Author Interview: The Literary Spotlight with Author Kate Spencer
Hello! I’m delighted to introduce the Podcast host and the talented author Kate Spencer, known for her heartfelt memoir “The Dead Moms Club” and the charming romantic comedy “In a New York Minute.” Scheduled for release in June 2024, her upcoming novel, “One Last Summer,” adds another exciting chapter to her literary journey. Kate’s passion for writing took root during her early days as an intern at Metro Newspaper, evolving through freelancing and culminating in her role as an entertainment writer for VH1.
With an extensive portfolio that includes contributions to prestigious publications such as the Washington Post, LA Times, Cosmopolitan, and more, Kate has made a significant mark in the world of journalism.
Co-hosting the award-winning self-care podcast “Forever35,” she extends her reach beyond the written word. Drawing from a background in comedy and years of performing and teaching long-form improv comedy at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in NYC, Kate brings a unique perspective to her work. Inspired by personal loss, “The Dead Moms” is a poignant exploration of grief, offering solace to those experiencing the pain of losing a loved one.
As a devoted fan of romance, her debut novel captures the essence of love and friendship in the vibrant backdrop of New York City. Kate Spencer’s narrative prowess and diverse experiences enrich her storytelling, making her an author worth exploring.
Cyra: Hello Kate, could you please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your writing background? What inspired you to become a writer, and how did your writing journey begin?
Kate: Hello! My name is Kate Spencer. I am the author of the memoir, The Dead Moms Club, and the romantic comedy, In a New York Minute. My next novel, One Last Summer, is scheduled to come out in June 2024. I’ve loved writing my entire life, but I got my professional start first interning at Metro Newspaper, then freelance writing, and finally as an entertainment writer for VH1.
In 2009, when reporting on the Twilight movies, I fell in love with the books, which led me to discover fan fiction, YA, and then, adult romance books. Professionally, I’ve written for places like the Washington Post, LA Times, Cosmopolitan, Rolling Stone, Esquire, Slate, to name a few. I also co-host an award-winning podcast about self-care called Forever35.
I come from a comedy background and performed and taught long-form improv comedy for many years at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in NYC.
I was inspired to write The Dead Moms after losing my mother to pancreatic cancer when I was 27 years old. My intention was to create a book that could comfort and support folks through the grief of losing a loved one. It remains one of the most meaningful things I’ve ever done, both professionally and personally.
Romance has long been my favorite genre to read, and my hard drive is littered with many half-finished manuscripts that will never see the light of day. My first published novel, In a New York Minute, is a romantic comedy about fate, friendship, and love in my favorite city and former home.
Cyra: Could you share a glimpse into your creative process? How do you approach developing ideas and turning them into stories? Do you have any specific rituals or habits that help you get into the writing zone?
Kate: I often start with a glimmer of an idea, a hook, or a cute set-up. From there I love to just let the idea marinate, and flush it out in my mind a bit before I begin jotting down actual notes. I find I do a lot of my best story-breaking or problem-solving while walking, swimming, cooking, doing chores – anywhere but in front of a computer.
I use a lot of tools to help me stay focused and on task (I have ADHD and systems really help me get work done). Recently I have been loving Morning Pages (per The Artist’s Way) as a means for mind-clearing and starting my day. I rely on writing sprints (I use the Time Timer), and find working with friends and other writers makes the process less lonely. I work in Scrivener, which has a very handy word count/date tool that helps me figure out how many words I need to write to meet deadlines.
Cyra: Who are some of your favorite authors or literary influences, and how have they shaped your own writing style? Are there any books or works that have had a profound impact on your writing career?
Kate: I owe a lot to the many Twilight fanfiction writers I first read years ago! Their work really got me excited about romance. The duo Christina Lauren write some of my favorite books, and they have long inspired me as a writer and reader. I am also obsessed with Ruby Dixon (yes, author of Ice Planet Barbarians) and have read dozens of her books. Her ability to world-build is masterful!
When it comes to books about writing, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is one I pick up time and time again.
I apply a lot of what I learned and know about comedy to the way I explore beats, heightening, structure, and dialogue. I love watching standup and sketch comedy and think a lot of what those performers do applies to fiction writing. Some of my favorite standups: Maria Bamford, Nicole Byer, Naomi Ekperigin, John Early, Tig Notaro, and Atsuko Okatsuka.
Cyra: What challenges have you faced as a writer, and how did you overcome them? How do you handle writer’s block or periods of self-doubt?
Kate: I struggle with a lot of self-doubt! I find taking a break (could be 20 minutes, could be days!), talking to other writer friends, and getting away from my computer and out into nature really helps me reset. Seeing art – theater, music, fine art, comedy, anything – always inspires me. I also love books about the creative process, they help to remind me that every writer struggles.
Cyra: Where do you find inspiration for your stories? Are there any specific themes or topics you enjoy exploring in your writing?
Kate: I find inspiration in real-life stories – I think the human experience is fascinating and there is a story in every moment. (In a New York Minute was inspired by a handful of true stories of real-life moments gone viral.) As for themes – I really love digging into friendship, personal growth, and finding oneself.
Cyra: Is there a particular book or project you are most proud of? Could you share the story behind it? What is the most rewarding aspect of being a writer for you?
Kate: With everything I write, my goal is to create something that might provide comfort and escape for the reader. This is the most meaningful part of my job!
Editing and Revision:
Cyra: How important do you think the editing and revision process is for a writer? Could you share your approach to editing your own work? Do you have any suggestions for writers on how to improve their editing skills?
Kate: Revision is everything (for me)! It’s incredibly challenging and frustrating, but the result is always a better book. Don’t shy away from rewriting and ripping your work apart. (It’s miserable to do, but your work will be better for it.) It’s also so helpful to have other people read your work – both for edits and critique, as well as cheerleading.
Advice for Budding Writers:
Cyra: What advice would you give to aspiring authors who are just starting their writing journey? How do you handle rejection and criticism in the publishing world?
Kate: I truly believe that being a writer means being a reader – read, read, read. (Or – listen. I love audiobooks.) Read lots of stuff! Read movie scripts, the news, poems, mysteries, biographies, romances, and Taylor Swift lyrics. Read books you think you’ll hate. Read anything and everything. Indie and traditionally published.
There is so much to learn just by reading! I realize this may seem over-simplistic, but truly, when I am struggling with something I am writing, or feeling down about my work, I will often stop, pull a book off my bookshelf, and read.
My other advice is equally simple: write. Just write. I know what it feels like to get in your head – and thus in your own way – about writing, but the more you do it, the easier it is. Don’t worry about it being perfect. What’s the quote… “perfect is the enemy of good?” That being said, don’t even worry about it being good! Just show up, and put words on the page.
Rejection and criticism are a part of all creative pursuits. (Booooooo! But it’s true.) Not everyone is going to like everything you make, and that’s okay. I honestly think that’s kind of the beauty of books; that they can elicit different reactions in each of us.
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