Interview: Kate James

KATE-JAMES-PHOTO-100x152Jen: Today we welcome Kate James are the first of our 4 stops for the Summer Lovin’ Tour. Kate, will you share a short bio with us?
Kate: Kate spent much of her childhood abroad before attending university in Canada. She built a successful business career, but her passion has always been literature. As a result, Kate turned her energy to her love of the written word. Kate’s goal is to entertain her readers with engaging stories featuring strong, likable characters. Kate has been honored with numerous awards for her writing. She and her husband, Ken, enjoy traveling and the outdoors with their beloved Labrador Retrievers.

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Jen: Please tell us a little about your newest release.
Kate: When I Found You, the third book in my K-9 trilogy, is set in San Diego, and the books tell the stories of three San Diego Police Department K-9 unit officers, their love interests and their police service dogs. I wanted the stories to have plots that dealt with emotionally-charged, current-day issues that readers would find intriguing. I considered the most common specializations of police service dogs and their handlers, and since the first and second books in the trilogy featured search and rescue, and narcotics detection respectively, for the third book, I chose explosives as the specialization of K-9 unit captain Logan O’Connor and his dog, Boomer.

When an unprecedented rash of security breaches at San Diego’s international airport is putting passengers at risk and bringing the competence of the airport’s chief of security, Ariana Atkins, into question, Logan and Boomer might be Ariana’s best, if not only, line of defense.

Jen: What age did you discover writing?  Tell us your call story.
Kate: I had first started writing when I was nineteen and in university. My career took off after I graduated and I never finished the two manuscripts that I had started. It was my husband who encouraged me to start writing again, and bought my first personal laptop for writing. I wrote the manuscript for my debut novel, Silver Linings, while still working full time. I was fortunate to have it acquired by a publisher. Although the publisher was small, thus didn’t have a large budget for marketing and promotions, they were a dream to work with both for editing and cover art/design. It also meant that my first book was in print and in book stores after only eighteen months from when I first started writing it! The experience gave me the opportunity to learn a lot about publishing, which I believe was invaluable in securing my contract with Harlequin.

I met my editor, Paula Eykelhof, at an author event where she was a speaker. We chatted afterwards and she gave me the opportunity to submit a proposal to her. The proposal was for a single title women’s fiction manuscript. While we were in discussions about that manuscript, she informed me that Heartwarming was looking for new authors and if I was interested in submitting a proposal, it could be a quicker way for us to work together. She sent me a couple of sample books. (Thank you Roz Denny Fox and Pamela Tracy for the terrific introduction to Heartwarming!)

I submitted a proposal and shortly thereafter I signed my first contract with Harlequin. I got “the call” while I was in Hong Kong on business.

Jen: Do you have a writing routine?
Kate: I can write just about anywhere, but I find I’m most productive early in the morning. I generally write scenes in order from my synopsis. If I find that I’m not progressing quickly through a particular scene, I may jump ahead. I do this for a couple of reasons. Inherently, I don’t like to waste time, and if I am belaboring the scene without making progress, the scene probably needs rethinking. If I jump ahead and finish the rest of the manuscript, I might find that it needed to be cut or altered anyway. Once my first (rough) draft is complete, I invariably add, remove, rework or reorder scenes before I venture to call it a completed first draft.

Jen: Is there a genre you’d like to write?  Is there one you’ll probably stay away from?  Why?
Kate: It’s often said that authors should write what they enjoy reading. My award-winning debut, Silver Linings (which I hope to re-release in the next year, since the original publisher has gone out of business), is women’s fiction. I hope to be able to write more women’s fiction in the future.

I like to try reading different genres either because an author interest me or as a form of research, but I mostly read women’s fiction . . . and, of course, my favorite Heartwarming authors!

Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?
Kate: I am frequently asked about how I come up with my story ideas and how much of what I write is based on my own knowledge and experiences rather than research. Writing about what I know or have experienced leads to a more genuine, believable story in my opinion. But to write convincing, diverse stories, there is always an element of research that is necessary. I am privileged to have a network of fascinating subject-matter experts I can draw on directly for research purposes, or to assist me in making connections, if needed.

Admittedly, the most fun I’ve had doing research is for my K-9 trilogy. My husband put me in touch with some of his law enforcement contacts. After obtaining the requisite security clearance and necessary approvals, I had the great pleasure of spending a considerable amount of time with PC Jim Hilton of Ontario’s York Regional Police.

PC Hilton is a K-9 expert and trainer, and is partnered with explosives detection dog, Max. PC Hilton was extremely generous with his time, knowledge and expertise, and I loved meeting Max.

PC Hilton was willing to put Max through some training exercises for me. Would you think a police service dog could scale a six-foot barricade or climb a ladder . . . conditions the dogs can often face in the field while on duty? I captured the next picture while Max was demonstrating his agility skills.

For all animal lovers, you’d be thrilled to see how enthusiastic and joyous Max is about doing his exercises. I was surprised to learn that Max’s positive reinforcement for a job well done is praise and a Kong toy—no treats.

PC Hilton shared with me some of the intricacies of the work he and Max are called upon to do, and the training exercises they undergo to ensure Max remains in top form. Did you know that K-9 unit officers and their dogs have one of the most dangerous jobs in law enforcement? Read one of the books in my K-9 trilogy to find out why!

Jen: What did you do to celebrate your first book?  Do you do anything to celebrate a sale, new contract or release?
Kate: First, I have to say that I am very, very fortunate that my husband isn’t just considerate and thoughtful, but he is also forgiving! For context, as I noted in responses to previous questions: 1) my husband got me started writing again by gifting me my first personal laptop; and 2) I was in Hong Kong when my editor advised me that I would be getting a contract.

Hong Kong happened to be the last stop on a five-country business trip that had me also visiting Istanbul, Dubai, Bangkok and China. It was a ten-day trip, with most of the travel occurring overnight, and time changes to adjust to at each stop. The time difference between Hong Kong was 13 hours. I left after a late afternoon meeting and when I arrived in Toronto, it was breakfast time for me, a meal I ate on the plane, as I was ravenous by then. By the time I got home, I was very tired, as I hadn’t slept much on the plane . . . or for most of the trip.

I had e-mailed my husband from Hong Kong to let him know the good news about the contract. When I walked into our home, there were candles everywhere, he’d made us a wonderful dinner, had a bottle of champagne on ice, and there was a beautifully wrapped package for me (a new laptop).

I really didn’t want to disappoint him by not eating when he’d gone to so much trouble, but I was full from having “breakfast” on the plane just before we landed. I was fairly certain if I tried to eat just to be polite, it wouldn’t have sat well in my stomach, and I was so tired that I could barely stand. As I said, I am very fortunate that my husband is such an understanding and forgiving person, because the evening didn’t turn out as he had planned.

That was the one and only celebration for a contract or book (perhaps understandably!!). Still, the terrific Hewlett-Packard Spectre laptop I’m currently working on was another gift from my husband!

Jen: What’s next for you?
Kate: Presently, I’m working on the first book of a new contract I recently signed with Harlequin. I don’t have a working title yet, but the story addresses a couple of hefty subjects: political corruption and emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is interesting in that if persistent it can be so insidious that even the most powerful, capable, self-confident women can fall victim to it. Needless to say, there is romance and a happy-ever-after!

For those readers who are enjoying my K-9 trilogy, there’s good news. Included in my new contract is a fourth book in the K-9 “trilogy.” I suppose we’ll have to start calling it the K-9 series from now on! This book will be the story of rookie K-9 unit officer, Shannon Clemens (who readers will get to know a little in When I Found You), and her search and rescue dog, Darwin. Shannon will meet the story’s hero when she’s dispatched to find a little boy who disappeared from his single father’s family’s campsite in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park near San Diego.

Thank you for hosting me on your blog! It’s been fun, and I look forward to visiting again.

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