Author interview: Katy Cannon

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I love chatting to other authors – finding out what inspires them, what their writing routines are like, discovering how they create.

You can learn so much about the craft; things you never realised, things you never considered, things you somehow knew all along that lay hidden just out of reach.

And I thought that if I got a lot out of it, then maybe you would too. So I’m going to start a regular author interview section on my blog, speaking to writers whose work I really admire.

To kick it all off, I was lucky enough to ask Katy Cannon a few questions. Katy is a spectacularly prolific and talented writer, and the author of Love, Lies & Lemon Pies (how good is that title?!), Secrets, Schemes & Sewing Machines, and a series for younger readers called Pooch Parlour.

If you want to find out more about her, you can check out her website here. I’d especially recommend her blog, which goes through some delicious recipes and fun sewing projects.

It’s so interesting going back to what makes an author an author. What inspired you to want to write books?

It’s the only thing I’ve ever really wanted to do! Ever since I realized that someone actually wrote the books I loved reading, I knew that it was my dream job. Books were my constant companions through my childhood – and still are today. It’s the relationship that just keeps on giving!

In just one year and four months since Love, Lies and Lemon Pies was published, you’ve written Secrets, and FOUR Pooch Parlour books. How are you so productive?!

I have two answers to this one, depending on how serious you’re feeling!

The first is that I get bored easily, so I like to keep doing new things. And I have so many stories in my head that if I didn’t write some of them down I think they’d start spilling out into my everyday life. Maybe I’d become some sort of compulsive liar, always making up stories to answer everyday questions. Which could be entertaining, but probably escalate and end up with me being arrested. So… books. Seems safer.

The second is that writing books is my dream job. I love doing it, and I hope to keep doing it for a very long time. But I know that the key to achieving a long career as an author is just to keep writing. So I get up early, work hard, write when I’d sometimes rather be doing other things, and make sure I hit my deadlines.

I really enjoyed seeing how you baked through the book for Love, Lies & Lemon Pies. Have you got a favourite bake from the story?

Oooh, tough one! I have two, really – the chocolate chip cookies (which I make all the time. And, confession time – the raw dough tastes even better than the cookies.) and Mac’s double chocolate brownies. There’s a chocolate theme, you might notice.

Did you watch this year’s Great British Bake Off? Who was your favourite?

Of course! My absolute favourite, right from the start, was Tamal, because he reminded me so much of my brother Michael, who the character of Jasper in Love, Lies and Lemon Pies is very, very loosely based on. Also, he bakes like I bake – a bit messily, but it always tastes good!

What has been the hardest thing to make while sewing through Secrets?

I think the drop waisted tee shirt dress. I’ve made loads of them for my daughter, Holly, and every time I somehow screw something up and end up unpicking countless stitches. (Usually it’s that I somehow attach the inside of the skirt to the outside of the top, or the other way around.) But she wears them and then I feel proud, so it’s worth all the faffing in the end.

What does your average writing day look like?

My ideal writing day (which seldom ever happens!) goes like this:

Once I’ve dropped Holly at school, I come home, settle into the study with a cup of tea and do half an hour of what I call ‘Buffer Time.’ This is where I clear my emails, check Twitter and Facebook, check my calendar, and make my to do list for the day. I set a timer so I don’t go over 30 minutes!

Then it’s down to work: I try and write (or revise or edit) until lunchtime and get whatever my word count quota is for the day (it varies, depending on deadlines!).

After lunch, I’ll take care of admin tasks, any line edits or copy edits that have come in, answering emails, writing blog posts, and whatever else needs doing! And by then, it’s time for the school run again…

One of my favourite things about your work is that your characters are so real and believable and interesting. Do you spend a lot of time planning them out before diving into the story?

I do, because knowing where my characters have come from helps me figure out where they’re going next. I like to know the basics – what they want most in the world, why they can’t have it and what they’re willing to do to get it.

That said, my characters always grow as I write them. Their personalities, quirks and appearance etc only ever come out as the story develops. I like getting to know them as the book appears!

Who would you say has had the biggest influence on your writing?

It’s a bit of a mish mash, really! As a teenager I read a phenomenal amount of fantasy novels, and then later a lot of romance, and I think both of those genres and the fantastic writers who create those stories have influenced me hugely, especially when it comes to developing characters. Particularly Tamora Pierce, David Eddings and Alan Garner, I think.

But the person who has influenced the direction my writing has taken, the way I write and my own confidence in my writing has to be my fabulous agent, Gemma Cooper.

And I can’t let you go without asking: what would be your one tip for aspiring writers looking to break into the YA market?

Read! Read everything you can, and let the stories and characters soak over you until you understand how they work. And at the same time, write. Because you have to have words on the page before you can make them better, and with everything you write you’ll get closer to the writer you want to be.

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