A New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Kathryn Shay has been a lifelong writer and teacher. She has written dozens of self-published original romance titles, print books with the Berkley Publishing Group and Harlequin Enterprises and mainstream women’s fiction with Bold Strokes Books. She has won five RT Book Reviews awards, four Golden Quills, four Holt Medallions, the Bookseller’s Best Award, Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year and several “Starred Reviews.” Her novels have been serialized in Cosmopolitan magazine and featured in USA Today, The Wallstreet Journal and People magazine. There are over five million copies of her books in print, along with hundreds of thousands downloaded online. Reviewers have called her work “emotional and heart-wrenching.”
How did you first get drawn to creative writing?
I’ve been drawn to writing since I was fifteen. I wrote a story then about a female newspaper reporter who is trying to establish herself as a serious newsperson and falls for her chauvinist editor. A romance. At fifteen! I went on to write several short stories during my life until, at 40, I decided to try a novel, which of course, would be in the romance genre.
How did you turn your interest into a publication career?
I read a lot of romance novels, joined groups to help authors get published and went to conferences. I submitted manuscripts for 3 years before my first book was bought by Harlequin. 66 books later, when people ask me for advice on getting published, I tell them the key is persistence.
You focus on public heroes in your To Serve and Protect series. What inspired the creation of this series?
I love to write public heroes: cops, firefighters, Secret Service agents and Army guys. I’m interested in how people can walk into burning buildings or throw themselves in the way of bullets. It’s so unselfish and, well, heroic.
What kind of research did you have to do for your To Serve and Protect series?
A lot! I’d already written two books about the Secret Service, but for this series, I had to research how to guard the president, what routine work looks like at headquarters, and how they train agents. Doctors Without Borders was truly a new area for me, as was army medics/traumas surgeons.
Your website states, “My work centers on hot, controversial issues: family problems, parents and children, friendship, troubled teens, school violence, infidelity and marriages in trouble, holiday stories and online dating.” Have you ever had any critical responses to these issues? How did you deal with those?
Sometimes people say my work is too serious or too sad, or concentrates too much on sad social issues. I either don’t reply, or I say maybe they would enjoy lighter works by other authors. These readers not my audience.But I think there’s a place in the romance genre for gritty, controversial issues tied up in the relationship between a couple.
You volunteer at a battered women’s shelter and a food kitchen and during the summer at Camp Good Days and Special Times. Tell us about these and how you have incorporated them into your books.
I wrote a book using all those activities. (That’s not why I volunteered, though.) A camp like Camp Good Days is featured in all the Hidden Cove Series. I wrote a whole book that takes place in a soup kitchen like the one where I still volunteer. And I’ve done several books that deal with domestic violence, incorporating 11 years answering the hotline at shelters.
How do you organize the writing of your books? Do you lay out the plot all in advance or let the book write itself as you go?
I let the book write itself, but I start with a profession and characters. I warn others that it’s a scary way to write. What if I don’t know what comes next? Is there enough material in these characters and profession? And there is a ton of revision needed. But I can’t plan scene two if I haven’t written scene one.
Usually, I pick names I love like Nick or Beth or Annie or Zach. I give my bad guys the first names of people (or, previously, students) I don’t like.
What is your favorite part about your writing?
Definitely the first creation of the scene.It releases endorphins for me. I’m happy when I do that.