It wasn’t long ago that I first heard Kate read two of her pieces and I was instantly brought back in time. As a fan of ancient Greece and Rome I find myself falling in love with her characters along with the history that surrounds them.
Not only have we been awarded by Spider Road Press, but we both have pieces included in Approaching Footsteps which are definitely worth the read until her debut novel is released on Dec. 1 from Spider Road Press.
Even if historical fiction isn’t your thing the characters that Kate creates are so unique yet identifiable that you’ll have to find out what happens to the next.
So without further adieu I bring to you award-winning author Kate Spitzmiller.
Twenty Questions With…Kate Spitzmiller
- Every writer has that one book that made him or her want to be a writer, what’s yours? I think it would have to be a toss-up between Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor. Heart of Darkness taught me about the power of a single word, the weight just one word can carry, while Shipwrecked Sailor—a much shorter work—taught me about brevity and how much emotion and conflict and tension can be squeezed into a novella. They both taught me how important it is to write about the human condition.
- How old where you when you started writing? I don’t even remember. My Mom has stories I wrote in first or second grade. The first big project I remember writing formally was in eighth grade. It was for an assignment in social studies class. We were supposed to take on the persona of a representative from the Continental Congress and write a letter from their perspective. I wanted to write from the perspective of John Adams’ wife Abigail. I got a lot of grief from my teacher for that, because Abigail was a woman and not even at the Congress, but I fought my teacher on it and won out. I wrote a great letter!
- Name four authors that you’d love to have lunch with. Stephen King (definitely!), Joseph Conrad, James Michener, and Maya Angelou
- What would you eat? Well, I’m gluten intolerant, so something gluten-free. Maybe sushi. Or some nice mussels or New England clam chowder.
- How do you plot out your work? I’m a bit of a pantster, not a plotter. As an historical fiction writer, usually the scaffold of the story is there for me already, and I can just fill in the gaps with fictional aspects. But some of my best work has come from just having an end goal and then sitting down at the computer and letting the characters working it out on their own. For example, in my upcoming novel Companion of the Ash, I had two characters who had never met before but I needed them to become allies. They were already in an awkward position due to family issues. I had no idea how the conversation was going to go. So, I put them together in a room and just let them talk. The scene ended up being great. Sometimes you just have to let your characters lead the way.
- Do you write in the morning or evening? I usually get going around four or five o’clock in the afternoon and write until about midnight. I’m a night owl. Occasionally, if I’m working on something that has my head going a mile a minute, I’ll wake up early before work and write.
- Is there music on? Sometimes. It depends what I’m working on. I have a novel in the works that is set in Vietnam. When I’m working on that, I play Motown music for inspiration.
- What inspired your last story? Weirdly, one of my last published stories was inspired by a dream. I had a dream one night that my husband was a German spy during World War II and everyone hated me for it. I woke up and immediately took notes on the dream. The story, The Song of Saint George, ended up being about a woman who has to be convinced by British Intelligence that her husband is a spy. No one hates her (yet), but the basic element of her being married to a German spy is there.
- Name three books so good you wish you wrote them. I suppose it would be cheating if I listed three Outlander books, so I’ll say the first book in the Outlander series,Continental Drift by Russell Banks, and The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.
10. What television shows, movies, or albums do you believe are written well? I think Game of Thrones is exceptionally well written. If you watch the bonus material after each episode and hear what the show’s creators have to say about each episode, you get an even greater sense of the meaning behind the writing. It’s good stuff. As for movies, generally speaking, I think anything directed by Ridley Scott is written well. He has a habit it seems of getting great screenwriters. I particularly liked the writing in Gladiator andThe Martian. In music, I am a huge Eagles fan, mostly because of their lyrics. Don Henley and Glen Frey tell great stories with most of their songs. “Lyin’ Eyes” is my favorite. It’s a very sad and poignant tale about two people who love each other but who can only be together very briefly because of circumstance.
11. Which actor would you cast in the protagonist role of your most recent piece? For A Song of Saint George, I’d need a British actress for the role of Mrs. Ridley, so I might cast Sophie Turner fromGame of Thrones. She’d have to cut her hair, though, as the story is set during World War II.
12. Which of your pieces was the hardest to write? In one of my scenes in my upcoming novel, my main character is sexually assaulted. This was a very difficult scene to write from an emotional standpoint. As writers, we get very attached to out characters, and I hated putting her through that. She’d already been through hell, and it was just awful to write. But it was necessary for the story.
13. Which was the easiest? I wrote A Song of Saint George in an afternoon—probably three hours—with very little editing. It’s a short piece, and mostly dialogue, but it just seemed to really flow. It’s the easiest thing I’ve ever written.
14. Which of your pieces did readers ‘get’ when they told you their thoughts on it? I think The House of Special Purpose, which is my story about Olga, the oldest Romanov daughter during her last days before the family is executed by the Bolsheviks. Even people who didn’t know the original historical story “got it,” and I was even told by a few that they learned something from it. A lot of people said they cried at the end—so I suppose that means they really “got it.”
15. What are you working on now? I’m finishing up a novel set in the Roman Empire, 121 CE. It’s a historical with a romantic twist. I have one chapter to go and then the final edit. The novel is about two people—non-Romans—and their experiences as outsiders living within the Empire. There’s a lot of action and plot twists. I’ve done quite a bit of research for this novel, having traveled to Rome twice and northern England once to gather materials, notes, and photos of places and artifacts related to the time period and the story. Now I just need to get the novel finished!
- What story do you have to write before you die? Ever since high school, I’ve had an idea for a novel set during the Vietnam War. It’s been buzzing around in my head for months now, and I work on it every now and then. It’s going to be a huge project—Michener-sized. But I see it as my one big work. The entire story is already laid out in my head, I just need to get it down on paper. That’s the story I need to tell before I die.
- What’s your best fan story? I don’t actually have any fan stories.
- What sentence have you written that you feel encapsulates your style? From my Roman novel, in the epilogue, when the main character is describing the life she is living with her husband after their journey across the Roman Empire to freedom, she says: “Daman and Aeneas may both be men who traveled far and honored the will of the Fates, but Daman chose a different path in the end — the path out of darkness; the path of humanity and light.”
- Have you ever based characters off of real people? Other than my historical characters (like Olga Romanov), one character was based on a person I know. I did that once. S/he is to remain nameless.
- Who’s your favorite character? Andromache, the main character in my upcoming novel Companion of the Ash. I didn’t create her, Homer did, but he made her out to be weak and rather pathetic. My version of her is brave and tough and vulnerable all at the same time. She is also able to forgive. I admire her for that.
You can find out more about the author on their blog katespitzmiller.com and purchase their work in Spider Road Press’s Approaching Footsteps from Amazon.
Companion of the Ash releases December 1, 2018.
But if you can’t wait until then take a look at some great reads-