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02 Jul

A science fiction freak who will take you to outer space, meet Kate Rauner…

 

JR: Tell us about yourself, and how would you describe yourself?

KR: I’ve always loved science and read a lot of science fiction as a kid, because the future can’t come fast enough. I grew up to be an engineer and worked in America’s nuclear weapons complex, which was pretty intense. Along the way I acquired a husband, cats, dogs, and llamas – and found time to hike and camp in the Rocky Mountains. My home today boarders New Mexico’s Gila National Forest outside Silver City – a small town with great coffee shops and a neat art district. I keep surprising myself, first by holding plutonium in my (gloved) hands, then by becoming a volunteer firefighter, and now by writing novels and poetry. I’m well on my way to my life’s goal of becoming an eccentric old women.

 

JR: When did you first realise you want to be a writer? Who spotted that talent and what was the first thing you do knowing that?

KR: I don’t know that anyone spotted any writing talent! In school, it was my brother who wrote great stories for classwork. Over the years, ideas popped into my head from time to time, and I tried to write them down, but threw all those stories away. At last I was tricked into writing by a dear friend who first asked for some posts for his blog, and then invited me to beta-read a children’s book he wrote. The next thing you know I was drafting a NaNoWriMo story. I learned a lot with that project but figured I could do better. Now there’s no way to stop.

 

JR: Are you a full-time author? Do you have other activities as main source of income? How do you organise your schedule and time in writing a book?

KR: Engineering was my livelihood and now I’m retired. I never liked crossword puzzles, so writing is my brain exercise. It’s liberating to not need money from the stories, and fortunate. Most writers don’t make enough to live on and success involves a lot of luck. Luck can’t sell bad stories, but there are so many good stories it’s hard to get noticed.

For me, outlining has become more and more important. Without an outline, I wrote many words that had to be trashed, which hurt. With each project I spend more time on the upfront outline – several months most recently. I fill in around outlining with short stories, research, and reading for fun.

I write first thing in the morning for a couple hours. If I’m stuck, I go for a walk. I get some of my best ideas while walking. I also keep a notepad at my bedside. If I don’t write it down, an idea will keep me awake all night.

 

JR: How long do you normally finish writing a book? What is the hardest part in the process?

KR: I aim to complete one novel a year. I once tried to work on three simultaneously and it was a disaster. I couldn’t focus on any of the stories so I was never happy.

The hardest part is editing, because I’m not yet able to hire professionals to help me. Beta readers and critique partners have been a huge help. I’m lucky to find generous people willing to donate their time.

Some authors spend years on their first book, but that would discourage me. Pushing on to start a new project with improved skills fits my temperament – though I have revised my earlier works. That’s an advantage of being indie – I’m in control.

 

JR: Do you have professional designer to design the cover and/or interior of your books? If you do, any recommendation you would like to share to fellow authors?

KR: I’m a do-it-yourselfer, which is a slog. When I reach the point where I can hire professionals, I hope to be in a better position to benefit because I’ve taken the long way around. I have to admit, hiring professionals sounds like a whole ‘nother skill to learn.

 

JR: How do you involve in promoting your books? Any marketing technique you can share?

KR: Promotion! Marketing! Gack. If that’s what I wanted to do I wouldn’t be writing. But there are no readers without promotion and I’m on my own, so I try.

Lots of blogs will tell you what marketing some successful writer used – but remember that I’m an engineer. I want the other half of the story – how many lonesome wannabes tried that same method and got nowhere? I’ve found no magic. I think the best bet is to write better stories. I like KM Weiland‘s books on how to write.

I try to learn new tricks- for example, how to use giveaways, keywords, Amazon categories, and descriptions. It’s taken me several years to get a decent (I hope!) WordPress blog going, an author page on Facebook, and a Twitter account. Right now I’m trying to understand Google snippets. If I’d attempted to swallow all of that at once I would have gagged.

I’m not very good at acquiring reviews. Too shy, I guess, to keep asking. But reviews help readers find new authors, so – to whoever reads one of my books, please post a review. Amazon if you use them, your favourite store, or wherever you hang out.

There – I did it  :$

So far, none of my efforts have been especially successful. My best marketing ploy is to have books for sale during the fall holiday season, and I can’t take credit for the holidays.

 

JR: How many books have you written (published and non-published)?

KR: I have ten books indie-published. My novels are science fiction: a collection of near-future predictions wrapped around a story, a more traditional space station tale, and four stories in a series about colonizing Mars. The Mars books are my favourites because they start in the near-future and are based in reality – real people on a real Mars struggling with real problems. If you wonder what it’ll be like to settle the Red Planet, there’re for you.

I also have a collection of short reads in scifi and fantasy – short stories, flash and microfiction. Writing shorts exercises different mental muscles from novels. So does poetry – I have three collections out and no one buys my poetry. But it’s fun for me – all science-inspired and no lovelorn angst.

 

JR: Of all the books that you have written down, which book that you think the best one? And what do you think readers will find most appealing about this book? What’s the “real story” behind this book?

KR: Each book has its own place in my heart.

Glory on Mars: Colonization Book 1Glory on Mars is the best, I think, because the characters go from Earth to space to a new Mars colony. That’s fun and the characters, being Earthers, are the most like you and me, even when they’re struggling with disasters. I’m fascinated with Mars and there’s so much interest today for a real colony that I couldn’t resist building my own: Emma is one of the first twelve colonists. She has some second thoughts about the one-way trip, but leaves Earth to explore Mars in her robotic walkabout suit. She discovers something’s terribly wrong at the colony. People are dying, and the survivors are collapsing and falling apart as a team. It doesn’t look good for building a permanent home on Mars.

I got the most editing help with Hermit on Mars so it should be the best – I’d love to see more reviews to know if that’s true: Sig is having a lifestyle crisis – that’s going to happen wherever humans call home. He tries to save prospectors who live in the mountains, including his mother, but they don’t realize how much danger they’re in.

But which is best depends on what you want to read – I rather like my short reads. Those stories often attack me fully formed and won’t let me do anything else until I write them down.

 

JR: Any other works in progress?

KR: I’m half-way through another Mars colony book and I have notes for short stories based on Book One in the series. But I’m thinking of going to Titan next. The universe is such a big place – even our own little solar system is a big place. There are lots of stories to tell.

 

JR: What advice would you want to give to an aspiring writer?

KR: Don’t be scared and don’t quit your day job. Learn about writing and the book industry at your own pace. Read and write, and find a critique group that makes you better. I use critters.org and they have groups for many genres. Don’t get discouraged but do be realistic. Even authors who scored on their debut novel usually wrote for years before anyone knew their names.

 

JR: How can readers discover more about you and your works?

KR: My name’s unusual enough that searching for Kate Rauner works. Try searching on Amazon or your favourite on-line bookstore and you should hit bang-on. Same for Facebook and Twitter – it truly is an odd name, and real too. But to be sure, go to my blog at https://katerauner.wordpress.com/ I post science news, scifi book reviews, and short poems. You’ll find coupons for free books too, so read one and let me know what you think. Shoot – let me know where you post a review and I’ll send you a coupon for another free book. My email address is on the blog site.

 

Kate Rauner