue at Inspiration Point) and Anita Bradshaw (Hearts, Dead and Alive). Thanks to the neighbor’s kitty for helping pick the winners (we threw all the folded up pieces of papers with the names on them on the floor and the first two he sniffed are our winners)! I’ll be in touch, so check your spam filters! And thanks, everyone for playing. There’ll be more authors on the summer blast tour. Got one lined up for next Friday…WOOOOO!
Hey, kids! Welcome to the continuing summer blast tour! Today we’ve got author Kate McLachlan joining us here at Women and Words. And yes, she will be giving away TWO books. More on those in a minute.
If you want in on the giveaway, leave a comment below in which you state, clearly, that you’d like to be entered in the drawing. Please include your email address in the comment fill-out form, but NOT in the body of the comment. The merry elves in the back won’t share it. Don’t worry. We’ll do the drawing at 11 PM Eastern Standard Time (U.S.) tonight (that is, Friday August 3rd).
And PLEASE check back at Women and Words, on THIS post to find out if you won the drawing. I notify winners within 30 minutes of the drawing, and if my email goes into your spam filter, you’re not going to get that email. But if you check back and see that you won and you haven’t heard from me, then you’ll know to check your spam box. (Note to reader Jean Murphy–please see THIS). All rightie!
First person drawn gets a copy of Rescue at Inspiration Point and the second person drawn gets Hearts, Dead and Alive.
So let’s find out about Kate’s books
Kate McLachlan is based in eastern Washington. She taught in public schools for 14 years then got a wild hair and ended up in law school where, sadly, she learned that legalese is not necessarily the creative outlet she hoped, so she writes fiction to scratch that particular itch.
Her novels include her first, Rip Van Dyke, the winner of 2 Goldies:
Who knew Jill’s time-travel machine really worked? Well, it did, and Van is transported 20 years into the future, ending up in 2008 where she finds the partner she left in 1988 didn’t weather her disappearance well. So does Van wait for Jill to fix her time machine and send her back? Or does she try to make life work in 2008? And what does she do about sexy Bennie, whose advances were off-limits in 1988? Those decisions take a back seat to the ones she faces when secret agents learn of her time jump. . .
source: katemclachlan.com (re-sized here)
And here’s the sequel, Rescue at Inspiration Point (UP FOR A GIVEAWAY!)
Second in McLachlan’s time-travel series. In this one, Van agrees to play a hostage at a local prison for a training exercise. Only it turns out not to be a training exercise. Jill sends Bennie back to 1974 to find out more about the hostage-taker and his crime, but will she only make things worse? Hope you win this one so you can find out!
source: katemclachlan.com (re-sized here)
This one is ALSO UP FOR A GIVEAWAY!
Fifth-grade teacher Kimberly Wayland comes across a human heart in a dumpster, which leads to a whole bunch of questions. Like, what was she doing in the dumpster in the first place? And why didn’t she tell the police right away? And whose heart is this, anyway? So she sets out to solve this mystery, and ends up finding something out about her own heart in the process. OOOO! Sounds intriguing! If you win it, you’ll find out what happens!
source: katemclachlan.com (re-sized here)
So there you go. Now let’s get crackin’ with Kate!
ANDI: Hi, Kate! Thanks so much for stopping by Women and Words. Get settled, and let me grill — uh –ask you a few questions. 😀
So how did you get started in writing? Is it something you’ve always done or something you thought about but didn’t indulge until later in life?
KATE: The first book I ‘wrote’ was an activity book. I made it for my sister for Christmas, and I was about eight. I stapled pages together and put a different activity on each page: a dot-to-dot picture on one page, a find the hidden pictures on another, a jigsaw puzzle made from a picture I colored myself, cut into interesting jigsaw shapes, and put into a homemade envelope that I stapled to a page. I don’t think there was any actual writing in that book, though, except for possibly a direction or two: “Connect the dots” or “Find the hidden pictures.” I don’t think I ever actually gave that book to my sister. I was so excited about the activities that I probably did them all myself days before Christmas.
ANDI: Super cool. I loved activity books back in the day. Were you into the whole journaling thing at all?
KATE: I started my first diary when I was twelve. It was a thin pink leather-bound book with a tiny silver key to lock it. I kept it under my mattress and wrote brutally honest things in it that I no longer recall.
ANDI: Which may be for the best. Heh.
KATE: I come from a family of nine children, and privacy was a precious commodity. One day I went to write and saw that someone had opened it and read it. I was devastated. My trust was gone. I tore out all the pages, destroyed them, and didn’t keep a diary or journal again for years.
ANDI: Ouch! Let’s move on from these painful memories to other types of writing, shall we?
KATE: My first fiction writing that I recall was in response to an assignment given by my 8th grade history teacher. We were studying slavery, and she told us to write a story from the point of view of a slave. I immediately imagined a slave girl just my age who was given an opportunity to escape on the Underground Railroad, but it meant leaving her family and loved ones and she wasn’t sure she was brave enough to do it. I ran home and started writing and wrote 12 or 14 pages, far more than anyone else in my class, and I wanted to keep writing, but it was due the next day so I couldn’t. I think it was about that time that I knew I wanted to be a writer.
ANDI: Wow. That’s a great history assignment. And it opened some creative floodgates in you, as well.
KATE: Life intervenes, though.
ANDI: Don’t I know it. There you are, writing a few stories in 8th grade and then BOOM you’re in college trying to get a paper done.
KATE: I wrote lots of stories in high school about me and my friends, but after that I started the busy process of becoming an adult and working my way through college. I didn’t get back to writing until several years after I had become a teacher, when I had my masters degree and really did get some summers off. I wrote a novel a year over the course of about the next four years. I had a marvelous time doing it. I shared my books with some of my co-workers, sisters, and friends, but I had no success in getting them published. They were “straight” novels. At that time, I hadn’t yet realized that I was a lesbian. I wasn’t able then to really be intimate with my characters for the same reason I was never able to get a relationship with a man off the ground. The feelings just weren’t there.
ANDI: I wrote “straight” at first, too, but my women characters were generally as bad-ass if not moreso bad-ass than the male characters, who ended up being arm candy if nothing else. And I definitely seemed to have a better rapport writing women than men at the time. Funny how that worked out. . .
KATE: Eventually I did realize that I was a lesbian and, about the same time, decided to go to law school. I didn’t decide to stop writing, but it’s nearly impossible to devote much time or energy to writing fiction when you’re a law student or a new lawyer. It wasn’t until after I had a few years of lawyering under my belt that I was able to write again. By then, I’d discovered the feelings in my own life (and my wife!) that allowed me to become intimate with my characters.
ANDI: Speaking of your career path. . .you went from teaching in the public schools to lawyering. How did that shift come about and how have both career tracks informed your writing?
KATE: I had always wanted to be a teacher. When I was young I considered being a lawyer too, but I was very shy and nearly incapable of confrontation, so I thought being a lawyer wasn’t really a good fit.
ANDI: Famous last words! 😀 So what’d you teach?
KATE: I taught mostly middle school, 5th-8th grades, for fourteen years, and I really did love teaching. There are many reasons I give for why I left teaching to enter law school: the overemphasis on standardized testing; burnout caused by kids that age; a desire for intellectual stimulation. Those are all true reasons, but the main reason I quit teaching is because I had finally realized I was a lesbian, and I did not want to live in a closet.
ANDI: And too often, many of us who identify as LGBTQ and teach K-12 have to make that choice, which is terrible. It’s either follow your calling or follow your soul, the two not necessarily mutually exclusive. Or if you follow the calling, you learn to bury other aspects of the soul, and often to the latter’s detriment.
KATE: It was in 1999 that I decided to leave teaching. I taught in a conservative eastern Washington school district, and I couldn’t imagine being out while teaching there. At that time, at least in that area, homosexuality was still equated in people’s minds with pedophilia. In fact, a year or two later, when I was a law student, I outed myself via e-mail to one of my former co-workers, one whom I’d thought of as open-minded and a very good friend. She responded by saying that she respected my right to be a lesbian but that she didn’t want me to be around her daughters. We’re no longer friends.
ANDI: I’m so sorry to hear that.
KATE: I thought then, and I still think today, that middle school is a very dangerous age to teach. Kids that age are so volatile and unpredictable. They are old enough to realize the power they have but they’re too young to fully understand the consequences of their actions. At that time, one wrong word from one bitter student could ruin my career, regardless of whether there was any evidence to back it up. I couldn’t live in that kind of fear, so I abandoned my career instead.
I think things have changed since then. I really hope they have. I tried to capture the change in my novel, Hearts, Dead and Alive. The main character is a 5th grade teacher who had been involuntarily outed to the community. Her sexual orientation, though pivotal to the mystery in the book, is a much smaller issue to the school and the community than she thought it would be. Less, in fact, than it would have been just a few years earlier. But the damage of living in the closet so long has some lingering effects.
ANDI: And I’m glad you tackled that in that book. I think it’s important, especially for younger readers, to understand how bad it was (and still is in some areas), how far we’ve come, but how far we still have to go.
KATE: So I decided to become a lawyer. My years as a teacher and as a lawyer have both informed my writing in more ways that I can count. I taught for 14 years, which means quite a few people passed through my life that way. Hey, everyone’s fodder. It doesn’t matter that they were children and I write primarily about adults. Adults are just children grown up, right? One thing I think all teachers do, and probably all parents too, is imagine what sort of adults these children will grow up to be. The reverse is true, too. When I see stories on the news about adults who do incredibly good or bad things, I wonder what sort of child that person was when he or she was in the 5th grade.
Every one of my characters was a 5th grader once. All I have to do is capture the essence of that child, and I can create the adult.
ANDI: Now that is an approach I hadn’t considered. As kids, we are influenced by so many things around us, including the adults in our lives, but to think of adults as grown-up kids — I’m going to have to ponder that, because I really like that approach.
KATE: Lawyering has informed my writing in a very different way. My work is not as emotionally charged. Lawyers are at least one step removed from the emotions clanging about in a case. If the lawyer represents the state, which is what I did, you’re even further removed than that. But I’ve gleaned a lot of plot fodder in my second career.
During my first few years out of law school, I represented the Department of Corrections against civil rights lawsuits filed by prisoners. The prisoners generally represented themselves, so I would have to go into the prisons to meet with them there. I met murderers, rapists, child molesters, and psychopaths. I also met prisoners who were victims of their own stupidity and ignorance, and frequently prisoners who were victims of their left-over desperate desire to be popular and well-liked (remind you of middle-schoolers?) It all becomes fodder.
ANDI: I told someone the other day that nobody enters this world without baggage. As soon as you’re out of the birth canal, you have baggage. Your luggage starts getting packed at that point, because you’re basically forced out into a whole new world and culture, with all new sights, sounds, and sensations. Birth is a giant case of culture shock, and how you deal with it from then on can come to define you later in life. That’s my latest theory, anyway. [Kate is giving me a “hmmm” look that has a dash of “WTF” in it. Not that I blame her.] And boy, do we get a pile of baggage from elementary school through high school.
KATE: I also had some pretty hilarious experiences in prison, such as the mock plane crash that I describe in chapter 1 of Rescue at Inspiration Point. 90% of that experience was true!
ANDI: Dang it, Kate, you can’t leave us hanging like that! Now I have to come out there and get the full story! (Oh, darn. I’ll have to go to Washington State. How sad for me.) In terms of travel, I enjoy the time travel element of your books Rip Van Dyke and Inspiration Point, mostly because your characters aren’t going too far back or too far forward. They’re on a continuum of years that I’ve lived, and because your characters are present/living on that continuum, you explore how they interact with each other as essentially unchanged (the time traveler[s]) and the other characters, as either older or younger. Where did the idea for Rip Van Dyke come from?
KATE: I write about relationships. The time-travel is secondary, a tool to explore the relationships. The Rip series is about a group of women and their relationships with each other. By having the characters travel a relatively short span of time – twenty years in Rip Van Dyke, fourteen in Rescue at Inspiration Point, the characters get to meet each other at different ages and stages of their lives.
ANDI: Which is something that provides a great opportunity for exploring characterization, too.
KATE: In Rip Van Dyke, one of the themes I explored was, simply, love. What does it really mean to love someone? We vow, when we marry, to love through sickness and health, for richer for poorer, until death do we part. But what about for older or for younger? In Rip, Van travels ahead in time and meets her lover, who is now 70 years old. What does that do to the vows Van took with Patsy when they were both in their 40s? Does she still love Patsy now that Patsy is 70? Is Patsy even the same person she was when she was 50? Is Van cheating on the 70-year-old Patsy when she takes a new lover?
I don’t know the answers to these questions. It’s just something to explore. A similar sort of time-travel continuum occurred in The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. The time-traveler in that book first met his wife when she was a little girl. No, that’s not right. She first met him when she was a little girl. He first met her when they were young adults. He travelled back and forth in time and met her at different times in their lives.
ANDI: Holy time paradoxes, Batman!
KATE: Time travel is frankly mind-boggling to me. It seems like it should work, but the how of it can explode your brain if you think too hard about it.
ANDI: And there’s always the “what happens if you meet yourself” issue. Yikes. Speaking of time, Rescue at Inspiration Point goes from 1988 back to 1974, the year of Expo ’74 (the World’s Fair in Spokane). You pay homage to this event, and send one of your characters back in time to track a villain. In a sense, you’re traveling through your own past. What was it about the Expo that stuck with you until you’d write about it years later?
KATE: I thought Expo 74 was so boring!
ANDI: LOL Well, there you go! Don’t make assumptions, readers!
KATE: The pavilions were full of educational presentations, and I was fourteen. It’s a pivotal event in Spokane history, though, and those who lived here then talk about it all the time. I kept hearing how all these other people, including my wife, had such wonderful rip-roaring times there, and I wondered how I could have had such a different experience than they did.
So, after talking it over with friends and doing a little research, I figured out that I failed to appreciate Expo 74 because: (1) I didn’t have any money; (2) I had to baby-sit my little sisters; (3) I didn’t have any friends (I prefer to say now that I was “between friends” that summer, but it is pathetically true that I didn’t have any during Expo summer); (4) I wasn’t interested in boys and was too clueless to be interested in girls.
ANDI: So can we say that maybe you kinda blocked it out a bit and that it WAS a big event for you in its suckage? 😀
KATE: Bennie [character in Inspiration Point] was the same age I was in 1974. I’m nothing like Bennie (in case anyone was wondering), [oh, we WERE, Kate!] but I gave her a similarly boring experience at Expo when she was fourteen, and then I sent her back there again when she was 28. It was a plot device, of course, to resolve the little problem of the hostage situation going on in 1988, but it was also a chance for Bennie and me to experience Expo ’74 all over again and perhaps appreciate it a little better the second time around. It worked! I had a much better time the second time.
ANDI: Note to self: If something sucked in your memory, research it and write about it through somebody else’s eyes and maybe you’ll reduce the suckage level. Hmm. Anyway. The characters in Rip Van Dyke are in their 50s in 1988, which makes them in their 70s (with the exception of Van, who time-traveled forward) in 2008. I’m reminded of a recent blog fellow RCE author Reneé Bess did about a debate on a Yahoo list regarding older characters in lesfic. Some people, she said, rejected the idea of writing older characters, especially in romance. Clearly, you’re not one who subscribes to that view. So tell us a bit more about writing women in their 50s and beyond. What are some of the challenges and what are some of the rewards?
KATE: I’m a little bit obsessed about aging, to tell you the truth. I didn’t enjoy my teens much. My twenties and thirties were a little better, but I was in my forties before I really hit my stride. I’m three years into my fifties now and have never had so much fun! I can’t even imagine how great it will be to be sixty or seventy or eighty. That’s I lie. I can imagine it, and that’s why I don’t have any problem writing about it.
ANDI: Maybe we should write ourselves in our teens and twenties through another character’s eyes to reduce the suckage!
KATE: I didn’t even think about the fact that I was writing about older women when I wrote Rip Van Dyke. You asked me earlier about how I got the idea for Rip Van Dyke, and I didn’t really answer you. The thing is, it came to me in a dream – literally. When I woke up, I knew I had to write it as a book. I added a lot to the dream to make it a whole book, but the elements that were in the dream were set in concrete. It never occurred to me to change them, and I don’t think I could have if I’d been asked to. For example, Jill’s time-travel machine was inside the trailer mounted on her little pick-up truck. Why? Because that’s the way it was in the dream. Jill’s RIP machine is central to every RIP book. I could as easily rip out my own wisdom teeth as change that fact. The same is true with the ages of the characters. The aging of the characters is what the book is about.
ANDI: I’d agree. I got a sense of this metaphor in the book. The actual time travel that Van did versus the aging that the other characters did, which is also a form of time travel.
KATE: I had fun writing about Patsy and Jill and Inez, who all were 70 in 1988. I wanted very much to show that their characters were not defined by their ages. Inez has a crush on a nun and wonders if she can convince her to sideswipe her vows and go on a date with her. How fun is that? Jill supplements her Social Security by washing windows and house-sitting and every other little chore she can think of, and it never even occurs to her that she can’t do those things. And, of course, there are her relationship issues with Kendra. Patsy’s character is much grimmer, but even she gets around town by riding her bicycle. She’s limited, but not because of her age. I could have taken the book farther and made the characters older. Maybe someday I’ll visit them in their eighties and see how they’re getting along.
ANDI: I loved the nun subplot. And I’m sure some of our readers will totally relate to that. Your latest novel, Hearts, Dead and Alive, is not part of the Rip Van Dyke series, but it incorporates similar elements. Quirky characters, humor, and a whodunit (or rather, “whose heart is this in the dumpster that I found when I was totally in here doing something I probably should not have been doing”). Where did the idea for this book come from? A late night watching CSI and drinking the last of the bourbon from that 1974 Expo bottle you’ve got on your website? Or what?
KATE: Isn’t that a great bourbon bottle?
ANDI: Truly. And I’m going to assume that you acquired it on your metaphorical SECOND visit to the Expo. Heh.
KATE: I started Hearts, Dead and Alive about fifteen years ago. I was still teaching and was just on the cusp of figuring out I was a lesbian. I don’t remember where the idea of the heart in the dumpster came from, but it’s about the only part of the book I didn’t change when I picked it up to rewrite it a couple of years ago.
ANDI: Heart in a dumpster? I’m pretty sure I heard that song in a dive country bar in Nashville. Anyway, fifteen years? And you were at odds with your identity. Or rather, in the midst of figuring things out. Did that reflect in the first incarnation of the manuscript?
KATE: That book was a mess! When I started the book, I thought I was straight, and my main character thought she was as well. We had a nice little love interest going with another (male) teacher, and the plot was well in hand. Then the heart was discovered in the dumpster and the police came around, and all of a sudden my straight little protagonist found herself lusting after the female police detective who came to question her. Where the hell did that come from?
ANDI: Don’t you hate it when your characters come out before you do? Clearly, she was trying to set an example for you. I’m going to guess it worked. . .?
KATE: The angst my character went through was very good for me, as the author, since it helped me explore my feelings, but it was terrible for the manuscript. There are plenty of coming out books out there where the character figures out her sexual orientation during the course of the book, but it shouldn’t be a surprise to the author.
ANDI: Clearly, your character seems to have known what she was doing. And sometimes, you’ve got to let a manuscript take its own path before the direction becomes clear to you.
KATE: I gutted the original manuscript, kept the main plot, and added the intimacy to the characters that I discussed earlier, and it worked out a lot better.
ANDI: Along those lines, what’s your writing process? That is, do you listen to music? Do you have a special space where your writing occurs? Do you have a set routine? Do you have a time travel machine in your back yard and you use it to go back to 1988 and 1974 to make sure your details are just right? Inquiring minds wanna know!
KATE: You figured out my secret! I was hoping to keep that time travel machine to myself for a little while longer, but oh well.
ANDI: Here, put the Expo bourbon bottle down. 😉
KATE: My writing process evolves all the time. When I started writing, it was during my summers off when I was a teacher. I lived alone, and my office was in my living room. I would sit down every day, immerse myself in what I was writing, and write for several hours. I lived and breathed the book I was writing, and after three months I would have a finished work. Because that’s the way I wrote, I thought that was the only way I could write.
When I switched careers, I lost those summer vacations, and around the same time I fell in love with the woman who would become my wife, and I no longer lived alone. I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to write again.
ANDI: Sometimes life takes a little precedence.
KATE: But then I dreamed about RIP. Necessity is the mother of invention. (You can quote me on that.) The need to write the book was so strong, I had to figure out how to fit writing into my busy life. I learned to write on the weekends, on vacations, while a passenger in the car on road trips. I still prefer long stretches of solitude, but what I prefer and what I get are two different things. That said, I’m not one of those people who writes every day. I do have a day job, which already requires me to write every day. I just don’t feel like writing when I get home.
ANDI: That’s something many writers deal with — getting the writing in around the other stuff. I tend to treat mine like a workout. It has to get done every day. Now, there are days it doesn’t happen and I don’t kick myself about that because sometimes, other things take precedence. I get back to it the next day. Do you have a secret writing bat cave?
KATE: I have an office in the basement where I do most of my writing, and my wife understands that sometimes I need uninterrupted time. I try to claim a chunk of time, usually 4-5 hours, on at least one weekend day. Sometimes I get to write on Saturday and Sunday, but just as often I don’t get to write at all, so on average I write about 52 days out of the year. I try to write a book a year, so you can see I can’t waste any time when I do sit down at the computer! No music while writing for this girl.
ANDI: Tell us something not many people know about you. Like a hobby or something (as long as you don’t have to kill us for knowing).
KATE: My main hobby is writing, so I won’t have to kill you for knowing that!
KATE: Okay, here’s something new. When I first got together with Tonie, the woman who would become my wife, she watched sports on TV all the time! I wasn’t interested in sports at all, but I wanted to share something that was obviously so important to her. I asked her to pick one sport for me to follow with her. She picked women’s basketball.
It took me nearly a year to realize I’d been hoodwinked. Football, baseball, men’s basketball — they all have a season, and then it’s over. Women’s basketball, though, NEVER ENDS! The college season starts in November and runs through the first week of April. In May the WNBA season starts and lasts through September. There are only 3-4 weeks in the spring and about 6 weeks in the fall when there isn’t women’s basketball.
ANDI: Sounds like Tonie knew EXACTLY what she was doing. And there is not a dang thing wrong with some women’s b-ball.
KATE: Fortunately, I sucked in women’s basketball like a sponge sucking in water. In fact, Tonie says she created a monster. I especially like the college season. We got season tickets for the Gonzaga women’s games. We go to every single game, travel to away games when we can, gear ourselves out in Zags apparel, and go wild at the games. But now that a couple of our Zags women have made it into the WNBA, I’m starting to enjoy those games more too, though it’s tough with the closest team nearly 300 miles away.
ANDI: Um, Tonie? Did you think this was coming? LOL
KATE: Oh, and a lot of people don’t realize I was a pretty decent basketball player once myself. In the 6th and 7th grade, I was on the St. Ann’s basketball team and we took home a trophy! It was the consolation prize for never winning a game in 10 years but still coming back with a team. But hey, it was a trophy!
ANDI: Absolutely. I played basketball in high school, and it sounds like our record was like yours. We didn’t get a trophy, however, so I now feel deprived! This might be one of those instances where I write my basketball career through another character’s eyes and have a better time of it the second time around. . .
So what’s next in the writing pipeline for you? What can your readers look forward to?
KATE: I’m currently finishing up another stand-alone book, a historical quasi-mystery. It’s not really a mystery because you know all along who done it, you just don’t know why. It takes place in an Idaho silver mining town in 1896 and has a working title of Murder and the Hurdy-Gurdy Girl.
ANDI: Super awesome-ness, Kate! I’m a historian whose specialties include the American West, so I’m definitely looking forward to this one. Anything else? Because I know writers always have things up their sleeves.
KATE: I also am working on the third book in the RIP series, tentatively titled Return of an Impetuous Pilot. It involves the same cast of characters as the other RIP books, with the addition of a time-traveling Amelia Earhart.
ANDI: STOP! JUST STOP! That’s one of my OTHER history buff areas! Women and flight! And I have to wait for this one, too! ARGH!
KATE: Beyond that, I’m in the early stages of plotting a mystery in the style of Agatha Christie. It’s too soon to say much more about that, though.
ANDI: And there you have it, readers. That’s what Kate’s up to, after mercilessly teasing us with those awesome new projects. All right, Kate. I’m gonna let you go because I want you to get crackin’ on those books, for purely selfish reasons!
KATE: Thanks for asking such fun questions and letting me ramble on about the stuff I love to talk about!
ANDI: Sure thing and come by any time! All right, readers. There you go! And if you want in on the drawing, state that in a comment below.
Happy Friday and good luck!