Interview: Katheryn J. Avila – Our Write Side
Name: Katheryn J. Avila
Latest Release: Reckoning (The Breach Trilogy #1)
Katheryn J. Avila is a programmer by day, writer by night. A lover of all things supernatural and helpless romantic at heart, she spends most of her writing time coming up with stories that incorporate at least one of the two. So far, she’s only published one book, but she intends to publish more work in the future. She lives with her boyfriend and hopes someone finds a cure for allergies so they can have pets someday.
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1.What is your name (real or otherwise)?
Katheryn Johanna Avila
- Describe your writing style in three words.
Verbose, Emotional, Expressive
- How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. Probably a little over a decade, or so.
- Which type of writing challenges inspire you the most?
I love vague writing prompts, kind of like the Master Class series, where it’s more of a concept or idea than a straight prompt. Cutting word count is also fun, which is why I do so much flash fiction. It’s always been a challenge for me to be brief, so word limits are fun to work with, pushing me to get creative with the way I tell a story.
- Describe one way in which you could improve your writing.
My writing needs work when it comes to playing with different structures. I rely too much on first person and past tense, and have always wanted to improve how I write from the third person and other tenses. Widening my comfort zone is something I’d like to do at some point, and I can only do that if I get better at writing in other styles. When I have tried, I’ve found myself reverting back without even realizing, so it takes quite a bit of concentration and proof-reading to finish a piece. Practice makes perfect, though!
- What is the best writing advice you’ve ever been given?
The best writing advice I’ve ever been given is to keep the phrase “shitty first draft” in mind while I write. It wasn’t really a piece of advice anyone gave me, but a philosophy I picked up from a creative writing class, courtesy of the book Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Our professor had us read it and there was a section on basically not being so hard on yourself when your first draft isn’t perfection. It seems like such an obvious thing, but it’s hard to remember that when I’m wallowing in how awful I feel my writing is. We’re our own worst critics, so keeping that phrase in mind definitely helps me get through self-deprecation ruts. That phrase just really stuck out and I’ve carried it with me since.
- Who is your favorite author?
That’s a tough question – there’s so many. But as far as the one that has had the biggest influence on me as both a reader and a writer, it’ll always be J.K. Rowling. Her books are the reason I ever picked reading up as a hobby in the first place, and in turn inspired me to write. She’ll always hold a special place in my literature heart.
- How do you make time to write?
Sometimes, it feels impossible to make time. Some days I don’t, but most of the time I manage to sit down for at least an hour or two a day to write. Usually, that’s when I’ve found a prompt for a blog post. It’s much easier to make time to sit down and write with a prompt in mind and a clear goal. When it comes to finding time to work on other projects, like a novel, that’s a little harder. In those cases it’s more of an issue of motivation, though. I’ll always find something else that needs doing (dishes, cleaning, napping, TV). I’ve found that it’s easiest to find time when someone else holds me accountable – so once in a while I’ll tell my boyfriend to make sure I don’t go to bed until I’ve written an hour or something. It also helps to set up alarms and attempt to schedule my day around an hour that I’ve set aside for writing. That works, for the most part.
- When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
When I’m not writing, I’ll watch television, read, play video games, or work. I also spend an inordinate amount of time on the internet doing literally nothing. Facebook or Tumblr usually find a way to hook me in and before I know it I’ve spent two hours scrolling through blogs (I guess that counts as reading?). Other than that, I do enjoy the occasional Zumba session. I used to be a lot more disciplined about it, and I’ve recently been trying to get back into it. I actually really love dancing, and it’s a good way to unwind when my writing juices are running low.
- How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I usually discover eBooks through recommendations or other authors offering free copies for review. Review swaps have made up the vast majority of my most recent reads. Now and then something will pop out at me in a bookstore, too, and I’ll write it down to find in electronic format later.
- Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes! The first story I ever wrote was actually a very, very early draft of my first book. It started out as a story about a girl who discovers she can control fire. She encounters other element-users and adventure ensues. I never got particularly far in that story – maybe twenty pages – so it stayed incomplete until I scrapped it and bits and pieces of it eventually evolved into my book.
- What are your five favorite books, and why?
This list was almost impossible to come up with:
– Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling. Of all the books in the Harry Potter series, this was my favorite. There was just something about it that stuck out to me. I loved that it dealt more with Harry’s family than it did with Voldemort.
– Tithe by Holly Black. It’s a modernized fairy tale with a bad-boy love interest. I couldn’t help but fall in love with it when I read it in middle school. To this day, it still serves as inspiration for my writing. It was also my first brush with the idea of fairies as sinister beings. Before Tithe the extent of my fairy knowledge didn’t go past Disney movies. This one, and its sequel, Ironside, are two books I never get tired of going back to.
–Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink. This one is a recent addition to my favorites. I’ve been following the podcast for the last couple of years, so when the book came out I had to get it. Despite being about a weird town where all conspiracies are true and the supernatural is as regular as anything else, it felt very real to me. The writer manages to convey such a heartfelt and relatable story in the midst of an impossible setting and with impossible characters. Plus, it’s hilarious. I actually laughed out loud at various spots – something I don’t do with books often.
– Reckoning (Bloodline #2) by Kate Cary. Vampires! This one is actually part of a sequel series to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I’ve always been a sucker for vampires (no pun intended) and it’s even better when it’s a romance. It’s written in a journal format, so it’s really easy to get into the character’s heads, and I find myself frequently going back to this one. Unfortunately for me, there’s no final installment in sight. I can probably blame this book for keeping my love of vampires going strong. It also inadvertently inspired the title for my novel.
–The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I’ve never been one for historical fiction, but I couldn’t pass up reading a book from Death’s point of view. The approach was just so foreign to me, I was drawn in from the first line. He was a compelling narrator, brutally honest and trusting in his audience. I always thought it was pretty awesome how he emphasized the journey over the ending, too. This book is responsible for my love of spoilers. He spoils parts of the book chapters ahead of time, which was just amazing to me when I read it.
- Describe your desk/writing space:
My desk/writing space is basically anywhere I can sit down to write. Most of the time it’s a section of the couch I’ve claimed as my own by sitting wrapped in a blanket with my laptop and notebook. When it’s not the couch, it’s the kitchen table. Wherever it is, though, it always includes my laptop (even if I’m not using it) and my notebook. I’ll alternate between using the two, but a lot of the time I’m transcribing from my notebook onto my laptop, since I have a habit of carrying that notebook with me anywhere in case the mood or inspiration to write strikes. I’ll usually keep a drink nearby, and maybe a snack, too. My phone is also always a must. More often than not, my sketchpad will also be around to distract me.
- Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in a couple of places. I was born in Bogota, Colombia, and lived there until I was four. After that, we moved to the States, to West New York, NJ. Most of my childhood/teenage years were spent there, so it had the most influence in my writing. For the most part, it influenced my settings. When it comes to setting, I write what I know, so I always work in my environment. If I’m in the city, that’s where my characters are. When I was in high school, we moved to Hanover Twp, PA, which was mostly suburb – a huge contrast to the inner-city that was WNY. My settings changed, so I switched up how my characters lived and the types of environments they were from. Now, I tend to use all of my past experiences and vary my settings as much as I can.
- When did you first start writing?
I first started writing when I was around age twelve or thirteen.
- Do you prefer to write long stories, short, flash? What is easiest for you?
I’ve only semi-recently discovered a love for flash fiction. However, my flash fiction tends to become pieces in larger stories, so I’d have to say that I prefer long stories. I wish I could write shorter stories, but I never seem capable of getting everything I want to say into a shorter format. They start as short story ideas until the plot gets more intricate and they become novel-sized ideas. Lately, though, I’ve been giving serials a try, though those are still longer stories, aren’t they? Long stories definitely come much more easily to me than the rest.
- Share one writing goal you have yet to meet.
Finishing more than one original story. The only original story I’ve ever finished is the book I published, and since then I haven’t been able to finish another. Any other stories I’ve finished have been fan fiction, so I don’t count those. Here’s hoping I can meet that goal soon!
- What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
This is going to sound sadistic, but there’s something great about knowing my writing has made someone cry. Being able to provoke an emotional response in a reader is probably the most satisfying part of writing for me, after the actual act of putting a story down on paper.
- What do your fans mean to you?
Even though I write for myself, my fans mean a great deal to me. I love getting feedback and knowing that others are enjoying my work. They validate what I do, and keep me going when I feel like I can’t write another word.
- What are you working on next?
My next major project is Withered Legacy (The Breach Trilogy #2). It’s the sequel to Reckoning, and follows one of its secondary characters, Saxon, in his own adventure after the events of book one. I’ve also been working on a few serials on my blog that are basically fueled by weekly writing prompts. Currently, the one I’ve been updated most often is Secondhand Soul, which follows recently created demon Videl in her struggle to adjust to her new life. The other two are The Deal and Vampire’s Bride. Eventually, once the serials are done, I hope to flush them out into novel-length stories. I also work on fan fiction on the side.
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