The Tales of a Contemporary Romance Writer

I also edit, critique, and blog. So, please be nosy and look around.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Talkin' Tuesday with Kat O'Shea

 Good Morning everyone! I'd just like to say I'm sorry for my my absence in the last two weeks. Here in Western Massachusetts we've had sever weather that has caused unbelievable crazy high winds, tornadoes--something we never get--and blackouts. To say the last few weeks have been boring would be a lying! But, we are all safe, along with our friends and families. 

Okay! Today I have a treat for you all! The awesome Kat O'Shea is with us. She's a super woman and a powerhouse in the publishing world. I've had the honor of meeting her and sitting with her at a few conferences we both attended. (Actually, I didn't know it was her, at first, and when I found out I thought I was going to faint from excitement and embarrassment! I tried so hard to think if I said something stupid. LOL *wipes brow* Thank goodness I hadn't.) So, everyone please give a loud round of appologize for Ms. Kat O'Shea!

RR-What's you favorite read & series?
KO-It's difficult to choose just one, but Madeleine L'Engle's work touches something deep within my soul. The Wind in the Door and the rest in that series have classic battles of good vs. evil, but what I love most is that L'Engle's "good" characters are usually battling their own inner demons and weaknesses. One of my favorite takeaways (see lines below from Francis Thompson's poem) is from L'Engle'sTroubling a Star and shows the interconnectedness of everything in the Universe. I find the reverse of those lines hope-filled--even the tiniest action can make a difference and you never know how far the ripples will travel. 
"That thou canst not stir a flower
  Without troubling of a star"
 I really like that. *signs*

RR-What/who got you reading?
KO-Both my parents were avid readers, and I took to books from a very early age. I still remember my great grandmother sitting patiently beside me as I stumbled my way through the pages of an easy reader a dozen times or more in one sitting. She never lost her proud smile. 

RR-What is the hardest part about being a Editor-in-Chief?
KO-Writing rejection letters. I'm always deeply aware that every time I do, I'm crushing someone's dream.

RR-Actually, you're an editor at a few publishing houses. How the heck do you find time to go pee?
KO-Do you really want to know about my bathroom habits? ;-) Or should I assume you're asking about my time management skills? Staying up until 2 ...or 3...or sometimes 4 am, making lists and lists and more lists (current one has 203+ items on it), skipping all non-essential stuff (I don't think I've seen a TV show in years), and praying for a 30-hour day???
I found myself in the bathroom checking my email and answering them, once. That's when I decided that the kids might not leave me alone while in there, but work sure is going to! lol
RR-You were a grammar geek from the time you were young. I'm dyslexic and can't imagine! Do you find this natural skill to sometimes interfere when reading for pleasure? 
 KO-Almost always...  Oh, dear! Do you get to read for pleasure? I used to read 30 books a week for pleasure, now I read for work instead. Even when I'm reading for pleasure, that little mental gremlin usually starts dancing on my shoulder and pointing out mistakes (or possible improvements) from the very first page.
I do read for pleasure. Sometimes when there is an akward sentence I have a lot of trouble. But, mostly I've trained my brain over the years. LOL When I'm tried, you should see what I write!

RR-Is there any thing we all would be shocked to know about you?
KO-How 'bout that I've eaten deep-fried water beetles (and loved them) and silkworms (blech) and sand worms (too rubbery)... I can't pass up an opportunity to try something new and different.
NO WAY! That's like totally awesome!

RR-We've attended two conferences together and I've noticed you're a watcher. I mean, you really can see your brain processing everything going on around you. Were you always like that, or did you have some awesome wild days as a teen where you were up on the table with a lamp shade on your head? (I put that
cliche' in there just for you!) LOL
KO-I started out pretty vocal in first grade. Going through the school system cured me of talking, and then I discovered writing...
For Fun
Red & sexy or Black & mysterious?
Both. What can I say? I have a split personality. I also like pink and fluffy. And... 

Wine with cheese or Beer with TV?
Neither... water with lemon and a book wins every time. 

Paperback or ebooks?
Both. Although I'm still a bit partial to paper--for reading and drawing.

Crazy kitty cat or fat and lazy?
Me or my cat? Again, I'd have to say both. LOL

Great cook or master at ordering take out?
I used to love to cook, but that went onto the nonessential list. Most nights I order in from chez hubby. That's one way he's been very supportive. 

Sometimes when people send me emails there are some really horrible errors. Heeheehee. I edit them in Red and send them back. Do you ever do that?
I'm sometimes tempted, especially on query letters. I've never done that to anyone, though, except an ex-boss. He asked for a quick read thru to catch errors. I sent it back with about 16 pages of corrections and suggestions. Do note the "ex" in front of boss. I realized too late that he was asking for validation of his cleverness not an in-depth critique. Oh, well... I went on to bigger and better things.

Back to Work
RR-What color are your bunny slippers? I used to have gray elephant ones and they were named Ellie and Nellie. :)
KO-Pink, of course. Elephants are good too. 

RR-Are you insanely organized or are there notes written on everything?
KO-I think "insanely" is the operative word here. No matter how well-organized I think I am, I've almost always forgotten something. 

RR-What's the biggest misconception people have about you & your editing career?
KO-That editors are sitting there waiting to reject people. Or that we eat and roast writers for breakfast. 
The greatest struggle I have is that most people don't see me as a person, but a title. When I meet new people, especially at conferences, I often turn my name tag upside down. I find people treat me normally until they realize I'm an editor. Once they do, they either fawn over me, buttonhole me, or get so tongue-tied they can't say a word. Very few people can get beyond the word "editor." 
I was completely tongue-tied. But, at least I had Lorettajo there to ease the tension until I regrouped myself. :) 

RR-Does your husband ever get whiny and in need of attention? (Mine will walk in the room and huff really loud if I've been working like crazy all day.)
KO-Sounds familiar. I've asked mine not to make noise because it disturbs my concentration, so he'll just stand in the doorway and stare, and stare...until he gets my attention. Or he'll suddenly decide the house needs to be vacuumed. It's a little hard to ignore him when he's pushing a vacuum around in the room where I'm working. It's a rather clever ploy, because am I going to tell him to stop cleaning??

RR-What part of writing makes you want to pull your hair out and scream like a banshee?
KO-In my personal writing (yeah, I'm a writer as well as an editor), I love dialogue and plotting, but I hate writing description. 

RR-What's the pet-peeve that makes you want to beat something/someone?
KO-I cringe whenever I see what I call intruders. When writers use phrases such as she saw, he watched, she remembered, he felt, or she touched, they're putting a filter between the character and the reader. Readers are not experiencing the heroine/hero’s actions; the author is telling/describing what’s happening. Because this is a romance blog, it’s the difference between:

She touched the mat of curls on his chest. 
Her fingers tangled in the mat of curls on his chest.

She felt his muscled chest press against her back as he leaned over.
His muscled chest pressed against her back as he leaned over.

I'm sure you can see that the second ones are much more sensual and immediate. They drop readers into the action and make their pulses race (cliched but true). I wish I could convince writers to follow one simple rule: Any time you’re tempted to write one of those words, drop yourself into the middle of the action and experience the scene through your character’s eyes, touch it with her hands. 
I'm going to copy/paste/print this and hang it over my work desk for a reminder. Thank you! :)

RR-Any advice for aspiring writers?
KO-In addition to the advice above and SHOW, DON'T TELL and READ, READ, READ, I'd say the best advice I can give is to eliminate 99% of the backstory and internal thought, especially in the first three or four chapters. Almost every beginner manuscript I read would be more marketable if the author chopped off the first three to five chapters. This surgery might be painful, but it will eliminate a lot of backstory and make readers and editors more interested in your manuscript. And always, always let a skilled writer or editor go over your work before you send it in. 
How true!

RR-You'll be teaching two online courses this summer. Please do some shameless promotion!
KO-I'll be teaching at Savvy Authors from June 27 - July 24. You can join Editing with an Editor to learn how to revise and polish your manuscript. If you're struggling with structuring a completed manuscript, if you're stuck partway through one and have no idea where to go next, or if you'd like to write a novel, but you're not sure how to handle such a daunting task, I'll be teaching Story Structure from  Aug 1 - Aug 28, 2011. The online workshops only cost $15 each if you're a savvy member, $25 if you're not. You can find out more about the classes at or at Savvy
Thank you so much for being here Kat. You're always fun to talk to and I love picking at you brain. :) 
Next week I'll have Sonya Clark who's a lover of things that go bump in the night!

Have a Sparkling Day everyone!
Rebecca Rose


  1. Rebecca, so enjoyed getting into the mind of a publisher/editor. I am glad to see I am not the only one who edits emails and sends them back! I love editing. This was a fun interview, as always!

  2. A great, fun interview, Rebecca. One thing Kat has down is "voice"! Please pass along our thanks for her time!

  3. Loved this fun interview, Rebecca and Kat! Kat, you sound like a woman of many moods, like me. :) Thanks for the tips, and the info on the workshops!

  4. Loved this interview. It's good to get into the brain of an editor, and to know they're not living to reject us, lol. This interview was a lot of fun, and also filled with some crucial tips.


  5. Donna, I love that you come to visit me. Actually, I'm starting to think you're a stacker! LOL
    Kathryn, Cate and Stacy, thank you for stopping by my home. Kat is a wonderful person and before I met her I thought editors were evil people with warts who enjoyed messing with writers. Thank goodness I was wrong!

  6. Becc, you are too funny! This interview was so enjoyable. I loved seeing this side of Kat.