Katya de Becerra
author of What the Woods Keep, out September 18, 2018
Author, I Never is a segment in which I interview fellow authors about the writing process, breaking into the industry, and breaking rules. I ask some hopefully novel questions along with some of the old standards, and finish it up with a round of I Never to find out what cardinal writing rules we've broken.
Question the first: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve been writing from a very young age (mostly, poetry), but it wasn’t until a few years ago when I got serious about it and decided to pursue this whole writing/publishing thing for real.
Question the second: What has been your proudest or most exciting moment as an author so far?
Definitely, selling my first book! Having said that, I’ll never forget getting my very first manuscript request from an agent! I haven’t been querying for that long at that stage, but I was just beginning to realize just how common rejection was in this business. And then, here it was: my very first request! I was speechless and blinking in disbelief as I was staring at that fateful email. But it was real, and suddenly everything was not hopeless. That first request didn’t turn into an offer, but it meant a lot to me nonetheless.
It’s such a huge moment! Question the third: At what point did you think to yourself "I've made it" or at what point do you think you'll feel that way?
The day my debut became available for preorder was definitely the moment when it all became very much real to me – it was all happening! Though, in terms of feeling like “I’ve made it”, it’s all a spectrum to me: some days I feel like I’m on top of the world and can shoot lasers from my eyes and then sometimes the impostor syndrome hits me so hard, I just want to crawl into the dark and sit there for a while. You know, the usual writer stuff.
Yes, the usual. About those lasers? Because that sounds awesome. Question the fourth: Did any experienced authors or industry people mentor or give you helpful guidance on your journey to publication?
Not really. Until I got my agent, I didn’t seek out any professional feedback on my writing at all. Three of my dear friends were my debut’s first readers, and their early impressions were invaluable to me as far as improving the manuscript before querying, but other than that, I’ve never been a member of any writing or critique group. My creative process requires total solitude and isolation, that’s just the way I work.
I call it Batmanning. Question the fifth: Have you ever had a time when you've felt like giving up?
Nope. I’m in it for the long run and not going anywhere. I mean, there’s been a plenty of tough moments already and I’m sure there are more to come, but I’m tough and resilient and while things can definitely get to me, I tend to bounce back quickly. In my darkest moments, I remind myself how much I’ve achieved already and how far I’ve come and that usually makes me see things in perspective. When it doesn’t, there’s always chocolate and wine.
And thank goodness for that. Question the sixth: What was the most inconvenient time or place you were struck by inspiration?
Usually, it happens during some important meeting at my day job! The good thing it looks like I’m taking Very Important Notes when I frantically start jotting things down in my very professional-looking notepad. Though I dread the day when some innocent co-worker of mine makes a horrible mistake of looking over my shoulder and sees something like “she was the murderer all along!” written on the margins of my teaching plan and illustrated with a blood-dripping dagger.
Ha! But really, those are very important notes. Question the seventh: Can you give us a hint to help us find an "easter egg" or hidden item to look for in one of your books? Maybe an obscure clue if there's a mystery thread, or a reference you threw in to a favorite book or song?
Oh yeah! So there’s one very obscure reference to Twin Peaks that I can almost guarantee you no one will ever find (Ha! I dare you all, my readers! Here’s a clue: it’s in an address to a very important location in my book). And… my sister-in-law has found two references to Harry Potter, only one of which I put in there purposefully – the other one was totally subconscious! Plus there are a few references to Buffy and to my favorite science fiction movies, like 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Thing and Scanners!
Challenge accepted! I’m due for a Twin Peaks rewatch anyway. Speaking of the unspeakable, it’s time for the…
I Never Round
I never made up a word in my manuscript, and stood by it during copyediting.
Nope – that never happened. But I do like to hyphenate. A lot. The longest thing I’ve hyphenated was probably “Boring-Planet-of-Logic-and-Reason” but my copy editor immediately de-hyphenated that, of course. I choose my battles, so I decided to let this one go.
Fair-enough. I never had an amazing idea right before bed, and decided sleep was more important.
I usually type my notes into my phone and email them to myself. But if my phone’s off for the night, it stays off. If that idea I got right before bed is really that amazing, it’ll come back to me in the morning. Usually, it does. If not, there’s more where that came from.
I like that philosophy! I never started a story with a character waking up, looking in the mirror, or in a bathtub.
Oh gosh, I tend to do that (*blushes in embarrassment*). I can’t even say I do it ironically… Usually though, the whole waking-up-looking-in-the-mirror thing happens in the first chapter, and that tends to get deleted during the first round of revisions, so no one can see my shame.
I forgot already. I never worked on two manuscripts at once.
I always work on at least two manuscripts simultaneously, unless it’s a deadline-driven revision and my agent/editor’s waiting on something.
I never went several days or even weeks without writing.
That’s kinda true, because I always tend to be in the process of writing something, even if it’s just jotting down ideas on my phone.
I never wrote "for a long moment."
Does “for eternity” count?
I think so! I never cheated during NaNoWriMo.
It never occurred to me to cheat at NaNoWriMo, but I did fail it both times I tried doing it. Having said that, the very first time I failed at NaNoWriMo resulted in what became my second book, Oasis, so I do feel like I’m a NaNoWriMo winner in the end.
I think you just redefined the phrase “fail better.” Thank you so much for appearing in Author, I Never! When and where can we look for, preorder, or buy your next or most recent book, and where can we follow you on social media?
My debut, What The Woods Keep, is releasing 18 September. It can be preordered now wherever books are sold (every time my book is preordered, a new magical portal opens up in the woods – true story). Here are some options where to preorder/buy: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250124258
or check if your local bookshop/library has it.
Also, all those who preorder my book and send me their proof of purchase will get awesome stuff and – AND – I’m also offering query critique for everyone who preorders. Details are here: http://katyabecerra.blogspot.com/2018/07/preorder-what-woods-keep-get-rewarded.html
Some other links:
Follow or friend me on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15140719.Katya_de_Becerra
Add my book to your Goodreads TBR: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29748448-what-the-woods-keep
Find me on:
Twitter: @KatyaDeBecerra (https://twitter.com/KatyaDeBecerra)
Facebook: @KatyaDeBecerra (https://www.facebook.com/katyadebecerra/)
Instagram: @KatyaDeBecerra (https://www.instagram.com/katyadebecerra/)
Bonus question: If What the Woods Keep had a theme song, what would it be?
“What Else Is There?” (by Röyksopp)
I’ve also got a little play list for my debut on Youtube!
Excellent! DJ Spotify, what else is there?