Meet author, Pitch Wars mentor, freelance editor, and Editorial Director for Lakewater Press Kate Foster. Her book WINELL ROAD was.
Let’s talk about your book WINELL ROAD. In it the main character, a boy named Jack, sees a UFO and meets aliens. What was your inspiration to write about UFOs and aliens?
I honestly don’t know because I wouldn’t say I read or have read masses of alien/space books in my time! But, I think, having worked creatively with kids and owning three sons myself, boys (and girls!), when brainstorming ideas always seem to come up with alien attacks and invasions in their outlines. So, regardless of current book trends, I wanted to give kids what they love to read, and aliens have definitely stood the test of time. Plus, the possibilities of where a story can go when UFOs and aliens are involved are endless, so in this instance my aim was to turn something utterly cliché on its head so a reader has absolutely no idea where things are headed. I *think* I managed it…
Ever seen a UFO yourself or suspect any neighbors of being aliens?
Well, I’ve always wondered about my mother in law… no no, I won’t go there – not today, at least. But no, I haven’t seen a UFO and don’t currently suspect any of my neighbors. I’m a strong believer that aliens walk amongst us, and throughout the ages life on Earth has definitely had input and direction from extra-terrestrials; so I do keep my eyes and ears open for anything that tingles my alien senses.
As a mother who writes middle grade fiction, how often do you draw inspiration from your kids? Do you ever draw inspiration from your own childhood?
All the time. I am and will always be part-kid, so I spend all my free time hanging with my boys. They are the best, most interesting company I could ask for and never cease to fascinate me. I can’t ever predict what off-the-wall conversation we’re going to have next and it’s because of them that my imagination remains pretty obscure too. I particularly love the middle grade age group because it maintains that perfect balance of innocence and complexity. I was a weird kid – of which I’m now proud – so I always look back and analyze some of the more bizarre choices I made as well as how certain life events made me feel. Those moments I remember the clearest are the ones which drew out my most extreme emotions – positive and negative. Fundamentally kids haven’t changed all that much today, it’s what’s around them that has.
You’ve lived in the UK and Australia. Talk about a difference in climate! Do you ever draw inspiration for settings from the places you’ve lived? And did either of them play a role in how you pictured Jack’s neighborhood in WINELL ROAD?
Yes, I love nature, and I find all the books I’ve written – some that no one will ever see! – at some point are set in woodland. Some of my earliest memories are trudging through forests with my dog, playing hide and seek, and climbing trees, so I guess this was inevitable. Nature is jam-packed with secrets, and the fact that there are new species being discovered in some of the deepest darkest caves and dense woodland, I think it’s another useful tool for letting the imagination run wild.
Funnily enough, Jack’s neighborhood is surrounded by forest, but I can’t honestly say I’ve ever seen a road or houses like those on Winell Road. Maybe I have and can’t remember, but the memory hung around waiting for me to write a book!
What made you decide you wanted to be a published author?
I didn’t want to be, or rather never considered it a possible route for years. I was happy just scribbling away in a notebook, creating short stories and novel outlines, and later on full novels, imagining published authors to be that select few like Hollywood actors. Early on, my path took me to book and writing clubs where I was always reluctant to share my own work but loved analyzing other people’s. So, it really wasn’t until I was in my late 20s when I started to wonder if I had enough talent to maybe take the next steps with some of my own work. To be fair, the journey has been pretty bumpy, enough to have made me wish I’d never bothered trying at times, but I believe everything happens for a reason and, if anything, my writing is a billion times stronger than it was even a couple of years ago and I am much wiser. Plus, I have of the most amazing friends now because of my decision to step out from my lair.
Besides being an author you’re also an editor. Did your love of writing play a part in you becoming an editor?
They have both supported each other. I still prefer editing to writing and that has been the case since my childhood, but my drive to write comes from the inspiration and passion I witness in the work of the authors for whom I edit. I never cease to be amazed by what writers come up with and where they take me; this really is the most exciting industry to be a part of. Think about it: writers are the solid foundation of pretty much everything that entertains us – film, music, books, TV – and on top of that some of the most powerful, comforting, and life-changing moments in history have come via the written word.
You’ve been a Pitch Wars mentor for a few years now. What is it about mentoring that keeps you coming back for more?
Most of what I wrote above, really. Having the opportunity to meet, hang, and work with authors is a blessing. And Pitch Wars has nailed it when it comes to creating something so positive, successful, and supportive to a huge variety of people around the world, all connected by their love of words.
Do you think Pitch Wars helps give mentees a taste of what to expect from the editing process with publishing houses and what it’s like to work with an editor?
Definitely. It’s been written countless of times, but a book, finished, polished, and mounted on a bookshelf has undergone more edits and revisions than anyone who isn’t a writer could possibly imagine. Anyone entering this industry that isn’t prepared to put in the time and effort, to listen to advice and accept feedback is heading for a difficult and painful time. Hard work, open-mindedness, and perseverance are what a writer’s backbone need to be made of, plus a shed-load of emotion. Why write if you’re not fully invested personally? The best books are the ones that have been made with love, tears, and passion, and this isn’t an industry you come to for the money!
What’s one of the most common issues you see in Pitch Wars submissions?
Telling. Sorry. Urgh, but it’s true. The manuscripts that stand apart are the ones where I’m thrown immediately into action. And not necessarily explosions, murder, and invasions, but where I can see, hear, taste, and smell the entire scene in which an author opens their manuscript. I can hear the character’s voice, immediately get a sense of their personality, and all whilst I’m wearing their shoes and taking their steps. A lot of authors just tell me what’s happening, bog me down with back story or setting, and try to educate me about their world and characters. Sadly, this makes boring and heavy reading. Readers come for entertainment, so entertain them.
If you could give one piece of editing advice to Pitch Wars hopefuls, what would it be?
Just one? For me, characters are the heart of a story, the bridge between reader and book. So, my advice always starts there. Know your characters, every single thing there is to discover about them – where they went to school, what their strengths and weaknesses are, what their habits are. Investigate their family, their relationships, their bedrooms and favorite belongings. How they like to dress, what they do in their spare time, how they talk and if they have any favorite phrases. Bring them to life outside of your story, and only then do they stand a chance of owning the pages and words that you write. Make sure your reader feels emotion for your character – their good and bad parts.
Want to know more about Kate? Visit her website here.
Living on Winell Road is hardly fun, not when your neighbors are weirder than your own parents.
But the road has a secret that few people know.
And Jack’s about to uncover it.
For fans of Men in Black and Zac Power, Winell Road is jam-packed with “loads of twists and turns” that will keep you guessing to the end.