Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Interview with Kate Cotoner

Today, I’d like to welcome author Kate Cotoner to The Dancing Dove. Kate was kind enough to stop by and do an interview with me.

The Dancing Dove: What was it like when your first book was published?
Kate Cotoner: It’s a terribly unglamorous answer, I’m afraid *g* As is usual with small presses, release dates aren’t set in stone and I didn’t know when the story would be published. I went on holiday well out of range of the internet and when I came back I’d had a series of increasingly worried emails from my editor saying ‘um, where are you, we want to release this in a few days!’ I was a bit ‘OMG’ about it but fortunately the edits were extremely light, about twenty minutes’ work. So when release day came around, I was just pleased that we’d managed to beat the deadline!

TDD: Where/When was your first book published?
KC: It’s a wee short story called Enslaved, about a crusader and a Saracen, which I wrote in response to an anthology call from Torquere Press. The anthology didn’t happen, but Torquere published the story as a standalone in September last year. There was a limit of something like 7000 words, and if I could do things differently I’d have extended it a little as the characters were interesting guys in an interesting situation and time.

TDD: Do you have a favorite book? If so, why is it your favorite?
KC: Of my own? (I hope so, because I couldn’t pick my favorite book from anyone else—the list is too long!) Hmm, this is difficult, because generally as soon as I’ve finished a story I kind of forget about it and move on. I have a couple of unpublished books that I love, but they need editing! So of my published works, my favorite is ‘Conduit’, which is actually a short story in the anthology Echoes of the Future (Noble Romance). It’s a dystopian sort-of cyberpunk story about a baseline human cop, Ismail, who’s called upon by his ex-husband Toki, who’s a genetic upgrade and former city-state oligarch, to investigate a portable AI criminal who wants to wipe out all the baseline humans in Dun Eideann (Edinburgh). I never thought I’d write sci-fi, it was one of those genres that did nothing for me, but the anthology editor Aleksandr Voinov invited me to write something and I gave it a go. First attempt was rubbish, second attempt I nailed it, and I like the characters so much I want to continue writing about them. That doesn’t happen very often!

TDD: I see that you also have a book published in Chinese (forgive me if I’m wrong with the language, I’m horrible at telling them apart). Was the writing process any different for that book? Can you tell us a little about the book?
KC: You’re right, it is Chinese *g* It’s called Fire On The Mountain, though the title is slightly different in Chinese to fit a particular proverb. A Taiwanese friend and I had a fiction column on a huge Chinese site called MyFreshNet, where readers vote for their favorite stories—I would write the stories in English, my friend translated them—and we were pretty popular, especially since I was something of a ‘novelty Westerner’. I decided to try and write a story geared towards a Chinese audience, but using a European setting. I tend to write a lot hotter than the average Chinese BL story, so we had some pretty funny comments on the erotic content! Eventually the story was picked up by Uei-Shiang, which is the biggest BL publisher in Taiwan. The process was slightly different in that I had to sometimes amend the thinking or behavior of the characters to better reflect Chinese attitudes, and my friend pushed me to explain certain things—usually turns of phrase or general knowledge stuff—that a Westerner takes for granted. The story itself is about an archaeologist and a museum curator ‘armchair historian’ who both want the permit for a particular dig site in Greece. They’re sent to excavate together and end up fighting off antiquities thieves and dealing with the machinations of Greek gods as they argue their way into bed and into love. It’s very tongue-in-cheek and it’s a story that was a lot of fun to write.

TDD: What made you start writing fiction?
KC: I guess it’s the desire to entertain and educate, in a way—in terms of myself and the reader. All fiction should entertain, and I believe fiction has a didactic purpose, too. When I read a book, whether it’s Wolf Hall or The Brazilian Playboy’s Secret Mistress, I like to be able to learn something from it—doesn’t matter what, I just like to finish the book thinking, ‘wow, I never knew X ’. Maybe this has something to do with the fact that I first started writing stories for my friends at the back of English classes in school!

TDD: How often do you write?
KC: I try to write every day, but sometimes that doesn’t happen. Everyone says you should write every day, and for me it’s true—I find that if I have significant time away (longer than a week), it takes forever for me to get back into the groove and I’m constantly being distracted by things like washing up or folding clothes or checking Twitter!

TDD: Is writing your full time job or do you have another occupation?
KC: Writing is more of a hobby. I have two day-jobs—I work in a museum as an archivist, researcher, and exhibitions organizer, and I also do freelance academic and technical editing. I used to edit erotic romance for an e-publisher, but had to give that up due to time restrictions. There are only so many hours in the day, after all…

TDD: Is there a certain place you like to write? The beach, the library, a comfy spot on the couch?
KC: I have a space screened off in a bedroom—literally I have a folding screen that’s pulled out to mark the area, and behind it I have my very untidy desk and a laptop and a printer that needs to be replaced. The writing space used to be beside the window, but my optician told me that positioning a laptop near a source of sunlight is a bad idea—it’s better for your eyes if the area around the laptop is slightly darker. So now my writing space is at the back of the room.

TDD: What's your least favorite part of the writing process?
KC: Honestly, this changes from story to story. Sometimes I fuss about the start, sometimes I get bogged down in the middle, sometimes I can’t find the right title, sometimes I fret about whether or not I’ve gathered up all the loose ends as I go towards the end of a project… Editing is usually an interesting process, and I usually learn something from it, even if I often wish there could be a consistent set of rules applied across all publishers, just to make authors’ lives easier!

TDD: Do you have any works-in-progress you'd like to tell the readers about?
KC: Sure—I’m working on two novellas for Torquere at the moment, one called The Puppet Master, which is set in the coffee houses of early 17th century Istanbul. The plot revolves around the owner of a coffee house who’s in love with his friend, a puppet master of Karagöz theatre (Turkish shadow plays). I love Istanbul and the period of Ottoman rule is something I find particularly interesting for its uneasy and often hypocritical marriage of public morality and private excess.

Still in the planning and research stage is a story tentatively entitled Malachite, for Torquere’s Color Box line—I picked, yep, you guessed it: malachite! I really enjoy the concept of this series, and have contributed two books towards it—Thunder (violet) is already out, and The Imperial Cat (kikujin, olive green) is due to be released in October. Malachite will be set in the Old Kingdom of ancient Egypt and the plot revolves around the copper mines of Sinai.

TDD: Do you have anything else you'd like to tell the readers?
KC: I have a bunch of releases coming up in the next few months! Four of ‘em *gulp* ranging from contemporary to historical to paranormal. First up is Hand of Glory (June 12, from Torquere Press), a contemporary mystery/suspense about an architect and an Anglican priest who are trying to unravel the mystery of a rather grisly artifact, a Hand of Glory (the hand of a criminal chopped off after death and used as a candle to light the way for thieves!). It’s my first attempt at writing a ‘sweet’ romance, too.

Later in June there’s The Fall of a State (date TBA, from Dreamspinner Press), a historical set in ancient China about an Emperor and his new favorite, a qin player (a qin is a type of zither), set against the backdrop of palace politics. This is based on actual historical personalities.

Then in July there’s a contemporary paranormal, Basilisk (July 7, from Torquere Press), a light-hearted romp about an American in London who accidentally gets caught up in the secret underground world of Greek gods and who ends up partnered with a sweet-natured but ultimately deadly basilisk.

Finally, there’s The Lion of Kent (August, from Carina Press), co-written with Aleksandr Voinov, a historical set in 12th century England about a medieval squire determined to win his spurs and impress his lord. This is the first in a trilogy about the most typical and symbolic of masculine medieval pursuits—hunting, tournaments, and crusading—and Lion of Kent explores the first of those themes.

Interested readers can always check out the latest updates and excerpts on my website: www.katecotoner.com.

Thank you, Dancing Dove, for having me here today and for such a fun interview!

Thank you, Kate, for joining us today! I wish you great success with your books!


  1. Hi Dancing Dove, thank you again for interviewing me on your blog today!


  2. You are very welcome! I enjoyed doing this interview. =) I hope it helps some new readers find your books.