What motivated you to be a writer?
I’ve always loved writing. I was a freak of nature during college in that my most favorite part about school was writing essays, and after I graduated, I missed writing. I started taking creative writing classes when I was 25, and then just kept writing for myself. Ultimately, after I felt like I’d finally found confidence in my voice, I sought out publication.
What ARE you?
I am half-Greek, half-Russian-Jewish, born and raised in Chicago, in a culturally and religiously mixed marriage. My father was an immigrant who survived World War II; he was sixteen-years old when the Nazis invaded Greece, and he was forced to flee from his home and fight with the guerrilla movement against the German and Italian invaders. He left Greece in 1952 when he was twenty-eight years old - he didn’t know a word of English. My mother, a teacher, was the daughter of Jewish immigrants who fled Russia in 1913. Neither of them knew English when they arrived (my grandmother was seven and my grandfather was thirteen); even after they became citizens, they lived in fear of being discovered and deported for their liberal philosophical beliefs. They had me when they were older, and they died too early. (I was 17 when my dad died, 30 when my mom died.)
I am also: a writer (obviously), a college English teacher, a proud mother, a happy wife, a really good friend. I am also: bisexual, a native Chicagoan, an adopted Angeleno, a gardener, a cook, a practitioner and teacher of yoga, an everyday walker (10K woot!), a sometimes poet, and an eternal optimist.
Did you go to school to be a writer? If so, which one?
Not technically. I hold a B.A. in English Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a M.A. in English from the University of California, Irvine. I do not have an MFA. I have taken classes via UCLA Extension and Litreactor – many of which were online.
What are the most important things to consider if I want to make writing a career?
As a career, finding a way to stay nurtured creatively – to keep it your passion – but also finding a way to pay bills. I’m extremely fortunate that I have a day job that I love – teaching English (composition, literature, and creative writing) at a community college. I get to spend all day thinking about and talking about writing. What could be better?
In your opinion, is writing a good full time career to have? Would you suggest having another job on the side?
Yes, most writers I know have another job. Some go into teaching or the entertainment industry. I love to teach – it was my first love – so I’m lucky in that way.
What advice would you give to someone going into the writing field?
READ. A lot. Both in the genre/style you want to publish in and ABOUT writing – all aspects – the writing process, the publishing process, etc. There are hundreds of blog posts about the writing life, etc. and I read them obsessively to understand what I had to do to get published.
Also, WRITE a lot, of course. Just keep writing, no matter what, even if it’s a journal for yourself where you write a little bit everyday. And keep submitting – the rejections are difficult at first, but it gets easier.
What’s the thing you love most about writing?
Playing with words, struggling with character and plot, discovering new insights about myself or about life, structuring a story, seeing how something that exists in images in my mind takes shape on the page. I love being in the chair, writing.
From your experience, what are some pros and cons about writing?
Pros: the ability to express myself, the writing community (especially Kidlit/YA writers) are extremely nice, the pride I take in my writing, the fact that I get to read and write for a living
Cons: rejection is hard, writing is hard, it can be difficult on your physical body as you get older (sitting in a chair for so long à aches and pains/ carpal tunnel, etc. and that’s partly why I commit to my yoga practice), not enough time to write
What is the most difficult thing about publishing a book?
First, writing it. Once you’ve written a book that you feel you’re ready to publish, the difficult part is getting used to the constant rejection that is absolutely an inevitable part of the process. First, you have to query agents, and then the literary agent is the one who submits to publishers. It can take a long time, and it involves a lot of waiting. I was actually lucky – it was about ten months from writing the first pages my book to signing with my agent, and then about six months from sending out to publishers and having my book being sold. From writing to publication, it will be about 2.5 years. That being said, I’ve been writing for over fifteen years, including finishing a full-length manuscript before this one that took me four years to write and that will never see the light of day.
What inspired you to write HOW TO BE BRAVE?
My father passed away when I was seventeen, and my mother passed away when I was thirty. My daughter was ten months old when my mother died, and I found myself sandwiched between the death of my best friend and the presence of this new life. It was a dark and confusing time – I wanted to drown in my grief but also knew I had to keep myself afloat for the sake of my new baby. That’s when I turned to writing. On my darkest days, my husband would tell me to take time for myself – to go for walks, yoga, etc. – but more often than not, I would find myself at the library, writing.
HOW TO BE BRAVE specifically started as a thought experiment to see what my relationship with my dad would have been like had my mom died first. After I started writing, Georgia became her own character with her own struggles. While there might be pieces of my own story in the book, it’s really Georgia’s story, and hers alone.
Did you design the cover for HOW TO BE BRAVE?
The cover was designed by the amazing Olga Grlic (of Eleanor and Park and Everyone Rise fame!) The title font is custom lettering designed by Olga especially for the book!
The girl on the cover doesn’t look like Georgia. Did you choose her? Who is she?
Writers don’t have much input on the covers. I do know that the publisher had a difficult time finding a model on stock photo who was both curvy and *not* shown on a scale trying to lose weight – and that is a real problem. That being said, at the time of publication with the limited options available, I was pleased they found someone with Georgia’s boldness (and curly hair.) I’m also a big supporter of new sites like Mosaic Stock Photo, which are trying to offer photos “in a wide range of ethnicities, body types, and ages” for publishers to choose from.
Copyright 2018 by E. Katherine Kottaras