My guest today is Kathrin Hutson. Hello, and welcome to Writing in the Modern Age! It’s such a pleasure to have you here.
Hi! Thank you for inviting me to share my latest book with your blog readers!
Oh, of course! It's an honor.
Can you give us a brief, one or two sentence description of your book? When did it come out? Where can we get it?
The Witching Vault, Book 1 in the Accessory to Magic series: An apprentice witch with a criminal past inherits a magical bank that can think for itself, and the clientele are almost as dangerous as what's inside their safety deposit boxes.
I'm so excited for this new Dark Urban Fantasy series, and The Witching Vault released yesterday on December 10th. So it's very, very new! Currently, the ebook version of the Accessory to Magic series is available only on Amazon and through Amazon's Kindle Unlimited platform, though the paperbacks are now available at all major retailers worldwide.
I started writing on the morning of my tenth birthday, after about two weeks of having a reoccurring nightmare about my favorite movie at the time, Fern Gully. I loved the movie but hated the ending and tried every night to change the ending, but it never turned out the way I wanted. So when I woke up on my birthday, it occurred to me that this was what writers and storytellers did. If they wanted to see a different outcome for their characters or the story as a whole, they just...wrote it. I took that very much to heart and ended up writing a completely unrelated story for the first time later that day. No, I never rewrote the ending to that movie, but I discovered a love for writing that quickly grew far beyond my already intense love of reading.
This is a bit of a two-parter, I suppose. The short answer is yes, I write fiction novels full-time. The long answer is that most of the novels I write are for my clients, because my "day job" is ghostwriting. I still consider myself so very fortunate every single day to be able to sit down at my desk and just write fiction for a living. For me, just the act of writing is such an incredible thing, to get into the "flow state" and lose all sense of time and space and even myself as I'm putting down these words and building worlds and characters.
I've also managed to work my way up over the last two years to the point where I can now continue ghostwriting and supporting my family while also being able to put a lot more time into my own books, which is why the Accessory to Magic series is a pretty big deal for me. The series is already plotted and mapped out completely, and all five books should be out before the end of 2021.
I have never written a detailed plot outline for a book, mostly because I've found that trying to do so dulls the excitement of actually writing the story. My favorite part of the process is in seeing how all the pieces come together and using my creativity in the moment to find new plot twists, discover the characters, and reveal solutions to whatever they're facing. I used to be a complete pantser 100%, but writing "beats" for my ghostwriting projects became essential if I wanted to write faster and take on more books and series that way. So I do a little of both. Mostly, I write a basic plot summary with all major elements included, between 4,500 and 6,500 words, and I use that as my "outline" as I'm writing. Some things change, of course, which still keeps it fun. But it definitely helps for speed, because I've already laid out a basic map for where I'm going next, and all I have to focus on after that is filling in the pieces and making them fit together.
Yep. Definitely a hard choice!
I'd have to say it's a tie between two supporting characters, actually. From my New Adult Dark Fantasy trilogy The Unclaimed, I'd have to pick Aelis. She's one of the Nateru people (basically my spin on shapeshifters) and is such a fierce, loyal, undaunted, and perfectly suited companion for the main character Kherron. She only appears in Book 3, Sacrament of Dehlyn, but she takes on a huge supporting role and is the only character in the books who finally understand where Kherron's been and why the choices he has to make are so difficult. Because she spent her own nightmarish timelessness within the void as well.
The second of my tie for favorite characters would be Tabitha Belmont, the scryer witch in The Witching Vault, owner of Winthrop & Dirledge Security Banking, and Jessica's new boss for a day and a half. I won't give any spoilers here about what happens to Tabitha, but she was just so much fun to write. She's an eccentric old lady running the magical bank who can see the future and read others' minds but can't remember Jessica's name to save her life. I love writing characters who have prescient knowledge of other characters or crucially important information to the storyline, but there has to be a balance to that "awesome power", right? So...Tabitha is a bit of a nut, and most people just think she's crazy. Jessica definitely does, until Tabitha's dark predictions actually come true and Jessica has to pay attention to all the clues the scryer witch left for her to figure out on her own.
This is a fun question!
I work very long weekdays (12-13 hours) to get everything done during the week so I can spend all day on the weekends with my family. And I don't touch the computer on the weekends. I get up at 4:00 a.m., go through my morning routine to get ready for the day with a cup or something caffeinated, a short meditation, and writing out my to-do list for the day. Then I sit down at 5:00 to start writing.
I've been working with one client of mine for the last two years now, and while fiction comes most naturally and easily to me, the projects I work with her on are actually non-fiction. Every morning, I start my writing day with one hour of working on projects for her. Out of all the non-fiction ghostwriting work I've done, these particular projects for this one client are the easiest and most seamless I've ever encountered. The words just flow out, and that gets me "primed" for writing all the other projects I have during any given day. (We've also become really close friends over the last two years, and I'm sure having that kind of a relationship mixed into the business aspect helps as well).
Then I tackle the fiction. I write in 30-minute sprints for three hours straight, with 5-minute breaks in between. Then I take anywhere from 45-60 minutes as a break to eat, go for a walk, exercise, meditate, or do whatever my body feels like it needs to do. And then it's just rinse and repeat for the rest of the day until I'm done at 6:00 p.m. My word-count goals for the day range anywhere from 11,000 to 15,000, and I'm averaging about 13,000 right now. Any time left over (and there usually is some) goes into scheduling social media posts, replying emails, and handling all the administrative stuff that goes into being an Indie Author. That's not my favorite part, but it has to be done. I leave it for the end of the day when my brain's shutting down after so much writing, because it just doesn't take the same kind of brainpower.
The Accessory to Magic series is my first time writing Urban Fantasy under my own name, though I've been ghostwriting in this genre for two and a half years now. Honestly, I never thought I'd have an interest in the genre at all; my previous loves within my own work were Epic Fantasy and Dystopian Sci-Fi. But the ghostwriting helped me discover that I've actually got quite the knack for writing Urban Fantasy, and I thought I'd bring everything I'd learned through ghostwriting with me into a new series of my own. With my own dark spin on it, of course.
So far, it's working out way better than I expected! I did actually think it would be a lot more difficult because Urban Fantasy is, of course, set within our modern world but where there's magic and mayhem and mystical creatures blended together. Most of my hesitation revolved around the fact that I just really abhor research. If we as authors want to bring that element of believability and reality into our fiction - with Dystopian Sci-Fi and Urban Fantasy specifically, in my opinion - research is incredibly important. We have to find the right settings for certain stories, double-check our facts about locations, dates, technology, et cetera. None of that has ever been fun for me, so I'd already erred on the side of caution/enjoyment and went with Epic Fantasy, where I could make or add absolutely whatever I wanted to the world I was building and not have to worry about double-checking the elements against reality. Just against my own stories.
But I really have actually found that I love Urban Fantasy, which is how the Accessory to Magic series was born, and I've honed my process to the point where all the detailed researching (names, dates, locations, etc.) comes at the very end of the first draft after I've marked the areas I need to research within the text. That also helps so much for increasing the speed of getting that first draft pumped out as quickly and efficiently as possible. I don't have to remove myself from the flow of the story just to look something up.
Absolutely! I've just finished Book 2 in the Accessory to Magic series, The Cursed Fae, and will be writing a total of five books in the series. And then I imagine there will be many more Urban Fantasy series yet to come, once I finish up my LGBTQ Dystopian Sci-Fi Blue Helix series. I'm pretty sure Urban Fantasy by Kathrin Hutson is here to stay!
Stephen King's The Dark Tower series. All of them. 😉
Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy series
William Gibson's Pattern Recognition (That's some old-school sci-fi right there but my absolute favorite of his.)
Neil Gaiman's The Sandman graphic novels
Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series
John Irving's Hotel New Hampshire (or literally any of his books)
Kay Kenyon's The Entire and the Rose series
I guess I can stop there...
I've been playing piano since I was 5 years old and had 12 years of classical piano training. I stopped at the end of high school when I thought I wanted to focus more on being a singer/songwriter, which was just a fun thing at the time and wasn't really meant to turn into anything more than that. I always knew I wanted to go to school for writing fiction and to be an author, and that's exactly what I did. But I've written and composed so many pieces for the piano, and I still play and sing them now. I had a brief stint playing weekly at a Kickin' Chicken in South Carolina when my husband and I lived there, which was a blast. Now, it's mostly covers, because my creative power is being directed full-time into writing fiction. Yes, I do take requests, and the majority of those are from my four-year-old.
As an Indie Author, I'd say pretty much everything was an obstacle to overcome in the beginning. I really had no idea what I was doing (other than the writing aspect), and it took a long time for me to feel like I had a handle on the process. I'm still learning, which is how I prefer it. Once I stop, I'll know I've missed something.
I'd originally tried to get my Gyenona's Children duology picked up by traditional publishing agents and ended up with a pile of 116 rejection letters for Daughter of the Drackan. Indie Publishing was not my first choice, but more than anything, I wanted to get Keelin's story out into the world, no matter what it took. So I dove into all the resources I could find for the best way to start an Indie Author career, and there were many, many challenges along the way. In the last five years since that first book was published, it's had four different covers. I had to learn how to improve and change and recognize what would be most beneficial for my books, my readers, and moving forward with my author career. Daughter of the Drackan hit the Amazon bestseller charts eight months after it was published when Mother of the Drackan released, and that was incredibly encouraging after all those rejection letters from traditional agents.
The only other book I've queried traditionally was Sleepwater Beat, Book 1 in the Blue Helix series. That one racked up an impressive stack of rejection letters as well, then went on to become my first international bestseller six months after I released it. Book 2, Sleepwater Static, became an international bestseller within the first 48 hours of its release in May of this year, and both books were Sci-Fi Finalists in the 2019 and 2020 International Book Awards, respectively.
I share this in particular to hopefully encourage other authors who've faced countless rejection letters from traditional agents to just keep going, no matter what. Being an author is a long-game pursuit. It takes time, dedication, and a willingness to move forward no matter how seemingly impossible it may be. There's a lot of trial and error, but like with anything, if we don't keep trying, we'll never know what's possible. And I've also learned that it is possible to move away from the stigma that's been placed on Indie Authors in the industry for a long time. The literary industry is changing in some massive ways right now, and as long as we keep going and do our best to create brilliant stories, there is always room for opportunity. For bigger and better things. I'm reminded of that myself every single day.
I've got two in the works right now (what can I say? I get bored if I'm only working on one thing at a time). Next week, I'll be diving into Book 3 of the Accessory to Magic series, The Secret Coin, and am also plugging away at Book 3 in the Blue Helix series, Sleepwater Reverb. I haven't said much about the latter, because it is sort of a surprise for fans of the Blue Helix series. And I know they're going to love it. Right now, that's slated to be out in the spring of 2021.
Run the witching vault. Protect the Gateway. Say please. And don’t get killed.
After her release from magical prison, Jessica Northwood can’t hold a job to save her life. So when an apprenticeship opens up at a spellbound bank, no questions asked, she can’t exactly say no… But she definitely should have.
For centuries, the bank’s owners have stood between the Gateway in the upstairs hall and the occult syndicate who want it for themselves. As the current owner, the scryer witch is supposed to have that under control. But when the woman turns up dead, Jessica’s employment contract now says she’s the one tasked with this lethal responsibility.
Jessica has no idea what she’s doing…and the bank won’t let her leave. As she deals with magical clientele who know the stakes far better than she does, Jessica must decide just how far she’s willing to go to keep this job. Because if she doesn’t, she’ll end up as dead as the body in the lobby. Or worse.
Ilona Andrews’ Innkeeper Chronicles meets The Magicians in this snarky, fast-paced Urban Fantasy Adventure from International Bestselling Author Kathrin Hutson.
Genre: Dark Urban Fantasy/Action/Suspense
Here is an excerpt.
The woman’s eyes grew incredibly wide, and a slow smile spread across her lips. “Excellent. You know, you were about to walk out of here before I’d even had the chance to ask about your availability.”
“You just read my mind with that little handshake trick.” Jessica folded her arms. “You know my availability.”
“I can’t see everything, girl. The most important parts, anyway.”
“And you still wanna hire me even after you saw my…background?” Jessica swallowed, eyeing the older woman with a sideways glance. This had to be a trick.
“I don’t give a unicorn’s fart about your record or how you got to where you are now.” Tabitha stopped just a few feet away, grinning, and folded her own arms over her cream-colored sweater to eye Jessica up and down again. “What matters is that you are where you are, which just so happens to be standing in my establishment. And I just so happen to be in desperate need of an apprentice. You, my dear”—she glanced quickly at the door—“are the perfect fit.”
“Okay…” Jessica raised her eyebrows and spared a glance at the desk at the back of the lobby. Confucius the lizard was now lying on his back, mouth hanging wide open as he let out a long, soft hiss. “Are you giving me the job?”
“We both know you’re going to take it, don’t we?” Tabitha leaned forward and dipped her chin, looking just a little crazed and a little too eager. “So when can you start?”
Jessica pursed her lips, squinting at the older witch. Why’s she messing with me like this? “Don’t tell me the scryer didn’t see my availability too.”
Tabitha threw her head back and roared with laughter. “Of course I saw it. I was trying to be polite by letting you answer for yourself.”
“It’s not really that polite to read people’s minds and memories.”
“I know.” The older witch wiggled her eyebrows. “I just couldn’t help it. Come on, then. Let’s get you started with your first day on the job.”
“You heard me.” Tabitha tossed a hand in the air as she headed back toward the desk. “I don’t like to repeat myself, Jackie.”
“Yes, I know.”
With a sigh, Jessica glanced back at the tiny crow charm hanging over the door, which had now resumed its inanimate state dangling on the string.
Okay. So the woman couldn’t remember Jessica’s name. It could’ve been worse. And Jessica needed a job.
She joined Tabitha at the back of the lobby again, where Confucius still lay on his back.
“Get off, you… Shoo. Off!” The owner of Winthrop & Dirledge nudged the lizard with both hands until he finally flipped over and ambled slowly off the pile of papers he’d meant to turn into a bed. “Now, where is it?”
Tabitha sifted through the papers, shaking her head and muttering before rifling too quickly through the file folder to make finding anything possible.
Jessica slid her hands into the back pockets of her jeans. “I guess I can start with that, if you want.”
“You know. The… organization part.”
“Ha. No. This is… completely irrelevant. I hate paperwork, for the most part. But since you’re working here, well, a smidgeon of paperwork is more than a little necessary. Just an oath contract.” Tabitha jerked one of the drawers open and rummaged around in there without even looking.
“For an apprentice job?” Jessica raised an eyebrow. “That sounds like a lot.”
“Well, yes. It’s very important. This place…” The woman looked up and scanned the ceiling.
Jessica followed her gaze to see water stains all over the panels above them and a heavy collection of cobwebs in the chandelier meant to hold actual candles.
“This place requires a lot. So it’s only fitting. Ah! Here.” She jerked out a folded, yellowed piece of paper, scattering pencils, paperclips, and a few small vials onto the floor at her feet. After slamming the paper onto the desk with one hand, she reached into the drawer with the other and pulled out a six-inch dagger. The razor-sharp point glinted in the dim light. “Business as usual.”
Jessica eyed the dagger. “Okay, look. Yes, I need a job. I am not making any blood pacts or signing away my firstborn child or anything.”
Tabitha snickered. “If you ever decide to have one, right?”
So the scryer which could see that far into Jessica’s psyche already, huh? That was better left ignored. “So what’s the dagger for?”
“Oh.” The bank owner stared at the blade in her hand, as if she’d had no idea it was there, then barked out a laugh. “You thought this was for you?”
At Jessica’s blank stare, Tabitha howled with laughter again and shook her head. All those messy gray curls bounced atop her head, a few of them coming loose to spill over her shoulders.
“As of right now, girl, the bank and the knife are for me. Just think of this whole thing as a formality. For the time being, as my apprentice, that can be your main concern. Okay?”
Jessica puffed out a sigh. “I’m guessing I can’t just fill out a W-2.”
Universal Reader link: https://books2read.com/u/b6KVDZ
Wow! It sounds so intriguing!
Fans of Ilona Andrews' Innkeeper Chronicles will find this series right up their alley.
Also, Tabitha and Confucius are the best things ever. ♥” - Kindle Customer, Amazon
We'll be sure to check out this dark urban fantasy adventure read!
International Bestselling Author Kathrin Hutson has been writing Dark Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and LGBTQ Speculative Fiction since 2000. With her wildly messed-up heroes, excruciating circumstances, impossible decisions, and Happily Never Afters, she’s a firm believer in piling on the intense action, showing a little character skin, and never skimping on violent means to bloody ends.
In addition to writing her own dark and enchanting fiction, Kathrin spends the other half of her time as a fiction ghostwriter of almost every genre and as Fiction Co-Editor for Burlington’s Mud Season Review. She is an active member of both the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and the Horror Writers Association. Kathrin lives in Colorado with her husband, their young daughter, and their two dogs, Sadie and Brucewillis.
For updates on new releases, exclusive deals, and dark surprises you won’t find anywhere else, sign up to Kathrin’s newsletter at https://kathrinhutsonfiction.com/newsletter.
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Kathrin-Hutson/e/B016N498BS/