Kathleen Shaputis is a Book Country writer from western Washington who is, in her own words,“well experienced in the headline lifestyles of the baby boomer generation.” She balances writing and professional speaking with a day job at a book printer. She’s the author of Gramma Online and The Crowded Nest Syndrome and the ghostwriter of a dozen books.
Kathleen sat down with us to talk about her newest book, HER GHOST WEARS KILTS, upcoming on August 26, 2013 from Crimson Romance.
NG: Congratulations on selling HER GHOST WEARS KILTS to Crimson Romance! You must be really excited. Can you take us through the publishing deal?
KS: I had just started sending query letters for HGWK when fellow author Eva Shaw and I were both presenting at a conference earlier this year. Her second book with Crimson Romance, a new imprint with F&W Media (Writers Digest), was coming out in a few weeks and she encouraged me to submit a query request to her editor. “Pushed” may be a better word, and Eva followed up with an introduction email after my submission.
They asked for the entire manuscript but shortly after the editor moved to another publisher. I didn’t hear anything for weeks; then came a long list of changes. The manuscript was too chick-lit with too many side characters, not enough romance, but if I agreed to the changes, they would review the manuscript once I made them. I did and they sent a contract.
NG: So it’s important to be open to changes. Now tell us more about the book itself. How did you come up with the story of bookstore owner Baillie and the gorgeous Scottish ghost who haunts her?
The idea began in 1993 as an exercise in a writing class. We had to work in a genre we were unfamiliar with and diagram or brainstorm a story. Mine was mystery. We were given large sheets of newsprint paper and had to “bubble” or mind map the details. I went rather autobiographical with a bookstore owner who winds up in the middle of a clash between the Baillies and Bruces about a Scottish castle. I called it the B&B Mystery.
This outline sat in a file drawer off and on for the next twenty years. But the little mystery wouldn’t stop nudging. The ghost popped up one day as the love interest after I saw the old black and white movie “Ghost and Mrs. Muir,” and he never left. But it took a dramatic leap of faith and signing up for a conference abroad at HeverCastle for a week in England that threw my writing into high gear. The book practically wrote itself after that phenomenal inspiration.
NG: The novel is paranormal romance—what drew you to that genre?
KS: You can’t miss the fact the genre has taken off and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. But I didn’t write HGWK because paranormal was popular, the characters made it so. Remember it started out as a mystery and when the ghost popped up, I was about as surprised as anyone.
NG: It’s fascinating to see how your ideas evolved over time. What is the one aspect of the book that’s changed the most since you penned the first draft?
KG: It would be the addition of Gillian Nation and his girls, definitely. I self-published a romantic comedy back in 2006 titled Changes in Attitude where I introduced the character, Gillian Nation, a gorgeous gay delight from Orange County, California. I enjoyed working with him so much that when I pulled the B&B Mystery out of the drawer, Gillian worked himself into the pages and brought along friends. My editor had to remind me more than once how the ghost was the male hero and not Gillian because I gave him all the best lines.
KS: The cover makes me smile. The publisher gave me a short questionnaire to describe the leading characters and a few visual words or phrases that define the theme or setting of the book. I was surprised as I didn’t have any say with my traditionally published books. The cover needed to magnify that it is a light-hearted book since the genre is paranormal romance and not paranormal romantic comedy. I’d say the designers handled that perfectly.
NG: I’d agree with you! Let’s switch gears: tell us more about yourself. How do you fit writing into your daily life?
KS: I’m married, work full time and participate often in the cheering section of grandsons in sports. I tend to carry a work-in-progress with me wherever I go — or at least parts of it. I may write in my car while sitting in the parking lot at work before going in or sit for half an hour after work and carve out a rough draft of a scene. During practices and before games I’ll work, though people love to interrupt and ask what I’m doing.
I’m a morning person, so the few hours as the sun is rising on the weekends is my best writing time.
NG: I know you worked as a ghost writer these part few years. You’re probably not at liberty to reveal much, but tell us: what was it like? How was the writing process different from that of working on your own fiction?
KS: Being a ghost is like being a surrogate mother for people who can’t have children. You take their concept or storyline and nurture it, grow it into a viable manuscript. It’s inspiring to help someone fulfill their dreams of writing their book, but sometimes hard to say good-bye to the characters. I can’t imagine if Gillian had popped up in someone else’s book. He wouldn’t be mine.
NG: And I have to ask: Why are you on Book Country?!
KS: During the years of ghostwriting, I didn’t belong to a writers’ group. When I seriously picked up the reins of this book, I needed feedback. I think a writers group can be invaluable in critiquing and questioning one’s work, whether you’ve been published before or not. Book Country was recommended by a co-worker as something I might be interested in. I found it to be just what I was looking for, not only a community of writers, but genre specific. The discussion boards are varied and valuable with experienced authors working together with newbies
NG: Is there anything else you want to share with the Book Country members?
KS: Spread the word about Book Country. It’s not a competition, it’s a community.
NG: Thank you for the kind words, Kathleen. Good luck with HER GHOST WEARS KILTS!